San Miniato, the medieval village kingdom of the white truffle

June 30, 2021 | By

San Miniato (formerly San Miniato al Tedesco) is an Italian town of 27.997 inhabitants in the province of Pisa in Tuscany. It is an important economic and industrial center of the leather area and is famous for the white truffle.

San Miniato

The historic center of the city is located in a strategic position on a hill halfway between Florence and Pisa so the city was the scene of multiple clashes between the two today’s capitals, until the definitive Florentine conquest. Seat of a diocese, San Miniato is an important economic and industrial center of the leather area of Ponte a Egola and is famous for its white truffles and wine and oil products.

The original nucleus of the city dates back to the 8th century: a group of Longobards, according to an original document dated 713 and preserved in the Archbishop’s Archive in Lucca, settled on this hill and built a church dedicated to the martyr Miniato. Frederick II of Swabia built the fortress in the city and made his vicar for Tuscany reside there. Due to this Germanic origin, the city, of Ghibelline tradition, was called throughout the Middle Ages as San Miniato al Tedesco, a name that remained in use even in the following centuries.

After having signed peace with Florence on December 31, 1370, San Miniato adopted the Florentine calendar to replace the Pisan one and changed its name to San Miniato al Fiorentino, and then simply San Miniato.

In 1622 he obtained the bishopric and therefore the diocese: until then it was in fact part of the diocese of Lucca

The young Napoleon visited San Miniato twice. The first was to have the certificate of nobility of their family: the Buonapartes of Ajaccio had in fact distant origins from Samminiatesi; the certificate was necessary for Napoleon to access the French military academy. Later he returned there during the Italian Campaign, visiting the last survivor of the Tuscan branch of the family, the canon Filippo Buonaparte. A plaque affixed to the Buonaparte palace testifies to the meeting that took place there.

The city remained in the Florentine orbit until 1925, when it was ceded to the province of Pisa.

The Second World War left its mark on the city due to the massacre of the Duomo. A good part of the medieval buildings was also destroyed, including the Rocca di Federico II, promptly rebuilt in the following years.

San Miniato offers an intense cultural activity all year round: from theater festivals to classical music concerts. However, the highlight of the events is the traditional National White Truffle Market Exhibition which takes place in the main streets and squares of the historic center on the second, third and fourth weekends of November. The market exhibition is preceded by other festivals related to the precious tuber in the neighboring villages: it begins in March in Cigoli (birthplace of the painter Ludovico Cardi known as “Il Cigoli”) with the Marzolo truffle and continues with Balconevisi (in October there is plays a curious palio of the ducks) and Corazzano. In this village there is a parish church of the century. XII and the Teatrino di Quaranthana, seat of the Centro Fotografia dello Spettacolo, the Centro Cinema Paolo and Vittorio Taviani and the International Center for Dramaturgical Writing.

The San Miniato Museum System, active since 2000, connects eight exhibition centers in a single path: buildings and collections owned by the Municipality, the Diocese and the Foundations.

Let’s start to discover this unique Tuscan medieval village!

The Church of the Santissima Annunziata

The church of the Santissima Annunziata is a place of Catholic worship in San Miniato, in the province of Pisa, diocese of San Miniato.

It was erected in 1522 on the site of the oratory of the fourteenth century Compagnia della Santissima Annunziata which, having built the new church, donated it to the Augustinian friars of the Congregation of Lecceto.

The building, all in brick, has an original central apsidal structure with a high octagonal drum that hides the dome. The interior has an aspect that is due to the works carried out between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the Roffia family. When the apse area was enlarged, in 1657, the majestic Gonfolina stone altar was built which frames a late 14th-century frescoed Annunciation, an object of great veneration. On the choir in the counter-façade there is the pipe organ, built between 1827 and 1830 by Filippo II Tronci, not working; the exhibition is hidden by a curtain painted with King David citaredo.

At the top of the dome a fresco by Anton Domenico Bamberini celebrates the Coronation of the Virgin.

To the side of the church, remains of a cloister.

The church, commonly called “la Nunziatina”, was built on the area of ​​a fourteenth-century building, by the company of the same name, which it donated to the Augustinian Hermits of the Congregation of Lecceto (Siena). Taken possession of the church and the adjoining convent in 1525, the monks proceeded to make important restorations and extensions between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. Bishop Poggi rededicated it in 1709. The monks remained here until the Napoleonic suppressions. The current appearance of the church dates back to late seventeenth-century renovations. It has the shape of an octagonal prism closed by a hemispherical dome. The lower part of the facade is advanced with respect to the road axis. On the right side of the door finished with stone moldings. an inscription testifies to the date of construction (1522).

The church has a cross plan with a tribune for the main altar and two chapels on the sides. The use of pietra serena contrasts harmoniously with the sky-blue white of the walls. Inside the church there are paintings of the ‘500 and’ 600. The frescoes in the basin of the dome and in the vaults of the side chapels are by Antonio Domenico Bamberini (18th century). In the monumental Sacristy you can admire a stone statue of St. Augustine and a table depicting Augustinian Saints, attributed to Giovanni Brina.

Church of San Domenico

The church of San Domenico, formerly of Saints Jacopo and Lucia ad foris Portam, is a Catholic place of worship in San Miniato, in the province of Pisa, diocese of San Miniato.

It was rebuilt on pre-existing buildings in 1330, but the façade was never completed except for the portal, with splayings and architrave.

The interior has a single nave, with side chapels that were closed in the eighteenth century, except for those of the presbytery. Some frescoes stand out, including Stories of San Domenico, by Anton Domenico Bamberini assisted by eighteenth-century artists from Lucca.

At the first altar on the right a Madonna and Child between Saints Ludovico, Bertrando and Rosa, by a Florentine artist of the seventeenth century; on the second a Madonna and Dominican saints by Francesco Curradi; on the third Madonna and Child with Saint Pius V by Ranieri del Pace.

In the presbytery, from the right, there is the Samminiati chapel, with a Madonna and Child at the altar and four sentiments and four stories in the predella, the work of Domenico di Michelino. On the left is the tomb of Giovanni Chellini, built after 1460 and subsequently modified, both in the same century (with the addition of the lower part) and, more drastically, in the eighteenth century; it is attributed to Bernardo Rossellino.

Follows the chapel of the Armaleoni, with a San Lorenzo on the external pillar by Francesco d’Antonio, and Scenes from the life of Mary, a block of late 14th century frescoes referable to the circle of Niccolò Gerini; on the altar Madonna and Child, saints and patrons, a panel from the Botticellian school attributed to the Master of San Miniato; the predella, with five Stories of St. John the Baptist is older, and refers to Mariotto di Nardo. At the main altar a wooden crucifix from the sixteenth century.

The next chapel (main chapel), known as the Spedalinghi, is frescoed by Galileo Chini. In the Grifoni chapel, the sixteenth-century Florentine school panel shows a San Vincenzo Ferrer; there is also a Deposition by Poppi, with the valuable original frame. The tabernacle with the Stories of San Jacopo is by the same Gerinian artist of the chapel of the Armaleoni.

Continuing along the left aisle, between the third and second altar, there is a Della Robbia tondo with the Annunciation by Giovanni della Robbia; on the second altar Archangel Michael by Giovan Battista Galestrucci (1658). Finally, on the counter-façade Musician Angels and Four Saints by Lippo d’Andrea (early 15th century) and a panel with the Madonna and Child between Saints John the Baptist and Andrea by Andrea Guidi, a follower of Antoniazzo Romano.

Among the other works visible in the church are Sant’Anselmo bishop, from the workshop of Masolino da Panicale and San Giacinto in prayer, by Jacopo Ligozzi.

In the church there are two pipe organs: the main one, on the choir along the right wall of the nave, was built by Francesco Maria Galganetti in 1602 and enlarged by Michelangelo Paoli in 1840; in the presbytery there is a positive chest, work 020 by Nicola Puccini (2010).

The chapel of Sant’Ursula is located in the basement: here the condemned to death received a last spiritual comfort, among frescoes of the late fourteenth century on the theme of Augustus and the Sibyl. In a room next to the sacristy there is an Annunciation by the same master similar to Gerini and in the nearby Borromei Chapel Four frescoed saints, remains of a very repainted fourteenth-century cycle.

To the right of the church, the cloister opening onto the street, on two levels, now houses the Municipal Library.

Via Angelica

On the central Piazza del Popolo, to the left of the Church of San Domenico, a small wrought iron door transports the visitor back in time: it is the Via Angelica.

The Via Angelica is a path that in ancient times was traveled by peasants who, from the countryside, had to reach the historic center of San Miniato. This place has remained suspended in time, thanks to three places that maintain a unique beauty thanks to wonderful frescoes and decorations that date back to periods between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries

The name should not be misleading because it was actually the ancient path used by the farmers that connected the city to the countryside. It is undoubtedly one of the most evocative places in San Miniato, with three rooms displaying wonderful frescoes and decorations. They are respectively the church of Santi Jacopo and Lucia, the Oratory of Sant’Urbano and the chapel of San Pietro Martire (called Aula Pacis).

The first room shows a splendid cruise of the crypt with remains of frescoes, the second a surprising wealth of decorations and frescoes. Here the affiliates of the Sant’Urbano company, known as “della frusta”, met.

The saint’s wooden crucifix was the object of veneration against the natural disasters that damaged the fields.

A curiosity: the Christ above the altar no longer has his arms as they are lost during the various movements to protect him during wars. Going down to the third and last room, here is the chapel of San Pietro Martire, with portions of a cycle of frescoes from the fourteenth century.

The Via Angelica is part of the San Miniato Museum System.

Church of San Miniato

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Genesio is the main Catholic place of worship in San Miniato, the mother church of the diocese of the same name.

The church, which became a cathedral in 1622 when San Miniato was elevated to a diocesan seat, is located on the square known as Prato del Duomo, the area of ​​the ancient citadel, which is dominated by the fortress and tower of Frederick II. It is the oldest part of the city, which brings together the Cathedral, the Episcopal Palace and the Palace of the Imperial Vicars.

The church was built in the twelfth century, perhaps on an older chapel. Entitled to Santa Maria, it is mentioned for the first time in 1195 in a bull of Pope Celestino III, which recalls its dependence on the parish of San Genesio di Vico Wallari.

The interior has a neo-Renaissance architectural development, mainly the result of the nineteenth century works of Pietro Bernardini, with decorations in the Baroque style. The plan is a Latin cross, with the hall divided into three naves of which the side aisles are of equal size. The internal facing in terracotta and the original octagonal pillars were covered with new decorations in the 18th-19th centuries.

The three naves are separated by two series of round arches resting on Ionic columns in polychrome imitation marble and are covered with a richly carved and gilded coffered ceiling, originally from the 17th century. The central nave, above the arches, has nineteenth-century frescoes among oculi.

When in 1248 the Longobard-founded village that extended at the foot of San Miniato was destroyed, Santa Maria acquired the baptismal font and the title of San Genesio. At that time the building was renovated, decorating the façade with ceramic basins, as in the best Pisan architecture. In 1274 the Comacine sculptor Giroldo da Arogno created the bas-relief of the Annunciation.

When in 1369 San Miniato became part of the Florentine dominions, the rearrangement of the area of ​​the fortress included the church which thus became inaccessible to the faithful. Only in 1489, with the stabilization of the political situation, the Florentine vicar returned the church to the local clergy. It was then reopened after an expansion that included the bell tower, a mighty square-plan construction known as the Tower of Matilda.

In 1860, it was deeply restored.

Church of the Santissimo Crocifisso

The Sanctuary of the Santissimo Crocifisso is a Catholic place of worship located in San Miniato, in the province of Pisa, diocese of San Miniato.

The church was built between 1705 and 1718, on a project by Antonio Maria Ferri, to house a 13th century wooden crucifix believed to be miraculous.

The Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix of Castelvecchio was commissioned by the bishop of San Miniato Poggi and built by the citizens to guard, honor and venerate the image of the “miraculous Crucifix of Castelvecchio”, a wooden crucifix dating back to around the 11th century abandoned in San Miniato. According to the legend, two travellers who passed through San Miniato left this relic. Subsequently the Sanmiatesi took it on pilgrimage to the cities of Tuscany at war.

The church was designed by Antonio Maria Ferri, one of the most popular grand ducal architects in Tuscany. It was opened for worship in 1705.

The Greek cross building, surmounted by a dome on a drum, stands in the space between the fortress, the cathedral and the town hall, to which the church is connected by a spectacular staircase, with a statue of the risen Christ by Francesco Baratta.

While the external decoration is very sober, the internal walls are completely frescoed with Scenes from the life of Christ by Anton Domenico Bamberini. On the main altar, included in a panel painting depicting the risen Christ by Francesco Lanfranchi (1525), is the tabernacle in which a rare wooden crucifix from the Ottonian era (10th century) is kept. In the pillars of the dome, the nineteenth-century statues of the Four Evangelists by Luigi Pampaloni.

The pipe organ was built by Domenico Francesco Cacioli and completed by Antonio and Filippo Tronci in 1751 and is located on the choir in the left transept; it has 8 stops on a single manual and pedal and is mechanically driven.

Accademia degli Euteleti

The Accademia degli Euteleti is an institution that is part of the San Miniato Museum System.

The Academy has its origins in the seventeenth century, when it was founded as the “Accademia degli Affidati”, which dealt with science and literature. It was re-founded in 1748 and its name was changed to “Accademia dei Rinati”.

The Accademia degli Euteleti was then re-founded on 30 December 1822 by Torello Pierazzi, future bishop of San Miniato, and by the poet Pietro Bagnoli. The Euteleti are men of good will who pursue a “good end”, and originally had as its primary purpose to develop and spread the Tuscan culture in the world, through scientific knowledge and studies related to the development of agriculture and literary heritage. From what was reported in the “Proceedings” of the company in 1834, the Academy worked to develop a “typographic” project and founded a children’s school.

The Academy’s activity was temporarily interrupted in 1848 coinciding with the first war of independence. In the Fascist period it was decreed a moral body.

The Accademia degli Euteleti currently has a large archive and a vast library, dedicating part of its resources to the organization of exhibitions and conferences of scientific interest. The Academy emblem is represented by a horse running victorious to the goal. In the Academy there is a copy of the funerary mask of Napoleon Bonaparte, whose family had been exiled to San Miniato in the Middle Ages, made by the doctors Antommarchi and Francis Burton.

The coat of arms is a “shaken” horse inside a ceramic oval, polychrome and adorned with foliage, with the words: ΑΚΕΝΤΗΤΟΣ inside, placed above and below the image of the horse.

The Academy has been based in the Migliorati Palace since 1984, formerly the residence of the Migliorati marquises. The original building dates back to the 14th century and was renovated with the current facade at the beginning of the 17th century. The exhibition space is organized in three rooms, with a total area of ​​approximately 80 m2 and about fifty pieces on display, in rotation. Part of the building is occupied by the Magistrate’s Court.

Palazzo Grifoni

Palazzo Grifoni is located in San Miniato, in the homonymous piazza Grifoni. It is the seat of the Cassa di Risparmio di San Miniato Foundation.

The building was designed by Giuliano di Baccio d’Agnolo in severe Florentine forms and built by the mid-sixteenth century. It was irreparably damaged in the last war, but later restored.

It dominates the square from a raised position, like the Pitti palace, and has a plaster facade, with embossed ashlars along the sides that give the whole the appearance of a fortress. On the ground floor, a large arched portal framed by blocks of pietra serena is flanked by two kneeling windows, followed by two rectangular openings on each side, framed by stone. The family coat of arms in stone hangs above the portal (gold, the black griffin accompanied on the head by three balls arranged between the four pendants of a lambello of red, the central ball of blue, loaded with three golden lilies , and the two lateral ones in red).

On the main floor, beyond a sill-marking frame, seven arched windows are lined up, with key arched arches, which reflect the design of the portal. The top floor is occupied by a continuous loggia, now closed by windows, with elegant Doric columns. On the back the building has a courtyard overlooking the panorama of the Valdarno.

The splendid Palazzo Grifoni is one of the most conspicuous examples of Tuscan civil architecture of the Renaissance period. The building was built around the mid-sixteenth century on a project by the architect Giuliano di Baccio d’Agnolo for the rich and powerful San Miniato family with a precise Michelangelo influence on the formal events of the building. The episode constituted a real revolution for the town, because, just in order to elevate the factory, it was the first time that permission was granted to interrupt the regular circuit of the medieval walls.

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