Casisano

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Località Casisano, 52
53024 Montalcino SI

To understand how a “monumental temple” can lay witness to centuries of local history, you must make time for at least one journey to the Sant’Antimo Abbey. An exemplary jewel of First Romanesque architecture in Tuscany rests alone, in the Valley’s silent beauty, carved by the Starcia stream, framed by the Brunello di Montalcino vineyards. One of its characteristics is the travertine stone with alabaster veins from the nearby quarries of Castelnuovo dell’Abate that reflect the surrounding countryside’s light and colours.

Just picture the religious Middle Age pilgrimage, both mystical and cultural, that began in Western Europe (mainly in France), winding slowly down the “Via Francigena” and the sheer awe that the sight of the Abbey must have created. The familiar architecture might have made them wonder if they were indeed in Tuscany or back in the most beautiful French countryside.

But after all, the ties to France lie at the Abbey’s origins. Legend has it founded in 800 by Charlemagne, who, upon his return from Rome, pledged to build an abbey with Saints Antimo and Sebastian’s relics, received by the Pope, to put an end to the plague that decimated his army in Val d’Orcia.

We must thank Ludovico Pio for preserving much of the Carolingian architecture that we can still see today. In 814, he bequeathed the abbots with the title of Counts of the Sacred Roman Empire. They became powerful feudal lords, overseeing estates in Maremma, Florence, Pistoia and beyond.

The church, as we see it today, dates back to 1118. A very significant period décor is “Daniel in the lion’s den”, commissioned by the French Minister of Cabestany.

The Benedictine monastery entered into conflict with Siena, marking its decline and eventual suppression in 1462 by Pope Pius II Piccolmini, followed by the Abbey’s entry into the new Diocese of Montalcino di Pienza.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that after many vicissitudes, that the Abbey would be revived in the late 70s by a community of French Premostatians.

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