Pietro Armando Lavini, born July 7, 1927 and died on August 9, 2015, he was a Capuchin friar, also known as Padre Pietro and “God’s builder”, his entire life was devoted to rebuilding, single handedly, the ruined church of San Leonardo al Volubrio (L’Eremo di San Leonardo) in the Monti Sibillini National Park, near Rubbiano (in the province of Montefortino, in the Marche region of Italy).
The church lies just to the north west of the Gole dell’Infernaccio, the “Gorges of Hell”.
Armando Girio Lavini was born in Potenza Picena, Italy into a family so poor that the exact date of his birth has not survived, although reported as July 7, 1927.
His middle name was taken as that of the patron saint of his home town.
At the age of nine, Armando was handed over by his parents to the Capuchins, with whom he journeyed for the first time to the mountains where he worked for almost all his life.
Armando found the ruins of San Leonardo a beautiful natural environment, and in his memoirs he likens the ruins of the altar to a green cathedral.
From 1971, Armando subordinated his life to rebuilding the church, which stood on what had been a busy pilgrim and herding route, but which was now accessible only by a steep hiking trail from Rubbiano.
His activities came to light when tourists reported that construction had begun in the middle of a National Park.
The writer Andreas Englisch investigated and discovered that Pietro Lavini had no identity card, paid no tax, and received no state benefits, but was alive and well, and living in the mountains.
Englisch published a series of articles about Lavini in the Italian press, which brought him to wider attention.
Father Pietro himself wrote a book published in 1999 about his life, the area’s natural beauty, and the legends which shepherds and climbers told in the region.
Father Pietro died on August 9, 2015, at the age of 88.
The church was built on the ruins of a II-III century chapel. (Re)construction began on May 24, 1971.
Lavini spent four years alone on the piping of water to the site from the nearest stream.
The church was finally consecrated some 30 years later, on September 17, 2000, by Gennaro Franceschetti, archbishop for the diocese of Fermo.
The bell tower was completed in 2012. On June 8, 2014, the church received an organ from an internationally renowned musical instrument manufacturing company.
Pietro Armando Lavini died on August 9, 2015 at age 88.