Woven by Classic Stonework
January 1, 2007
Driving through the Tuscan hills of Italy, most tourists are driven to the cultural center of Florence, as well as the abundant wineries throughout the region. However, about 40 miles outside of Florence, the fortified town of Lucignano in southern Tuscany represents what has been called “one of the most intact and prime examples of medieval concentric town planning.” Moreover, the town’s architecture is largely comprised of brick and local travertine - from private residences to cafes to the town’s three gates, which still stand today.
Although the town treasures its storied past today, it was a fiercely contested point of control over the years, due to its strategic geographic positioning between Siena and Arezzo. Between 1200 and 1500, Lucignano endured continual passages of jurisdiction between Siena, Arezzo, Florence and Perugia. Lucignano’s roads form an intricate maze that leads to the highest point of the town, where the Palazzo de Comunale, Chiesa de S. Francesco and the Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo are located. The top of the hill, where the original castle rose, was gradually transformed into a center of political and religious power.
In 1371, under the domination of Siena, the works of fortification ended with the finishing of the town walls, many of which include large towers that still stand today. Also completed were the three gates of town: Porta S. Giusto, Porta S. Giovanni and the Porta Murata. A few years later, construction was completed on the Rocca, or Cassero Senese, which stands among the town walls as the centerpoint of the city’s defense. Conceived by architect Bartolo Bartoli and made of local stone, the Rocca has a square shape and projects an image of strength above the main public square and the Collegiata. A second, smaller stone tower is juxtaposed northeast of the Rocca.
The Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo also utilizes native travertine, along with brick and Pietra Serena, a gray material quarried near Florence that has been referred to as both a limestone and a sandstone. It was rebuilt in 1593, although only the lower portion of the facade was finished. The portal was made by Pietro Antonio Morozzi in 1715, and the flight of steps was made by Andrea Morozzi, who is also thought to have made the bell tower. It has a Latin cross plan with a nave and a hemispheric dome.