Above: The Abbey of Sant’Antimo as it appears today.
Origins: Montalcino and the Church
By Stefano Cinelli Colombini.
translation by Montalcino Blog
Montalcino and the Church
Recent excavations in the hamlet of Pieve di Pava and documents from the hamlet of Pieve di Santa Restituta reveal that Christianity already had a strong presence in Montalcino as early as the fifth century. According to official Church documents in Arezzo, the Pieve di Santa Restituta, for example, was established in 550.
It would only take a few more centuries for the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo to be built. From its founding, it was one of Tuscany’s richest and most powerful abbeys. Its expansive land holdings stretch all the way to the sea.
The abbots have owned land in what is modern-day Montalcino since the time of the donation of Liutprand King of the Lombards in 715. And when the city was built, the abbots enjoyed the titles of Conti Palatini and Consiglieri and they would keep Montalcino under their secular jurisdiction for many years.
One of the earliest and most ancient mentions of the city of Montalcino is associated with them: “The abbots of Sant’Antimo, who were not displeased by Montalcino, a healthy place, nobly aided this nascent land.”
The close bond between early Montalcino and the powerful abbey is revealed as well by the fact that the abbot’s palace was located inside the castle that controlled access to Montalcino and as such was a highly visible symbol of power.
It was by no coincidence that the Sienese destroyed the castle and palace in 1361 when they wanted to assert their dominion over the city. They would later erect the Fortezza on its ruins.
In 1593, Florentine judge and public lawyer Giovanni Botti was sent by the Vatican to file a report on the cities of Montalcino and Pienza in order to assess the feasibility of making Montalcino into an autonomous diocese independent of Pienza.
When he arrived in Montalcino, he found four convents inhabited by friars, one by cloistered nuns, and five secular settlements. He described the ancient Duomo of Montalcino, a cathedral that was sadly demolished between 1818 and 1832 to make way for a neoclassical palace that is still there today. In his report, he wrote that “I saw a very large church with three doors in its façade, a clearly ancient” church.
This is one of the few descriptions that we have of the Montalcino Duomo.
He also spoke of the parish church of San Lorenzo, which sat at the beginning of Via Roma.
“It is very large and well adorned and it has three altars where the holy sacrament is administered.
He saw the monastery of Santa Caterina (today an elementary school) with its two large metal gates on wheels and the large and beautiful church of Sant’Agostino with its six altars.
In the convent lived “22 friars who own nine farms and houses.”
Clearly, he would write, Montalcino deserved to have a bishop since it was such important religious center, with a rich presence of churches and church institutions