The Adventist Community in Florence
“Adventist, Baptist, Evangelical of the Brethen, Metodist and Valdensian church in Florence”,
In a widening of Via Guelfa at the corner of Via San Gallo lies the temple of the Florentine Adventists, a structure founded around the year 1000 A.D. by ascetic Grecian-Armenian Basilianis, whose church was dedicated to San Basilio, their foundar and saint of Cesarea (Cappadocia, IV century A.D.).
These above-mentioned ascetic monks were called “Ermini” in Florence because they celebrated religious functions in Armenian, which in turn led to their saying, “Recite the sol-fa of the Armenians”, pertaining to those who were incomprehensible and spoke with difficulty.
The temple was abandoned by the Basilianis in the 1400’s and became a meeting place for the faith of the Priests of the Holy Spirit and of the followers who gravitated around the Canto alle Macine (a name derived from an old mill which was once situated there and activated by the waters of the Mugnone, which at one point in time ran parallel to Via San Gallo). During the Napoleonic era, the convent was suppressed, the church deconsecrated, and the entire edifice was turned into a military dwelling.
After other vicissitudes, the temple was reopened to the faith in 1882, but as an Evangelist church of the Episcopal Methodist. For this reason, in 1982, the State celebrated the church’s 100th anniversary of Evangelical activity with the presence of the Florentine authorities.
The Adventists came to Florence from Rome in 1911 and the year after baptized the first Florentine followers. On a national level, however, the first Adventist community began in 1876 at Torre Pellice a province of Turin in Waldensian territory and, shortly after, the first church was erected a Montaldo Bormida in the province of Alessandria. Since 1920, the Florentines gathered for their sabbatical faith in a spot of Borgo SS. Apostoli. A few months after the beginning of World War II, they acquired and were transferred into a temple on Via Guelfa.
The church is very simple, of rectangle form, with internal and external characteristics of the 1800’s, with a recently added “gallery” on top of the interior entrance, the furnishings are very sombre. For example, the benches are of dark shiny wood and, as in other Evangelical churches, no sacred symbols appear on the internal walls: only a cross carved into the main wooden altar. On the external side that runs along Via San Gallo, there is a round terracotta of Della Robbia representing a white dove with spread wings, the only permanent reminder of the congregation of the Priests of the Holy Spirit.
Looking at the Adventists history more closely, one must refer back to the doctrinal predictions of the return of Christ (“adventus” in Latin) and the millennarian government of perfect justice.
The belief rose again sporadically in the 18th and 19th centuries in different European countries, but was affirmed above all else in the U.S. with the preachings of William Miller (1782-1849). By studying the Bible profusely and basing himself on a verse in the book of Daniel, he predicted the return of Christ for the year 1844, a date which was delayed in successive stages by his followers. At this point, the faith no longer waits for a specific day, but believes in following the evangelical doctrine and waiting for the return of Christ which will happen sometime in the future.
The official religious name is the Seventh Day Christian Adventist Church because the doctrine reevaluates Saturday (the seventh day in biblical terms) as the day devote to God.
Their reunions of prayer actually start, however, with te setting of the sun on Friday evenings because they believe, according to sacred scriptures, that the days start with the setting of the sun, rather than midnight.
Other than the Bible, the Adventists give much importance to the books of Ellen Gould White, one of the founders of the movement. Her writings condemned the use of any sort of weapon and the use of alcohol, and require that one keeps within possible limits of a vegetarian diet. In fact, a famous Adventist was John Kellogg, the inventor of peanut butter and corn flakes.
On the six million Adventist in the world, six thousand adults have been baptized in Italy.
They are present in various other countries with extremely efficient social, sanitary and scholastic organizations. They publish books and newspapers, posses radio and television stations, believe in the principle of the separeation of church and state, and ask for nothing in regards to their faith in that they are completely gesticulated by their own voluntary contributions.
Adventist activity found in the Florentine community (in 1992 approximately 300 baptized followers) is demonstrated by various initiatives, some of which are:
- the Scool of Technology, opened in 1940, and located in Villa Aurora in Via del Pergolino since 1947;
- “L’Araldo della Verità”, the publishing house which was founded in 1920 with the precise purpose of publishing books with religious and health topics. It is actually situated at the Falciani, which serves all editorial and publishing needs fo all the Italian adventist communities.