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Adriana’s garden

 Il giardino di Adriana  DCM-005
04 May 2024

It is nice that the town where Adriana Zarri was born, San Lazzaro di Savena in the metropolitan area of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna, has dedicated a park to her, inaugurated on April 3, 2024. A park, a garden, are the most appropriate places to remember her, a woman who built gardens wherever she lived.

Writer, theologian, and hermit, born in 1919 and passed away in 2010, she was one of the first women who managed to make herself heard in a Church and Italy very resistant to listening to female voices. She authored books and articles resonating with the great themes of conciliar renewal: rediscovery of the Bible, liturgical reform, ecumenism, poverty of the Church, commitment to justice. Throughout her life, she matured in a hermitic choice, never interpreted as isolation or rejection of history, but as a continuation in a different form, as she wrote, of “all loves, friendships, interests, commitments, communions, encounters, human and cosmic harmonies”.

At Molinasso, the Piedmontese farmhouse where she lived in the Seventies and Eighties, “she had turned a desert into a garden”, admired a neighboring farmer; likewise in her last residence at Ca’ Sassino (Crotte, in the province of Turin). But even the apartment where she lived in her younger years, during her twenty years in Rome, was enriched by a terrace-garden “all green and blooming like a small hanging garden, a piece of countryside on the fifth floor, closer to the clouds than to the vegetable gardens of the earth”. And the castle of Albiano di Ivrea, where she was hosted by her friend Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, had a garden and an orchard, nourishing that language of beauty in nature that was the hallmark of her existence.

One can trace a true “spirituality of the garden” in Adriana Zarri, rediscovering its biblical horizon, the references in the gardens of Eden and the Song of Songs. The garden was a sign of the cosmic harmony desired by God, and she too, in her gardens and orchards, participated, lived, and bestowed harmony and beauty. “It was her way of praying, praising God, that sowing and nurturing and guiding the shoots with her hand, enchanted by the flowering of the universe and the changing of the seasons”, noted her friend Rossana Rossanda, who shared with her a passion and care for ancient roses.

And in that harmony, Adriana immersed herself, until she felt herself grass, flower, earth. Severely critical of any exploitative anthropocentrism, she advocated for a new “ecological balance of the world” and participated in a profound sisterhood with nature and its elements: “Make me verdant like the grass, make me bloom like the meadow, and perfume like the May hay. Give me dew and breeze, clear skies and warmth; because I am your land and You are my sun.”

Author of “Semplicemente una che vive. Vita e opere di Adriana Zarri” [Simply One Who Lives. Life and Works of Adriana Zarri], IlMulino