The Life of the Blessed Gherardesca of Pisa

Translated by Elizabeth A. Petroff

University of Massachusetts

Amherst, MA


Introduction

Gherardesca of Pisa was born at the beginning of the thirteenth century, either in 1200 or 1207, and died sixty years later, either in 1260 or 1267. Her biography, the only extant written source, was written in Latin by her confessor and friend and consists of her dictated visions and sermons. She presumably dictated in Italian, although the extant text is in Latin.

The  verbatim accounts of the visionary experiences of the saint are often introduced by a simple “and then Gherardesca spoke,” or “the saint opened her mouth and said ... .” Some of the visions are fragmentary due to the poor condition of the unique Latin manuscript (her vita was the final life in a collection of lives of various saints belonging to the nuns of St. Sylvester in Pisa), but other visions seem to have been edited to conceal the identity of persons who were still alive. Her biographer sees her as a prophetess, and hints that she met with much hostility from some of the brothers in the Camaldolensian monastery near where she had her cell as a tertiary. She often speaks of one monk in particular, of whom she was very fond and with whom she always wished to share her spiritual consolations; her confessor/biographer never admits that this “certain monk” is himself, but the context makes it clear that they are the same man. Her style and the content of her visions were influenced by the Apocalypse of St. John, her favourite saint. She was buried in the church of St. Savino in Pisa , but the church was so damaged during the wars between Pisa and Florence that there is no possibility of locating her grave. The presence of a contemporary cult is confirmed by a portrait of her on a panel painting belonging to the Pisan church of San Michele in Borgo; here she is depicted as one among a number of Camaldolensian saints. Neither the day nor the year of her death is known with certainty, but her feast day is celebrated on May 29.

The first chapter of her vita< says nothing about her family origins; this is unusual, especially considering that the vita was written by a contemporary and, moreover, she was well-known in Pisa , both as a visionary and as a mediator of disputes. We can guess that she was fairly well off, since she seemed to meet with no difficulty in entering the monastic life. We are told in passing that a relative of hers was abbot of St. Savino, but the only immediate family member mentioned, not by name, is her mother, with whom she had a difficult relationship. Gherardesca's vocation was precocious. At the age of seven she ran away from home to join a convent, but she later left at the urging of her mother, and even married to please her.

She was unhappy in marriage, and tried to compensate by imitating as far as possible the life she had lived in the convent, by mortifying her flesh with fasting and prayers, by attending at mass and the divine office, and by being a public example of good works. She was unable to become pregnant, and in response to her mother's repeated prayers for a grandson, she was told by God that he would give Gherardesca St. John the Evangelist as a son.

Believing more and more strongly that she could not “earn eternity in the world,” Gherardesca convinced her husband to enter the religious life with her. The very day he consented to this, Gherardesca rushed him to the abbot of St. Savino, a relative of hers, who immediately received both of them into the “sacred assembly of the monks of the monastery.” Now Gherardesca was happy; she began to smile again and from the cell to which she had been assigned - located just outside the male community - she radiated happiness. Her spiritual gifts grew in this environment, and her visions were often announced by the appearance of an eagle, the symbol of the Evangelist.

Perhaps because of her preoccupation with “earn[ing] eternity,” and because of her devotion to St. John , many of Gherardesca's visions concerned the afterlife. Some of them are remarkably vivid and moving, and suggest Dante in theme and imagery, although none of them are systematically developed at much length. In one of her longer visions, for instance, she details an allegorical vision of a journey to heaven, hell, and purgatory. Also like Dante, Gherardesca seems to have been unusually sensitive to music and most of her visions of heaven, or of St. John the Evangelist, are filled with auditory as well as visual imagery.

She was evidently trained in, or taught herself, several types of meditation, for sometimes her visions seemed to derive from meditations on the life of Christ and his mother (the system of meditation taught to most women), while others are more abstract. For instance, we are told of her “thinking with great circlings of her mind about the enormity and nature of Divine Potency,” and in another meditation, when she could not put into words her understanding of the power of divinity, she focused her attention on a little piece of straw.

And she was abiding in such ardour of spirit that she sought the divine potency everywhere, in heaven and on earth, with amazement at those things that were everywhere so exalted and perfect ... Then the Lord ... showed her his power, perfect in all things ... .For in that straw there appeared to the saint the whole life eternal with the omnipotence of God.

Her visions, even those that began abstractly, were almost always structured around a symbolic object - a ring, a flowering branch, a crown - or around symbolic landscapes and cityscapes. Some of her narratives are quite clearly sermons, utilising material from her visions interpreted allegorically by the use of scriptural references. As a visionary, Gherardesca exhibited many of the physical traits associated with mysticism; she was seen to levitate during prayer and sometimes her body seemed so lifeless as a result of a vision that she was thought to be dead. Her gift of prophecy (by which mediæval authors usually meant mind-reading and predicting the future) involved her in familial and monastic inter-relationships where she had to be very cautious and tactful, since she knew so much about the sins of her colleagues and neighbours.

Gherardesca, a thirteenth century Italian visionary, survives as a writer only in this one text, a hagiographical vita which takes care to preserve her own words (albeit in Latin translation) in narrating her visions and thoughts. One reads it with pain; Gherardesca was obviously a gifted woman who was not given the opportunity to develop her abilities. Without that “certain monk” of whom she was so fond, we would not even know of her creativity.

The Life of the Blessed Gherardesca of Pisa

Accurately gathered together by her Confessor, from the old manuscript in the monastery of St. Sylvester in Pisa

CHAPTER ONE

The pious marriage of Gherardesca; her donning the monastic habit; the beginnings of her divine revelations.

In these days in the region of Pisa, there was a certain nun named Gherardesca who dwelt near the men's monastery of St. Savino and belonged to the same order and profession. She was compassionate toward the oppressed, merciful to the afflicted, fervent in charity, imbued with all the virtues, gentle, and fearing the Lord. Even when she was a little girl, before she had reached the age of seven, because she had been taught to fear the Lord, and because she disdained the amusements of her parents, she ran away to a certain monastery, and there she planned to serve the Lord for her entire life. When she had been there for some time, and her mother had been grieving sorely over her absence, she was induced by her mother's pain - or perhaps it was because she hadn't yet reached the maturity of age - at any rate, in all simplicity, at the voice of her mother, she left the monastery. And when she had remained with her mother for some time, being subject to her will in everything, she did not deny her consent when her mother wished to hand her to a husband in marriage. Indeed, just like a poor sheep being shorn, she remained mute (cf. Isa. 53: 7); that is to say, being ignorant of this world, against her will she immersed herself in considerable danger and in the pleasures of marriage.

2  Afterwards, however, she thought herself distanced from the service of Jesus Christ and wrapped up in secular cares, and she began to feel profoundly saddened, because she was deprived of her most pleasant joy. And in truth, since “the just man lives by faith,” (Rom. 1: 17) and she believed likewise that she was pleasing the Lord by living in the bonds of matrimony, she began to mortify her body continually with fasting and prayers. She did this in such a way that each day she would neither eat nor drink until she had tearfully prayed to the Lord in church, along with six hundred genuflections. She was sedulous in prayer, fervent in fasting, and since she was not lazy, she was always able to be present at the sacred mysteries. What more? Even as she was staying in the world she was already dead to it, so that she might not take the least enjoyment in worldly delights. For, having made a ladder to paradise, she exhibited in herself examples of good works to everyone. In fact, since she was taught by the Lord not to hide her good works under a bushel but to place them on a candlestick (cf. Lk. 8: 16), so that by this our celestial Father who is in heaven may he praised, the saint therefore, while remaining in the world with her husband, just like the calf of Ephraim who was taught to love threshing the grain (cf. Hos. 10: 11), always carried in her mind that monastic habit which she no longer wore as a physical garment.

3  When she was unable to conceive a child with her husband, it was her mother who ceaselessly prayed to the Lord that to her daughter might be given a son, in whom might be praised the divine clemency which has the power of “creating all things from nothing,” and of “naming those things which are not, just as those things which are.” But since the Lord had already chosen Gherardesca as his own, he appeared to her mother in her sleep, saying: “Since you desire your daughter to have children from her husband, in order that your devout petition may be fulfilled, I offer as her son St. John the Evangelist.” And at the same time the Lord gave her sage, savin, and rosemary. O, how much might the saint now rejoice! How much could she exult in gladness, knowing that the prayer of her mother had been fulfilled by the mouth of the Most High. And she received an adult son, who might protect his nurse, rather than his nurse protect him. For this reason it happened that, just as when the Lord died, St. John took the Virgin as his own mother, so now he was to devote his patronship to this saint. When the mother rose amazed from her sleep, she could not contain herself for joy; she ran outside to her neighbours, carrying in her hand the herbs mentioned, which the Lord had left for her as a sign of affection, as she saw it. But the Lord, being quite indignant at her behaviour, sent forth such potency from those herbs into her hands that the hands and arm remained unhealed, with ulcerous wounds for two years, after which time divine clemency restored health to them.

4  At length, since the saint unceasingly showed her great desire to leave the world and its enticements and to spend her life in a certain monastery in the service of Jesus Christ, and since she did not believe that it was possible to earn eternity in the world, she started earnestly to admonish her husband. She said that if he would, with her, abandon the transitory things of this world, they could enjoy the fruit of a better life in a monastery and that in the end they would obtain glory and participation in the heavenly kingdom. Thus it happened that, when she had continued in this admonishing, her husband, “taking the better part,” (cf. Lk. 10: 42) gave his agreement and consent to the pious will of his wife. The holy woman, being afraid that her husband would change his holy intention (for he had been inclined to evil ever since his adolescence), hastened to the monastery of St. Savino. At the time the abbot there was a venerable man who was himself a relation of the saint. And when he had heard from the holy woman that she wished, with her husband, to assume the habit of this monastery, and because he had always cherished them in the bosom of Jesus Christ, he immediately received them into the sacred assembly of the monks of the monastery, with the common and eager consent of his brothers and himself, and gave to said mindful lady and her husband the habit of holy religion. After receiving them benignly into his holy arms, from then on he began to treat them as his spiritual children.

5 The holy woman, as soon as she felt herself dressed in nun's robes, became as happy and cheerful as if she were abounding in all delights, and thanked God who had not abandoned those trusting in him. In that very place, just outside the monastery, a cell was given to her, where, constantly praising the Lord, she engaged in the divine offices with all the force of her body. Isn't this marvellous, quite unheard of in the world? She, while she was in secular society, never seemed cheerful, never happy, but once she had received the habit of holy religion, she found happiness. She began to feel so much eagerness, to exult with so much joy, that her face and eyes, as if they had never seen sadness, glowed with infinite alacrity. Moreover, when she began to remain in her oratory, progressing from virtue to virtue, it was there that the grace of the Holy Spirit, which she had possessed even in the world, now more abundantly breathed forth its fragrance.

6  One day, then, while the mother of the blessed Gherardesca was coming to visit her so that she might enjoy her vision, Gherardesca, who did not want to disturb her mother nor to cease her usual contemplation, left her cell and went into the garden to pray. In that place, while she was devoutly praying, a golden eagle appeared, coming towards her. In fact, when it had come quite close to the saint, it struck her in the chest, so that she fell flat on the ground, as if she were dead. When her mother, who had gone out into the garden to see what she was doing, found her there, apparently dead, she tearfully carried her into the house. A little later, the saint, returning to consciousness, began to laud the most high [ ... ]

7  One day, when Blessed Gherardesca was praying, as was proper and customary with her, she heard heavenly voices sounding praises to the Lord. She opened the window of her cell, in case she could see anything in the sky, but the singing ceased immediately, overwhelmed with silence. However, when the said lady realised that the silence had come about on her account, she started to cry, and said to herself: “I am unworthy even to contemplate such delicious joy.” As she said this, three doves appeared in her oratory, with airy wings, stars in the foreheads, and gold crowns on their heads, and with breasts adorned with crystalline stones. Spreading their wings out over each other, they remained for three successive days and nights. When the dawn of the fourth day came, an eagle appeared in the same oratory. He wore an episcopal mantle, a gold crown, and a gold censer around his neck; he had five stars on his forehead, and he bore on his breast a certain golden book. When the saint looked at the stars which were set in the eagle's forehead, she testified she saw there the triumph and joy of the whole of eternal life. And at once there appeared a certain regal seat, which was placed on the eagle's back, and the Lord came and sat; and with him were the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed John the Evangelist. Saint Gherardesca preserved all these things attentively, pondering them in her heart.

8  There was a certain monk whom this lady loved, who desired to contemplate the divine mysteries; at the prayers of the Blessed Virgin the said monk was presented before the Lord. And when Blessed John the Baptist and Blessed John the Evangelist led the monk before the Divine Presence, they took the episcopal mantle from the back of the eagle, and gave it to the Blessed Virgin, who, putting it on the monk, presented him before the Lord's Majesty. Then the Lord, taking the crown from the head of the eagle, placed it on the head of the said monk and directed Blessed John the Evangelist to take up the book from the eagle's breast and to write his name in the Book of Life. When Blessed John had fulfilled God's command, he showed the writing to Saint Gherardesca. When she had seen it and recognised the name of the monk, she exulted with great joy. Thereafter the Lord remained in that place for three days, and the darkness of night was sent totally away.

9  After this the saint went with the Lord into the wilderness, where she remained for seven days and nights. Then - “whether in the body or beyond it, only God knows” (2 Cor. 12: 3) - she saw with full vision how the Lord stayed there, fasting forty days and nights. She also saw how the angels, coming often, comforted the Lord as he prayed and wept, and how the Lord was going upwards, in the flesh and beyond the flesh, to the Father, asking him that the chalice of death might pass him by. After this, the Lord sent her a gold ring, with letters written on it which said, “I give you this ring as a pledge, since what you have seen and heard about the monk will not pass by until all is finished.” The saint tied the ring about her neck, so that she might show it to the said monk. When these things were accomplished, Blessed Gherardesca went with the Lord into eternal life; and the Lord ordained a procession, with the Blessed Virgin and the entire court of heaven, outside the city of Jerusalem, where there were two angels hewing precious stones. When the saint inquired about that work, this was the response: “This is supposed to be the home of your monk.'' At once she directed the angel to be prepared in that place for the monk. Then Blessed John said to the saint, ''The ring you have ought to be taken from you by another woman, who loves him more than you.'' The saint, disturbed at this, asked, ''Who is she?'' [. . .]

10 However, the Blessed John said, “You have nothing against her: therefore go, and be free.” Nevertheless, her soul stood before them, fearfully stunned, as if, although she had escaped from heavy dangers, she had not yet found herself in the castle of safety. The next day when all the deeds of her soul were still before her very eyes, the saint was so troubled by such a vision that she humbly asked permission to be freed from seeing the demons. At once, her spirit was rapt, and she was in a certain house, fittingly handsome, where she saw Blessed Michael with the soul of the said deceased, who was exhausted from the greatest afflictions. In that house there were many chambers, adorned with the most exquisite ornaments, and the saint marvelled at the beauty of that lodging; suddenly Blessed Michael left the place, coming at once upon Blessed John the Evangelist, Saint Savino, and also Blessed Martin. Then, Blessed Martin, speaking to her, said, “Since the deceased had great devotion and bore complete faith in Blessed John the Evangelist, Blessed John did not forget him, but asked the Lord for him and earnestly poured forth prayers; and the Lord granted him the fullest power, up to the third day, to wipe away whatever punishments he deserved, and granted him the power to lead him to eternal rest on the feast day of the Annunciation to the Blessed Mary, which was the last of the three days.” And when that feast day arrived, the deceased, divested of his pains, was placed before the eyes of the saint in one of those chambers, which earlier the blessed woman had seen so adorned, as we have said.

11 After this, Blessed John the Evangelist came and spoke to her, saying, ''Do you wish to see the house in which the glorious Virgin dwelt, when she was greeted by the angel Gabriel?” The saint replied, “By all means, holy father,“ and coming to that house with Blessed John, in it they found our Lady, wearing the same clothing and having the same age she had when she received the word of salutation, and they saw also how she was leaning against a column while she prayed. She saw everything, point by point, that was done by the blessed angel and by Mary.

12nbsp;One night, when the saint was thinking with great circlings of her mind, about the enormity and nature of Divine Potency, in an instant she stood deposited on the steps of the church of St. Peter , a church which was four miles distant from the city of Pisa . And when she was standing there, overcome with stupor, she saw a multitude of people; and the suddenness of this vision greatly terrified her. Someone came up to her, saying: “You will be disturbed by this vision, and because of it your mind shall be destroyed by acute terror.” At that very moment the heavens opened, and the fire issuing forth seemed to consume the whole face of the earth, just as shall happen at the end of the world. Then the saint saw herself dead, and her trembling soul viewed her body, as the deafening noise of the people reverberated on all sides. Blessed Peter the Apostle appeared to her, saying, “I am he who spoke to you a little while ago, and you have seen how this world must be consumed. However, you do not have to die as yet.” Then the saint inquired of him, saying: “Are the dead men of this age?” He responded, “Not at all.” And the saint was at once restored to bodily wholeness, but she was possessed by fear for many days afterward, and troubled by many temptations.

CHAPTER TWO

Favours divinely obtained on behalf of others, healthy and sick, by the Blessed One, and the visions which accompanied them.

13  On the feast of Blessed John the Evangelist, there was a certain Pisan lady named Theodesca, who accompanied Blessed Gherardesca to the church of St. Jacob of Podio, which is outside the city of Pisa . While she prayed, the saint was suspended in the air almost to the height of ten cubits. Trembling, Lady Theodesca stood up. Seeing the saint levitating and harmonising with the song of the angels, she said to herself with great joy, ''Truly today I shall be with the saint in paradise, a member of the kingdom of God.” In the course of this, the matins hour struck, and the saint, having returned to her place, got up after prayer. Theodesca did not try to pry into what had happened. Now, this Theodesca had a son at sea, and he pulled into port at the same time that a certain daughter of hers had just died. When she heard of the arrival of her son, she stood there, saying, “Lord God, if only my daughter were still alive, I would now have complete joy, being with my daughter and my son. O Lord, why have you pleased to do this?” And in that very place it was revealed to St. Gherardesca that Theodesca had thus complained bitterly, and that her son was very afraid of drowning in a great storm which had just arisen. When Theodesca went to the saint, in order to rejoice with her at the arrival of her son (and her son came with her), the saint told them everything, as is said above, to their great amazement. With eager voices they praised Lord Jesus Christ on account of this.

14  One particular night, during the feast of All Saints, the saint was in the church of Saint Savino, so that she could hear matins there, when a certain eagle appeared to her, having a golden crown on its head, and bearing in its mouth a little branch on which there were birds that composed the most pleasant melody with their voices. The eagle, however, flew around the entire church, pausing over the heads of certain worthies who were there. When the Gospel was recited, the saint saw the heavens opened, and saints standing there, with their crowns put aside on account of reverence for the Gospel. From that fact the saint understood that while the Gospel was sung on earth, the crowns of the saints were taken off with reverence.

15  One night, however, when she was in the grip of a grave sickness, and was keeping vigil in bed, behold, she felt a hand under her head, and heard someone speaking alongside her. Having heard some conversation, she turned on her side, and saw the Blessed Virgin, St. Catherine, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Paul the Apostle. Blessed Catherine carried in her hands a branch of olives with palms. Saints John and Paul, approaching the saint, lifted her up from the bed, enabling her to make reverence to Our Lady. The glorious Virgin said to Saint John and Saint Paul : “Bring here such and such monks.” They went out and brought back with them those about whom the Blessed Mary had spoken. Our Lady said to Blessed John, “Take up those branches and give a branch to each of the monks.” And when he did this, the Blessed Virgin held out her hand as if she would offer it to those monks, who were kissing it incessantly. However, Blessed Paul held two crowns in his hands, when he said to Gherardesca, “Lady, you are being noticed.” Soon the Blessed Virgin said, “Take away her ring, for it is better for her not to have it on account of the devil and the smoke of vainglory. But I want to hide it away for her until the day of her death.” And at once the ring was taken from her; returning to herself, she said, ''Truly all things that I heard and saw were true.”

16  One night, when St. Gherardesca was called by someone to go with him, she swiftly left her cell, and took up the journey with him. Going along together, they came to a place which was divided into three parts by three footpaths. When they began to traverse one of these paths, they came upon two rivers, between which the said path was enclosed. The rivers contained a great many demons and serpents, but it was the demons, barking like dogs, who eagerly sought to seize the souls passing near there. The second pathway too had a river on one side, rushing down from high rocks, very deep and dangerous. The third pathway had a river on one side, and on the other a garden, very beautiful and bright of an immeasurable worth. Along the pathway which led through the center, they saw souls making their way to Purgatory. And when they were crossing in this way, behold, four winds were blowing, striking her so forcefully that she could scarcely stay on her feet. Her guide, seeing that the fragile saint was much shaken by the winds, held out a staff to her, and said, “Take this staff and oppose it to the winds, and they will be unable to harm you.” From then on, once the saint took up the walking stick, the winds in that place ceased to harm her. Coming along the road after this, where there was that huge cliff (as was said), they came to a profoundly horrifying place, which is named Hell.

17  Meanwhile the saint could scarcely keep on her feet, on account of the horrible gusts of wind and the infinite dangers; nevertheless, crossing the middle of Hell without injury, although she was greatly terrified by the visions of the punishments, she saw Purgatory at the head of a certain path. The saint, going forward to Purgatory, and speaking with those who were there, diligently sought of them, by whom they were visited, whether by the Blessed Virgin or by Blessed John the Evangelist. Forthwith her answerers said, “The Lord visits us once a month, and then we feel no torment. Since, however, the soul of someone who committed many diverse and stinking sins in this world recently came here to undergo many and diverse punishments, the Lord has not come to visit us for almost forty days now. When he did come, he had compassion on us at his departure, leading with him into eternal life those souls who had been purified.” Soon after this, angels and a great many saints came, raising up their standards, one of which had a cross, another the image of [ ... ] and the third the image of [. . . ] an angel singing. The saints, and the inhabitants of Purgatory, and the angels entering too, they conducted the holy souls into Paradise with the greatest lauds. And he who led Saint Gherardesca, revealing and expounding all the things which were seen, said, “Souls who committed serious and horrible sins in the world, most grievously offending the Lord, are damned to infernal punishment. Among them reside the souls of monks and nuns who had sons or daughters in the world, and because of this, demons holding snakes lash them.” At once the saint saw the children of monastics going by, as if grimacing and berating their parents for the intolerable pains which they were suffering.

18  After these things were done and seen in proper order, he who was leading the saint said to her: “Now it behooves you to come with me,. so that your ears may hear and your eyes see what is to come. And he led her into a good-sized valley, where there were uncountable bones of the dead, and angels and demons standing there separating bones from bones, that is, bones of the elect from those of the damned. She saw how the elect rejoiced and the condemned were aggrieved and complained to each other. The Lord came there in great fury and wrath, and the angels and saints with him, fearing and trembling. And behold, a certain angel came, bearing a little lighted torch in his hand, and striking the earth with it, he destroyed all things which are under heaven. However, the elect, seeing that the waters as well as the mountains were consumed, began at once and with one voice to praise the name of the Most High with ineffable praises. And rising up at once, they heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Come, Blessed Ones” and “Depart, Cursed Ones.'' And thus it was done; and the just, rejoicing and exulting, went to the sight of the Lord in eternal life, and the damned, weeping and wailing, into eternal punishment.

19  After this, when the said lady had returned to the world and saw herself shut out from the divine mysteries which she had seen earlier, she began to be very sad; although she had returned to this world, in her excessive grief she remained as if dead. And when her mother, coming to her, found her off to one side, just as if shrivelled up, she wept bitterly, with her whole household, all of them crying out with loud voices. The neighbours, hearing this, quickly rose up at their clamour. Meanwhile, this lady, as if still half asleep, began to explain to her mother, point by point, every wrong she had committed in her life. Her mother, greatly amazed about these things she was hearing, and very frightened, confessed that she had done everything just as the saint said. And the saint said again, “Since today, before the third hour, I must leave this life, I want to leave this place quickly, lest I pay the debt of the flesh in this place. My friars are angry with me, because I want to be buried in the church of St. Jacob of Podio. Therefore follow me.” And her mother followed, and those who were with her. And when the saint had gone a little way, and could not walk any further on account of her suffering, she fell to the earth as if unconscious. Then there appeared to her Blessed John the Evangelist, and Blessed Jacob the Apostle, strengthening her. And when St. Gherardesca was reclining on the breast of Blessed John the Evangelist, Blessed John said to her: “You are planning in your soul to reveal everything which the Lord showed to you; in fact, since you ought not to leave aside human things yet, lest you acquire a reputation for vainglory, God is most displeased with such an intention, from which you should totally desist.” And at once, at their touch, she was immediately cured, and they departed, and the saint went to the church of Blessed Jacob on her own feet, praising and glorifying God.

20  Again, there appeared to her one day the Blessed Virgin Mary with Blessed John the Evangelist, and the holy Virgin had a certain vine in her hand, which had a good-sized trunk decorated with margarites and bearing seven grape clusters adorned with sweet-smelling fragrant flowers. Therefore St. Gherardesca inquired of St. John what that vine might mean. Blessed John, looking at the saint with a happy face, deeply rejoiced with her, and leading her to the feet of the Blessed Virgin, asked diligently what that vine portended for her. The Blessed Virgin responded, “I hold this vine in my hand, for your son the monk, for indeed as many times as I show requests to my son, the same number of times he considers what I am asking.” Then with tears the Blessed Gherardesca asked: “My Lady, must this monk die right now?'' The Blessed Virgin replied to this: “He does not have to be deprived of life in the world until the grapes which remain on this vine are ripe.” She also said: ''I would not fling aside this vine staff until I have presented his soul, sleeping in my arms, before the countenance of my son. For this reason you may say to your monk that he should take care to constantly obey his prelate, whom he does not fear to oppose, for obedience is no less pleasing to God than the salvation-bearing host [. . .]” And while she was saying this, they departed. However, St. Gherardesca later questioning her monk concerning these things, learned from him everything, just as it had been revealed to her.

21  One day, however, when his maidservant was praying, she saw a monk with a crown on his head ascending and four angels were carrying him most devoutly. When she looked at this attentively, she saw two elders standing in the air, and with them there was a most reverend lady, all of them holding out their arms to receive that monk into heaven. Likewise she saw many men standing on the earth. As they looked up into heaven, they praised and blessed God, saying, “You are worthy, Lord, to accept the power and glory and honour,” and all were expressing joy to each other. When the maidservant saw these things, she went to St. Gherardesca and told her point by point, just as she saw it. Hearing this, St. Gherardesca began in her innermost heart to praise the ineffable clemency of God, who had shown his mercy to that monk.

22  Afterwards, in fact, the holy woman, questioning the maidservant earnestly and tearfully about these things which she saw, thought in her mind that the said monk was to be deprived of his life in a short while, which disturbed her greatly. And while she felt this uncertainty, her spirit was taken up, and was with the Lord and the Blessed Virgin. And thus it was done so that the Blessed Virgin, talking with Saint John concerning the will of the Lord, would say, “Since the Lord wishes to fulfill the desire of Gherardesca, call forth John the Baptist and Jacob.'' And when they were before her, the Blessed Virgin said to them, ''Go and satisfy Gherardesca, by endowing the monk in the manner of St. John the Evangelist.” And when they had likewise gone together with the saint, they came to a certain place where there was a large cloister, and lovely trees in marvellous order. And when they went higher, they saw there a marvellous bed, and youths glowing with unspeakable beauty standing around it; and they saw the Trinity, and the entire celestial court dwelling in the house. And then there was a certain abbot, Urban by name, who was once abbot of the monastery of St. Savino, and he was rejoicing very much on account of the honour being paid to the monk. The holy woman, having remembered her friars, who were accustomed to bring her tribulation, began to doubt severely. However, St. John the Evangelist said to her, “They are already in Hell, those who caused you anguish, and infernal rabid dogs eat their tongues, for I incite the justice of God against those who persecute you.” Truly it is fitting to give joyful thanks to this saint who had a son as intercessor in heaven and protector.

23  There was a certain brother of the holy order of St. Francis, who was continually suffering prodigious distress of mind. One day he came to St. Gherardesca and implored her, saying, ''There is a certain brother, whom I love as myself, who is sustaining innumerable tribulations. Thus I beg of your sanctity that you beg the Most High, to show to you, to whatever extent he sees fit, why this same brother is so gravely disturbed. For he is occupied with so much pain that he seems to be going mad and to lack understanding.” Gherardesca, as was her custom, cheerfully accepted the prayers of the brother as an intercessor ,¡ asking for whatever would bring the consolation to the brother and health to his soul. And that day, when she was in church, she again remembered what the brother had so humbly entreated of her. Kneeling on the ground, she began to pray for him most devoutly; and returning to her cell, having removed her clothing, she scourged herself fiercely. While she was lacerating her flesh, she heard clearly from heaven all the reasons for which the aforesaid brother was being afflicted with such great tribulation. After a little time, the said brother returned to the saint, and she recited to him all the things he had done against God, and that he had sinned on Good Friday. Then he, confessing everything to be true, just as the holy woman said, told her, “Truly, Lady, I have done all these evil things, and I am deserving of death.” He returned home, filled with great joy, and said to a certain colleague of his, “Be happy for me; let us give glory to our true and living God, for he has given me excellent consolation, he who is blessed for ever and ever, Amen.”

24  At the same time, when the only son of a certain noble woman of the city of Pisa had sickened to the point of death, his mother went to the saint, humbly entreating her to implore God for her son. Soon, however, when the saint, feeling compassion for the unhappy mother, was praying to God on his behalf, she heard a voice from heaven saying, “I shall restore him to health on account of the wish of the mother, but after a few days he will be taken from her.” And all at once, he was made well who was sick, and after not much time, he died.

25  Likewise a certain woman had a son who was a soldier, who was very ill; she sent her granddaughter to the saint, that she might entreat her aid for the son's sake. Then Gherardesca, for she was pious and humble, instantly knelt down and prayed tearfully to the Lord on behalf of the aforesaid sick man. And while she was praying - whether in the body or outside the body, I don't know, God knows (2 Cor. 12: 3) - at once she was led into a meadow very beautiful and pleasant. It was full of roses and other kinds of flowers, emitting a most pleasant fragrance. From the reflected glow of the flowers the whole sky seemed rosy and delightful. As the saint noted the beauty of such a meadow, she saw three pilgrims coming toward her. Once they had drawn near, the saint adored them with all devotion; and when she had gazed on the feet of one of them and saw the marks of the nails, she immediately realised that he was the Lord. She began to cry copiously, and to flood the nail wounds with her tears. When, however, the saint desired to drink those tears, the Lord, perceiving her faith, at once raised his foot from the ground and extended it to her mouth. She received it rejoicing, and drank all the water. The Lord, opening his mouth, said to the saint, ''On account of the love of my Genetrix and your love and that of Jacob, I shall hear the prayers of the supplicant, for her faith is great; I shall restore health to her son and he shall bury his mother.” And at once he who was ill is made well, and he lived not many days after his mother.

CHAPTER 3

The Blessed Gherardesca, recognising the sins of others in heavenly visions, wisely cures the same.

26  Also at that time there was a friar of the Order of St. Francis who bore great faith and devotion towards the saint, because of seeing and hearing the signs and prodigies which the Lord continually manifested through her. Once this friar was going to Rome , and finding there the Minister of his order, he began to expound to him everything that our Lord was performing by means of St. Gherardesca in those days. The Minister, greatly amazed by these things, wanted to test her, saying, ''Let us go to her.” Between themselves, they agreed upon what to do. A short while later, these friars reached the place where the saint was dwelling, and when they were with her, the saint addressed them, saying, “I have no interest in speaking with those who have come to test me.” The friars, stunned at what they were hearing from the saint, and that she was revealing the secrets of the heart, fell to the ground, trying to kiss her feet. Confessing everything, just as the saint had pointed it out to them, they departed from her, praising and glorifying God.

27  Similarly, one time, on a feast day of the Blessed Mary, when Gherardesca was going to the church of St. Francis, a friar came up to her and said: “Today at first dawn, I and another friar with me perceived great joy in the Lord and there came a voice from heaven, saying, 'That which you have seen ought to be told to another person, to whom I shall show something still greater.' Thus prepare yourself, lady, since so much grace is owed to you.'' Gherardesca, filled with all humility, remained devoutly in prayer, as she was accustomed to do. At the point when the choir of the Franciscans was singing Holy, Holy, Holy, three rays of the sun came through the window next to the altar, and three doves, and likewise three golden stars. Two of the doves were of a hyacinthine color; they perched on the right and left shoulder of the priest, who was performing the mysteries of the Mass at the altar, and supported his arms. At the altar, a third dove, white as snow, raised up the body of the Lord, just in front of the priest's hands so that the priest, believing he was touching the Host, invisibly stroked the dove - which the holy woman saw openly. While Saint Gherardesca remained in prayer, her spirit soon went forth, carried to heaven, where, together with all the priests who were at that hour celebrating the mysteries of the mass, she saw the glorious Virgin Mary with a great multitude of angels. They broke the bread of the Eucharist, which they were sacrificing, upon the breast of the Blessed Virgin, while saying “Peace be with you.” Then the spirit of Gherardesca heard all the Masses which were continually being celebrated in all the world and at which the Virgin was also present. The body of Saint Gherardesca in the church of Saint Francis remained as if dead for the space of one day, in order that the friars of that place might marvel, praising the ineffable potency of God. And when her spirit returned to her body, the holy woman was unwilling to disclose anything about what she had heard and seen on that day. At a later time, however, when some friars approached her, they learned diligently from her whatever she had seen and heard.

28  Another time, there was a woman, the godmother of Saint Gherardesca, who had a certain kinsman whom she cherished very much. It happened that when this man wished to take a wife, he was persuaded by his sister-in-law to refuse to accept a bride who was not of noble birth, for by this kind of proposal she was inwardly resisting his marriage. On this account, the woman's irate husband daily reproached her, saying, “You don't want your kinsman to get married.” She herself said, ''I am doing this because I cherish him.” When the kinsman of the woman learned from her that her husband had said such things to her, he indignantly swore that he would never take a wife, except by the permission and command of his kinswoman. Then the neighbours, thinking about the sacrament of marriage in the following way, said to each other, “He did this out of an evil motivation, since he participated with her in the crime of fornication.” So one day, when the woman went to the priest to confess her faults, she recited all her sins, without mentioning the enormity of this heavy one. But the priest, who had been listening to the evil reputation which her neighbours had reported of her, asked her, “What do you think you are doing, you unhappy woman? Reveal all your misdeeds, for in fact you are not mentioning that terrible crime which you have committed with your kinsman. There is common gossip about this, and you cannot easily hide what is becoming known to everyone. For all your neighbours are saying that you, having fornicated with your kinsman, made him swear never to take a wife without your license.” The woman, whose wrath was kindled at this, asked, “How can this be?” Getting up, she said to the priest, “I do not want you to grant me indulgence, but expect me within fifteen days.” At her departure, the sin which she had never committed with her kinsman she now committed, to her damnation. And when she returned to the priest within the time period that she had promised, she said to him, “Lord, that which was not done, is now accomplished.” And she left. The priest did not understand her words, and she did not confess her sin.

29  Meanwhile the woman went to the church of the Blessed Mary and placed a cloak on the image of the Blessed Virgin for the remission of her sins. Then the Blessed Mary appeared to Saint Gherardesca to say, “Your godmother brought a cloak to me, which I heartily reject - because of the sin she committed with her kinsman - until such time as that sin is removed through the cleansing of penitence. To you I say that you should hide the cloak until the woman performs penance for such a great crime. Then go to Lord Deodatus, a monk at St. Jacob of Podio; you may say that he should go to the priest who is her confessor, so that in correcting her he may move her and by moving correct her, so that she can receive health-giving penance.” And the Virgin told her everything that the woman had been doing. The saint got up then, and went to the church and found the cloak, just as the Blessed Virgin had said; she took it from her and put it away.

30  One day, therefore, Brother Deodatus came to the saint with a Sienese companion; the saint called the companion to her and said to him: “I have to talk to you.” And she started to explain how the Blessed Mary, appearing to her, gave her a cloak which a certain woman had brought to her for the remission of her sins, a gift which the Virgin found especially abhorrent, for the woman had fornicated with her kinsman. “She said to me, 'Go and take custody of the cloak and tell Lord Deodatus that he should take especial pain in this situation so that he may recall this woman to repentance of such a great crime, and afterwards the woman may reinstate the said cloak.'” When the saint had gone over everything point by point with the friar, he said, “Lady, I advise you to explain all this in order to Lord Deodatus.” The saint, calling Lord Deodatus to her, explained everything to him, as is told above. Stunned at hearing such a great mystery, he said, ''Well, then, Lady, what ought to be done? For my part, I am willing to execute devoutly everything you advise me to do.” The saint said, “Go and seek out the priest who is accustomed to assign penance to her; if you shall have found it to be as I have said, come back to me and I will show you the cloak.” Lord Deodatus, departing with his companion and finding the priest, questioned him diligently about all those things which have been mentioned. Then in response the priest said that everything spoken by the saint was true. Returning to Gherardesca's godmother, they told her everything, just as the saint had indicated to them. But she denied everything, saying she had never committed this kind of sin. Then Lord Deodatus said, “Go to the church of the Blessed Mary and see if the cloak is there.” She went to the aforementioned church, and finding that the robe was not there, understood that it was at Blessed Gherardesca's house. All at once, having looked into her own heart, she received the remedy for such a great sin. With great joy, the Lord Deodatus returned to the saint, saying, “The woman has accepted penance and confessed her fault.” The saint was also filled with great joy, and she said, “Go, restore the cloak to the Blessed Virgin.” Going away, they did everything as the saint instructed.

31  Shortly thereafter, the said woman died. In fact, one night, having suffered very much, her soul passed by the cell of the saint, vehemently lamenting. It entered the saint's room, and two demons also came in, who were scourging her. Although taking pity on the soul and praying to God for it, the saint was not aware of who it might be. “Why, goddaughter, aren't you speaking to me?” asked the spirit, standing before the saint. St. Gherardesca, rather stunned with fear, recognised her and asked, “What do you want?” The soul replied, ''Don't be afraid, for I am your godmother. In the shelter of divine mercy I have come to ask you to pray to God for me, for the Lord reveals to you whatever is pleasing to him concerning other people. Was it not you who revealed to Lord Deodatus that I was unwilling to do penance for such a great crime? For this I suffer inestimable pain and am tormented in purgatory. Those who stay outside are sinful souls who are unceasingly flagellated.” She went away soon after this had been said.

32  When the Lord had shown through his saint these and other miracles, so that people came running to her, there came to Gherardesca a certain monastic, who, trusting in her merits, asked her to pray to the Lord for him. At the command of his superior he had been assigned a certain act of obedience, which his soul bore most unwillingly. Gherardesca, moved by the entreaties of this monk, prayed for him. While she was persisting in devout prayer (whether in the body or beyond the body, I know not, God knows) she was borne into the choir of the monastery of St. Savino; being greatly terrified because she was afraid to be found there by the monks, she said: “O, if the monks came and found me standing here, how much harm would they bring me?” Looking at the door through which the friars were accustomed to enter, she saw in front of the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary a certain very lovely tree, decorated with the whitest lilies. There was a lady lying under the tree with her hands joined in prayer. Not wanting to annoy her, the saint withdrew as soon as she saw her. From there she looked into the choir; next to the altar were standing a great many angels. For this reason, when the angels came up to the saint to greet her, she questioned them, asking, “Why are you here?” In response they said, “We are here with our lady; it is she who prays before the altar.” When they said these things, they swiftly drew near to the Blessed Mary, who was now seated on a throne next to the altar, and they knelt before her on bended knees. Shortly, the Blessed Virgin directed them to lead St. Gherardesca to her. At once they went to place the saint before the Blessed Virgin, who said to her: “What are you asking for your monk? Doesn't he refuse to obey? I want him to be obedient to his Abbot in all things, for that is good.” The Virgin then revealed to St. Gherardesca the monk's individual thoughts. Upon suddenly finding herself back in her house, she began to offer thanks to the Lord most gratefully.

33  Likewise there was a time when a certain person was thinking in his heart to do away with an enemy of his. When he had prepared snares so that he could fulfill his intention, the Lord prevented him, so that he was unable to perform it. This was revealed to the saint by a voice saying to her: “Such a one is condemned, for on such a day he wanted to kill someone.” Immediately the saint had the said man called to her and proved him guilty of such a great crime. When he had heard these things, weeping bitterly, he confessed that what the saint had said to him was true. And he then performed health-giving penance, praising the Lord Jesus Christ, who wishes not the death of sinners, but that they might turn from their wickedness and live.

CHAPTER 4

The Blessed One tells what was shown to her in the Heavenly Jerusalem through various visions.

34  One day, therefore, the saint, wishing to disclose what she was seeing concerning the Kingdom of God , said that one time - as was usual with her - her soul was borne into heaven; as she passed by the planets of heaven, she saw a huge plain, which was called the precinct of the holy city of Jerusalem . In that place there was a marvellous multitude of castles, and most lovely orchards, and all the streets of the city of Jerusalem were of precious stones and the purest gold. Golden trees were there, placed in rows, and their branches likewise gleamed with gold; resplendent ever-shining flowers adorning them according to the properties of each, much more pleasing and delightful than those we see in earthly orchards. In the middle of this territory stands the Holy Jerusalem, sublime and truly beautiful. In a circle surrounding it there were seven citadels, charmingly decorated, marked with the name of the Glorious Virgin, rising high up in the mountains and hewn out of costly stone, each with stairs for ascending and descending made of precious jewels, which continually rained down gems upon those who, climbing up or going down, were fulfilled in every kind of pleasure and delight. These citadels, endowed with priceless ornamentation, contained victory standards, protected by the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Within them were precious seats, shining in holy radiance, belonging to Our Savior and the Glorious Virgin, the angels and archangels, apostles and prophets, confessors and virgins, and all the saints - and all of them were ordered according to their ranks. Three times a year, when they are visited by the entire heavenly court, the citadels are replete with ineffable joy. Other very handsome fortifications or castles, entrusted to souls of great merit, keep watch with sedulous devotion. Each time they visited the city with the saints, those same joyful souls, when desirous of going up to the city, went up by the silver stairs, all decorated with precious stones, that cross the ring of the city.

35  Likewise the city of Jerusalem , constructed of costly stones, had very high walls with twelve gates; its castles, palaces, orchards and squares were built from the purest gold and silver and precious stones. Moreover, when the chorus of the angels, as distinct from the chorus of the saints opposite to it, passed from its choir stalls to those of the saints, the divine potency so operates that in no way does the choir of angels appear diminished. So also when the souls come outside the city, they still appear always in their places; and the walls of the city do not in any way interfere with the line of vision, for all can be viewed from every part. And those souls who are outside the city in the castles and streets likewise see everything, that is, the entirety of life eternal. The magnitude of the holy city of Jerusalem cannot be measured, and similarly this world, in comparison with the heavenly homeland, seems a mere threshing floor. The majesty of the Heavenly Father dwelling there is as evident to all the saints and angels as the air of this world is evident to us. The Son dwells next to the Father, and the Blessed Virgin a little below the Son, so near indeed that the Mother and Son can touch each other. And twenty-four elders dwell always near the Father, and likewise the other saints. Blessed John the Evangelist has his place next to the Blessed Virgin, so close, that is, that they can touch each other. Furthermore, Blessed John is so full of thanks for such a very privileged relationship with the Lord, that when the saints seek to intercede for those who are in the world, they bring such requests chiefly to him. Going to the place assigned to him next to the Virgin, the singular patron of the Christian faith asks her to intercede for us with the Son. The Holy Virgin, hearing his prayers, puts the hand of her Son in the hand of Blessed John. St. John , however, as soon as he senses that he has obtained what he sought, returns to his place, which he holds with the apostles above the entire choir of the saints. The chairs of the saints are so proportionately ranked in heaven that each is raised higher than the other according to the relative merits granted each one.

36  When Blessed Mary pours forth prayers for others to her son, from her head she removes her crown, which the angels receive and keep with reverence. Immediately Christ raises her up, and all the saints come and assist them. It is necessary to obtain from Mary whatever petitions are brought to God the Father. Moreover, under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin appear miraculously the choirs of the apostles and of all the saints. On Sundays, Blessed John celebrates the mysteries of the mass, with all holy clerics of every religious order being present for the Office, and the Blessed Virgin Mary receives the Eucharist of the Lord seven times for all sinners and - another marvel - when “The Lord be with you” and “Peace be always with you” are said, the responses are given reverently, unanimously, and uniformly by all. None except St. John dares to sing mass there, nor does anyone dare to take communion, except the Blessed Virgin; at any rate, so it is on the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, Epiphany, the Day of Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Annunciation and Assumption of the Blessed Mary.

37  O Blessed Eyes that then see our Lord, the Son of God, put aside the mantle and take up the golden staff and go to eternal life serving the saints. And when he went forth, he was adored by all; the saints, beholding God the Father, brought forth in total devotion their great thanks for such very agreeable gifts, that the eye cannot see, nor the ears hear, nor the heart of man think. All the saints - have no doubt about this - were dedicated as sons of the Blessed Mary in the celestial fatherland, for truly, whoever places his hope in the Blessed Virgin and serves her, has his own place in heaven, for such indeed are considered by all to be the children of the Blessed Mary. Furthermore, great is the repository of merit for them, and the reward of merits, and indeed all are seen under her mantle in a marvellous and manifest vision. Therefore, let everyone know this, for whoever in the prison of this world shall place his trust in the Blessed Virgin and serve her, will not be deceived by her. For the Angels love such a one; they petition to God for him, and the heavenly angels, after the fall of the others, are made secure through her.

38  Again the saint said: ''When Blessed Mary migrated from this life, no one touched her except Blessed John the Evangelist. From this touch St. John , having obtained ineffable joy through grace, leapt up in such a dance of rejoicing as he had never enjoyed, even when he reclined on the breast of Christ. For he was considering that the hand of Our Lady, which he touched, had nourished the Lord, Son of the Living God; it glowed then with indescribable grace, and when she seemed to the apostles to be on earth with them, she was exulting in heaven before the Divine Majesty. The Father and also the Son (as if loving him with a singular grace) granted to the same Blessed John the power of ordering the entire celestial court in honour of Our Lady. Then came Christ, with angels and all the saints, and they bore into heaven the body and soul of the Most Blessed Virgin with great joy and triumph. O, what a delightful minstrel! O, what a most pleasant musician was Christ then! Meanwhile on that day, on which Blessed Mary ascended to the heavenly realms, such sweet and new song resounded as was never thought of by the angels in heaven, nor heard by men on earth. And when the Blessed Virgin had been assumed into heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ received her, and with great joyfulness presented her to God the Father. God the Father, taking her up with indescribable rejoicing, marvellously placed her above all the choirs of angels and saints and said to her: 'Behold, I place you above people and kingdoms, and I share my kingdom with you.' And when he had said this, he gave her the most glorious name, so that all, that is, might name her Mother of Mercy. He said, moreover, to the Son, 'You truly shall be called the Father of Justice, making judgement and justice. This, however, I establish - that my justice will in the end give way to your mercy, so that what is sought compassionately from you shall be granted by me out of full justice.' Then the Blessed Virgin sat on the throne of mercy and loving kindness, reigning with God the Father in glory forever.”

39  Then St. Gherardesca again opened her mouth and said: “On the day of Mary's nativity, all the choirs and orders of angels sent their foremost representatives so that they might bring honour and glory to God the Father for so much benefit kindly having been granted to the world - that is, the benefit of the nativity of the excellent Mother of God, Mary. Then the angels ascended; they waited on the Blessed Mary with all humility, and the crown which she removed from her head they devoutly received. Indeed, all the saints laid aside their crowns; taking the Son in her arms, the Holy Virgin offered him to God the Father, and the Father took him on his lap and rejoiced unutterably. O marvellous joy! O unspeakable gladness! God and Man, the Son of God, rests on the breast of his Father. After this Christ returned to his Mother, full of every eagerness and loving kindness.”

40  When she had said these things, Gherardesca began to tell about the souls freed from the pains of Purgatory who were hastening to the joys of eternal glory, and she said, “It is fitting that each soul, desirous of entering the eternal joys of the heavens, have in itself three things. The first is that it be purged of all uncleanness. The second is that it be anointed with the most precious of unguents; the third that it be girded with much virtue. Concerning the first the Psalmist says: 'We have passed through fire and water,' in the same way as the just men describe themselves as having passed through fire and water, for in the first all rust is destroyed, and in water all filth is washed away. Concerning the second, Ecclesiastes says: 'We run after you in the odour of your perfume,' for the saints describe themselves as running in the odour of the perfumes, that is, of those who in this world reap the reputation of good opinion from the garden of their own conscience, and in regard to themselves they provide for others the example of holy deeds. Concerning the third, moreover, Isaiah says, 'Every precious stone your covering,' for by precious stones what may we understand but the most high ornaments of virtue, with which, as if with the rays of the sun, the souls of the saints in heaven shine in splendour.” Therefore the saint said this: “Afterwards the souls so adorned are presented in the sight of the Most High, with whom they reign, world without end.”

41 Again she began to speak about the special beatitudes which souls have in eternal life with the holy angels, and she spoke of four principal beatitudes which it is fitting for souls to have in heaven: “wisdom, indeed, and beauty, joyfulness, and peace. For they have wisdom with the angels, since they seek after no counsel, but know all things; they have beauty without any defect, that in beauty the Most High may be chosen; they have complete joyfulness, rejoicing unceasingly with the angels in the presence of God; they obtain perpetual peace, sweetly enjoying it at all times.” And also she said, “When I was in the church of Blessed Stephen , I heard the choirs singing psalms in that church and in heaven; and behold, the angels were ascending and descending and they were mingling good and evil among us before the Most High. As I heard the sweet-sounding song, behold! the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was rejoicing with God the Father, while he was listening to the good news of his faithful one, and in that place the Father was blessing the Son, and the Son blessing all Christians on earth living in faith [...] What therefore did Blessed John do, the virgin elect of Christ? What does the swift one attend to, when he hears evil tidings about us? Surely, having as much sympathy for us as is possible, swiftly he makes haste, swiftly he hurries. He ordains a new canticle before the Lord to soothe God's wrath towards us and to turn into grace the furor of him whom we often make angry towards us by our crimes. Also on the feast of the nativity of Our Lady, the saints dress Our Lady in a certain circular mantle, singing with all sweetness and saying, 'You, about to undertake the liberation of men, did not despise the Virgin's womb.' Then, with all the angels and saints humbly revering Our Lord, Saint Mary with crossed arms looked on her son, and spoke thus: 'I give thanks to you for these things in which they honour me, for they could not be any more generous.' Ah, Blessed John, as you are called the eagle on earth, thus the office of these you do not refuse in heaven; for when you fly to the Father, you embrace his feet and sweetly kiss his breast. Afterward, when the saints sing sweet sounding harmonies, they bow to the Father of Great Majesty, before God the Father with all reverence.”

CHAPTER 5

The Blessed One is visited by saints; she prays efficaciously on behalf of those dear to her and for the souls who are purging themselves.

42  Then one night when the saint, gravely ill, was unable to lie still on her cot, she began to entreat the Lord with humble prayer that he, along with the most glorious Mary, Mother of God, might deign to deal mercifully with her in such sickness. Instantly the Lord appeared to her, as when he had dwelt on earth; he showed her his hands transfixed by nails and he revealed his thought to her, and told her everything, the past as well as the present and the future, which was done by others; and when he had said these things he left, and the saint became well.

43 A certain night when her soul had been brought into heaven and was with Christ and the Blessed Virgin, she began to think about her monk, and to say to herself, “O, if only he could behold such joy!” And the Lord, seeing her faith, called Blessed John the Evangelist to himself, saying to him, “I grant you the power of doing for Gherardesca according to her desire, in whatever way you wish to please me.” Going away, Blessed John said to the saint, “As long as he lives, no sin can impede your devout monk, for he shall possess eternal life; nor will there be tribulation for him while he lives, nor distress, and our friend Friar Peter will be present at his death.” After these things took place, however, Our Lady, the Queen of the World, gave thanks in all these things to the Most High Jesus Christ, who had deigned to think of the said monk as her own servant. Blessed John also said, “It behooves me to pray the Lord more frequently on behalf of the servants of Our Lady than for others.”

44  On the feast of Our Lord's Nativity, in the middle of the night, as the saint said, when her spirit was in heaven, she saw all the saints and angels preparing themselves, that they might confer lauds and honour and glory to Mary, the Mother of God. And Christ came, dressed in a tunic, and Blessed John the Evangelist with him. Then the saints, arriving at the same time, proceeded to the place where there were the most precious adornments of Our Lady; that is, to the archbishopric of Blessed John the Evangelist. And the Blessed Virgin Mary, descending into the third street of the city of Jerusalem (toward which one goes down in three steps from the second street, and the same number from the first to the second), was clothed by Blessed John in a certain marvellous circular cloak, with Jesus remaining bowed at her feet, and Jesus gave her gloves and a ring and kissed her hand. However, at this moment her monk was thinking about his saint, Gherardesca, and that she should be able to enjoy such a great vision; the Blessed Virgin suddenly called to herself Christ and Blessed John, saying to them, “Go, and call that monk.” And when they had fulfilled the command of Our Lady, they returned and said to St. Gherardesca, “Your devout friend is present and now honours Our Lady.” The overjoyed saint looked back and saw him holding the tasselled border of Our Lady's dress with all devotion. Afterwards the Virgin opened the mantle in which she was clothed and received the monk under it, questioning Blessed John and saying, “If I were in the world and in need of anything of yours, would you not succor me? But I do not say this on your account, but on account of the one standing here, that I may satisfy him.” St. John answered, “If I were able, for your sake I would renounce the kingdom of God .” And again the Blessed Virgin said to him, “You know the will of God; I recommend to you my servant here.” Blessed John replied, “I will do whatever you wish, Lady.” Then the Blessed Virgin blessed him. Afterwards Christ said to his Mother, “What do you wish me to do, Mother?'' She recommended to him the said monk.

45  One day when St. Gherardesca was in prayer and the door of her house was shut, a certain pilgrim approached who sought alms from her, ostensibly for Blessed Mary and Blessed John the Evangelist. The saint, immediately smelling the fragrance and odour of his clothing, ran forthwith to the door and said to the pilgrim, “Since it is not customary to seek alms expressly at the behest of Saint John the Evangelist, why have you asked for alms for his love? Indeed, for his love I would devote my eyes to you; come into my house and take what you wish.'' And he said to her, “I don't want all those things you have said, but nevertheless bring me some of your bread.” The saint fetched him three loaves of bread and the same number of cheeses, for she was desirous of giving him such alms. But he immediately vanished from her eyes, at which fact the saint remained quite stunned.

46  Also at the time, during Lent, when the saint was enclosed in the chamber of her house, and her maidservant was going to the home of a certain neighbour woman of hers, the saint saw the whole of her chamber open, and her house was on all sides completely open and unlocked. Soon when she got up to see what it might be, she saw standing before the door of the courtyard three comely men, with venerable white hair, and with them there was a certain venerable lady, dressed in costly clothes, and each of them had a handful of roses in his hands. When they had entered the oratory of the saint, they began for a short while to pray. When they were seated and were not recognised by the saint, one of them said, ''Speak, O Blessed Jacob.” Having heard them, the saint began to rejoice intensely. Also another said, “And you, St. John , speak.” As soon as the saint heard the name of the Blessed John, she fell at his feet, crying in excess of joy. Blessed John took her by the hand, and lifted her from the ground, and put her next to his feet, showing her the ring that he had on his finger, and said, “Do you recognise this ring?” The saint saw the ring, but she could not see its stone, for it was enclosed in the palm of his hand. When Blessed John showed her the stone in the ring, in it the saint saw the whole glory and triumph of heavenly life; and when the stone was concealed, the saint saw none of these things.

47  St. John also said to her, ''This lady whom you see is Blessed Bona, who just now came with us, for when she was in the world, Blessed Jacob and I used to visit her in a similar way.” St. Bona, who had branches full of golden roses in her hands, gave one of them to St. Gherardesca. When St. Gherardesca took it, she said in her heart, “I will give it to my father in Christ, who will also show it to others.” And she rejoiced at this. Then Blessed John said to her, “What did you think in your heart?” and he took the branch from her and said, ''Speak your fault.” She confessed it and did not deny what in her heart she had intended. And when they had remained there until the third hour, Blessed John said to her, “This stone, which you saw in the ring, is your eye, which you wished to give me when I sought alms from you. Blessed Mary holds the other eye, likewise.” And the saints departed from her.

48  One night, when the saint was lying awake in bed, being unable to catch any sleep, she said, “I will go to pray, for now is the hour.” Since only a short time ago the hour had struck, thinking again, she said, “Well, I can rest a bit.” When she had asked herself these and similar things, a little later she heard voices singing psalm melodies, and where it is the custom to say “Glory to the Father,” they were saying “Julitta is her name.” When the saint heard the name Julitta (for Julitta was her spiritual daughter), she immediately rose from the bed in which she lay and went out. Although she saw no one, she heard the voices still ceaselessly singing. Then looking into the sky, with great joy she saw the Lord, coming on a certain wheel which glowed with great splendour; and angels stood in its orbit, having handfuls of roses in their hands. Farther on, the angels descending to her gave her two of these rose branches and said, “Such are these boughs.” There was one of them that had written everywhere: “This veil is not like the veil of Julitta on earth.” Then afterwards the Lord came down and the saint said in her heart, “I will send these branches to those to whom they are assigned.” And when she was near the door of the men to whom those branches were to be sent, having taken the branches into her own hand, she refused to show them, except to the recipients. But that man (as he asserted) smelled from them the most delightful fragrance of the most delightful odour - which he had never in his life smelled.

49  Also one night, when she was in prayer, a demon appeared to her, assuming the human likeness of her husband, and even wearing the style of clothing which the same husband of the saint had worn when he was in the secular world. When he spoke obscene and absolutely abhorrent words to her, the saint, shaken by intense fear and trembling, began with humble prayer to entreat the Lord to see fit to free her from so much danger; and she said to the demon, “Do all those things which the Lord permits you to do to me, for I recognise you well. Indeed, if you were he whose image you pretend to be, I would just as soon kill him with my own hands and I would give his soul into your power.” Then the demon grabbed her, and in the upper room of house he scourged her heavily, striking her face so that she gushed blood from her mouth and nostrils. However, St. Gherardesca, exposed to the torments of the demon, praised the Lord who permitted his handmaiden, placed between the anvil and the hammer, to be tested like gold. Immediately the demon took her and placed her right at the church of St. John Gaetano , which is opposite the sea in a suburb of the city of Pisa , and wishing to drown her, sent her into a little ship which was on the Arno river. Violently striking the ship, he sent quite a lot of water into it. Although the saint continually shouted out, he never ceased to try every means at his disposal, since he was unwilling to desist from the tortures with which he unceasingly distressed her.

50  When the saint, greatly wearied and weakened, was not able to resist any farther, fearing lest she should be exposed to peril in the waters, she began in a loud voice to entreat the aid of the Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that they might deign to defend her from such great peril; also in the same way she more often invoked the name of Blessed John the Evangelist. At once there appeared to her Blessed Mary and Blessed John the Evangelist, and with them many angels, next to the river bank, strengthening her. Then the Blessed Virgin Mary commanded the angels standing by to scourge the demon. When the angels had taken him, they threw him up in the air many times and submerged him in the river. After this they flagellated him next to the river bank. Thus it was done that, while the angels so dreadfully scourged him, a horrible troop of demons, standing everywhere and shrieking with shrill noises, sympathised with his pains and howled along with him. Then the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with Blessed John the Evangelist, led her out of the river and placed her in the church, and departed from that place. However, St. Gherardesca, seeing herself alone in the church, she who was never destitute of spiritual companionship, began, cold with fear, to think and to say, “Lord, what shall I do? If others come here, and find me thus standing, what will they say? I don't know what I should do. Surely I will go to some kinsman of mine, and I will point out everything just as it happened. But what if he doesn't believe me? I will set forth in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.”

51  And when she took up the journey and was in front of his house, hearing the bell for the morning office being struck, she abandoned her intention of calling her kinsman, saying, “I can just as well return to my home.'' And when she said this and crossed the city street, she saw watchmen keeping the night vigil over the grain supply, and she said, “If they come to me, what would I say? I don't know what I should do - Lord, help me.” However, proceeding a very little way towards the old bridge of that city, she saw there a multitude of men, at which she was very terrified. And two of them, in the dress of women, coming toward her, said, “O daughter, we are your neighbours, and we know that tonight you have borne with great tribulation; we ask, though, that you intercede for us with the Blessed Virgin, so that we no longer have to return to the punishments with which we are afflicted. The Holy Virgin is in the church of St. Martin ; therefore hasten to her and pray for us.” However, when the saint crossed the bridge, she saw the whole neighbourhood which is opposite the church of St. Martin shining forth and emitting brilliant flashes of light. Then she began to think in her heart and to say, “How can I go into the sight of Our Lady when my clothes are torn everywhere?” But when her strength returned, she bravely went forth. When she stood at the Virgin's feet, the Holy Virgin said to the Blessed Mary Magdalene, “Take Gherardesca under your mantle, and cover her.” After this was done, St. Gherardesca went with them rejoicing, and there was also with them Our Lord Jesus Christ, along with Blessed John the Evangelist, and a great multitude of angels.

52  However, when they passed by places where there were people who called out to the saint, St. Mary Magdalene said to St. Gherardesca, “Do you have anything to say to us?” Gherardesca, having been mindful of their prayers, said, “I want to entreat Our Lady on behalf of certain souls of the departed whose prayers I have accepted, that they be freed from the pains of Purgatory.” When Gherardesca had finished saying this, Blessed Mary Magdalene called to herself Blessed John, and repeated to him all that which the saint was seeking. At this moment, the Lord, holding on to the girdle of his mother and preceding her, as if he were a little boy, was paying homage to her. When the Blessed Virgin, reminded by the prayers of the saint, asked her son to accept the prayers of the saint, Christ said, “Mother, many ask of you, seeking your mercy, but you ought not to listen to everyone, when not everyone who asks is worthy to beseech.” But the Blessed Virgin replied, “When on your account, most humane son, I am called by all the Mother of Mercy, I shall never close the door of my mercy to anyone.” Then the Lord instructed the angels who were standing by to open the celestial realms to the worthy, but they should place the unworthy (who are to be found with the worthy) in a place set aside for punishment. And thus it was done. When all this had been accomplished, St. Gherardesca found herself in her home, and our Lord was with her, and the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Mary Magdalene. Blessed Mary Magdalene stripped Gherardesca of her clothing so that she could see the marks of the blows which the evil demon had given her. Furthermore the Blessed Virgin gave her new clothing, and kissed her with the kiss of peace, saying, “Since you did not want to touch the demon with your mouth, I kiss your mouth.” At once they gave her into Christ's hands; after a little delay, they departed from her.

CHAPTER 6

Other various divine favours granted to the Blessed One by Christ and the Saints, or to others on her behalf.

53  One time when a sister of St. Gherardesca was in the grip of a serious illness, she continually saw herself in the presence of demons, who were loathsome to the most horrifying extent. Being even more struck by terror of the demons than she was disturbed by the affliction of illness, she became extremely anxious in mind, always trembling and fearful. But St. Gherardesca, more moved by divine than human love, came to her. When she approached the bed of the sick woman, and placed her hand on her breast, the demon - who was always visible to the sick woman - went away. But just as soon as Gherardesca withdrew her hand the demon was there waiting, right next to the ill woman. The sick woman called out to the saint and said to her, “Put your hand on my chest, for when you give me the benefit of your graces like that, the demon flees from my sight.” The sick woman, once restored to her previous state of health by the merits of the saint, began to disclose to all the great deeds of the Lord which he had continuously demonstrated through the saint.

54  Furthermore, while the saint one day was hindered by an illness, she received penance for sins she had committed from Lord Gregory, abbot of the monastery of St. Michael of the Barefoot Friars. He recommended to her that as soon as she was convalescing she should come to him to receive absolution; but then she heard from some people that he was dead. At once she began to recall the advice that he had given her, and to weep bitterly. Falling to the ground on account of her grief, she lay there as if dead. Then her spirit was rapt into heaven, and she saw there Blessed Bona, Saint James, and that holy abbot, who absolved her as he had promised.

55  Another time her spirit was raised to heaven, and she was in a place where there was a certain rock, called the Rock of St. Mary. This rock fortress seemed to be situated above a mountain seven thousand paces high which on all sides was divided into streets of a thousand paces in length, and which was surrounded by a procession of the celestial court. It was provided with the extraordinary standards of the Divine Majesty and of the Blessed Virgin and all the angels. Moreover, this rampart, containing seven towers, also had choirs of angels, apostles, and all the saints. There was to be found the cloister of Blessed Bernard, and there, during Lent, Blessed John the Evangelist celebrated the mass, three days a week, that is. Now there was in the place a certain seat made by the angels, and the saint asked them whose seat that might be; she was deemed worthy to learn that it was of such a one, her devout son in Christ.

46  Likewise indeed, one day at earliest dawn, when she was thinking about certain friars of the monastery of St. Savino who were continually putting stumbling blocks in her way, she began to say these things, among others, in the cloister of her heart: “Why do they come to me with tribulation and injury? I certainly bear no ill to them; I serve everyone, and even when many other religious people have faith in me, they have no respect for me at all.” With a great abundance of tears she began to implore the Most High to spare her detractors. After this she stopped praying and sat with her head uncovered. Immediately sensing the most fragrant odour, she beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, with his feet joined together just as they had been on the cross, and with the wounds flowing with blood. And she was very afraid. The Lord said to her, “Fear not; I am the Crucified, as much for your sake as for the welfare of many. But I grieve that your friars crucify me again by continuing to put stumbling blocks in your path. Nevertheless, just as then my crucifixion was their redemption, so now it shall be their damnation.” And when the saint, thrown down on her knees, was contemplating pulling out the nail from the Lord's feet with her own mouth and to take it into her own body, the Lord bent down to her and stopped her, and gave her the fullest consolation, weeping with her. He said to her, “I never had so much compassion for Mary Magdalene as I have for you now. But I will be vindicated, and I will avenge you of the injuries done to you.” And he departed from her.

57  One night after this, when she was on her cot, at the proper time she was disturbed and urged to rise for prayer. Once into her prayer, she experienced the greatest consolation, when suddenly - whether in the body or beyond the body, God knows (2 Cor. 12:2) - she was led near the church of St. Savino . However, when she found there many angels who were sweeping the church, she spoke to them saying, “What is the meaning of what you are doing?” They said in reply, “Pause for a little and rest, for tonight you will rejoice more than usual.” Moreover, with the saying of these things, behold, there were present winged angels who were decorating the church with very beautiful wall hangings which they had brought with them. After these activities were completed, she heard terrible thundering sounds, for the Lord, with angels and apostles and all the saints, was descending into the church. Then she saw there the Lord singing Mass, and a certain monk who was devoted to her was celebrating in the bishop's role. After Mass was celebrated, the saint went with the Lord to life eternal, and likewise the monk went with them. Consequently this monk was presented before the Blessed Virgin, and remained at her feet. When the monk folded his hands in the hands of the Blessed Virgin, the Holy Virgin kissed his hands and head.

58  Then one night, when St. Gherardesca was laid low with a grave infirmity, she rose to pray. And when she had prayed for a long space of time, soon in spirit she was brought to a little room. Neither disturbed nor frightened by this, she continued to importune the Lord that he might deign to gather her to rest, for she was all forlorn in the prison of the flesh. Then the Lord, appearing to her, sweetly consoled her, saying, ''Fear not, for I am with you all the time of your life; likewise I will not abandon you in death, for your life is brief.” When the Lord wished to go away, she cried out, saying, “Lord, don't leave me in this life, where there is most toilsome labor and continual lamentation.” Then the Lord returned to her a third time, and consoled her greatly, when he said, “I don't want to leave you, daughter, but to dwell with you always, and to give you consolation in every way.”

59  After these things had happened to her in this manner, one day there came to her several women who wanted to hear her; among them was one in particular who, out of contrition, was lamenting terribly. From this the saint acquired the strength of great consolation, and the following night she began to think to herself and to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, make me a participant in their tears.” And at once her soul was rapt in heaven with Blessed John the Evangelist. Then Blessed John said to her, “The woman who wept before you so bitterly yesterday has acted in this way because she already knew that she was entangled in the net of a great crime; she promised someone to commit an evil deed of violent desire with him in such and such a place, and from that she had already received accursed remuneration. Since she was led to repentance for such a crime, she will shortly come to you. You are to foretell in prophetic speech everything which she had planned to do.” It came to pass that when the woman came to the saint, and the enormity of her crime was voiced by the saint, she confessed with tears, saying, “Lady, it is true - everything you have said that I, a sinning woman have done - and now, prostrate at your feet, I am ready, without any ambiguity whatsoever, to perform whatever your sanctity wishes to command me to do, for the cleansing of so many crimes.” Responding, the saint said to her, “Go, and return to him the whole damnable payment that you received from him.” And the woman returned at once, praising and glorifying God, carrying out everything devoutly just as the saint had instructed her.

60 There was a time when St. Gherardesca felt an obsessive devotion for a certain monk, whom she believed to be good and devout, but who was really evil. It happened that she felt a strong desire to see him with her bodily eyes, and when she persisted in such fervour of mind, a certain other religious man appeared to her, saying, “Do you want to visit such a monk, whom you are eager to see?” The saint answered, “I want to go.” And this monk said, “First shave your head in the monastic style and put on your cowl.” So Gherardesca had her head shaved at once, and put on her cowl, and took up the journey with the monk. When they had gone a short distance together, the saint began to think to herself and to say, “Why am I going with him? I don't know him and yet I am travelling with him.” And she said to the monk, “Brother, when I heard the name of this monk I was filled with so much joy that I abruptly took up the journey with you, whom I have never met. Now I don't want to go any further with you, for I don't know you.” But the monk, having known these feelings of hers, gave the saint a particular staff, saying, “Don't be frightened; hold this staff in your hand, and no one will be able to see you.” Her confidence restored, the saint began securely to continue with the monk. When they came to the place where the monk dwelt, the monk who was guiding her said, “Behold the place; and there is the monk, whose life the Lord wished to show to you point by point, so that you finally know him and in no way revere him as you have been used to do. Look and gaze upon him, and his crooked work.” At once they called the monk over to them, and in speaking with him they recognised all his evil deeds. Then the saint heard Mass in that church, and consumed the Lord's Eucharist, and in an instant she found herself in her home.

61 [This part of the manuscript is acephalous. The text evidently described the Virgin presenting the infant Christ to the saint, who is speaking about the scene in the manger at the nativity.] “. . .taking him again, I sensed such a remarkable fragrance of scent that immediately I desired to treasure it in the secret chamber of my heart. Likewise I wished, from an instinctive maternal impulse, to give him the kiss of sweetness, but out of the reverence he paid to the human condition I did not dare attempt it. Then I raised my eyes to heaven, and the heavens were opened, and God the Father bestowed the kind blessing of his permission for this kiss. Having kissed the most glorious eyes of my creator, I sensed immediately the most complete happiness, impossible to explain in human speech.” After this, the Blessed Virgin, opening her mantle, received St. Gherardesca to her, saying, “Each and every thing that John the Evangelist promised to you in your sons I confirm with full generosity, affirming each of them by name, and when the day of their death shall have arrived I will come to meet their souls, together with my son and the angels.” Then St. John the Evangelist stopped the saint, placing her at the feet of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who indicated his favourable consent to everything that the Virgin had promised.

62  One night when the saint was hearing matins on the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, she saw the greatest brilliance visibly illuminate the entire church, and the friars - standing in the church - with an angel standing opposite each one, were singing psalms with the greatest reverence, and the angels were singing with them. One of the angels was with the saint, saying, “Look and reflect upon that friar, for his mind, without mortal sin, is in union with God, and his angel blesses him; and the angel of that other friar, who is in mortal sin, is very angry with him, for as the Prophet says, 'The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.'” And again he said, “Although these angels frequently descend below and ascend, nevertheless they always continue steadfastly to be great and glorious in heaven.”

CHAPTER 7

The remaining favours of God toward Gherardesca [to the extent that they are to be found in the damaged manuscript]

63  Also at another time the Lord wished to raise up the soul of the saint into heaven, and for it to be near the citadel of the Blessed Virgin. Then the saint saw there the cloister of St. Michael, and the many souls who were there with him, who indeed had been purged of the contagion of crimes. Among them was a nun, concerning whom the saint was greatly amazed, for she was still alive in the world. Then she questioned St. Michael about that nun, since she was not yet called from the world. In reply he said to her: “I won't tell you about her death or her life, but you shall see what is supposed to happen to her.” Then Blessed Michael commanded her to be cleansed and her body to be anointed with a most precious ointment, and a great crown placed on her head. And again he said, “Do you wish to climb up to the citadel of the Blessed Virgin?” Replying, she said, “I wish it, Lord.” And when they had climbed to the foot of the stairs, she became anxious at the vast height of the ascent; with God willing it, in the wink of an eye, she found herself at the very top. Then she saw there a great multitude of holy virgins, among whom she recognised St. Catherine. Gherardesca was questioning her saying, “Who may these be, my Lady?'' She said in reply, ''I am Catherine, and these are all the virgin saints who were most faithful to Our Lady. I also say to you that when I am praying, for I am the advocate of all her household, I receive yet greater consolation from her.” St. Catherine also showed her all of eternal life, and the mansions, and the names of all the other men and women.

64 One night she went to matins, and when the holy office had joyously commenced, the saint began to exult with great joy. Raising her eyes to heaven, the saint beheld above the choir of the church of St. Savino where she was, the heaven of angels, who all had wings joined to each other, and nothing could be seen of them but their faces. And stars appeared, which emitted a marvellous brilliance, and above the head of the abbot and two others there came a sphere, like the sphere of the sun, and stars. The brilliance of all remained constant, although from moment to moment the stars were ascending and descending. Then the saint thought to call the abbot so that he could see all these things, but she was afraid that doing this would scandalise others. So it befell, that when the first nocturn was finished, her soul was carried to heaven and was there with the Lord. Speaking with her, the Lord said, “I showed you the heaven of angels, on account of which you wished to call the abbot, but led by the fear of offending others, you did not call him. And indeed you did well, for if you had called him, perhaps another ungracious person would have observed it. Also the star, which was ascending and descending, is that grace which, when man is united with God, remains fixed above him, and when he behaves toward others with seductive vanity, is separated from him. And when the monks had said 'Glory to the Father' those angels among themselves created the greatest music.” Meanwhile the Lord said, “Men ought to fear the day of judgement, for on that day, the justice of God the Father will pass judgement against which there is no appeal. On that day the saints and angels tremble all over, and nonetheless they desire to see him; they fear on account of the clamour of judgement; they are desirous on account of the resurrection of the body.”

65 With the passage of time, when the Lord wished to reveal his power to St. Gherardesca, he placed her spirit next to the seat of God the Father. When the saint looked down, seeing all the male and female saints below her, she marvelled very greatly. The Father therefore said to her, “I want to show you everything that I made.” And opening his mouth, he began point by point to explain how at the beginning he created the angels, and afterward the world of men; how also by the highest ultimate feeling of the Creator toward men, he gave over his only begotten Son to death. Then he showed her how many and who were saved and ought to be saved, and their virtues, from Adam up until the end of the world. After this, he said to her, “Although you cannot encompass with your memory everything you have seen, nevertheless there is no one on earth, or who once was there, to whom I have granted to know so many things.”

66 Also another time St. Gherardesca was at St. Savino, in order to hear Mass, and when the office was begun, she gazed on the cross which is in that church, and on it the body of the Lord seemed rosy-coloured from the navel upwards, and also on his breast there was a certain bird, very white and tiny of body, which had a gold beak. Then that bird, spreading its wings toward the cross, sang three times, and swiftly flew to the saint, and placing its beak next to her ear, prophesying just like a person, it told the saint everything that she was thinking in her heart, and how she prayed God for the certain monk, and it said, “Although you have prayed to God on behalf of your monk, asking that he would deign to show you if the same monk had cast off all his crimes, nevertheless, I say to you that, just as you are about to see me cleansing myself in the breast of the Lord, so is he perfectly cleansed of sins.” And having said these things, the bird flew swiftly to the cross; in the sight of the saint it washed itself all over in the water which flowed abundantly from the breast of the Lord, at the bestowing of it for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, who generously prepares forgiveness for all. With the departure of the little bird, the apparition granted to her quickly vanished.

67 St. Gherardesca, at that time still abiding in devout prayer, rejoiced sufficiently in the Lord, by considering the ecstasy of the blessed. Therefore she thought in her mind, saying, “Lord, when will my soul be with you, who hold power over all?” And she wanted to dissolve and be with Christ, but she could not. Then the Lord, seeing her faith, opened the heavens to her as if opening a single door, from which the saint saw issuing forth so great a radiant splendor, that she could not look directly at it, on account of its overwhelming flash of illumination. Turning her head from one side to the other, and lifting up her eyes, the saint, stunned by the reflection of the brilliance, saw clearly in the midst of the splendour the Son of God. With great joy the saint unceasingly poured forth prayers for certain monks. Then the Lord opened his arms, and she saw there those very same monks - between the Lord's arms - and the saint gave great thanks to God the Father for them; and shortly thereafter she saw nothing of all these things. After this, she began to walk about, greatly moved that there might be one of them greater than the others in the kingdom of heaven, and with that end in mind, she earnestly prayed the Lord and the Blessed Virgin, that they might kindly grant this to her. Then the Lord appeared in the air, and with him a marvellous brilliance, and drawing near to the saint, he spoke to her saying, “I desire with great longing to see your son great in my kingdom; and I say to you that I will do all that you shall wish, and he who loves you, loves me, and he who hears you, hears me, and he who hates you, hates me. I shall make manifest to you all my power, and so I have sent John the Evangelist to you, that by his speech in person he might explain my will to you, and how the Son of God came to you, bringing you the fullness of consolation.”

[There is a gap in the manuscript here. In its place the editors of the AASS supply an image of the saint from an altarpiece depicting various saints of the Camaldolensian Order. The next folio takes up in the middle of a vision of the venerable Villana, who is seen to pray before a certain image. Gherardesca asks of the virgin saints standing by who this woman is.]

[68] ... praying, as it is said, before the foot of the image. The women answered her, saying, “This woman is Lady Villana, who prayed for the community of Pisa .” As soon as the female saints came down from prayers, St. Gherardesca went there with a multitude of saints, apostles, patriarchs, and angels, who had lighted candles in their hands. And then the saint asked them again why they had these candles in their hands, and received the reply that they came for the sake of making this procession, since the prayer of the said Villana had been heard. She saw Blessed John the Evangelist celebrate Mass in that church. And after this, everyone came with them and with St. John , with hymns and lights, into eternal life, offering candles at Our Lady's feet. Then the saint saw there Lady Villana, and received a sign from a certain person, who said to her, “Behold, I give you a sign, so that you believe everything that you have seen. On the third day from now, Lady Villana will come to your home with three candles, that they may be burned at the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.” And thus it was done.

69 One day when the saint was in her house and burning in the Holy Spirit, she could not explain in words the power of the Deity that she was thinking in her mind. Gazing on a little piece of straw, she said, “O little straw, how great is the power of God which is in you!” And she was abiding in such ardour of spirit that she sought the divine potency everywhere, in heaven and on earth, with amazement at those things that were everywhere so exalted and perfect. She also gave immeasurable praises to the Glorious Virgin who from God, who governs and sustains heaven and earth, merited such grace that she bore miraculously in her womb the Lord Jesus Christ. And seeing the little straw, she said repeatedly, “O straw, truly the Lord abides in you.” Then the Lord, seeing her faith, showed her his power, perfect in all things, even in that piece of straw. For in that straw there appeared to the saint the whole life eternal with the omnipotence of God.

70 From time to time she spoke about the holy angels and the heavenly city, saying, “There are nine mountains, in which separately dwell the nine orders of angels. The first of the mountains is named Carnelian, the second Topaz, the third Jasper, the fourth Chrysolite, the fifth Onyx, the sixth Beryl, the seventh Sapphire, the eighth Carbuncle, the ninth Emerald. These mountains are within the heavenly city of Jerusalem , irradiated with great brilliance, and no other kinds or types of stones whatsoever are to be found in them. Four rivers cross through the middle of the city, having the most flowing waters, like the very purest gold and silver. Immense joy leapt forth from their waves and the precious stones danced for joy. Apostles and Evangelists stood on these banks, and in that very spot, marvellously placed and founded, are the archbishoprics, which acquire their dignity in heaven from the adornment provided by those rivers. The waters flow through the middle of the city, as it is said, from four mountains, and there they dwell in glory, those who are foremost in the life eternal.”

71 Again she said, “On the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin the saints leapt for joy in unmeasured dance steps and made merry with new jubilations. Then our Lord, with the holy apostles, adorned Our Lady with the most precious ornaments, and proceeding to the order of angels in which St. Gabriel dwelt, they likewise adorned him. Then they led him to the place of Our Lady, bearing above his head a certain cloth, placed on four spears, and on each spear there was a standard. They put his seat next to the Lady's throne and all life eternal made reverence to them. On that day the saints honour the angels with great praises, for they are worthy to be their advocates, and they reverently place them on seats and worship them in deep obeisance. The angels too venerate Blessed Gabriel with great obsequies, and each angel is named by his own name.”

72 Likewise one day she set herself to pray, that she might receive the fullest consolation. And when she wished to rest a little from prayer, she was lying in her bed, looking into heaven. Thinking in her heart how the Lord Jesus Christ dwelt in heaven and sat there as pope, she said, “O, how blessed you are, apostles, you who were with God on earth, and he humbly washed your feet!” And immediately her soul was in heaven, and she saw the Lord Jesus Christ sitting on an exalted seat, adorned with papal ornaments. Before him there was an altar with the most precious embellishments, and on each horn of the altar there was a standard, placed in honour of the four evangelists. Among these things the saint desired to gaze upon the apostles, and she asked, “Where are the apostles?” Then the Lord, seeing her faith, with open arms and lifted mantle, showed to the saint his most holy breast, and on one side there was Our Lady, with St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, along with five apostles, and standing on the other side the Blessed Apostle Peter with other apostles.

73 One time during Lent there was a heavy wind, and the saint saw the image of the Blessed John the Baptist. And because the silken cloth at the foot of the image was lifted up by the wind, she saw a foot of the Blessed John visibly reddened, and rising up with haste, she ran to him. Then she cast her eyes on the foot, and wept grievously, and fell down as if dead. Getting up somewhat later, she found that silken cloth totally bloodied.

74  Moreover, one time on Holy Saturday, when she had entered the church of St. Savino to hear the office, looking into heaven she saw, with God permitting, the saints and angels rendering thanks to the glorious Virgin on account of the sincere faith they had in her son, even though the whole world dwelt in error. And after this she heard the Lord saying how he loves and loved his Mother, and that all the saints and the angels and the four elders, cannot honour her to the degree that would be sufficient for the Deity, but Divinity indeed satisfies itself.

75 One night, remaining in bed, inflamed by love of the Holy Spirit, she said, “Lord, come to me.'' She did not, however ,  leave her bed and most devoutly she began to entreat Our Lady and Blessed John the Evangelist that they ask the Son of God to condescend to come to her. And leaving her chamber, she prayed most attentively on behalf of friends. Forthwith she was in heaven, in a certain place in which she could only see the Son of God from a distance. Then she said, “Why, Lord, can't I see your face intimately?” Then the Lord, approving her devotion, came to meet her, with the twelve apostles, the seventy disciples, and the foremost ones of the life eternal, and to her fuller consolation, he said to Blessed John the Evangelist, “O apostle and beloved of God, I hold you dearest of all, for to you I have revealed all heavenly secrets. Look and see how those of St. Savino perforate my hand, in order to cause scandal to this woman” and he pointed to the saint. Likewise he pointed out to her the husband ...