David Lazzaretti e la Chiesa Giurisdavidica

Mario Di Fiorino

David Lazzaretti e la Chiesa Giurisdavidica

From If the world does not end.When the prophecy plays false!
Copyright 1996 Psichiatria e Territorio

English traslation 1998

Lazzaretti Publisher

"Are there any customary follies that not only allow us to live with our neighbours without detriment to society but also help us in this, giving sense and objective to life and to society itself?"

Miguel de Unamuno

The Scandal of the Cross (1958)

A century after the death of the "Prophet of Amiata", a group of his followers gathered together in the Giurisdavidica Church continued to call him the Messiah.

The "Lazzaretti Case" may seem emblematic of the events that followed the failure of a prophecy of the end of the world.

The event

David Lazzaretti (1) was born at Arcidosso, on Amiata, in 1834.

In the recounting of his vocation, the key episode (in the "kretschmeriana" meaning (2)) was the apparition when he was 14 years of age of an "unknown and mysterious personage".

However, David led a normal life. Self-taught, he worked as a carter. He married Carola Minucci when he was 22 years old and they had five children.

In 1860, he enrolled as a volunteer (he had been rejected at his conscription medical examination) to take part in the campaign against the Church State Army.

After nine months' military service, he returned to his work.

In 1868, after his visions, David's life changed. Known in his village as a drunkard and blasphemer, he withdrew to meditate and pray in a cave in the Sabine Mountains. There, he met a German hermit, Father Ignazio von Heineusen, with whom he established a long-lasting companionship.

Among his visions, David received the apparition of his sixteenth generation grandfather, Manfredo Pallavicino, bastard son of the King of France. This ancestor revealed to David that he had fled persecution finally finding shelter in that very same cave. David and some of his followers started to dig and found some bones. They were put in a casket inscribed with the initials of Manfredo Pallavicino and buried with solemn funeral honours.

David got a brief audience with the Pope, Pius IX, to whom he had sent a "Memoirs of all that had happened to him".

News of his conversion and decision to lead the life of a hermit was food for gossip at the foot of Mount Amiata. When David again set foot in Arcidosso, he found himself welcomed by a great crowd. Many were curious to see the sign David they thought would have received on his forehead.

He began an intense activity of prayer, with devotional initiatives and collections of funds for institutions of mutual help he organized.

In January 1870, he bade he be left alone on the Island of Montecristo for a retreat. On his return, he delivered his speech: "God sees us, judges us and condemns us", in which he outlined his mission: "God has raised a man that all nations will recognize as their liberator."

The "Institute of Holy Penitentiary and Penitent Hermits" was founded and the building of the "Hermitage" on Mount Labaro just a few kilometres from Arcidosso was begun.

After denunciation for fraud, David was acquitted by the Grosseto Court in 1870.

In August 1871, he was arrested by the carabinieri (military police with civil powers). He was defended by the lawyer Salvi, who was a high-ranking magistrate in the government of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II. He was given parole and lived as guest in the lawyer's house.

He was arrested at Rieti in November 1873 and spent seven months in prison, where he was submitted to psychiatric examination. Only at the Appeal Court at Perugia did he gain acquittal.

He made contact with French royalist circles and found a hearing with a magistrate of Lyons, Lйon Du Vachвt, legitimist, who, from the "revelations", expected the restoration of the throne. A Breton nun, Marie Grйgorie predicted that David was the Monarch for the Latin nations. Du Vachвt financed him, offered him hospitality and allowed him to publish his writings.

In his "My Struggle with God", David tells of an extraordinary vision which allowed him to enjoy the Divine Presence for 33 days. God commanded him to reveal everything he had seen and heard "in his frenzy" so that men could find faith in it.

On March 14, 1876, he had a vision of God in a cloud, among gigantic figures: Divine anger was about to fall on men. God explained to him why He had chosen him as "founder of a new religion, which in one sole faith and one sole law would achieve the end and aim of My fore-ordained designs" (12-15) and the new Messiah awaited by the people and nations according to the promises made them "after the first coming of My Son among men" (14-17).

God revealed to him: I have made a pact with you and with the men, in the progeny of your blood, and with them and with you have concluded an eternal alliance" (XIV, 30 pp. 83,84), and you will have great victory "with Me in My support of your struggle, you the new Isdraello", which will bring to you and to the children of your children a new and glorious name, which shall be called Giurisdavidici" (XIV, 31; pp. 83-85).

In another vision, David felt transported to heaven where he received the explanation of "the spiritual Essence of God in three distinct persons and the human nature united in God" (XVI, pp. 86-89), and that of the seven books and their seven seals, a summing-up of the history of humanity from Abraham to us and, finally, the description of the seven eternal cities, which he would found with the cross-bearing armies of the Holy Ghost. "There will be seven: the first called Piamiatangelica (168), or City of the Sun, will arise in the centre of Italy, on a magnificent mountain which shall be called Turrisdavidica (162 & 169) or of the new blessed Sionne...".

"The others shall be called: Turpinlionia, Carlovingia, Palmabianca, Divisvendetta, Antattica, Montrismoria."

On returning from a journey to London in the second half of 1877, Lazzaretti annonced that the city of the Grand Monarch, who was living incognito in France, must be between the Rhфne and the Somme. With his son, Turpino, and Du Vachвt, he set out on an exhausting march by day and night to mark out the perimeter of the city.

In the meantime, the Oratorian priests, Imperiuzzi and Polverini, now for some time among his following, were suspended a divinis for having disobeyed their bishop's order to leave the Hermitage on Labaro.

David protested against the decision of the ecclesiastical authority and sent to Rome a copy of the "First Three Precursory Edicts of the Reform Code of the Spirit" in which he announced for March 14, 1878, the end of the "Law of Grace" and the start of the "Era of the New Law of Right."

He was called before the Holy Office. In March 1878, on the journey from Lyons to Rome, he stopped at Arcidosso and fired the faithful with enthusiasm. All caution was thrown to the winds: the prophet was revealed still more clearly as the Messiah.

He spoke: "Ego sum! Yes, I am he awaited by nations, the Son of Man!" And again: "I am the victim that must make this payment. The blood of these veins will pay for the contempt of God. Remember the days, March 14 and August 14."

"At that moment," wrote Fatini, "God had revealed to him 'great things'." He invited the priests to celebrate Mass "because my authority surpasses all authorities."

He "Christ Leader and Judge... victim consecrated to God for the redemption of men" on March 14 was taken "to the vast city of Italy, Rome" to present himself "to the new Pope Leo... Woe betide Rome if it does not take advantage of my new Reformed rite, creed and total redemption. I repeat, I am David of Isaiah and of Ezekiel, Shepherd of the new flock... I say to you that Pope Leo [the Lion] will have to deal with the Lion of the mountains and from a Lion he will become a sheep and be devoured by wolves. Woe betide Rome."

The next day, he abolished "heard confession" and put in its place that "of amends".

I shall transcribe now a wide choice of Lazzaretti's writings and some letters of Polveriniнs, of great interest for the evaluation of David's "good faith" and the conditioning which, some hold, he must have undergone (almost a "deprogramming", to use a term from cult litigation) during his Roman retreat.

The first three Edicts were sent to Rome at the end of February, a few days only after the election of Leo XIII; David wrote a long letter to Polverini asking him "to personally make a supplication to the new Pope Leo XIII that He examine or have examined the essential of my acts" to know how to behave, it being "the most important point of my affairs that sooner or later I must carry out the imperious command given me by God" (25.2.1878).

Notwithstanding he, himself, in his edicts had proclaimed, with messianic authority, the decadence of the new Pope, he asked Polverini to present to Leo XIII along with his supplication the assurance of being ready to obey Him, if he would "heed his... submissions."

"My only desire, if I must in obedience withdraw from my work, is that I be given a place where I can live working the land; I would rather go voluntarily into perpetual exile, I and my family, and retire from the world," disposed even to retract: "by doing this I would never think of renouncing my mission on the condition of being unknown but only in submission to the Holy Authorities of the church," confident that God then "will think of manifesting in the way that he believes the truth of my words in His and then I shall always be ready to serve him as a poor material instrument of his divine plans when recognized for such strengthened by the accord... of his Holy ministers." David, by confiding "firmly in the goodness and liberality truly Apostolic" of Leo XIII would like to know "if my cause is hindered by God or by some malign spirit in the guise of the Good."

If the Pope would not heed, "I shall continue to act as I feel and believe inspired and encouraged to by God and if my work is not God's, it is certain that it will perish as have perished or perish everyday the works that are directed by the Devil. But I, who have always worked with correct intention and in good faith have believed and I have reason to believe that my work originates from God: and I hope in the protection and help of celestial grace."

Polverini further was to make it known that "I have no other ends than to serve God in good works and that this good is seen in the humility and submission to the Holy Authorities of the Church."

At Rome, in the convent of St John and St Paul on Celio, David had a profound crisis: he retracted everything and submitted to Church authority.

"On the 13th he was examined by the Holy Office in the convent of St John and St Paul; he could expound his thought and defend himself against accusations made, freely and heatedly; he repeated unhesitatingly that he was the second Christ of the Holy Ghost era. the new redeemer of humanity; he asked to speak in person to the Pope, he heard serenely the unfavourable reports the ecclesiastical Authorities had collected relating to the charge against him. The Judges, both while hearing him and in raising objections and making criticism, treated him with rigorous calm, perhaps struck by the tone of sincerity with which he spoke, and so he had the impression that "anyway things for us - he wrote (14.3.1878) to Polverini - are going well through the glory of God."

I t seems there were only two criticisms levelled against him: the first, his order to Polverini and Imperiuzzi to celebrate mass in spite of the bishop's injunction; on this David wrote immediately to Imperiuzzi requesting him to proclaim to the public from the altar that "You have been requested by me to celebrate twelve masses, through the supreme command of God against the prohibition of his spiritual superiors", after which, however, he was suspended and awaited "a judgment from Rome" 14.3.1878.

"Declaration to His Holiness Pope Leo XIII.

Yesterday, March 22, at 11 a.m. approximately, I delivered to your Judge of the Holy Office Court what I had been ordered and commanded by God to deliver only to Your Holiness as regent of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ: on asking the Lord if I had done well to deliver the Jewel, the Sceptre and the Seal belonging to the Giurisdavidica family, He assured me in these words: What you do for me and for love of me is well done and I am pleased with you for it. I put the same question about the 29 Edicts before my new issue of the Law of Right and declare to My Regent your departure after day 14 of the coming month, and without delay bring you to the bosom of your family. No command, no reason shall keep you one single instant after the said day dawns. I sign myself in authentic confirmation that I myself am your most devoted servant and most obedient son of the Catholic Church.

David Lazzaretti.

Rome, 23 March 1878.

from the Retreat of St John and St Paul."

A witness to the climate of the retreat is given us by Polverini's letter to Luigi Vichi, written after August 18:

"No, my dear Luigi, neither I nor David before the Church have been weak. David, I well know, could not hold out. He humiliated himself, went down on his knees, before Commissary Sallua at the Holy Office, when he realized there his mission did not come from God and they adjudged him deluded. Then he cried, not so much for himself but for all those deceived by him and said also: How can I remedy so much? Everything through the most holy order of the Pope was communicated to me by his officer who tried me and I was always strong and steadfast, until the Pope said to his Officer: break the seals of the Holy Office and show the confessions of David to the still deluded priest. And there, one morning, was the Officer with many sheets signed by David, his retractions. I began to yield, at last. I have checked David's undoubted well-known signature."

Laz. 208

On March 28, David wrote a letter to the two Philipine priests among his followers:

"Rome, March 28, 1878.

My dearest brothers Gio. Battista Polverini and Filippo Imperiuzzi, I have come to Rome and been heard by the Superiors, and they have judged me deluded, and I, being an obedient son of the Church, I have submitted to their judgment, and will try for my part to atone for that evil the superiors adjudge that I have wrought, for whom and for which evil the Church deems you have done at my instigation by celebrating Mass and administering the Sacraments, having been by your Bishop suspended, I exhort you to return to the obedience of the Church and to the submission of your Bishop.

Pray for your David Lazzaretti."

Laz. 206-7 & Imp. 367-8

Proposed arrangement of supplication to His Holiness Pope Leo XIII:

Holy Father,

this I propose through my will in the will of that Almighty God who sends me to you and to all the children of the oath or the Catholic Church. I beseech Your Holiness not to judge me wrongly from what I have foretold and to let me free, without your opposition, to publish the 29 Edicts prior to the change of all the ritual and civil affairs, and then there will be nine short years of punishment (to reach maturity of the times) and there will be saved millions of victims who should fall in a terrible scourge, and Your Holiness at avoiding all this (every difficulty of human respect overcome) will be called by the universal voice of men The Mediator of God's punishment and I, on August 14 of this year... will come to You with a multitude of people and of Hosts and with the appearance before You of this glorious prodigious number, Your Holiness by a grand celestial sign will know that I am God's envoy, the Saint Davidde (sic) of the Lord of whom the Holy Scriptures speak and in me by virtue of the Almighty and quickened in my heart the germ of truth and of Justice, let the weight and the truth of these words of mine be examined before judging Him who called above them on his shoulders the Princedom of all the Earth and that through Jesus Christ is come as Prince and as Judge to conquer and judge the Earth and reunite all the Nations in the faith of this Jesus Christ under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church which today from the 14th of March last She has launched on a new era its reform in the severe maxims of the Law of Right with a new series of Apostles no longer Roman but Lyonese, because their Pontifical See has been transferred from Rome at the will of the Almighty to the city of Lyons in France and by reason of all this I declare Your Holiness that You, by virtue of this reform, are (when you wish) not Leo XIII, but Leo I. And that for the foundation of the Lyonese Church there are another three Leos, and these are I, myself, who am called Leo three times; my son who is named Leo and another Frenchman who even he is called Leo and we in fact are they who, by the will of the Most Holy Triad in August 1877 last have drawn the circumference of the Holy and Free city of Lyons as there is said in the first Edict of the 29 Edicts precursive to the abovesaid Reform. This is what I must make known to you in the name and by the command of God. If, in consideration of all this exposй, Your Holiness by your own deliberative will does not accord me what I request of you in the name of God I for no reason at all can certainly set myself against the authority constituted by the catholic Church, for which I make known to you always by the will of God that I shall be led for highest reasons out of Europe... and then my treasures, the Sceptre, the Jewel and the Seal of my family if held things profane I pray you to render them to me so as not to draw down upon you the most horrible indignation of the Almighty and if kept as a sign of my dignity in the Catholic Church (in the order of Melchizedek) throughout the length of the aforesaid nine years and at the end of this epoch I return to redeem these pledges not at Rome because it is another capital of Europe which has few years of life remaining, but at Lyons in France or at the Grand Carthusian Monastery of Grenoble where then there will be incognito the true Pope of the Catholic Church and in those times of government two Antipopes and these urged by the yearning for profanity will bring desolation on the Universal Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These are the proposals and the supplication and these are the conditions that stand between my future and that of the Catholic Church and Your Holiness, visible Head of it, are what to him I have referred in the Name of God. He tells me He will be outraged by the truth of what I have said, He will be outraged and that He will be prudent in judging it, it will be praiseworthy as soon as it happens, in portent of the day of judgment and rejoicing. That I refer to Your Holiness as moral duty. I await an expression of Your Holiness's will concerning how You think to dispose of my person.

I serve most humbly prostrate on the ground I ask your paternal and pontifical Benediction.

David Lazzaretti

Rome, 1 April 1878.

From the Retreat of St John and St Paul."

Laz. Carta Ia.

"To Father Basiglio Rector General of the Retreat of St John and St Paul for transmission to the Commissary of the Holy Office:

Since You have been charged by the Holy Office with things regarding me, will you please refer to it everything that I gave you this morning and say also that I have received the latest instructions and add saying that I have only had dealings with the superb Synedrium of profane Rome being by them judged and condemned with that spirit that they say is of God, but God is as far from them as the west is from the east because their hearts are too attached to the world. They, not having the courage to report to me to my face my sentence have resorted to stratagems, everything they have done they have done for evil, then say to them that Leo was to be a lion but, having adhered to the spirit of evil and pride He will become in spite of himself a sheep and die like sheep amidst Wolves, devoured by them. What I say I write, I will if I wish, but I do not want to because I must not. When I arrive at my fate I shall know where God or Our Lord Jesus Christ has begun to found with the other small rock the edifice of his new reformed church in the alluring obligations of men and I shall tell him other things in confirmation of what I have said and deposed in my interrogations and in my depositions. Everything you have done you have wanted to because you have refused to know in poverty and in humility the power and help of God. I leave you in the hands of your enemies, you have forgotten God and about holding Him with rectitude and humility in your heart and He has forgotten you, you are ashamed of Me and I am ashamed of you, your presumption and your Pharisaic pride have made you poor instruments of God's plans as once at the time of Jesus Crist of the pertinacious Judaeans, did I not tell you that you should have been prepared to judge my affairs in the spirit of Charity and righteousness? Not in a spirit of malice, envy, expediency and pride. I was the consecrated victim for you (as you have testified) now for such hasty judgment God wants you to be the victims for me for the reason that you liked to affirm your proud pretensions, you who do not command God but it is God who cammands you and of Him in His divine Ministry it is imagined, but one must act in the way it is commanded in His Most Holy Law. It is enough that you reflect on these last words to understand how far you are from that truth and that justice that you arrogantly boast with proud assumption. I do not want with the power of my arm and of my word to lack that charity that you have lacked, but you will be judged in the way you have judged and so you will have nothing to complain of but yourselves. All this I was commanded describing the Blessed Virgin in the vision of true appearance that I had of St Peter the Apostle and St Michael, Archangel, as you will read below.

On April 8, after having eaten, I lay on my bed and fell asleep, then I felt a touch on one hand, I awoke suddenly and saw before me St Peter the Apostle and St Michael, Archangel. They commanded me to depart from where I was and go to the Retreat of St Bonaventura (for some reasons that here I will be brief in the telling), I objected to this command in thought but not in word because I could not speak, but they, knowing what I wanted to say, convinced me completely and They themselves led me to the door at the end of the school to go out; that door was closed. I turned back and St Peter and St Michael disappeared from me. In this meanwhile I saw the door opened by a brother and he made me understand that he had opened the door that I might pass through and he asked me where I wanted to go, I told him that I wanted to go out and he wanted me to wait until the bell tolled (because it was the hour of silence after dinner). I, having told him that I could not wait without mention he opened the second door which led out and directly I went to the Retreat of St Bonaventura and told everything to Father Giovacchino D'Ascoi. He, after hearing the affair, he commanded me for holy obedience to go back where I had come from. I asked him not to order me to do this since I felt within me I would be doing something I should not and could not do according to the order I had received of the reasons explained of St Peter and St Michael, but when he seriously commanded me in the name of God, I was convinced to make with my great sacrifice such obedience, beseeching him to accompany me himself. He said he could not but that I should go alone at once, which I did, leaving my small case so as not to be seen another time coming back with it, and I asked Father Giovacchino at the same time to advise the Holy Office of this. This is what happened to me on my return to the Retreat of St John and St Paul. Having reached the first corner of the street leading to the Square of the Church of St John and St Paul, I suddenly saw, as in a flash, before me St Peter and St Michael, each with sword in hand like fire, saying to me: Give up, do not tempt danger, what has been said to you, let it be an example. As those searing words, which sounded in my ears like the beating of a drum, struck me, I let out a great cry and fell to the ground, and after I do not know how long I saw near me a woman who was asking me what had happened and was urging me to get up from the ground because it was raining. I raised myself up and asked the woman to do me the favour of going to the Convent of St Bonaventura and calling Father Giovacchino to come to me. After she had gone, I tried to get up from off the ground because it was raining, but I fell down again immediately because it seemed my arms and legs had lost their use. In the meanwhile, a good man came, took me by an arm and lifted me up from the ground. He asked me what had happened to me and I asked him to take me to the Retreat of St Bonaventura, but he found it difficult to understand me because I could not enunciate the word, the cry I had emitted having in some way ruptured my throat, it seemed, and at the same time,the thundering sound of the powerful and terrible words of St Peter and St Michael had struck me seemed to have broken my head so that I could see only little and could not distinguish any object more than a few steps away. The good man led me by the arm but when we reached the Arch of Titus, I felt I could not go on any farther. I threw myself to the ground and it seemed all feeling went out of my body and my spirit, and it is only from this point I remember seeing Father Basilio and others round my bed (in my room where I lived in the Retreat of St John and St Paul) where I was lying and he understood more and saw more with his eyes and senses of the spirit than of the body. I remained in that state until about a half past four the next morning. I do not know how to decribe in what ineffable way I saw the Holy Virgin Mary at the side of my bed, dressed in a great mantle of black, all suffering and weeping.

At this sight, I cried out Oh Mary mine and with that I was shaken by an unexpected emotion and felt within me an inexpressible relief of spirit and body as it might be. Only this I will tell you, that, in that moment my voice returned, my eyesight cleared and the noise in my head ceased, and the Holy Mary spoke to me saying: "Child of Sorrow and Tribulation, have courage, do not forget in what afflictions of such hard tests of the promises you have made with my Divine Son. Your human strength, I see, is not enough to withstand what you have to pass through from now on, without causing you pain. I will save you in a marvellous way from all the evil dangers of Avernus." Speaking thus, she showed me a great, open book where I read with horror and fear but, at the same time, my courage strengthened in a more than human way, for what I saw written at the end for me in that book was noble and I saw behind it the terror of the Inferno, and at the same time the Holy Mary showed me in that book horrendous things about Rome and commanded me that, before my departure for Rome, I should do (...) things my soul would find repugnant and of my own reason now what I had to do I have already done ealier than I thought, now I await the outcome with avid inspirational content in whatever way it occurs, since I have obeyed a grand command of the Holy Mother of God who has promised to save me from the evil machinations of Avernus and I am as sure of that as I am sure of having to die.

David Lazzaretti

Rome, 10 April 1878

from the Retreat of St John and St Paul."


On June 9, 1878, while David was at Lyons, there was a meeting at Arcidosso of the Council of the Hermits, the colmplementation of the Symbol of the Holy Ghost: Founder Lazzaretti, the Lord's anointed, is Christ, Leader and Judge, "the true and living figure of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world, as the Son of Man, to bring completion to the redemption bountiful to all humankind."

The break with the Church by now consummated, the movement took on a primitivist style and wanted, in its form as well, "to restore" the Church as it was in the beginning.

The Lazzarettist meeting proceeded to reconstitute the apostolic college with the election of 12 Apostles, 12 Disciples and 12 Condisciples of the New Holy Ghost reformation.

Probably they were decisions taken up by Imperiuzzi in Davidнs absence, as can be gathered by the impatience that shines through a sarcastic remark by the "terrible Tuscan" made by David on his return to an apostle.

This account is by Imperiuzzi himself:

"The Apostolate formed, when David returned to the Mount, some asked him when the Apostles would go out to preach; and he replied: "To preach? But the preaching I have well and truly done" and turning to Marco Pastorelli, Apostle, said: "And what would this bit of stone have to say and do? Do you want to go and get yourself killed? And do you not hear among the voices of the people the voice of the new Cains trying to kill the innocent Abel?

Imp. 410

Early in July, David returned to the Amiata. There was a great awaiting of August 15: David was to reveal himself to the Latin people and the era of the "Holy Ghost Reformation" was to begin.

In the "Precursive Edicts to the Code of the New Reformation on the Religious, Moral, Political and Civil Right", David stated that Pius IX was Peter II, the last Pope of the "Law of Grace". Apostolic succession was closed. The Third Law of Right had begun.

His disciples were prepared "all for the great revealed mystery, that he was Christ, was God, and even was with his divinity in the consecrated Host, so that, by receiving the eucharistic sacrament, David also was received.

On August 18, 1878, Lazzaretti met a tragic death. The hagiographic picture is well known, handed down by the Lazzarettists, of David who, at the head of the procession, presented his chest to the carabiniere bullets.

The epilogue analysis is important in the attempt to infer from David's behaviour what his intentions were. I will relate now the less-known reconstruction of Fatini's, who separates himself from the general chorus.

"Since at the repeated invitation to cancel the procession and renounce the longed-for pilgrimage to some Amiata churches, the prelude to continuation on to the Maremma and the region near Rome, he replied with a refusal still more decisive, by urging his followers to advance, with the cry of "Long Live the Republic". It seems, rather, that Lazzaretti urged the advance on them with: "Advance, disarm them!", while stones rained down from various parts.

At this imperious exhortation, which drew the immediate response of a unanimous cry of Long Live the Republic from the faithful and a large part of the crowd, all reserve gone, De Luca felt lost; his soldiers, on whom stones had already fallen, exasperating still more spirits already tautened by the trying wait, trembled with impatience; in the crowd, more than one, with ill-intention, through fear or for spite or for yearning impatience to see an end to it, had taken to hurling stones which struck indiscriminately carabinieri and members of the procession, causing a confusion so chaotic as to prevent identification of the stone-throwers and, still less, of the meaning of it all. De Luca, then, fearful for the disastrous consequences that would most certainly attend his inaction, once again gave the order to disperse and ended with a frantic "Fire!", which vibrated on the air ridiculously in vain because the guns he and his marshal had, almost as if directed by a heavenly hand, misfired... ."

David, struck in the forehead by a bullet, fell to the ground and died some few hours later without regaining consciousness.

Had he sought that death? With his taste for scenography (only see the clothes and banners he designed or inspired) had he engineered this tragic scene exit, which copied Christ's sacrifice?

Or, in leaving the Sceptre, the Jewel and the Seal to Rome at the Holy Office, had he really cultivated the plan to return and claim them with a triumphal entry, after manifesting himself Christ, King and Judge, at the head of his army?

David has been considered a visionary, a clever impostor, insane or the Messiah. Before looking at the literature keys that have been used, I will dwell on some aspects nodal to the interpretation of the case: the visions, the voices and the sign on the forehead, the writings and the family connections.

The visions

Lazzarettist sources describe with precision how David's visions were preceded by fever, shivering and hotness of the head. Naturally, malarial fevers were frequent in the Maremma.

"When the monk had gone, I felt shivers in all parts of my body. I did not think they were due to the fear I had when he clasped me so strongly that I was bewildered and full of confusion. After a quarter of an hour, the shivers ceased, but I felt very violent pains in my head and there came over me such a heavy fever that I could not move... ."

Imp. 87.

"On the morning of April 25, 1868, having returned from Siena where I had gone to see to my interests, I was attacked as soon as I got indoors by a shiver that ... but a hotness of the head came that calmed it and soon I felt a violent attack of fever which stayed with me until six o'clock in the evening. Because of the prostation I felt, I slept deeply and had the following vision:... ."

Imp. 110.

"One morning at eleven o'clock I began to feel shivers like those I had had before, then hotness of the head and, at the same time, a fever heavier than that I had had on April 25. At 7 o'clock in the evening, the fever ceased. I slept and had the following vision:... "

Imp. 121.

"...on September 8, at 8 o'clock in the evening, I felt shivers and hotness of the head such as I had had before, and immediately a fever took hold of me and made me delirious. At midnight the fever left me and, as at other times, I slept deeply and had this third vision... ."

Imp. 125.

Lombroso had already underlined the value of sickness, the pathological aspects of the visions: "It is worth noting that almost all the visions transcribed were preceded by syncope, and by headache, and by coma, and by fevers which lasted mostly 28 hours, sometimes entire months... ."

For Curcio, they were "ecstasies", then worked up. According to the author, the modified conscience states, besides being a "defence function in threatening situations that could cause anxiety," could perform a "creative function" as well:

"Flight from an intolerable situation and the "weaving" of a new symbolic reality, of a "new world" in which to regenerate life, seem in this case to march side by side."

The voices

The "sign" on the forehead

In "My struggle with God", David receives the mark: "a sign on the forehead in order to be recognizable among people."

"St Peter then, in order to know the true Christ, vanquisher, marked him on the forehead with the sign of the living God)+(in order that he be recognized by all the sons of men, since in recent times, as predicted, there have emerged many false Christs and Masters to seduce and pervert the poor sons of men, turning them from the true way of God."

Imp. 148.

On the importance given to the sign, witness beyond suspicion has been left to us by the Oratorian Brother Filippo Imperiuzzi, in his account of David's meeting with the legitimist magistrate Du Vachвt.

Don Imperiuzzi, who accompanied Lazzaretti to Turin (they had just received a conspicuous offer from the French gentleman), records: "And great was the pleasure of Du Vachвt, on seeing clearly on David's forehead the seal of God, imprinted there by St Peter."

Imp. 296.

Let us see the significance of the "sign" in the judgment.

The experts, Silvaggi and Benghini, report [from the French] "a cicatrix of irregular, round shape, limited to the epidermis, located at the middle of the forehead and slightly above centre-line, hidden by a tuft of hair which fell over it and covered it."

"... so that, finally, once more, the monk, the person seeing it habitually, who believed him St Peter, marked him on the forehead with a key which left him with a still visible imprint.

Questioned as to why he had not shown this detail to his earlier interrogators, he replied that he was not in the habit of recounting such things generally and that he only reported them now in obedience to the law (...)."

The subsequent days, we made further investigations and we found: first, with the use of a microscope, the cicatrix on the forehead is, in our opinion, the result of a burn by an incandescent fire. The shape of the cicatrix is almost circular; its upper part is prolonged by a "tail". A close examination with the help of a lens revealed to the observer some black lines, perhaps made by some exploding, inflammable powder, which we cannot, however, aver; they could still prove, and this opinion seems to us more admissible, to be the result of pricked injections of a brownish liquid (...).

And still the cicatrix he had on his forehead and that he took care to keep hidden from others under a tuft of hair does in no way lead us to believe him a monomanic. If he really believed to have been stigmatzed by a holy person, he would not at all take thought to keep the sign hidden, and if, by a sort of aberration, he believed to have a sign on his forehead, that sign ought not to have existed. Given the sign , whatever had produced it, its existence was no longer an aberration or a hallucination of the senses, but it would assuredly be a reality."[end of the French quotation]

Frankly, this argument sophistic to the point of paradox appears instrumental in concluding the exclusion of disease.

For Lombroso and Nocito "according to the report of the last doctors, it was an irregular parallelogram whose upper side had 13 small pricks arranged in a strange way... ."

The mark on the forehead was, for Lombroso, a "strange and shrewd invention to have been tattooed by St Peter." The author also records how David could have shown or hidden "that alleged divine sign."

Verga is well-documented on the sign.

"The mark on his forehead... was not far from the hair-line and consisted of a rectangle or irregular parallelogram whose vertical sides were described by journalists as two C's back-to-back, and a very irregular cross for the upper horizontal side.

Lazzaretti had other marks as well under his clothes: two irregularly circular cicatrices on his shoulders near the insertion of the deltoid in the humerus and another two similar on the inside of the legs. Since you do not believe in the intervention of St Peter in this matter, but you consider Lazzaretti's marks as simple tattoos, so I would point out that this, too, is looked upon askance by moderns and that a young alienist sees it as an intellectual perversion symptom which, in delinquents, points to the suspicion of lunacy. Who made those external marks on Lazzaretti is a mystery which will not be easily solved. For my part, believing that mystic ecstasy entails anaesthesia or insensibility, I am inclined to believe that some adept, with indiscreet zeal, or some joker, had so marked Lazzaretti during a rapture. It could also be that the frontal revulsion was an attempt at a cure during one of the intense fevers with drowsiness and headache that lasted about 28 hours and to which Lazzaretti, according to Dr Terni, was subject almost monthly. In any case, Dr Becchini makes it clear the frontal mark was very superficial and hardly visible while the aforesaid Dr Terni states that the original tattoo on Lazzaretti's forehead reduced to 13 black points in the form of a cross, very irregular and with no correspondence to the cross reproduced in the newspapers and Lazzaretti's own pamphlets."

Verga 90-92

On the symbology of the sign of the two C's, Lazzaretti wrote:

The two (C's) back-to-back with the cross between contain the symbol of the first and second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world."

Curcio entertains a strong suspicion of "a more mundane imprint with a branding iron; the 'brander' rather than St Peter was Lazzaretti himself or Ignatius Micus, the Prussian hermit who had welcomed him into the cave of Blessed Amodeo." However, even so, there is no thought of an imposture or a pious fraud, and the author writes that "branding" was not uncommon in the Christian mystical tradition. He then launches into the "conjecture" that the original intention might have been an attempt at the trigram JHS which was very widespread, sometimes surmounted by a +. The unsuccess, which would explain the uncertainty of the doctors, would then have persuaded David to a further, more original elaboration.

In effect, however, a more likely hypothesis is that the symbol of the two C's in mirror image, separated by a cross could well derive from reading an anthology of prophecies, among them that of St Francis of Paola, entitled "The coming fates of States and of Nations, or prophecies and predictions concerning the revolutions of all the Kingdoms of the Universe until the end of the world" (6th edition, Turin, 1864). There, one reads:

"Woe betide you, because the Almighty God will exalt a man most poor of the blood of The Emperor Constantine, son of St Helena and of the seed of Pepin, who will bear on his breast the sign you see in the principle of this letter )+(."

Barzellotti states with certainty: "The sign imprinted on his forehead by St Peter was evidently a tattoo." Then, instead of supporting that assertion, he reports to have been told by the doctor who performed the autopsy, Dr L. Terni, that this latter had found on other parts of the body, other circular signs, imprinted with a hot branding-iron."


To conclude the panorama on the mark, I will take up again a lazzarettist source, which surprised me very much. In this, Imperiuzzi writes, without comment, the "Report to Cardinal Panebianco from his secretary D. Nazzareno Caponi on the facts narrated." Towards the end, one reads: "Lazzaretti has again declared to the Curate that the Brother took him by the shoulder and imprinted on his forehead a sign in the from of a little heart visible to everyone, as if it were a character of fire - telling him - by this sign, the people will recognize you."

Imp. 170-175.

For the chapters

The writings

Family anamnesis

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Reading keys

The experts appointed by the Rieti Court inclined towards Lazzaretti's bad faith. So far as the "mark on the forehead" is concerned, I have pointed out how the argumentations were often coloured by a certain forcing. For the experts, Lazzaretti "was escaping by asceticism from the Police!" (Lombroso). He would, therefore, have dissimulated a political end with the religious predication .

Lombroso scorns the exaggeration of the logic and hermeneutics by the experts, and, moreover, with the end of justifying their point of view.

David Lazzaretti was for Lombroso and Verga a clinical case; to examine it, they used a psychopathological interpretative model, giving space to examination of the writings for analysis of the language, the character of the visions and the voices. Family, also, was considered.

With respect to the diagnostic orientation, according to Lombroso (1889), one might speak, regarding Lazzaretti, of "an intermediate form between the touched and monomania, hallucinatory, ambitious, it not always being possible to include the various pathologic aspects in the common classifications."

Shining clearly through is Lombroso's sympathetic attitude towards David. After speaking of "men who from their natural antisocial nature become useful to the human consortium," he stigmatizes the repression of " those ministers who extinguish the rare examples in blood and in prison."

"And so it is necessary to benefit then from the transformation, the contradictory metamorphosis, polarizer that the sharpening epileptic madness, sometimes inducing criminals born egoistic and cruel to the excess of that altruism, that holiness that drives and in its turn not only the individual, but whole masses, to an epidemic virtue. Such was the case with Loyola, St John of Ciodad.

It would be superfluous to say that, in these cases, the State, instead of raising opposition, should foster in a thousand ways the rising of these new suns, however much their origin might be muddy, without imitating those ministers who extinguish the rare examples in blood and in prison, Lazzaretti, for example, who had and has left behind him footprints of singular virtue.

Lombroso, 1897.

David Lazzaretti was for the psychiatrists of his time the model of the madman who ensnares and infects the multitudes:

"And, as an anachronistic phenomenon, explaining however the origin of many religions and religious Sects, we have seen among us, now for thirty years, dragged by a madness, David Lazzaretti, uneducated, exulting mobs came down from the summits of Arcidosso to reform the world, challenging the palls unflinchingly, and with their leader extinguished this last residue of religious epidemics."

Tamburini A. et al., 1918.

According to the positivist conception, they have seen in Lazzarettism the historic example of the birth of a religion by the propagation of the ideas of a madman, which affects the uncultured mass, easy prey to suggestion.

Tanzi has written:

"His was a neochristianism impregnated with communism. not much different, nor more incoherent, than that articulated by the authentic Jesus ... inasmuch as religions are historically only collective paranoia."

In the climate of revival on the centenary of Lazzaretti's death, some writings for the occasion exhorting David's "rehabilitation", pour out antipsychiatric attacks, especially with regard to Lombroso and Verga.

Renzo Villa (1981), after defining paranoia as a "parascientific category", held that "in reality he had not had any other task than that of expressing only the stigmatization of the phenomena of deviance that industrialization identified and tagged as such and that were being developed in the campaign."

He states then "we can underline the fact that paranoia is no longer a notion used in psychiatry, and that there are no longer any presuppositions for speaking of epilepsy in the case of Lazzaretti, nor any elements to justify a judgment of scizophrenia or of psychotic personality."

"The hallucinatory and delirium-exciting content (as system of ideas not corresponding to the reality and firmly supported) appears from the writings for anyone not a follower of his, and particularly from "My Struggle with God." Now an initial clarification must be made: the delirium is a personal credence when it is unacceptable by people of the same cultural environment as the delirious person; but in the case of Lazzaretti, as of other prophets, the content of the delirium is accepted by a part at least of the environment which surrounded the delirious exponent himself."

Later on, the author states:

"But, if the message is accepted and made their own by others, particularly of the environment in which the delirious conditions were produced, then there is a reinforcement and a normalization of the delirium. That is exactly what happened in the case of Lazzarettism."

The statement that the categories of paranoia (E.Bleuler's conceptualization of delirium pictures that do not exist in the schizophrenic defect) is no longer used, cannot be shared. In the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: clinicaldescriptions and diagnostic guidelines (W.H.O., 1992), the persistent, delirious Syndromes include paranoia (expressly cited). Also in the D.J.M. IV (A.P.A. 1994) in the Subtype Persecutory Type, reference is made to paranoia.

Moreover, it seems to me the author's formulation that from the delirium's propagation derives its normalization is quite original. This problem in psychopathology has been tackled differently.

Kraepelin, reporting an observation of Sikorski's on a sect which had developed at Kiev, for the preaching of a man with "delirious ideas", had coined the expression "psychic contagion."

In analyzing some religious sects during their period of "birth", interpretative models based on the mechanism of psychotic induction (relative to a restricted circle of followers) have been used, and on collective psychosis as well as paranoid community (in the meaning of Cameron and Magaret's, 1962).

Also, in the essay by Giorgio Villa (1987), a coherent criticism was argued against the nosological conceptualization of paranoia, with some observations that re-echo the foregoing formulation:

"The concept of paranoia in its fullness shows its functional significance in the necessity to stigmatize the phenomena of deviance set against the modern process of industrialization, market expansion and massive displacement of labour from one sector to another of the productive life."

But besides the more properly antipsychiatric-based criticisms, there are some evaluatory disagreements against Lombroso and Verga by forensic experts. Lorи and Martini (1981) write:

"So, on the basis of the various medical interventions reported up to now, very few elements emerge that can permit of diagnostic conclusions based upon a reasonable clinical presumption. And an evaluation of his mental health on the basis of behaviour (such as was essentially and decidedly done by Lombroso) would risk an arbitrary result in the lack of the presupposition of a dialectic construction conducted by special methods, unknown in Lombroso's time, aimed at evaluating the psychic condition. Lombroso, therefore, the greatest exponent of the time's forensic doctrine and convinced organicist, committed not so much a diagnostic error on the merits of what it is not opportune to discuss, as an error of behaviour to the extent of making the base for his diagnosis a finished and detailed analysis of behaviours and writings, carried out, moreover, in a preconceived manner, undoubtedly aimed at posthumous forensic judgment. Cesare Lombroso committed the error of judging without even having in his possession those objective elements of an anthropological nature, considered to be fundamental by him, through which he had clearly defined the man delinquent and the man of genius in a somatic sense, on the basis of anthropological characteristics, nowadays unreliable, but historically fundamental for scientific progress and for overcoming classic law."

Lombroso is accused of not having used the latest elements in his armament. Very often in the criticism of Lombroso, it is the initial phase of his thought which is considered, that part concentrated on the physical investigation, with anthropometric instruments, in the research for some character which might express atavism. Later, Lombroso advanced on this approach with evaluation of medico-psychological study. Therefore, in view of the evolution of Lombrosoнs thinking, this mixing of his studies on Lazzaretti should not seem strange.

It is not clear to me what Lorи and Martini mean when they refer to "The dialectic construction through special methods, unknown in Lombrosoнs time, aimed at evaluating his psychic condition."

The authors conclude with some liquidatory judgments of Vergaнs study: "the conclusion that precisely these visions are the clear symptom of a clear mental alienation, even if not mad and criminally-intentioned, can be held to be an inadequate, hasty and imprudent judgment, with relation to the following elements:

lack of objective clinical, anthropological and constitutional data;
sectorial vision of the case, detached and out of sociocultural context."
Permit, then, an unrepentant psychiatrist to reproduce these ungenerous judgments.

Verga performed a meritorious effort of analysis of the context. Among other things, he lists his documentary sources: he had read the report of the Central Inspector of the Ministry of the Interior, the depositions at the Assizes of Siena, Davidнs "booklets and manuscripts", he had collected information from Dr Stefano Becchini, "who already had Lazzaretti in service in his house, and from Dr Luigi Terni, who knew Lazzaretti personally, had cured him when ill and who dissected his body when dead. I make these things known publicly - he wrote - thanks to his colleagues named, not least to the very good Dr Claudio Annovazzi, to whom I am indebted for his valuable correspondence."

Frankly, the research by Lorи and Martini seems to me rather hasty. Let it suffice to consider in this respect, when they say "nothing is known of Dr Terniнs autopsy", that his testimony is repeatedly cited in the very writing of Vergaнs that they criticize (and also other studies report Dr Terniнs testimony. Cf for instance G. Barzellotti: David Lazzaretti, page 148 in the 1885 edition).

Marxist historians, from Hobsbawn to Moscato, have interpreted Lazzarettism as an expression of social protest, underlining the aspects of rebellion of the Amiatine population. Davidнs movement was grafted on to a latent jacquerie. For Moscato, there was the "deliberate repression of a movement," because in it there was the emergence of a "self-organization of the subaltern classes." In reality, the adherents of the Lazzarettist movement seemed more concerned with a religious prospective than with aspirations of a social revolution. Certainly, in todayнs interest for the figure of Lazzaretti, the myth of rebel in search of social justice plays a role: he appears more of a Robin Hood than a Messiah.

But, let us take another look at the authors who have been consulted on the identity of Lazzaretti.

"No-one has penetrated the mystery of David" wrote the Oratorian priest Polverini, and I believe, not even the Holy Office, with all its secret scrutiny, kept on David for many weeks ... . Is he, therefore, still a mystery? David came out of the Holy Office justified (according to my instincts but 3 or 4 months) = a Dreamer =.

This was the provisional judgment, later changed, with the due excommunications imposed on the unfortunate rebel. I say rebel, with truth: he was seduced by his badly, uprooted illusion, and, therefore, a less aware rebel, or seduced by malice and, in that case, much more guilty."

Polverini tells of being forced to read Davidнs retractions ("secret confessions").

"At this discovery of such powerful spirits, I reasoned to my opinion that the Mission in a word was by God willed in its special ends, given so many deceptions, this Mission began in Spiritism, continues with Spiritism, and through Spiritism would come its destruction, after the ruin."

Therefore, there is a leaning towards a demonologic interpretation: Lazzaretti would have effectively performed wonders, but they would have been with the work of evil spirits.

David himself in his "First three Precursory Edicts ..." had advanced a doubt in that respect, asking the Pontiff to tell him if his cause "had come from God or from an evil spirit in the guise of the Good."

Naturally, Imperiuzzi held that David Lazzaretti had carried out a mission which was not only prophetic, but was also Messianic.

This statement was the distinctive element of the religious group founded by Lazzaretti, the Giurisdavidic Church, still in being on Mount Amiata, even if as a residual phenomenon.

Others see in David a prophetic figure. So, Introvigne, a scholar of juridical formation, could write: "The developments of the movement after the tragic death of David Lazzaretti gave grounds for some puzzlement about the thesis of those who had seen in the prophet of Mount Amiata a simple madman"... "the typical dynamics of a new religion of prophetic origin were at work."

For some people, Lazzaretti was an impostor. Among these are counted the experts, who saw in David a political agitator: "we suspect that Lazzaretti intended a double goal, provoke a religious fanaticism and propagate a political party -- the first aim was merely a pretext, the second was his main objective."

Others have hypothesized that there might have been imposture at the beginning. David could have simulated, but then he would have been imprisoned in the acted part.

Barzellotti writes:

"A singular condition of mind with spirit, this, for which reason he, like so many others of the same nature, began perhaps by playing a part in public, in which there was a great amount of self-love and the craving for popularity, and ended with believing himself, with being in fact, for as much as it depended on him, the personage he had assumed."

And also a doctor, Dr Bottoni, so Verga reports, had supported this interpretation:

"It is assumed that is, that, moved by an over-riding ambition, he had right from the start to get himself looked upon as a prophet, an envoy from God, and that by dint of speaking of the visions he had been privileged to have, of the high mission he had received from God, he had finished up by himself believing in this and in that" (page 108).

Barzellotti did not turn a blind eye, moreover, to the psychopathological elements:

"In that so far I have said not only that I do not exclude, but presuppose that he might have been insane, that the morbid impulses, manifest in him from his youth, were then such, especially in the later years of his life, as to dominate his will entirely."

Had Lazzaretti the "will to believe" (in the sense given to it by William James)? Had he used trickery, such as, for instance, impression of the mark on his forehead? Is he to be considered, at least so far as genealogical claims go, an impostor? This question raises the matter of impersonation.

Adler spoke of the "lie of existence" Helene Deutsch has written that imposture consists of "pretending to be what you would like to be."

The impostor assumes the role for the profit to be gained from it. But not always does impersonating a role make one an impostor (Szasz).

We are dealing with the problem of identity. Is the mode of being authentic, or is it only the recital of a role imposed by expectations, circumstances, undergone passively, assumed in an unreal manner ? In the attempt to unravel this problematic knot all these elements will have to be considered.

For Verga, the central element was that given by the hallucinatory experience. The happenings of visions and hallucinations support the structuring of delirious themes and "open the way to madness."

Curcio, as well, underlines the importance of the visions in the genesis of the parable which was David, even if within an interpretive model that I would define multifactorial. In fact, it considers the tension between the ecstatic experience and its working up together with what moves in the background.

As regards the expectations of the family context, Lazzarettist sources propose tales of prodigious and marvellous character. Thus, for instance, David received three names at his baptism: "the third was given him by his uncle and godfather Gio. Battista Biagioli, who, moved by internal inspiration said: "I give him the name David, because one day my godson will be King David..


And again:

It is told by his mother, still alive, and the midwife that David was born with two special signs never before seen in other babies, to wit, a double tongue and double eyes. A tongue which was under the one that remained disappeared after a few days, but the sign remained always. His mother on seeing her son with two tongues, became agitated and distressed, fearing that her son would not be able to speak fluently, but she took heart when one tongue was seen to have disappeared. His mother and family did not know what to make of these extraordinary signs. In fact, his mother said many times she would put herself in the hands of divine providence.


These notes of Imperiuzziнs could more likely be interpreted as subsequent embellishments, used in the Lazzarettistsн preachings.

I do not think the re-reading of historic facts necessarily means the choice of an exclusive interpretative key. In the Lazzaretti case, there emerges an intricate plot that appears at times impossible to unravel.

Thus though giving some credence to the recognition of pathological aspects, we can reserve the impression, in certain passages, of finding ourselves facing an impostor. Think, for example, of Davidнs claim to be descended from the French Kingнs Bastard, Manfred Pallavicino, and the use he made of it in French revelationist circles.

On the other hand, the contradictory elements are linked with the human condition.

A major role in the whole affair is that played by the meetings with significant personages and the expectations of the situations. There is a circle of effects.

Social psychology can help us to understand how David managed to embody the expectations of wide sections of the Amiatine people of that time. These social phenomena happen in historical phases of change or of crisis, in periods that Toynbee has defined as of tumult.

Davidнs dynamic relationship aroused with the movement becomes evident in the epilogue. By proclaiming himself the Messiah, he pushed himself to the point of no return, for the expectations he had generated.

If, at Rome before the Holy Office, he had retracted, even if only in the attempt to leave himself some room for manoeuvre, at Arcidosso a compromise was impossible. The risk was too great of a disclaimer, of an "unmasking". Faithfulness to the role with his opposition to civil and religious authority and, above all, his tragic death ensured David a place in legend.

For David, the visions upset the stages of a life up till then normal.

Experiencing certain pathological states, with their accompanying suffering, sometimes fosters the perception of aspects that are obscured by a humdrum life.

David was attracted by the content of the "apparitions". There was an abrupt change with the emergence of the prophetic mission (and the subsequent grafting of the genealogical theme).

The two Philippine Oratorians probably conditioned Davidнs "luck": the visions were retranscribed in the light of the prophecies of Gioachino of Fiore and of St Francis of Paola.

The doctrinal framework and his personal charm permitted the meeting with the revelationist circles of the French monarchic legitimists.

One last note on the epilogue. Barzellotti (1884) had already brought into the foreground the expectations of the group becuase of the failure of the prophecy to materialize.

Festinger (1956) has shown how a millenarist group survived the failure of a prophecy about the end of the world. Through the paradigm of the cognitive dissonance, the adepts sought an explanation which allowed them to remain anyway in the group, almost not wishing to renounce the established bonds or the secret expectations. In the case described by Festinger, the adepts concluded that the world had not ended because it had been saved by their faith.

But, on Mount Amiata, the affair took a different turn. For three days, David remained awaiting wonders and delayed the procession in a crescendo of tension. In the end, his followers waited for him to come down against the carabinieri and accept the "judgment of God."

But rumour has it here, and it is highly credible in my view, that David, after having predicted great and terrible things to happen on the morning of the 14th, when he would come down from Mount Labaro, and then postponed his descent day after day until on the 18th, he was finally obliged to make a move by his own people, who had become impatient, and that not all of them, perhaps, followed him simply for the innocent desire of being present at some wonder. On the one hand, verification of his prophecies, so expected, on the other hand, the risk to which he had to put his authority and his prestige, by presenting himself defenceless to the awestruck crowd and the carabinieri, who had barred his way, were a sort of judgment of God, to which Lazzaretti was subjected by his own followers."

Barz. 28.

David remained more and more the prisoner of his prophecy. He was pushed ahead by the expectations that he had raised. After a three-day-long wait, he could not postpone further the fulfilment of his prophecy and came down processionally to meet his fate.


(1) The name Lazzaretti is printed for the first time in the books he published in France. Previous works carry the true name, Lazzeretti.

Barzellotti hypothesizes that David, with this change, wanted to make his name more like that of Lazzaro Pallavicino, the son of Manfredo, a legendary personage of the French dynasty, from whom Lazzeretti claimed descent (Barzellotti, 1885)

(2) It is the particular event that produces effects for that particular personality, just so as a key opens a lock.

While in favour of a key event, a psychotic structuring, rather than speaking of an "opening" we should be speaking of the closing of existential possibilities!

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