The Castello della Magione di Poggibonsi: Centre of Resplendent Liturgical Arts

The Count with Mons. Barreiro

The Castle of Magione, located on the famous Via Francigena, or pilgrim's route to Rome, is a small Medieval complex that includes a chapel in the town of Poggibonsi. This beautiful little hamlet is very close to Florence and Siena. Several years ago I was privileged to visit and see and pray with their community along with my good friends Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, STD and Don Ettore Capra, a wonderful priest who was ordained in the castle chapel several years before.

The castle's chapel
We were impressed with the resplendent liturgical program in the chapel, known as the Cappella Corsini. Here sacred liturgy flourishes amid sacred music and splendid vestments. In fact, the immense vestment collection in the sacristy is one of the most impressive I have seen. To visit here for sung Mass in the chapel is an incredible experience. Holy Week services are also celebrated here on some of the days of the Easter Triduum. The chapel is available for pilgrim groups to celebrate Mass and have a picnic lunch in the refectory.  

Sung Mass in the chapel
The property is under the care of an approved lay organization known as the Militia del Tempio (in Latin, Militia Templi - Christi Pauperum Milittum Ordo). In English this translates as the Militia of Christ, the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ. Members are professed knights and dames, single and married couples, and clergy. They are canonically recognized as a private association of the faithful of diocesan right and their Constitutions and Rule have been approved by the Archbishop of Siena. Members have a special devotion to the care of the sacred liturgy according to the tradition of the Church and they recite daily the Divine Office as a service rendered to God. 

The Count
The knights are set up as a monastic-military order, founded in 1979 by Count Marcello Alberto Cristofani della Magione. The Count is a wonderful man. I have met him at the castle and seen him at various liturgical events in Rome. He is the founder who promulgated the Rule and he has been the first and only member elected Grand Master. The Constitutions were put together under his direction and approved by the local ordinary of Siena. The Count has made sure the chapel has been well managed to continue its centuries-old role as a place where the liturgical arts and liturgical devotions flourish both for the local community and for those who may be pilgrims passing through. Holy Mass is made available in the chapel every Sunday in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Altar servers are recruited from the local Scout troop. The chapel has survived much over the centuries, including floods. Visitors have included various personages and prelates, including Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, former Dean of the College of Cardinals, seen below. 

Visit of Cardinal Re from the Vatican
While not a chivalric order, members are inspired by chivalrous virtues. The mission of the knights is the salvation of souls and the realization of the Kingdom of Christ on earth. They do this by promoting and helping to establish communities of faith and Christian life in order to pursue, in full communion with the Church, the originality of one's vocation expressed in their Rule. Several of the members are based in the country of Hungary where the order with its charism has flourished.   

Asperges in the chapel
The order further takes its inspiration from the ideals, traditions, and Rule of the ancient order of the Knights Templar, without claiming to be a successor organization (which would be a false claim of lineage). Members defend and propagate traditional human and Christian values while implementing personal ideals at the service of the Church and of those in need, always in filial obedience to the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with the Apostolic See. Members draw strength from the mysticism and spirituality of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and, in particular, from the Liber ad Milites Templi de Laude Novae Militiae and from the treatise De Praecepto et Dispensatione.

Sunday Mass in the chapel
For centuries pilgrims have passed by the castle on the Via Francigena, the ancient road and pilgrimage route from the cathedral of Canterbury in England that led travelers through France and Italy, past Rome to ports of embarkation for the Holy Land. This pilgrim route has been revived in recent years. The castle property dates from the eleventh century. In 1140 it was donated by the original heirs to the founders to monks of the Abbey of San Michele in Poggio Marturi. The monks later entrusted it to the Knights Templar, making it one of their many "Domus Templi" or properties, in this case, located on the busy route to Rome, just before Siena. In 1979 the property was purchased by the Count who restored it and later donated it to the order he founded. 

Recessional after Mass to the sacristy
Members stand as a as a testimony and defense of traditional human and Christian values, as a service rendered to the very ideal of the sacrifice of Cavalry. The education of young people also figures into their mandate, as well as the defense and reception of pilgrims. And, in general, the moral and material support of those in need, according to the tradition of the ancient Order, as a service rendered to the Church and to civil society. 

Corpus Domini procession from the street into the chapel
As mentioned before, members model themselves after select ideals of the Knights Templar, while they claim no historic link or rights of succession of the Templars. The Knights Templar were founded in 1118-19, about twenty years after the conquest of Jerusalem. They were later suppressed in 1312 by Pope Clement V. That being said, the knights are set up as a public institution with legitimate canonical character in the Archdiocese of Siena. 

Gathering of the knights after Investiture Mass
The order is keen on the Biblical concept of "miles Christi," introduced by St. Paul in the Sacred Scriptures. Being a "soldier of Christ." This took on new meaning for the Crusaders when St. Bernard applied it as the ideal of the Christian knight, and since then this ideal of holiness and manliness has distinguished all professed knights of the Christian world. 

Outdoor procession with knights
Knights give themselves the appellation of "poor," which in no way should be understood in the sense of being needy with no means or income. Indeed, in the vein of the interpretation of the Fathers of the Church, the expression "poor" refers rather to the ideal of "poverty in spirit," in the sense of what Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount.  This poverty is anchored in the heart and presupposes inner freedom and independence from undue attachment to earthly possessions.   

Community Mass in the chapel
May God continue to bless this little community and its members, who seek to live their vocations in the world according to their Rule, with a strong focus on doing good while helping to promote good liturgy and all the blessings that come from it. And many thanks to the good Count for his kindness shown to our pilgrim group. Visiting the castle was one of the highlights of our journey through Tuscany.  

The main entrance of the castle property
The flag of the knights is flown (very similar to the Catholic Scout flag of Explorers, recognized by its Maltese cross) along with the flag of Vatican City and that of the Republic of Italy.  The chapel is on the right in the above photo. On the left is the sacristy. The acoustics are phenomenal. Many memorable liturgies have been celebrated there through the centuries. 

Mass in the chapel with Scout altar servers


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