MONTE SAN SAVINO
As you leave the Marian Sanctuary behind, the road leads to MONTE SAN SAVINO. The small township sits on a hilltop and has Etruscan origins. It was later dominated by the Romans, then the Goths, and was for a long time contested between Ghibelline Arezzo and Guelphic Florence, with dominion passing backwards and forwards from one city to the other. Destroyed in 1325 by the militia of the Bishop of Arezzo Guido Tarlati, it became for a time the possession of Perugia until, in 1384, it was definitively annexed by the Florentine Republic. During the 15th century, Monte San Savino enjoyed comparative tranquillity and this enabled the Ciocchi family to rise socially. Orginating in Florence, the family had in Fabiano Ciocchi, later known as Ciocchi di Monte, their first truly influential representative at the Roman Curia. It was, however, in the 16th century when Fabiano’s son, Antonio, became Cardinal that the fortunes of the Ciocchi family reached their greatest heights. As the
pre-eminent expert on canon law in the Roman Curia, Antonio became endeared to Pope Julius II and to the Medici Popes, and it was this position that opened the way for the election to the papacy of his nephew, Giovanni Maria di Monte. He took the name Julius III and reigned from 1550 to 1555. Subsequent to this event, the Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’ Medici, conceded Monte San Savino to Balduino del Monte, the Pope’s brother, making it a county. However, when the family line finished in 1569, the township returned to Florentine domain. From 1604 to 1640, it was subordinated to the Orsini Marquises and then became the personal domain of Mattias de’ Medici, brother of the Grand Duke Ferdinand II, and subsequently the domain of the Grand Duke’s wife, the Grand Duchess Vittoria della Rovere, only to return to the Grand Duchy’s domain in 1748.
The 13th-century perimeter of walls, which were reconstructed in the 14th century and restored in later centuries, still surround the town and give access through their four gateways. The Porta Fiorentina was made towards the mid-16th century by the architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio. It has a powerful tower with a lunette, into which the impressive coat-of-arms of the Medici family were placed in 1572. From this gateway, you arrive at Piazza Gamurrini in whose centre stands the guglia, a small obelisk, which was made in 1644 and commemorates the year when Prince Mattias de’ Medici received his investiture as feudal lord of Monte San Savino.
Built into the wall is the Cassero, or stronghold, a 14th-century rectangular building on a square base with a powerful donjon and four watch towers at the corners. Its construction has traditionally been ascribed to the architect Bartolo di Bartolo. Restored in the 1970s, the building is now the Museo Comunale where a rich collection of ceramics is on display, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present time. There are also some works coming from other buildings in the town, among which is a Crucifix of the school of Siena from the first quarter of the 14th century. Near the Cassero is the ex-Chiesa di Santa Chiara and next to it is the ex-monastery. The church was built between 1659 and 1661 and possesses some important art works, among which are two altar pieces, the Pala of St Lawrence and the Pala with the Blessed Virgin and Saints, made by the sculptor and architect, Andrea di Menco di Muccio, better known as Andrea Sansovino because this township was his birthplace. He made these pieces in the late 15th century when he was mixing in Lorenzo the Magnificent’s favoured art circles in Florence, the city where he learnt his art. In the same building, there are two paintings by either Guidoccio Cozzarelli or Matteo di Giovanni, St Roch and St Ansanus and St Apollonia and St Sigismund, which can be dated to about 1465; a glazed polychrome terracotta from the workshop of Andrea della Robbia which depicts a Nativity Crib; an Annunciation from around 1570 by the painter and architect Orazio Porta who was born in Monte San Savino in 1540 and who learnt his craft in Vasari’s circle.
If you walk along Corso Sangallo, close to the piazza you will find the Palazzo di Monte on the right. Cardinal Antonio di Monte was responsible for this building and commissioned the design from the architect Antonio Sangallo the Elder in the second half of the 16th century. Sangallo designed the façade and the plan of the palazzo, while the courtyard and the rear of the building, as well as the hanging garden, were later completed by Nanni di Baccio Bigio. Today, the palazzo is the City Hall and presents an imposing façade. The rusticated lower section is contrasted with the grey sandstone upper section . The simple but attractive courtyard leads out into the hanging garden located above a large water cistern, and from here you have a good view of the rear of the palazzo. Inside is the Quadreria Comunale, or Municipal Picture Gallery with portraits of Monte San Savino’s most illustrious personalities, as well as of some of Tuscany’s ruling families. The oldest example of these paintings was done in 1650 by the local painter Francesco Giovannoni.
In front of this once manorial residence you see the Logge, which seem to be a natural finish to the Palazzo. These loggias were long attributed to either Antonio Sangallo or Andrea Sansovino, but their construction is now given as after 1547 and perhaps it was the work of Nanni di Baccio Bigio, if not of Niccolò Soggi, painter and architect who was born in Monte San Savino in 1479 but trained in Florence.
On the same side of Corso Sangallo stands the 14th-century Palazzo Pretorio with the civic tower in its centre. The construction of this building is attributed to the time when Monte San Savino was dominated by Perugia. On the other side of the street, you can see the Pieve dedicated to St Egidius and St Savinus. Although built in the 12th century, the orginal Romanesque form has been greatly changed over the years. It was reconstructed during the 15th century by the architect Sandro Bambocci, remodernised in the 17th century and rebuilt again between 1748 and 1749 by the master from Varese, Pietro Materno Speroni. Although the plain façade faces Via della Misericordia, the present-day entrance is from the left-hand side. The interior has a single nave with a trussed wooden ceiling, six lateral altars and two chapels flanking the high altar. On the second altar to the left, the painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with Saints was done by Astolfo Petrazzi from Siena; the first altar on the same side has an altar piece with the Blessed Virgin and Saints painted in the second half of the 17th century by the local artist Domenico Sozzini. The Funeral Monument to Fabiano Ciocchi di Monte has been reassembled under the choir stalls. Originally placed near the high altar, it was made after 1498 probably by Andrea Sansovino. Above the choir stalls is a monumental organ whose nucleus dates back to 1506. The first altar on the right has an altar piece by Orazio Porta from the end of the16th century, depicting St Peter and St Paul. The high altar in stucco and false marble is by Pietro Materno Speroni, while in the chapel to its right there are some late 15th-century frescoes, probably by Niccolò Soggi.
Corso Sangallo ends in Piazza Di Monte where you find the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino. It was reconstructed before 1356 on the site of a pre-existing building and then enlarged yet again in the 14th century. During the 16th century, Andrea Sansovino reorganised the piazza in front of the church and then constructed the vestibule which you find inside.
From the 18th to the 20th century, the church has undergone a number of enlargements. From the outside, the façade is shaped into two downward inclinations. There is a richly decorated portal, with a pointed arch supported on spiral columns, and a 15th-century panelled wooden door. The upper section has a stained-glass ox-eye window decorated with St Augustine and Angels, and made in 1524 by the workshop of Guillaume de Marcillat. Inside, with a single nave and trussed ceiling, Andrea Sansovino’s vestibule made around 1525 is constructed against the counter façade. The wooden choir stalls from the end of the 16th century possess a 16th-century organ made by Dionisio Romani. If you start from the counter façade, on the right-hand wall there are two frescoes ascribed to Giovanni d’Agnolo di Balduccio, a disciple of Spinello Aretino, the Presentation in the Temple and the Adoration of the Magi. Under the first painting you can see the date 1408 and the names of those who commissioned the work. Further on, the fresco depicting St Lawrence and Episodes from his Life is from the school of Spinello Aretino from the end of the 14th century. In the second bay, above the choir stalls, the Madonna in Glory with Saints is presumed to be by the Arezzo painter Domenico Pecori from the 1620s. In the presbytery, the Annunciation is from the 16th-17th century and has been ascribed to Ulisse Giocchi, a painter originally from Monte San Savino who had been trained in Florence, and the Adoration of the Magi by Orazio Porta is dated around 1580. At the centre of the high altar, there is an Assumption of the Blessed Virgin with St Augustine and St Romuald, signed and dated by Giorgio Vasari in 1539. The frescoes in the vault above were painted in 1933 by Ovidio Grignoli di Arcidosso. Still in the presbytery, you can see a signed Nativity and the Blessed Virgin in Glory crowning St Lucy and St Catherine of Alexandria, both painted by Orazio Porta in around 1580-1581. Another work by Porta, the Resurrection of Christ, from 1581, is on the left-hand wall of the church. The carved and gold-plated pulpit, from 1642, incorporates two paintings that once functioned as doorways and which depict the Blessed Virgin on hearing the Annunciation and the Angel making the Annunciation, both made by Orazio Porta in around 1570. After this is the Tombstone of Andrea Sansovino, the sculptor who died here in 1529. At the first altar, you see a fresco of the Pietà and Saints made by Paolo Schiavo around 1440 and the Holy Trinity surrounded by Prophets, a fresco from the end of the 14th century by the school of Spinello Aretino. On the counter façade there is a Crucifixion which has been ascribed to Giovanni d’Agnolo di Balduccio, from the beginning of the 15th century.
Although part of the monastery adjacent to the church was utilised for its extensions, its Cloister was preserved. It is on two floors and was made by Andrea Sansovino before 1528. According to what Vasari wrote, there were frescoes here by Antonio di Donnino del Mazziere depicting “Episodes from the Old Testament”, but no other relevant documentation exists.
To the side of the Church of St Augustine, you find the 15th-century Chiesa di San Giovanni which was orignally an Oratory dedicated to St Anthony. The beautiful portal was made by Andrea Sansovino towards 1528. In front of the church is the Casa di Andrea Sansovino, which the sculptor and architect built here above pre-existing buildings belonging to his family.