Cultura, Turismo e Biblioteca del Comune di Altopascio

  Siete in  Siete in : Home > Turismo > Visite guidate > Map of the territory
History In the Middle Ages the Hospital of the Knights of the Tau of Altopascio had the task of welcoming and assisting pilgrims as they travelled through the area. It was definitely operating in 1084 and was probably founded between 1073 and 1081. The Knights of Altopascio chose the Greek letter, Tau, to be the symbol of their Order. Not only did it recall the pilgrims’ badge, it also had other symbolic connotations, such as a resemblance to the cross. Pope Gregory IX conferred the Order on the Knights of the Tau on April 5th 1239, when the Hospital was at the height of its activities. With this Order, the Altopascio community officially became a Religious Order and, as such, independent from all other Orders. Soon after its foundation, the Hospital and its Knights gained acclaim. From the end of the eleventh century until the very end of the twelfth the community benefited from numerous donations. Vast and widespread territories came into the hands of the Order of the Knights of the Tau. Soon word of Altopascio’s fame and glory travelled beyond the Italian borders and the monks were also able to found hospital abroad; in 1180 a community was founded in Paris, at the spot where the Church of Saint Jacques du Haut-pas now stands. Hospitals were also set up in the Spanish towns of Astorga, Pamplona and El Perellò. The thirteenth century saw embellishment and extensions made to the Hospital units. The 30-metre high bell-tower, completed in 1280, was a very visible sign of hope and comfort for all the pilgrims to see, as they approached the marshy area of Le Cerbaie. They were guided, too, by the peals of the great bell called “La Smarrita”, (“The Lost One”) which was commissioned in 1325 by the General Master, Lazzaro Saggina. Between the late fourteenth and the early fifteenth century Altopascio fell victim to the crisis which his this region of Tuscany at the end of the Middle Ages. In 1459 Pope Pius II suppressed the Order of the Knights of the Tau, whilst the Hospital continued its actitivies under the command of the Capponi family from Florence. The Hospital complex was reduced to real estate, wealthy and extended and completely restructured. In 1773 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo I finally closed the Hospital and, with is, its long history of hospitaly which had left its mark on the Christian world. Nothing was left but a large farmhouse. At the end of the eighteenth century, however, things changed. In the wake of land reforms, the Grand Duke began to sell off parts of the farmhouse to various individual citizens. As a conseguence of this action and of the fact that in 1881 Altopascio became an autonomous Comune (and no longer a part of the Comune of Montecarlo), the nineteenth century saw the population of Altopascio rise significantly. Today Altopascio is an important Comune within the Province of Lucca - even though geographically it belongs to the outermost part of the Valdinievole. Its position at the intersection of various equestrian routes from different territories made if famous, especially in the Middle Ages. Altopascio has conserved this characteristic to the present day for it stands between the provinces of Lucca, Pistoia, Pisa and Florence. Today’s Comune lies at the centre of a densely populated plain and includes the villages of Le Spianate, Marginone and Badia Pozzeveri. Le Spianate, the largest of the villages, lies 3 Km from the centre of Altopascio. The Parish Church of St. Michael the Archangel in the centre of the town originates from 1592. In 1616 it was raised. When a fire damaged the church in 1874 the local population raised the finances to rebuild it between 1875 and 1876. The bell-tower was raised in 1893. Marginone is 3 Km from Altopascio on the road to Pescia. It has had an aedicula depicting the Holy Virgin of Pantheon since the seventeenth century and in 1776 it was declared a Parish. The church is dedicated to Saint Mary of Martyres and was lengthened in 1850. Marginone’s patron saint is Saint Giobbe. Badia Pozzeveri is about 2 Km from Altopascio. Until 1925 it belonged to the Comune of Capannori. The village takes its name from the ancient badia or abbey that stood here. The abbey is mentioned in a document from 952 AD. In 1506 the Hospital of Saint Peter in Pozzeveri came under the command of the abbey. The canons founded a community here, enjoyed a prosperous life and at the end of the twelfth century accepted the Order of the Monks of Camaldoli. Gregory XII ordered the suppression of the Abbey in 1408 and all its riches were transferred to the Refectory of the Chapter House in the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Lucca.
Palazzo municipale Municipal buildings What are today the townhall buildings were once the stables of the Medicean farmhouse. They were smaller and lower than the other buildings in the area. The Casali family became the owners of the buildings in the eighteenth century. The were renovated during Italy’s Fascist period and became “La Casa del Littorio” “The House of the Fascist”. From the time of the Liberation, they have housed the townhall departments. The buildings had a large terrace until 1995 when re-structuring work demolished it to make way for what is now Piazza della Magione (Hospital Square). Facciata dell'antica chiesa Facciata dell'antica chiesa The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale St. Jacob’s church The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale St. Jacob’s church The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale The northern side of the castle walls The fourteenth century Porta del Giardino (Garden Gate) is clearly visible next to the townhall building. To the right of it we can see the most well-preserved stretch of the castle walls: the northern side. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale The renaissance guest rooms and the silo terrace In front of the entrance to what is now the town library lies a large terrace peppered with twenty-five stone manholes. These cover the huge containers called “silos” in which all the cereals produced by the farm were stored. Today we can still see the huge silos, which were built around 1770 when more storage space was needed to accomodate the farm’s immense production. The silos are square-shaped deposits, arranged in five lines of five. It is possible to see the insides through the terracotta openings underneath. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale St. Jacob’s church The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale St. Jacob’s church The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Interno della chiesa parrocchiale St. Jacob’s church The Church of St. Jacob, St. Gideon and St. Christopher was built in the second half of the twelfth century when the Order of the Hospitalers was enjoying the height of its success. The facade and the portal are particularly noteworthy. The facade is divided into two parts, the lower section is made of plain stone while the upper section is made of white and green marble. The decoration is also marble. The portal is made of plain marble and above it rests a lunette depicting two lions. Several schools of the time worked on the design and the construction of this new and prestigious temple. Gruamonte from Pistoia and Biduino from Pisa were certainly involved. The church used to have three entrances, one main door and two side entrances. When the Capponi family commissioned restructuring work on the entire hospital complex in the fifteenth century the church was slightly modified and a small cemetery was built in front of it. Unfortunately, construction of the new Parish Church between 1827 and 1830 caused considerable damage to the original medieval structure. In fact, the old church was divested and made into the transept of the new one. Inside the church two works of art are of particular note: Francesco Morandini da Poppi’s beautiful tablet depicting the Nativity from the sixteenth century and the fifteenth century Holy Water Stoup commissioned by the Master, Ugolino Grifoni, and surmounted by a marble statue by Giovanni Battista, probably a product of the school of Giovanni Pisano. Corticella della Casa Corticella della Casa Corticella della Casa Corticella della Casa Corticella della Casa Corticella della Casa Cantian grande di Fattoria Cantina grande di Fattoria Piazza Garibaldi Piazza Garibaldi Dispensa Dispensa Lato Est delle mura Lato Est delle mura Dispensa Vettori gate - Ricasoli square In front of the courtyard known as Corte Voltola we see Piazza Ricasoli, known in Medicean times as “Piazza del Grano” or “Corn Square”. The gateway’s crenellation was redone in the twenties. The door itself dates back to the fifteenth century and has a plain stone framework. Loggia Pilgrims’ hospital loggia The Hospital’s splendid loggia was commissioned by the Capponi family towards the end of the fifteenth century. Now there is the little but interesting archeological museum. Campanile Bell-tower The town in dominated by its beautiful bell-tower. Whether approaching by road or rail, it is the first architectonic landmark that catches the eye. It dates back to 1280 and is a fine example of Lucca’s romanic style. Even through it was restored and perhaps slightly modified during the nineteenth century, it retains its appearance as a tower of the Middle Ages when it also served as a castle fortress. Among the many modern bells high up in the tower, the famous bell, known as “La Smarrita” “The Lost One” still survives today. It used to ring out every day at dusk to call together all those pilgrims travelling through the surrounding area at that time. The peals of “La Smarrita” can still be heard every 25th July when the locals celebrate the feast of St. Jacoib, the Patron Saint of Altopascio, with a town procession that seems to bring someting of the glorious past of the Knights of the Tau to the present day.