Just above Bivigliano, towering over the whole Mugello valley, stands the Servite Convent of Montesenario.We can reach the convent both by driving along the fir lined road in asphalt or by taking the suggestive ancient road that runs through the pine wood and along which we can admire the tabernacles representing the stations of the cross. The hermitage of Montesenario is one of the most important expressions of Florentine religious zeal. On September 8, 1233 , the date of birth of the Blessed Virgin, seven Florentine monks abandoned their comfortable lives in the city and retired to the hermitage, thus founding the Order of the Servants of Mary. The church was originally built in 1241; it was the ancient home of the Seven Founding Saints.
The church-convent, enlarged and enriched by Cosimo de’ Medici in 1539, was restored in Baroque style in 1717 and again in 1888. Inside the church, decorated in 18th century Baroque stuccowork, there are numerous important 17th century paintings among which we find the Adoration of the Magiby Cigoli. The church also holds interesting choir stalls of carved wood in fine Baroque style dated 1707, and in the Chapel of the Apparition, a lovely polychrome terracotta Pieta by Lottini. In the Refectory, which dates back to the 17th century, we find the Last Supper by Matteo Rosselli. It is possible, with the permission of the monks, to visit the small 15th century cloister and the vast terrace with its splendid view of Mugello. It was built in the 17th century on top of an enormous cistern that holds up to nine thousand hectolitres of water.
Just below the convent, on the northern side of the hill, we can visit the two grottos that first sheltered the Seven Founding Saints. The grotto of St. Phillip Benizi is formed by enormous boulders and stands behind a small stone temple, dated 1629, from which pilgrims draw water to honour the saint and obtain protection. The nearby grotto of S. Alessio Falconieri, who died in 1310 at the age of 110, is a small lair with a memorial stone commemorating the saint. A set of steps, carved in the boulders, lead from the grotto to an ancient retreat. The Convent Drugstore produces and sells the renowned Gemma d’Abete liqueur. Offers hospitality for pilgrims. For information: Tel. +39 055 406441