John Gualbert or Giovanni Gualberto, was a Florentine nobleman who one day, meeting his brother’s murderer in a narrow alley was about to slay him when the culprit, falling to his knees, implored mercy with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross. It was a Good Friday, and Gualbert, suddenly reminded of Jesus Crucified, embraced the man and forgave him.
Going on his way, John entered the monastery of St. Miniato where he knelt before a crucifix. As he prayed, the crucifix miraculously bowed his head in thanks for John’s act of generosity. Struck to the heart, Gualbert sought the abbot, asked to be given the religious habit, and was ultimately accepted.
He later left St. Miniato with a companion, looking for a more perfect way of life and founded, in Vallombrosa near Fiesole, a new order based on the primitive, austere rule of St. Benedict adapted to the particular circumstances of his time.
He was known for his zeal but also for his mildness, and for making the burden of discipline sweet. In his humility he never received even minor orders. He zealously fought simony, which is the sale of ecclesiastical posts.
His order grew and monasteries multiplied, which were a blessing to their regions and especially to the poor, as no beggar was ever turned away empty handed.
Popes sought his wise counsel, and Pope Alexander II testified that the whole country where he lived owed the extinction of simony to his zeal.
John Gualbert died on July 12, 1073 being eighty or more years of age. Pope Celestine III canonized him in 1193