Blessed Luchesius of Poggibonsi: First Lay Franciscan Penitent

Blessed Luchesius of Poggibonsi: First Lay Franciscan Penitent

On April 28, Franciscans—especially Secular Franciscans and members of the Third Order Regular—honor the memory of Blessed Luchesius of Poggibonsi (c. 1180-1260).

A contemporary of Saint Francis

A contemporary of Saint Francis, Luchesio Modestini was born around 1180 in a small village in Tuscany. In his early life he was a soldier. He was stationed at one point in Poggibonsi, a small but thriving town between Florence and Siena; abandoning his military career, he settled there and married a local woman named Buona (popularly known as Buonadonna).

A reputation as grasping, unfeeling

Luchesio became a merchant, selling provisions to the many pilgrims travelling the Via Francigena, the main highway from the north to Rome that passed through the town. He became very successful and also engaged in moneylending. Both he and his wife gained the reputation as grasping, unfeeling people.

Undergoing a religious conversion

In his early 30s, Luchesio underwent a religious conversion and began to reach out to help the poor of the area. His wife followed his example, and the two of them began to think about separating in order to devote themselves to God in religious life. Saint Francis visited Poggibonsi shortly afterward, and the couple approached him for advice. Perhaps at his recommendation, they decided to remain together as a married couple and persevere in their life as penitents living in the world.

San Lucchese Church and friary 700pixls

Sharing with the poor and needy

According to tradition, Francis clothed them with the habit, thus making them the first people to become lay Franciscan penitents. They retained only a small piece of farmland for themselves and devoted the rest of their lives to sharing what they had with the poor and needy.

Popular cult begins

As they grew older, according to tradition, when Buonadonna saw her elderly husband failing, she begged him not to die before her; shortly after, she fell victim to a fever, and they died the same day, April 28, 1260. Luchesio was buried in the Franciscan church, and a popular cult to him began immediately, which was officially recognized by the Church in 1694.

 San Lucchese Church interior 700 pixls

Dominic Monti

Written by : Dominic Monti

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. A native of nearby Bradford, PA, he was educated at St. Bonaventure (BA); after joining the Order, he attended the Catholic University of America (STB), Union Theological Seminary, NY (STM), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. He is spiritual assistant to a federation of Poor Clares and the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ.
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