One of the black pages in the history of man is that of the inquisition: hundreds of thousands of women, men, animals and children burned at the stake or killed with the most grim methods because they were believed to be witches, sorcerers or emissaries of the devil.
It took so little to be referred to as a “witch”: to be widows or unmarried, to own a black cat, to heal people and animals with plants or natural material, to speak alone, senility, mental illness or simply to be introverted. But not only … There is also talk of famines, plagues, diseases and anything else that led the populations to point to someone as guilty, and therefore have a scapegoat to blame for all that evil.
But in all this evil, there was a drop in the ocean, a story as we can say, with a happy ending: we are talking about Monna Gostanza da Libbiano, a widow, healer, midwife and spinner who lived in the Tuscan countryside. It’s 1594 and it was in that year that Monna Gostanza was arrested one night in November because she was accused by the population of witchcraft. It’s not difficult to understand why: in that period these people were frowned upon (although many turned to them in their time of need) and also hated, in fact it was feared that those who were able to do good were also able to do evil.
The woman was taken to San Miniato to be tried and sentenced.
The trial of Gostanza da Libbiano in San Miniato
The vicar of the bishop of Lucca (diocese under which the medieval village was at the time) Father Tommaso Roffia and the friar Mario Porcacchi are those who interrogated the poor woman who, under torture of the rope, confessed to being a witch who participated in the Sabbath, had carnal relations with the devil and that she could fly and turn into animals whenever she wanted. The poor woman, however, retracted her shortly, justifying the fact that she had told everything about witchcraft for the pain she felt. Throughout the process there will be moments in which the woman confirms that she is a witch and others in which she denies. Father Tommaso Roffia begins not to believe in Gostanza’s words, but Father Mario Porcacchi on the other hand is very convinced of those words and therefore inclined to condemn her.
The fact also reached the high ecclesiastical hierarchs and the inquisitor Father Dionigi da Costacciaro began to take an interest in the case of Gostanza to check if it was within the jurisdiction of the Holy Office. It was thanks to his intervention that in the end the woman was exonerated from all guilt: in fact, Father Dionigi imposed on Father Porcacchi to free the woman because «in the end it was seen that this poor old woman said everything for torments and nothing is true».
Gostanza finally manages to regain her freedom, but she will be denied to continue her work as a healer and will be banned from her country which she will leave to live in the territory of Chianni.
In 2000 a film directed by Paolo Benvenuti was shot, set in the Palaces of San Miniato and among the protagonists we can remember Lucia Poli in the role of Gostanza da Libbiano, Valentino Davanzati in the role of Monsignor Tommaso Roffia and Renzo Cerrato in the role of Father Dionigi da Costacciaro.