SER LAPO MAZZEI WRITES TO MESSER
FRANCESCO DATINI ABOUT BEATA BRIGIDA
he Merchant of Prato, Messer Francesco Datini, kept every scrap of paper. Today they are Prato's Archives, still kept in his merchant palace in the city's centre. Among them are letters written by his great friend, Ser Lapo Mazzei, the lawyer for the hospital, Santa Maria Nuova, in Florence, a hospital founded by Beatrice Portinari's father. Dante Alighieri had allegorized his love for the rich banker's daughter, into that for the celestial Beatrice of the Commedia.
In one of these letters, Ser Lapo Mazzei, discusses St Birgitta of Sweden at great length and with the greatest enthusiasm.
He explains that he writes this letter at hand, which I have seen, in the third hour of the night, in his study in Florence, 13 November 1395, to tell his colleague about the Paradiso monastery, for which Antonio Alberti has given all his property as its endowment, and about other such monasteries being founded throughout the length and breadth of Europe. He calls the saint, 'Santa Brisida', especially stressing her prophecies and her other writings in the Revelationes, speaking of her as 'quello ambassadore che Christo ci manda'.
He adds that she can particularly comfort Datini's wife as she also had been married and even had had a large family.
He continues in great detail about her writings concerning her Order and her stipulations concerning its monks and nuns, as a New Vine for Christ, all of which statements were dictated to her by an Angel or Christ or the Virgin, then edited by a bishop.
That bishop, whom Lapo Mazzei says he
has met, would be Alfonso of
Jaén, Birgitta's confessor, who was likewise confessor to
of Siena, following Birgitta's death. The letter mentions,
too, the Pisan nun, Clara
Gambacorta, from a family with far-flung Mediterranean
connections, to whom Alfonso de Jaén had given the vita
of St Birgitta.
Archivio di Stato.
Palazzo Datini, via ser Lapo Mazzei, 41, Prato, 1096. Letters
from Lapo Mazzei to Francesco Datini, Letter XCII.
Cesare Guasti. Lettere di un Notaro e un Mercante del Secolo XIV. Florence: Le Monnier, 1880. I. 118-193.
Iris Origo. The Merchant of Prato: Francesco di Marco Datini. London: Jonathan Cape, 1957. P. 217. Republished by Penguin Paperbacks.
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