Legendary wooden image of Christ on the Cross
The Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli of Borgo San Lorenzo is linked to the centuries-old cult of the wooden image of Christ on the cross, whose origin is narrated in an ancient tradition. On the occasion of the Holy Year of 1400, German pilgrims, on their way to Rome with the image of the Crucifix, would have been surprised during their passage from Borgo to escape from the plague epidemic, leaving to the abitants of Borgo San Lorenzo the sacred image they had led up to here as their banner. From that moment on, at the Barberian Crucifix, the population has, over the centuries, attributed miracles and wonders, a circumstance that has increased and rooted the cult, which has reached the present day.
In light of the historical critique, the tradition appears to be more plausible (for example, a plague epidemic is recorded four years later, in 1404). It is more probable that in reality the origin of the cult of the Crucifix should be related to the presence in Borgo of a lay confraternity of Battuti and that of the Franciscan friars, to whom we owe, right in that period, a revaluation of the worship of the cross, as a concrete expression of the suffering of God who became man. It could indeed be not very far from the truth to imagine that at the church of the Franciscans there was, at the end of the fourteenth century, a lay confraternity of Battuti (whose members, that is, were dedicated to self-flagellation as a sign of penance), entitled to the Corpus Domini, where there was a wooden image of the Crucified Christ, which has become, precisely on the occasion of some calamitous event object of the devotion of the faithful.
This hypothesis is confirmed by what was written by Mannucci, who cites numerous documents from which this dynamic would be evinced and that around 1400, the Battuti we asked and obtained from the friars a space, outside but next to the church of San Francesco, to build its own Sanctuary.
What we know with certainty is that, from the beginning, the Crucifix of the Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli was guarded by the lay Confraternity of Corpus Domini, after called “Compagnia de ‘Neri” which had its own Sanctuary exactly where today’s church. From what can be deduced from the available sources, it was a building much smaller than today, among other things differently oriented (the main altar was turned to the west and the entrance to the country), structured in a simple classroom rectangular surmounted by a small dome at the altar. On the left side a chapel-room was opened on whose altar the image of the Holy Crucifix was placed. On the right side of the Sanctuary, on the other hand, there was a cloister in the center of which there was a well (there is still traces of it in the manhole on the floor of today’s church, in front of the steps of the presbytery).
Building Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli
Over the centuries the company of Corpus Domini saw its importance grow, also taking advantage of the cult of the Holy Crucifix that had become more and more rooted and widespread in the Mugello area, to such an extent that, in 1710, it was decided that the ancient Sanctuary was no longer suitable for cultural and liturgical needs and that it was necessary to proceed with the construction of a new, wider one, building.
The construction of the great church, whose project was entrusted to the Florentine architect Girolamo Ticciati, began in 1714 and ended in 1743. The large building, in truth not yet completed because missing the large porch (later added by the architect Giuseppe Ruggeri in 1754) and of the bell tower, had a Greek cross plan surmounted by a large internal central dome enclosed in an external quadrangular tribury. In the niche, open to the center of the great machine of the high altar, the image of the Holy Crucifix was placed that, hidden from view by a painted canvas, it is showing to the devotion of the faithful only on some solemn occasions.
The construction of the Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli had led to the destruction of the ancient Sanctuary. Despite the upheavals operated, it was decided to safeguard the place where the sacred image was kept for centuries. This is the small quadrangular space still visible today to the left of the church facade.
Although rebuilt extensively after the earthquake of 1919, the sanctuary maintains the 18th-century architectural structure.
Above the high altar, in a tabernacle decorated with red velvet, is the miraculous Crucifix, attributed to the workshop of Giovanni Pisano, covered by a large canvas depicting the Angel consoling that brings peace to the population of Borgo affected by the earthquake of 1835.
In the other two altars there is a painting by Giuseppe Folchi with the Transito di San Giuseppe and by Ignazio Hugford, a Baptism of Constantine. On the walls there are eight large paintings depicting Passion Stories performed by Giuseppe Sabatelli in the years 1845-1850.
The Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli also preserves a panel of majolica tiles depicting Saint John the Baptist, executed around 1920 by the Fornaci San Lorenzo, designed by Galileo Chini, of remarkable artistic quality. Of the same manufacture are the large wrought iron and ceramic chandelier and, under the portico, the two ceramic reliefs the Announcing Angel and the Madonna Annunziata, ceramic copies of Andrea della Robbia (a specimen of the lunette is in the Museum of Manufacture Chini). A painting with the Sacrifice of Abraham by Pietro Colli covered the organ of the choir.
To the left of the Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso dei Miracoli is the Church of San Francesco with a unique and large nave in Gothic style and with remains of 14th century frescoes.