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Val D\'Orcia

Montalcino 25 Then he headed back to Canterbury. His diary of this journey is for us a precious map of the Via Francigena (the road from France to Rome). It relates a meagre list of town names, with days spent on the road and nights in mansiones, but it also offers us a portrait of medieval Europe. From the shores of the English Channel he travelled through the Flemish flatlands, stopping at Reims and Besançon, and then climbed the Giura pass and ultimately the Alps. The route then crossed the Po river at Piacenza, passed through the Appennines at the Cisa pass and crossed the Arno river in Fucecchio. At this point it headed south toward Siena, crossed through Val d’Orcia with stops in Torrenieri, San Quirico, le Briccole and Sce. Peitr in Pail, a place in the Paglia valley whose specific location has been forgotten. It ultimately headed south toward Viterbo, Sutri and Rome. Without taking into account the Francigena road and its illustrious wayfarers it would be impossible to make sense of the profusion of religious monuments in Val d’Orcia. According to a legend which historians fail to confirm, Charlemagne received the holy remains of St. Sebastian and St. Antimo some time between 774 and 781 from Pope Hadrian I, and decided to found one of the most important monasteries in Tuscany in their honour. Even if the king of the Franks and future Emperor didn’t actually pass through Val d’Orcia, it is certain that Sant’Antimo Abbey had already been inaugurated in 814. Its architecture, which recalls that of the great French Romanesque churches, further underlines the influence of such an important itinerary on these hillsides. But even earlier, another king from the north – the Longobard King Rachis – had founded the abbey Santissimo Salvatore at Monte Amiata. For centuries this abbey ruled over most of the Sienese province and consolidated the surrounding area by building castles such as the Rocca in Radicofani and a multitude of smaller churches. Instead, the destiny of the abbey at Sant’Anna in Camprena, built between 1324 and 1334 on the hills to the north of Pienza and made famous in 1996 by the film The English Patient, is linked to that of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This is because it was founded by the Sienese Bernardo Tolomei, who also founded Monte Oliveto. Even the fifteenth-century frescoes in the dining hall at Sant’Anna are by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known as Sodoma, who also painted the great courtyard at Monte Oliveto. Montalcino VALDORCIA_INT_ING 30-07-2009 18:48 Pagina 25

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