Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by stories and legends. My grandmother used to tell me many anecdotes and one of these concerned the witch hunt and their sad story. Many women sentenced to death just to be held up as “different”, tortured to be forced to confess the fake, like to be the devil’s daughters or wives. Not only women, but also men, young girls and animals (especially black cats) died at the stake and in Europe there were almost 100,000 people tried. Persecutions in Italy occurred in the early part of the sixteenth century, especially in northern Italy and Tuscany. This is why my grandmother told me a very particular legend: it’s said that, in the square of Prato del Duomo of San Miniato where maybe many witches were burned, during some times of the year you can hear the complaints of the poor women killed unjustly.
Gostanza Witch from Libbiano
Doing some research on witches in San Miniato I found interesting the story of the witch Gostanza da Libbiano, a sixty year old widowed lady (one of the many requirements that made a woman a witch) known as curator, spinner and midwife. Obviously at that time, whoever held the knowledge, was frowned upon citizens and many thought that her healing methods were the result of a pact with the devil. Unfortunately it was this fact that brought Gostanza to San Miniato, to the inquisition court led by the inquisitor Mario Porcacchi who subjected the poor woman to unspeakable torture that led her to confess, against her will, to be a witch, to to have participated in the Sabbaths, to turn into a black cat and to have had carnal relations with the Demon.
Some time later the Franciscan Dionigi da Costacciaro arrived from Florence and after having carefully examined the history of the poor woman, decided to grant her the grace by accusing Mario Porcacchi of having unfairly tortured Gostanza without a real reason.
Another witch who is named in San Miniato is the witch Barbuccia, sorceress and fortune teller who had made Fonte alle Fate her home. She was a woman to whom the citizens of San Miniato turned to ask for spells and to have predictions for their future.
We do not know, however, whether if she is really existed as it is mentioned only in Guido Pieragnoli’s book “La Bruna di Poggighisi”, a story set in the 16th century.