by Loretta Gallorini
Castiglion Fiorentino rises on a small hill that dominates on a vast surrounding landscape constituted by the ample expanse of the Val di Chiana south west, and of the Val di Chio, east. Contended by Arezzo, Florence and Perugia it was the centre of numerous events that submitted it to different dominations and because of this it changed more than once its appellative: Castiglione Aretino, Perugino, Fiorentino... Since 1384 it was definitely under the Florentine Republic that has characterized its political and cultural life.
Castiglion Fiorentino is therefore a city rich in history, culture and art as can be noticed by its architectural plan, by its religious and civil monuments, by the wealth of artistic goods.
The historical centre is typically medieval, with its walls, the doors, the little roads and the alleys that climb toward the donjon fitted on the ancient Etruscan settlement and where the tall tower stands out, symbol of the city itself, furthermore there is enough space for beautiful testimonies of the Renaissance period as the loggiato by Vasari and buildings of the following centuries.
The development of the suburbs outside the primitive fortified complex of the donjon, created a urban scheme that for a long time had to be protected: this was possible thanks to always new amplifications of the walls characterized by numerous turrets and by two principal openings that are the present doors.
The access to the historical centre from the north - west is constituted by the Porta Aretina, originally called Santa Maria and today more commonly Porta Fiorentina. As we have passed the outer door provided with a great ashlar portal, we immediately find the inside three-arches door that is overhung by a worn-out image of St. Michael patron of the city. From here it begins the corso that goes the ancient plan climbing over the hill and it allows to easily reach all the most important places that deserve a standstill.
The Church of St. Francis with the beautiful Romanesque-Gothic sandstone façade is characterized by a portal with a thick lintel and pointed arch with fanlight and a slender mullioned window with two lights surmounted by an opening. The church was built by the Franciscans, with an adjoining convent, about in the half of the XIII century changing the orientation of a primitive church devoted to Christ Salvatore and later entitled to St. Leonard.
The inside of the church follows the characteristics of the Ordine Mendicanti. On the altars author’s works: Vocazione di San Matteo by Salvi Castellucci, Madonna del Carmine by Giovanni Pelliccioni, Crocifissione by Francesco Morandini called Poppi, La Vergine con il Figlio e i Santi by Georgio Vasari. Very interesting the great Crucifix that overhangs the high altar, Patriarchis’ work, Cristo wooden statue of the early XVII century a terracotta Pietà and a small but beautiful choir in 1546 serene stone.
The seventeenth-century cloister is made according to the original one, it belongs to the Tuscan order and at the ground floor it shows round arches and cross vaults, at the upper floor there are columns supporting the eaves. The fanlights painted by Pelliccioni in the first decades of 1600 tell episodes of the life of St. Francis.
The church of the SS. Annunziata realized between 1697 and 1704 as required by the Padri Scolopi preserves the original façade made of bricks and the double entrance stairway along the corso. The inside chamber that preserves architectural plaster decorations is used as a show room and gym. Interesting the church of the Buona Morte reconstructed in 1574 on the ruins of an ancient little church devoted to St. Silvestre.
Inside immediately strikes a beautiful wooden caisson ceiling with a high-relief Pietà in its centre; more than the 1774 paintings representing the Passion within plaster frames, it is worth considering the artistic value of the wooden statue representing Cristo legato alla colonna graven in 1617 by Niccolò di Smeraldo Salvi and the Crucifix of the end of the XV century that can be ascribed to the Benedetto da Maiano’s circle.
The corso ends in Piazza del Municipio on which the Palazzo Comunale overlooks; in front of it the Loggia Pubblica, the loggiato by Vasari, that opens on the suggestive panorama of the Val di Chio. Its construction dates back to 1513.
The Palazzo Comunale is the result of the unification of more ancient constructions and the present configuration dates back to1935. In the atrium stands a monumental staircase with a serene stone balustrade of the second half of 1500, of the same period the samples of the measures represented in the inferior part of the same atrium.
From the Piazza del Municipio you reach the area of the donjon, that today is an important centre of art, of history and of culture. The Choir, the sacristy and the tower of the ancient church of Saint Angelo (which was rebuilt in Romanesque forms in the XIII century and used since 1500 with different purpose by the nuns of St. Girolamo that built here also their convent) entertain the Pinacoteca Comunale (Town Picture Gallery).
It picks up a series of paintings that are notable because of the qualitative high-level but you have to consider also real masterpieces as the great Croce a tempera painting which was realized around the sixties of the XIII century, the Stimmate di St. Francesco by Bartholomeo della Gatta, St. Francesco by Margaritone from Arezzo, the bright Madonna col Bambino by Taddeo Gaddi and works of Giovanni di Paolo, Luca Signorelli, Lorenzo di Credi, Jacopo del Sellaio, Ferretti and many others.
The underground run of the donjon includes part of the areas investigated during numerous excavation performed from 1989 to 2004.
Extraordinary is the continuity of life present in this archaeological site, starting from the first Etruscan settlement of VIII century b.C until the medieval epoch. The restoration and exploitation of the archaeological area respects the fourteenth-century order characterized also by a Casseretto where structures of Hellenistic epoch are placed inside medieval spaces as in the crypt of St. Angelo where some walls of Etruscan age are still visible.
An interesting archaeological exhibition is in the Palazzo Pretorio that has been even functionally restored. Here are presented the finds recovered in the territory and in the area of the donjon, that was the seat of an important sanctuary between the end of the VI century and the beginning of IV century b.C. The exhibition proposes the reconstruction of a part of the roof of the sanctuary of which polychrome terrecotte have been recovered.
The whole archaeological section is characterized by a modern computer and didactic system as well as by several multimedia supports. In the same Palazzo Pretorio is the Town Library, an important reference for the consultation and study in the same palace.
The area of the donjon is finally characterized by the tall tower; a renewed staircase allows to reach the web of the campanone which can be an occasion for a suggestive visit to the old suburb and to the ample scenery of the Val di Chiana and the Val di Chio. As you return to Piazza del Comune, you can reach Piazza della Collegiata through Via St. Michele; such square takes the name from the church devoted to St. Giuliano, and you find here the Vecchia Pieve, the Gesù, Saint Clare.
The actual Collegiate, built according to the sketch of the castiglionese Pietro Mancini, was consecrated in 1853. The loggiato of neoclassic style is few years following. The bell tower has been lifted in 1930. The inside of the church has a Latin cross plan with three barrel aisles. The walls and the altars entertain a lot of works of art that originate from the preceding church and they have as authors Segna di Bonaventura, Bartholomeo della Gatta, Lorenzo di Credi, Angiolo di Lorentino, Naldini, Castellucci, Santini, works of the Della Robbia school.
The “Pieve Vecchia”, that is the part with the apse of the native church of St. Giuliano, preserves in a chapel a font in 1400 stone and a Compianto su Cristo morto by Luca Signorelli. The Pieve Vecchia, in progress of restoration, will house the Museo Sacro that will be inaugurated within the year, it will exhibit an important collection of art, of paintings, of jewellery and of sculptures.
Set against the back part of the Pieve, is the Chiesa del Gesù (Church of Jesus) whose entry is preceded by a beautiful “loggiato” sustained by six square stone pillars. The inside of the church is characterized by late-manneristic decorations but more particularly by a notable caisson ceiling of the first years of 1600. There are lots of important works: the L’ultima Cena by Francesco Morandini, Resurrezione by Francesco Vanni, the paintings by Mazzuoli that tell the Passion of Christ, a early1500 wooden Crucifix, the wooden sculpture of the Cristo Morto performed in Rome in 1652, another sculpture that represents Cristo Risorto of the carver from Lucignano Niccolò di Smeraldo Salvi.
The contemporary church of Saint Chiara that houses numerous works of the Morandini needs restoration as well as the church of Sant’Agostino erected in the XIII century but it became centre of the Augustinians since 1333 when they built their convent close to it. The hut-shaped façade is preceded by a frontal stairway and it is made of sandstone. The inside is aisleless and there are numerous altars with many works to recover.
Not far is the church of Saints Stephen and Lazarus whose lintel is marked by the date1350. After some restorations it is now a centre for cultural activity but it is particularly beautiful and interesting because of the cycles of frescos that cover all of its parts, performed in successive stages by different painters among the second half of the XIV and the first half of the XV century. Splendid the Crocifissione that make us think of Giotto and that covers the whole background wall.
Other towns in the area:Agliana, Anghiari, Arezzo, Asciano, Badia a Ruoti, Badia Agnano, Bagni di Lucca, Bagno a Ripoli, Barberino di Mugello, Barberino Val d'Elsa, Bietina, San Giustino Valdarno, Bucine, Buonconvento, Calci, Calenzano, Campo nell'Elba, Camucia di Cortona, Carrara, Casciana Terme, Cascina, Casole d'Elsa, Castel San Gimignano, Castelfiorentino, Castelfranco di Sopra, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castiglione Fibocchi, Castiglioncello, Certaldo, Cetona, Chianciano Terme, Chiusi, Cinigiano, Civitella in Val di Chiana, Colle di Val d'Elsa, Cortona, Dicomano, Dudda, Empoli, Fabbrica di Peccioli, Figline Valdarno, Florence, Foiano della Chiana, Follonica, Fonteblanda, Fornacette, Forte dei Marmi, Gaiole in Chianti, Gambassi Terme, Gavoranno, Ghizzano, Giuncugnano, Grassina, Greve in Chianti, Grosseto, Iesa Palazzo, Impruneta, Isola del Giglio, Lamporecchio, Laterina , Livorno, Loro Ciuffenna, Lucca, Lucignano, Lucolena, Marciano della Chiana, Marina di Grosseto, Empoli, Masotti, Massa, Massa e Cozzile, Moggiona, Molazzana, Monsummano Terme, Montaione, Montalcino, Monte San Savino, Montecatini Terme, Montefollonico, Montelopio, Montepulciano, Monterchi, Monteriggioni, Monteroni d'Arbia, Montespertoli, Montevarchi, Monteverdi Marittimo, Monticchiello di Pienza, Monticiano, Montisi, Nievole, Orbetello, Panzano in Chianti, Pari, Pergine Valdarno, Pian di Sco', Pienza, Pietrasanta, Pievasciata, Pieve Fosciana, Pisa, Pistoia, Pitigliano, Poggibonsi, Policiano, Ponsacco, Pontassieve, Ponte a Elsa, Ponte a Moriano, Pontedera, Poppi, Porciano di Lamporecchio, Porciano di Stia, Porto Ercole, Pozzo della Chiana, Prato, Puntone, Radda in Chianti, Radicofani, Rapolano Terme, Reggello, Rignano sull'Arno, Rigomagno, Rigutino, Riparbella, Ponte a Moriano, Rosignano Solvay, Rufina, San Baronto, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, San Donato in Poggio, San Gimignano, San Giuliano Terme, San Giustino Valdarno, San Miniato, San Quirico d'Orcia, Sansepolcro, Sarteano, Saturnia, Scandicci, Scarlino, Segromigno in Monte, Seravezza, Serre di Rapolano, Sesto Fiorentino, Sieci, Siena, Sinalunga, Sorano, Staggia Senese, Subbiano, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Terontola, Terranuova Bracciolini, Tirrenia, Torre del Lago Puccini, Torrita di Siena, Trequanda, Uliveto Terme, Vagliagli, Vecchiano, Venturina, Viareggio, Vicchio, Vinci, Volterra
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