A most picturesque character, Bartolomeo Garosi, Il' Brandano, was born in Petroio in 1486. In his youth he led an inmoral existence, blaspheming, gambling, and drinking heavily, but something happened to make him change his ways. He was digging one day when a chip of stone hit him on the head and in one eye; frightened by what he took to be a sign from God and convinced by the preacher he converted, on Good Friday interpreting the good robber crucified next to Jesus, when put on the cross “he mocked the winter barefoot, and wearing only a bessian sack”.
With his family he moved to Montefollonico, then abandoned them to go to Siena, where he lived a life of penance and poverty; surviving on aims. He then travelled around Italy, France, Germany and Spain, preaching with the crucifex in one hand and skull in the other. He made prophecies and rhyming denunciations which made him famous. “Siena, Siena, keep the virgin in your brain, or you’ll go down the drain”.
“Be on your guard Siena when your wolves wear bells and the mountains move down to the plains”. Before the Spanish invasion, financed by the Medici, he warned. “Siena beware, the flood is on its way”. His rebukes aroused the anger of the local garrison of the Spanish army, which sent him into exile in Rome. Brandano went to the pontifical court dispensing ammonitions, insults and bones “ossi di morti” to the cardinals and Pope Clement the 7th ( Guilio de’ Medici), who had him imprisoned several times then finally thrown him in the Trevere in a sack and in chains. But Brandano emerged from the river ominously alive.
He predicted not only the fall of Rome, “Roma, soon you’ll be defeated”’ but also the imminent death of Pope Clement the 7th, and Siena announced it with satisfaction before the news arrived from Rome. “Light, light, the pope sees no more the light”’ and also, “No more Medicis, we are healthy”. When he died at the age of 68, his body was laid in S. Martino’s church in Siena for three days to allow the veneration of the people, then buried. His remains though have been lost – as he himself would have wished. Petroio has dedicated a small terracotta statue to Brandano.