I like to walk through the oldest area of the small town of Prato Sesia. Via Garibaldi, Via della Libertà, Via Fra Dolcino and then up the tower. I love to see the old houses, old shops closed with rusty shutters, old gates restored or decaying. A village like many others in the area, full of character and history.
Here was born Dolcino Tornielli, around the year 1250, who was to be become Brother Dolcino, the heretic. It is said that he was the son of a defrocked priest. As knowledge of the scriptures and Latin was worthwhile, he took the opportunity he was given to study them.
In 1290, he entered the apostolic movement. They lived in fasting and prayer in absolute poverty, working or asking for charity, but did not practice celibacy, obedience to either the scriptures or the precepts of the gospel. The doctrine they practised was intended to be disobedient to the Popes, to preaching by the laity, and foresaw an impending doom due to the corruption of church morals. Their doctrine evoked the wrath of the Church of Rome and the Dolcinians were accused of being heretics.
Dolcino thought that the Church history was divided into four distinct periods. He preached that it was near the imminent arrival of a time that would fix order and peace after the decline of the church of the age.
The accusation of heresy led to his capture and his execution at the stake in the summer of 1307.
The story does not end here. Dolcino still has a big influence. The conflict between his supporters and detractors is always open. Facts, events or initiatives created to remember the monk, have always fostered discord between his opponents and people who would keep his memory alive.
In the fourteenth century inquisitors shouted “Cursed be Brother Dolcino!” Even today, whenever this curse is reaffirmed Dolcino’s spirit comes back …