The conscience of Europe was born on pilgrimage routes Goethe
There are many tourists who are tired of the usual holiday choose destinations where the protagonists are the silence and maybe even meditation. In Tuscany there are important churches, convents, monasteries, places of great significance for the Christian tradition. Prayer places that are also appreciated for their artistic and cultural beauty.
And it is enough to quote a few examples to understand what to offer Tuscany: Camaldoli and La Verna are religious complex located within the Casentino Forest Park, the most visited by tourists. for their religious history and beauty. Badia Prataglia, San Benedetto in Alpe, San Godenzo, Le Celle, Romena, there are many religious complexes that offer the possibility of unforgettable experiences.
In this section we suggest some routes to take you to the discovery of these sacred places.
Province of Arezzo
Camaldoli and the Casentino Forest Park
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Monastery of Camaldoli[/frame]
The famous spiritual center is immersed in ancient woods that, for many centuries, hermits lived solitary. The first building was a almshourse for pilgrims, built in 1046 by the Benedictine monk Romualdo, founder of the Camaldolese order. The chosen location was, to be exact, Fontebuona, already known for the quality of water. In this first structure patients were cared gratuitamentei. In case of death of the sick, the religious were provided at their expense for the burial. The bodies were placed in niches located under the floor of the almshouse, used up to the Napoleonic era (1810). The church, dedicated to St. Donato and St. Hilarion was built in the early thirteenth century and, in 1361, decorated by Spinello Aretino with a series of frescoes. At the beginning of XVI century, the building was completely renovated.
Annexed to the almshouse, in the sixteenth century was built the monastery: a large two-storey building containing two cloisters, the refectory, the guest and the monks’ cells. In this age it worked a printing press and from there came the Camaldolesi Constitutions dealing with rules for forest management. The hospital was added in 1543, a real pharmacy or, rather, the pharmaceutics laboratory for the preparation of medicines based on medicinal herbs. The refectory was completed in 1609. A new renovation of the church was made in the eighteenth century and the other in 1954 . Among the works of art inside the church stand the boards of Giorgio Vasari. The largest altarpiece depicting the Deposition from the Cross. The others are: San Donato and San Hilarion, the Christ’s Nativity, the Virgin Enthroned between St. John the Baptist and St. Jerome. In this work Vasari reproduces the landscape of the monastery and the hermitage of Camaldoli as they were in the sixteenth century.
The refectory is characterized by simple and clean lines of the Tuscan mannerism. It is furnished with walnut stalls and tables. On the walls there are some frescoes of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The entire surface of the back wall is occupied by a painting of 1611 by Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio, depicting Christ served by angels. Of the ancient hospital remains only the old pharmacy. The room is fully furnished with carved walnut shelves, dating from the time of construction. There are still many tools of the old Cabinet pharmaceutics (stills, mortars, stoves), also books and recipes dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Inside the complex, there is the cell of St. Romuald and the ancient library of about 300,000 books.
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Hermitage of Camaldoli[/frame]
Municipality: Poppi (AR) – loc. Camaldoli
Type: religious complex XII century
Located within the National Park of Casentino Forests, 3 kilometers away of the Camaldoli Monastery, home to a community of monks of Benedictine origin. The hermitage was founded by San Romualdo in the early eleventh century, at a place called the Maldolo Field. According to tradition, the land was donated by Maldolo d’Arezzo, hence the name of Ca ‘Maldoli. Originally the building had only five cells, one of which was inhabited by Francis of Assisi. Currently the hermitage consists of the quarters, where they are welcomed guests and visitors, the church, the refectory and the monks’ cells.
The church, built in 1220, is positioned at the center of the hermitage. Inside is the painting of the Virgin and Child surrounded by St. Benedict, St. Romuald, Saint Jerome and Saint Lucia, by Giovan Battista Naldini (1575). The refectory is characterized by simple and clean lines of the Tuscan mannerism. It is furnished with walnut stalls and tables from the severe line. Above the front door it is located a stone pulpit for the reading of sacred texts during meals. On the walls there are some planks of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The entire surface of the back wall is occupied by a painting of 1611 by Cristoforo Roncalli, known as Pomarancio, depicting Christ served by angels. In the refectory, it is the beautiful coffered ceiling made in the seventeenth century by Florentine sculptors Evangelista Dieciaiuti and Gaspare Bertacchi.
The complex of 20 cells also includes the San Romualdo, only be visited with the typical structure of the hermit’s cell: the bedroom, study, chapel. St. Francis of Assisi cell is decorated with a painting by Spagnoletto. At the end of the street of the cells is a small church in the Romanesque style. It is known as the Chapel of the Pope because it was built in 1220 by Cardinal Ugolino dei Conti di Segni, later became pope under the name of Gregory IX.
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]National Park of Casentino Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna[/frame]
The park is a large protected area that stretches between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna regions, characterized by forests with more than 1,358 species identified, and a fauna of great interest. On the Tuscan side, the park is included in the territory of seven municipalities: Bibbiena, Chiusi della Verna, Poppi, Pratovecchio Stia, Londa and San Godenzo. The forests and numerous natural habitats are the setting of the signs of the presence of man: villages and two important sanctuaries of Camaldoli and La Verna.
The woods were for centuries livelihood for many small and large communities. They have also provided timber since historical periods: for example the scaffolding of the Duomo of Florence and beams to the ships of the fleet of Pisa. The park is a natural paradise and includes some components of State Forests Casentino: the Sasso Fratino Nature Reserve, the reserve of La Pietra, nature reserves biogenetic Campigna, Badia Prataglia-Lama, Camaldoli, the Forest monumental of La Verna and the area of Acquacheta Falls. The area can be explored on foot, mountain bike and horseback or, in winter, on cross country skis. The complex of paths extends for about 600 kilometers. Of great interest is the Forest Monumental de La Verna, preserved and maintained to this day by monks, in a perfect harmony between man and nature. The main forest consists of spruce and beech trees, with specimens of up to 50 meters in height and diameters up to 1.80 meters. There are also many species of birdssuch as the eagle owl and the peregrine falcon.
La Verna and Saint Francis's Cave
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]La Verna Sanctuary[/frame]
Municipality: Chiusi della Verna (AR) – loc.La Verna
Type: Franciscan sanctuary – complex of churches and chapels (thirteenth century -XIV)
Address: loc. La Verna – Chiusi della Verna
Phone: information +39 0575 5341; reception+39 0575 0575
Opening hours: 8.00-22.30
Disabled accessibility: yes
Services: You can stay at the guesthouse of the sanctuary to rest or pray with the monks. The apartments are designed to accommodate individuals, families, groups. Prices full board: € 57.00; € 48.00 for a minimum stay of three days.
The Franciscan sanctuary is located on Mount Penna (1,283 meters s.l.m.). It is for centuries the center of attraction at the level mondiale.Nel 1213, Count Orlando Cattani met Francis, captivated by his words, gave him the mountain. This became the favorite place for many periods of meditation of the future saint. Simple huts made of branches were the first refuge of the small community but in 1214 were built a few small cells and a few years later, the oratory of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
St. Francis of Assisi arrived there in 1224 for a 40-day fast. While he was absorbed in prayer, he received the stigmata and, from that moment, La Verna became a holy place for all Christians. In 1260 there was consecrated a real church and, three years later, it was completed the Chapel of the Stigmata. In 1498 the leader Bartolomeo d’Alviano occupied the occupied the hermitage and its militias ravaged and burned the whole sanctuary. The structure was restored in a short time. In 1810 and in 1866 the monks were expelled temporarily following the suppression of religious orders. In 1933 the complex was again entrusted to the Friars Minor. The sanctuary is composed of a collection of churches, chapels and other places of worship, all attended by a large number of pilgrims, devotees and visitors from all over the world. Numerous buildings are notable for the works of art contained.
It is a large square paved access to all the places visited the shrine. Surrounded by a stone wall, it takes its name from the sundial, sundial engraved on the wall of the bell tower of the Major Basilica. In the square there is a large wooden cross, planted in the rock from which you can observe a beautiful view of the Casentino area. At left is the “guest of the well”, a sixteenth-century cistern which was used by pilgrims and guests.
Basilica Maggiore (Major Basilica)
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was built between 1348 and 1509. The result is a building of a Latin cross, with one nave and cross vaults. Inside there are some works of the “workshop” Della Robbia. The oldest work is the Annunciation (1475), considered the masterpiece of Andrea della Robbia. The others are: Ascension (1490), The Nativity (1479), the Madonna and Child Enthroned. Inside the Chapel of Relics, dating back to 1635, they are preserved some objects used by St. Francis: a tablecloth, a bowl, a glass, a piece of string, a linen bandage soaked with the blood of the saint.
Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli
A chapel dedicated to Santa Maria degli Angeli was built (1216-18) after Our Lady appeared to St. Francis. The building, which is the oldest part of the sanctuary, was renovated and expanded between the 1250 and the 1260. The bell was cast by Leonardo Pisano in 1257 and, according to tradition, was a gift from St. Bonaventure. The church has a single nave. Inside, there is the large glazed earthenware Assumption of Mary into heaven by Andrea Della Robbia built around 1485. Inside the church are preserved various objects that belonged to St. Francis, in particular the habit he was wearing when the stigmata appeared.
Chapel of Stigmata
The chapel, real focal point of the whole sanctuary, was built by Simone da Battifolle in 1263 on the site where it happened the miraculous event. On the floor, a plaque indicates the exact point where it was Francis when it happened the miracle. On the back wall there is a monumental composition Crucifixion (1481) by Andrea Della Robbia.
Corridor of the Stigmata
Through an arched doorway from the church of S. Maria degli Angeli leads to the Corridor of the Stigmata, built between 1578 and 1582. At the beginning there is the chapel of Count Checco Montedoglio completed in 1532, which contains the table glazed polychrome Deposition from the Cross, a work by Santi Buglioni. The hallway is painted with scenes from the life and miracles of St. Francis. Eighteen frescoes were made by the artist Baccio Maria Bacci between 1929 and 1962. It is visible the cell constructed by Francis of Assisi. Along the corridor, from 1431 passes the procession of the friars twice a day (at 14 and midnight) to the cell of St. Francis and to the Chapel of the Stigmata.
Second cell of St. Francis
At the end of the corridor of the Stigmata is the cave where Francis of Assisi lived. The bed was constituted by a bare-stone slab. The second cell was used to meditate during the final period of his life. After a small entrance hall leads directly to the Chapel of the Stigmata.
Around the main building there are other places of prayer and devotion. In particular, a series of chapels, each dedicated to a cult: the Nativity, the Annunciation, Ascension, St. Bonaventure, St. Sebastian, of Mercy, of Saint Anthony of Padua, Maddalena, the Cross and the Loddi chapel. The Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built in the late fourteenth century by the Countess Caterina Tarlati in memory of the simple hut which was the first home of Francis. Inside is the rock on which Christ appeared to “Francis of Assisi”.
It is a huge boulder almost completely detached from the rest of the mountain and suspended above a cavern. Popular tradition believes that the wide crack was formed on the day of the crucifixion of Christ. Even in these deep fissures of the rock the future saint was standing in prayer and meditation. Always here Francis took refuge after the devil had tried to make him fall into the abyss surrounding. It is a point where you enjoy an exceptional view.
Hermitage Le Celle, Abbey of Farneta and Sanctuary of Santa Margherita in Cortona
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Le Celle[/frame]
It was founded in 1211 by St. Francis of Assisi, who then returned in 1226, shortly before his death. In 1969 the complex, very impressive for the spiritual atmosphere, was radically restored. The places where they lived monks are willing “stepped” on both slopes of the valley. The complex retains the cell that was used by St. Francis during his visit. Inside the monastery there is also the chapel of St. Felix of Cantalice, dating from the seventeenth century. Around the monastery there is a small forest consists of oak trees and cypresses, crossed by paths that allow hiking through streams and natural gorges, always with great views of the valley below. The monastery offers accommodation for religious. Not far from the monastery is known Abbey of Farneta.
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Abbey of Farneta[/frame]
Area: Val d Chiana
Municipality: Cortona (AR) – loc. Farneta
Type: Benedictine monastery IX-XV century
Ancient Benedictine monastery, dating back to Lombard (IX century). The fifteenth century was in full decline and, in 1799, was suppressed. The monastery has been preserved quite well over the centuries and was restored in 1940-1944. The church is T-shaped and has one nave. The unusual solution of the transept, in which there are five apses face east (light), the symbol of redemption, according to the tradition of the time. Also unusual presence of niches around the apses, almost forming a clover. Very valuable stained glass windows.
Particularly fascinating is the crypt, which was used as a collective tomb after the disposal of the monastery and then rediscovered and restored in the early ’40s. The central cell is shaped like a cloverleaf. The arches are supported by columns from the Roman period, one of which pink granite from Aswan (Egypt). The walls are also found some ancient tombstones, like a funeral stele from the Roman era and the abbot Ado’s tombstone (1100). The other monastery buildings were largely destroyed or were radically transformed.
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Santuary of Santa Margherita di Cortona[/frame]
Type: santuary XIII-XIV century
Address: Piazzale Santa Margherita, 1 – Cortona (AR)
It is a sanctuary dedicated to the patron saint of Cortona. On the death of Margaret (1297) it was decided to build a church in her honor, next to the ancient church of San Basilio. In 1385 the church was entrusted to the Olivetan monks, replaced in 1389 by the Friars Minor who still reside there. The current appearance of the church is the result of nineteenth-century reconstruction, where the original single nave was replaced by a basilica structure.
The body of the blessed is preserved in an urn above the altar, bordered by a frame in embossed silver leaf and chiselled with glass paste. Local tradition believes that the Croxifisso (XIII century), is which Margaret prayed. The ceiling of the church is decorated with an impressive starry blue sky.
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Church of Romena[/frame]
Municipality: Pratovecchio Stia (AR) – loc. Romena
Type: Romanesque church XII century
The church was built in pure Romanesque style in the mid-twelfth century over an earlier church dating from the eighth century whose remains are visible in the presbytery. Seriously damaged by a landslide in 1678 and later by an earthquake in 1729 which caused considerable damage to the facade, was restored according to the original appearance. The facade is simple and rustic, made of hewn stones. The church is divided into three naves with five columns monolithic stone, enriched by decorative motifs. The decorative characters are geometric and stylized vegetal elements in human and zoomorphic figures.
Province of Lucca
Eremo di Calomini e la Garfagnana
[frame bgcolor=”#edf0d3″ version=”light”]Hermitage of Calomini[/frame]
Municipality: Fabbriche di Vergemoli – loc. Calomini
Type: hermitage built in the rock (XII – XIII century)
Phone: +39 0583 767003
Opening Hours: Summer: from April to September every day – winter: from October to March only on Sunday
Services : renting rooms with TV and pool – booking +39 0583 767041
The building is located close to a rocky precipice and was almost entirely excavated in the rock. In this place around the year one thousand, the Virgin Mary would have appeared in a cave to a young woman. Here, around the twelfth century, a group of hermits dwelt in caves dug by themselves. It was built a first small church, which is also partly excavated in the rock. From the fourteenth century, in parallel with the growth of fame and veneration of the Virgin of the Grotto, the modest building was the object of several expansions and new buildings were added.
The church was entirely built in the sixteenth century, but the rock upon which rests the complex is still visible in the presbytery and the sacristy. The monastery was carved into the living rock. Following the suppression of religious orders decreed by Napoleon, the hermitage was stripped of all the holy furnishings and all the land. But the hermits later returned and remained there until 1868. Currently the hermitage was entrusted to the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, followers of the Rule of St. Francis. The sacred image of the Virgin of the Grotto, sketched in a willow wooden statue, is the object of devotion. Many people also come to bathe with the water that flows from a source inside the hermitage, which is said to produce benefits.
Province di Massa Carrara
Via del Volto Santo
Type: religious, artistic, naturalistic itinerary
Start: Villafranca in Lunigiana (Massa Carrara municipality – MS)
Arrival: loc. Equi Terme (Fivizzano municpality – MS)
Practicability: Mountain bike or car (paved road)
Lenght: 62,5 km
Travel time: 3 ore
Difficulties: media (mountain bike)
Attractionsi: forests and founts, Magra river, Villafranca villages, Amora, Monti, Pontebosio, Posara, Fivizzano, Terenzano, Luscignano, Casola, Codiponte, Mezzana, Monzone, Equi Terme, castles of Monti, Verruccola, Equi Terme Caves Park, Printing Museum
The Way of the Holy Face was the mountain trail linked the Lunigiana to Garfagnana leading to Lucca. Important goal of the medieval pilgrimage for the devotion to the Holy Face, the wooden crucifix exposed in the Cathedral of Lucca (Church of San Martino) that depicted the true face of Jesus. It was an alternative route to the Sigerico track (XII century), the way Francigena, the road that allowed the “pilgrims” to reach Rome, passing through Lucca and the crucifix of the Holy Face. This alternative way jumped the costs and dangers of malarial diseases and pirate attacks. Down from Lunigiana area through the Tea Pass. The goal was to get to Lucca to join the procession of the Holy Face, which takes place a thousand years in September 13th. The medieval pilgrim, after leaving Pontremoli (province of Massa Carrara) and arrived at the church of Sorano in the municipality of Filattiera in Lunigiana area, had two chances to reach Lucca and then to Rome – or passed on the way to the south coast of Apuan Alps (Tea Pass) or passed to the north mountainous route (St. Pellegrino Pass).
Just from the church of Sorano in Filattiera (Massa Carrara province) it was beginning the Way of the Holy Face, which after touching municpalities which Licciana Nardi (Massa Carrara province), Fivizzano (Massa Carrara), Minucciano (province of Lucca), Piazza al Serchio in Garfagnana area, Camporgiano, Castelnuovo Garfagnana, Gallicano, Borgo a Mozzano finish in Lucca. Exceeded the Ponte della Maddalena said the Devil’s Bridge and then along the ancient Roman road – Road of the Hundred Miles is coming to Lucca. There are many signs that certify the existence of the Via Francigena (Fracigena Way) in Garfagnana area and the Way of the Holy Face highlighted by the presence of old hospitals, numerous convents, brotherhoods and many churches dedicated to the Saints linked to the pilgrims (St. Rocco, St. Donnino , St. Michael, St. Christopher, St. Sebastian, St. James). These signs were also dictated by the weekly markets sprung up over time, like those of Piazza al Serchio (Lucca province) and especially of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana (Lucca province) which for centuries held on Thursdays.
Starting from Villafranca in Lunigiana turn towards Aulla, then to Amola where you turn left and continue for Monti of Licciana Nardi, to reach Pontebosio. The itinerary continues to Gabanasco, then Magliola and Castel del Piano in the direction tp Fivizzano-Licciana-Bagnone. A Cuccarello turns to Bigliolo, then to Villanova and Moncigoli. It continues towards the village of Posara to Fivizzano. Exceeded Terenzano turn right for Calcinaia, past Luscignano follow up to Casola and Codiponte. Continue to Casciana, Ugliancaldo, pass the villages of Mezzana, Monte dei Bianchi, Isolano continue to Equi Terme.
There are many attractions to see: the Ethnographic Museum of Villafranca in Lunigiana; Castiglione del Terziere Castle of Bagnone; Monti Castle in Licciana Nardi; Verrucola of Fivizzano; the church of Codiponte near Casola; the village of Equi Terme and Cultural Park of the Caves; Museum of Printing “Jacopo da Fivizzano”, Fantoni-Bononi Palace , the Museum of Work in the Lucido Valley in Fivizzano.