Hospitality in Monteriggioni
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Monteriggioni

For as upon its circular defencese, monteriggioni crowns itself with towers
(vv. 40-41)

This is how Dante Alighieri in the 31st canto of the Inferno compared the towers of the extraordianry boundary walls belonging to one of the best preserved walled lands in Italy to giants.
Monteriggioni does not appear very differently from the Dantean vision to the pilgrim of our times. Standing as rampart against Florence in the aerly years of the 13th century, between 1213 and 1219 it was enclosed by a powerful oval-shaped walled circuit based on an almost costantly leveled bend, keeping the curved hilltop inside.

Fourteen projecting quadrilateral towers were later added to the outside at regular intervals along the 560 meters of the perimeter and were equipped with openings high on the sides to allow the movement of patrols. inside, the very simple village correspond to the integrity of the walls in its arrangement along the axis that join the only two openings: Porta Franca or Romea turned towards Siena to the southeast, and Porta Fiorentina or Saint John's to the northwest.

The church of Santa Maria Assunta faces Piazza Roma, built in late Romanesque style of 1235, later restored several times. The bell tower was built in the 17th century and its top is the only architectural element of the ancient village perceptible from the outside, above the powerful turreted walls.

In the whole area there are many castles. Besides the Monteriggioni castle there are Castiglion Ghinibaldi (Castiglionalto) to which the owners added a hospital in 1265 and the castle of Rencine which the Florentines used to protect their territory and of which a tower is remained.

 


ABBADIA A ISOLA

The ancient stopping place for pilgrims along the hilly variations of the Francigena in the Val d’Elsa, is mentioned as Borgenuove (Borgonuovo) in the famous Memoir of Sigeric, archbishop of Canterbury, during his journey to Rome in 990.

It was here that the noble Ava, of Longobard descent, founded a Benedectine monastery in 1001 dedicated to Saint Salvador. The name Abbadia a Isola is related to the swampy state of the land around the abbey, which seemed to emerge as if it were an island.

For a period of time the Abbey of Isola, with the founding family’s power in decline, tried to keep itself equidistant in the struggle between Siena and Florence and united with the noble owners of the nearby Staggia castle in order to be protected by them.
This situation ended in 1215, when an oath of loyalty that tied the destiny of Abbadia a Isola’s community to that of the Republic of Siena was signed.

In the 14th century it was equipped with defensive fortifications (of which scanty traces remain), but, beginning from the 1400’s, the monastery began to decline to such as point as to be joined with that of San Eugenio at Costafabbri near Siena.

The church, a facility with three naves each ending in an apse, is dedicated to Saints Salvador and Cirino and dates back to the 12th century.
On the façade at the sides of the portal, the remains of two twin portals have been brought to light, element with often characterized the churches built along the Via Francigena in the Tuscan area; blind arcading above the double lancet windows in the central wing and small wall arches in the sides lighten the façade as a whole.
The cloister, which is on the side of the church, is built according to overlapping schemes and has recently been restored. The interior shows the effects of Romanesque- Lombard tastes in the alternating pillars and partition columns in the naves.

The art works displayed are very interesting. Attached to the entrance wall there is a christening font in alabastrine marble created in 1419 by a sculptor from the Sienese area with a style reminiscent of the modelling drama of Giovanni Pisano.

Two frescoes by Vincenzo Tamagni (1520), the larger one representing the Assumption of the Virgin and, on the same left wall, Saint Blaise, can also be seen. on the entrance wall there is a detached fresco, almost completely ruined but of great interest, by Taddeo di Bartolo from the late 1400’s, with Madonna on the Throne with Child, Cherubs, Angels and Saints.
On the altar we find an important polyptych, a later work by Sano di Pietro, 1471. In addition, we must not forget that one of the most important testimonies of Sienese painting in the late 13th century comes from this church. Majesty by the so-called “Master of Badia a Isola”, is currently kept at the Diocesan Museum of Colle Val’Elsa following careful restoration.





SOURCES

• D’Atti Monica e Franco Cinti, Guida alla via Francigena, 900 chilometri a piedi sulle strade del pellegrinaggio verso Roma, supplemento al numero 120, dicembre 2004 di “Terre di mezzo”, Cart’armata edizioni srl, Milano.
• Corinna Bagatti and Marta Brignali, The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Siena Region, Six itineraries, Edizioni AL.SA.BA. Grafiche, Siena, 1999.