Above: A view from the inside of the Fortezza.
1000-1558: Commune and Republic
By the year 1,100, under podestà* Enrico da Polaccio, Montalcino had already become an important hub. With its 4,367 residents, it was one of the most populous cities in Tuscany. Thirteenth-century documents reveal a rich and varied social fabric, with no fewer than 18 magister, in other words, maestros of the various guilds.
There were judges, lawyers, and artisans of every sort and the city was already receiving a consistent flow of new residents. The city’s territory stretched from Serlate creek to Asso creek to the northeast and it extended southward to include Pieve di Santa Restituta, Poggio di San Michele to the west, and Abbadia Ardenga to the north.
The medieval commune was much smaller than that of today. The current borders were established only on June 2, 1777 with a decree of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which made the city a capitanato (captainate).
In what is municipal Montalcino today, there were also four autonomous communities organized as ville (country houses) and each was ruled by a mayor.
Camigliano, Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Sant’Angelo in Colle, and Torrenieri were all autonomous entities.
Because of its strategic position along the road to Rome, Montalcino was selected as a vital fortified outpost for the Republic of Siena, which erected walls around the city during the war against Montepulciano and Orvieto in the early twelfth century.
Montalcino became an autonomous city again in 1202, ushering in a period of great development and renewed prestige.
But this only made Montalcino more appealing to the people of Siena, who laid siege to Montalcino five times, capturing many of its citizens, as is remember in Filippo Malavolti’s epitaph.
In 1212, an agreement was reached between the abbot of Sant’Antimo, Siena, and the residents of Montalcino and with it, the city gave up some of its land to Siena.
In 1252 Montalcino regained its freedom and aligned itself with the Florentines. This caused Florence and Siena to compete for domination of the area. And so the Siena army once again laid siege on the city only to be thwarted by the Florentine who hurried to aid Montalcino.
After the Battle of Monteaperti in 1260, Siena once again took control of Montalcino and this time for good.
This was followed by many years of peace. And then in 1355, Montalcino reaffirmed its autonomy when it refused to submit to Emperor Charles IV who had arrived in Tuscany under the pretext of quelling armed skirmishes between the powerful Siena families Salimbeni and Tolomei.
In 1361, the residents of Montalcino were definitively recognized as citizens of Siena and they obtained the right to levy taxes. And it also began paying tax to Siena in the form of wax.
Siena made Montalcino into an even more important outpost by rebuilding the city walls and erecting the Fortezza, an important symbol of power that stood where the castle and the palazzo of the abbots of Sant’Antimo had once stood.
This was the beginning of a long period of peace, when the arts and guilds prospered and many important buildings were constructed, many of them still standing today.
* “The chief magistrate elected annually in medieval Italian towns or city-states and having extensive civic and judicial powers” (Oxford English Dictionary).