1.3 The Blessed A. Patrizi, protector of Monticiano
Antonio Patrizi is a character who is as fascinating as he is difficult to pin down historically, thanks to an absence of accurate documentation. The story of his life must therefore be gleaned from later sources ranging from the 15th to the 17th century, which are clearly hagiographic in nature. The main source of information regarding Antonio’s life is the “acta sanctorum”, written by Friar Pizzichini di Monticiano of the order of the hermits of St. Augustine in 1651, on the basis of a parchment that has since been lost. It is said that the blessed Antonio was born in Siena into the Patrizi family, and entered the Augustinian order at a very early age, following the example of the blessed Agostino Novello. He is believed to have died in the convent of Monticiano after visiting the blessed Pietro of Florence or Collegonzi in Camerata, in April of 1311. Further information, which was also written in an hagiographic vein, can be found in the work entitled The Life, Miracles and Favours of the Blessed Antonio Patrizi of Monticiano, written by the Sienese Canon Giovanni Ballati in 1728. According to this latter source, Antonio Patrizi was born in Siena to Ginevra and Pietro Patrizi and died in Monticiano on the last Sunday of April 1311, at the age of 44. The hagiographic texts dwell at length on the miracles connected with his death: they describe a light that emanated from the convent at the time of Antonio’s death and the prodigious discovery of his undecayed body in the tomb of the friars’ cemetery, next to the church of Sts Peter and Paul in Saint Augustine. From that point on, the story of Antonio Patrizi has been identified with the story of his cult and popular religiosity, culminating with his beatification on 12 March 1804 by Pope Pius VII.
The Hermitage of St Peter
Starting at the hermitage of St Peter, our journey follows in the footsteps of the protector of the Sienese hamlet. We find ourselves in an evocative environment surrounded by nature and conducive to meditation and reflection, chosen by Antonio for his own dwelling. His followers, who were as a rule Augustinians, later moved elsewhere, but the hermitage itself is still a site of pilgrimage today. The small church, dating back to the 12th century, has remained unchanged over the centuries. Built using stones mixed with brick, it has a rectangular design and a gabled roof. The façade, made using square local stones arranged in a row, is characterised by a wide buttress. The simple gate is preceded by a small stone wall surmounted by a lunette, which is also made of stone. The interior, featuring a single chamber, is bare, with a roof supported by wooden beams and a brick floor.
The Hermitage of Camerata
Let us now leave the hermitage and head along the Monticiano-Camerata path, which is used every year by locals for the feast of the Sbraccettata, which takes place on the Tuesday after Easter. The Sbraccettata is a pilgrimage that begins in the village proceeds through the woods and leads to the hermitage of Camerata, retracing the path taken by the blessed Antonio Patrizi. Those venturing along the path can pay homage to the patron saint while also enjoying a sense of harmony with the forest, which is a source of beauty, immense richness, and – at one time – sustenance.
The Rock of the Cross
Just like the faithful, guided by the parish priest and the brethren, we now head towards Monticiano, with an obligatory pause for prayer at the Rock of the Cross, where the blessed Antonio is believed to have blessed the town of Monticiano. A large cross was built upon the rock in his memory in 1948.
The Church of the Blessed Antonio Patrizi
We now arrive at the gates of the village. The lowest part of the village is centred around a large, round open space named Piazza Sant’Agostino, which is overlooked by an Augustinian convent complex that includes the Church of the Blessed Antonio Patrizi. The current church may be an extension of the church built in the 13th century, or – more likely – a totally new construction, built in the 14 th century when the cult of Antonio became increasingly popular. We know for certain that the church’s façade dates back to 1380. At this time, the Confraternity, or the Company of the Holy Sacrament and of the Blessed Antonio, was already established, and played an essential role in promoting and maintaining the cult. Here, visitors can admire an important cycle of fourteenth century frescos and a painting by Rutilio Manetti, entitled The Death of the Blessed Antonio Patrizi.
The Former Convent of St Augustine
The former Convent of St Augustine, which preserves a selection of monochrome frescoes painted by artists of the Sienese School in its chapter house, is also worth a visit. The cloister of Monticino, however, was not just a site of devotion. On 21 October 1357, six friars were reported to the Prior General, Gregorio da Rimini, for playing dice. One of the culprits was Filippo Agazzari, who may have come to Monticiano to pray at the tomb of the blessed Antonio. The game of dice, known as zara, was not appropriate for the clergy; indeed, it was prohibited by the Commune of Siena in 1309/1310. Brother Filippo must have cursed the day that he visited Monticiano, because the Prior General ordered him to be imprisoned for six months in his original convent of St. Augustine in Siena. Two months after his imprisonment, however, on 5 March 1358, the Prior General ordered his release. Despite the fame of the blessed Antonio, which attracted many friars and even ordinary people, the Monastery of Monticiano remained a small religious community in the province of Siena. At the end of the 18th century, it generally consisted of three or four priests and one or two converts. It was never part of the congregation of Lecceto. In 1808, it was suppressed by the Napoleonic junta as part of its policy of secularising all religious houses.
Church of Sts Justus and Clement
We now continue towards the Romanesque church of Sts Justus and Clement, dating back to the 14th century, which stands in the oldest part of the village. On the façade, visitors can observe a number of interesting details relating to the entrance gate – in particular, the rounded arch decorated with a lily motif and the architrave, which, with its highly archaic geometric decoration, suggests the reuse of materials salvaged from an older building. Inside, there is a fifteenth century crucifix and a seventeenth century painting depicting the Immaculate Conception.
San Lorenzo a Merse
Let us leave Monticiano and head for the village of San Lorenzo a Merse, a journey of around 12 km along the Pinete provincial road, to visit its pretty parish church. As a tombstone depicting a knight from the family of owners attests, it was built during the 12th century. Its current appearance is due to restoration works carried out at the start of the 20th century, and all that remains of the original building is its façade. The interior features a single nave with a trussed roof and apse. Inside, visitors can find a sixteenth century polychrome wooden sculpture depicting St Lawrence as well as a group of wooden figures made by Pietro Montini and entitled Visitation with St Lawrence.
The Church of Tocchi Castle
From the Pinete provincial road, we continue along the Tocchi municipal road for 5km, before arriving at the castle to visit its small church. Inside, visitors will find stunning paintings decorating its interior. In the lunette above the high altar, there is a Madonna and Child positioned between St Lucy and a holy king; next to the central group we can find St Rocco on the left and St Anthony the Abbot on the right. Although they have been altered by restoration works, the paintings reveal a remarkable compositional quality that evokes the Sienese artistic production of the late 16th century. Two tombstones bear witness to two events of interest: one recalls the terrible plague that ravaged the Tuscan countryside around 1630 but left the inhabitants of Tocchi unharmed, while the other attests to the restoration of the building, carried out in 1858.
The Church of Sts Philip and James
If we follow the Pinete provincial road for another 15 km, our journey finally ends at the Church of Sts Philip and James in Il Santo, a holy building located within the complex of Fattoria del Santo. The Fattoria del Santo, built in 1646, was originally a grange that belonged to the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. The origins of the church date back to the 14th century. Today, it features a simple gabled façade with irregular stone walls, a gate surrounded by a rounded arch and a window, both of which are bordered with bricks. The interior, with a trussed ceiling, has two altars: the altar at the side, in white stucco, features a seventeenth century painting showing the Archangel Gabriel chasing away the devil; on the opposite wall there is an altar- piece attributed to Giovanni Paolo Pisani featuring the Madonna and Child, a host of angels, and Sts John the Baptist, James, Catherine of Siena, Bernard and Francis.
Brochure edited by Toscanalibri.it
Texts edited by Cristiano Pellegrini Editorial coordination:
Elisa Boniello and Laura Modafferi
Photos: Primamedia, Sabrina Lauriston e Leonardo Castelli
Graphic design: Michela Bracciali