History

Our History

In the 1950s, a first group of people attracted by the spirituality of the Focolare Movement found themselves in the Dolomites in northern Italy during the summer months.
Chiara Lubich
Founder of the Focolare Movement

«a coexistence of people of every social category, of all ages, of both sexes, of the most varied vocations, which constituted, during the summer months, almost a temporary little city characterized by the practice, by all its inhabitants, of the new commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you”. (cf. Jn 13:34), the central norm of Jesus’ teaching»

«The idea was born in Trent, in Tonadico, in the Primiero Valley, where eight of the first ten summer Mariapolises took place, in the period from 1949 to 1959. The Mariapolises were a coexistence of people of every social category, of all ages, men and women, of the most varied vocations, which constituted, during the summer months, almost a temporary town characterized by the practice, by all its inhabitants, of the new commandment of Jesus: ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 13:34), the central norm of Jesus’ teaching. One day during one of these Mariapolises, I was on a hilltop, admiring the green plain of the valley, and I seemed to understand that the Lord would have wanted one day, in some place, a town similar to the one that was taking place, but a permanent one; and, with my imagination, I ‘saw’ the valley populated with houses and cottages. But there was another moment when the idea of the permanent Mariapolis made its way into my mind. In Switzerland, during the summer of 1962, together with my first women and men companions, I was admiring the marvelous Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln surrounded by meadows and hotels. I understood (then) that also because of our spirituality, which was new in the Church, a little city would arise, almost an incarnation of it. It would have in itself the main elements of a modern city with houses, a church, shops, fields, various industries, and schools…».
From an interview with Chiara Lubich by journalist Michele Zanzucchi (2004)

So, in 1963, this dream came true on a piece of land of the “Fattoria Loppiano,” an estate owned by a family of entrepreneurs from Brescia, the Folonari: 100 hectares (247 acres) of vineyards and olive trees, now in the municipality of Figline and Incisa Valdarno, in the province of Florence.

The property was brought “as a dowry” by Vincenzo (Eletto) and Camilla Folonari, two of the four Folonari who left their comforts and titles to give everything to God in the Focolare, the new way of lay consecration opened by Chiara Lubich. 

At first, it was thought that the property could be sold, but then something happened that changed its destiny. Domenico Fea, a focolarino and citizen of Loppiano, in charge of that sale, tells us: “One day, in 1963, Father Pasquale Foresi, co-founder of the Movement with Chiara, decided to come and see the land, which he did not know. I remember it was a very foggy day. After lunch we inspected the land, then Don Foresi left for Rome. Only months later did I learn of the idea that had matured in him: Loppiano could be the ideal site for the construction of the permanent Mariapolis. That same evening he had communicated this thought to Chiara, and she felt that the idea had come from God. There was no more talk of selling, but of building.” The first stone was laid in 1964 when the first young focolarini began to settle there.
Builders of a City “Where God is visible.”

Builders of a City “Where God is visible.”

This is the wish that Chiara Lubich gave to Rina Nembrini and Zaccaria among the first families who moved from Bergamo to Loppiano in the late 60s. The history of the pioneers of Loppiano continues.

The Pioneers

The stories, memories and memoirs of those who helped to found the little city of Loppiano.

1964

On July 12, Vincenzo Folonari (called Eletto) dies; he was the donor of the land on which the Mariapolis is to be built. After a visit by Pasquale Foresi, it is decided to begin the first Focolare little city in Loppiano. In October, the vanguard of the focolarini arrive there

1965

The first families arrive; Azur Carpentry Shop and Ave Center begin their activity

1966

At Christmas, the musical groups, Gen Rosso and Gen Verde, are born

1968

On March 8th the town is officially inaugurated

1973

The first Genfest takes place in Loppiano; the Agricultural Cooperative Loppiano Prima is established

1980

The Pact of Mutual Love between all citizens is signed

1982

The Loreto School for Families is inaugurated.

1983-1987

The period of the inauguration of various locales used for hospitality and formation of the various peoples arriving: priests, religious, youth and children, lay adults.

1990

On February 27th Renata Borlone, co-responsible for Loppiano for 23 years, dies. The Mariapolis is named after her.

2000

On September 14th, Chiara Lubich is conferred honorary citizenship of Incisa Valdarno.

2003

On May 15th the official laying of the foundation stone of the church and the Maria Theotokos multi-purpose complex takes place. The diocesan process of beatification of Renata Borlone begins.

2004

On October 29th, the church is dedicated to Maria Theotokos and the following day the remains of the Servant of God, Renata Borlone, are moved inside, to be placed next to the tabernacle. On November 1st, the then Bishop of Fiesole, Bishop Luciano Giovannetti, declared the church a “Marian shrine.”

2006

The Lionello Bonfanti Industrial Park is inaugurated and today hosts 26 Italian companies that adhere to the Economy of Communion project

2008

On December 1st the first course of the Sophia University Institute is inaugurated in Loppiano, offering a Master’s degree in “Foundations and Perspectives of a Culture of Unity”

2010

Loppiano Lab, the laboratory for Italy of economics, culture, education, citizenship, intercultural relations, and communication, is inaugurated. The Lab is held annually and, to date, thousands of people from all over the peninsula have participated

2014

The little city celebrates its first 50 years of life.

2015

Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, visits Loppiano on the occasion of the awarding of the Doctorate Honoris Causa on him by the Sophia University Institute.

2018

On the morning of May 10, Pope Francis arrives in the international little city. After stopping in prayer at the Shrine of Maria Theotokos, he meets approximately 7,000 people: citizens of Loppiano, representatives of the Focolare worldwide, friends and residents of the township of Figline and Incisa Valdarno. He is the first pontiff to visit Loppiano.

Lives lived

 Discover the stories and lives of our citizens in Heaven.

Sengsoury Francesca Cheangsavang

Sengsoury Francesca Cheangsavang

Hers is a fascinating story. It began when her very young parents swam across the Mekong River to reach Thailand, leaving behind the regime of their country, Laos.

Fr. Gino Rocca

Fr. Gino Rocca

“Man of the Gospel”, is how he is described by one resident of Loppiano. A cultured, wise man. Someone who knew how to transform the many physical trials of his life, this “slow dying day by day”, into the plan of life given to him by Chiara, “He is risen, He is not here”.

Vincenzo “Eletto” Folonari

Vincenzo “Eletto” Folonari

“I have chosen God and absolutely no other thing.” At twenty years of age, or a little less, Vincenzo was the fourth of eight children. He seemingly had all it took to be in the society that matters, but…