Montecasale ,Montauto ,Anghiari

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Morning: the hermitage of Montecasale

It is set on a hill overlooking the valley of the river Afra about 7 km from Sansepolcro , it is an emblematic place of the presence of S. Francis in the Tiber Valley , because St. Francis was used to stop since his return from La Verna . It is Structured like an imposing fortress, with an intact Serbian atmosphere of deep spirituality, of isolation and in the bitter beauty of the surrounding nature that leads to meditation. Its origins date back to 1192 when the Camaldolese built a small hermitage , a hospital and a hospice for pilgrims and travellers on the place previously occupied by a fortress that guarded an important trail connection between the Tiber and the Apennines.

The fortress was abandoned along with the nearby castle of Bofolci around 1187, in response to a requirement that forced the feudal lords to move inside the city walls , but did not change the deep meaning of the place as ‘ Romei pilgrims ‘way . In 1213 the hermitage and the attached hospital of S. Mary Montecasale were transferred to St. Camaldolese from Saint Francis.
It is the place of the faithful Serbian memory in some of the events referred to by his biographical sources: the famous episode about the entry of a young Tarlati of Sansepolcro, who was given the name of Angelo ( Fioretti ).
It represents the anecdotal episode of cabbage planted upwards narrated by Fra Bartolomeo da Pisa or the conversion of the three thieves reported by various historical sources.

In the first half of the thirteenth century Montecasale also welcomed S. Anthony of Padua and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio , who lived in small and stark cells which can be accessed through a small door from the choir.

Progressively it was abandoned since the mid- thirteenth century by the Friars Minor who moved into the new convent of Sansepolcro. It was the seat of the Franciscan friars, and then passed to the Cappuccini, who still live there.

The complex has the primary structural system of the oldest Franciscan convent , with a small central cloister which are combined several monastic buildings related to the functions . The small church is consecrated to St. Maria. It is simple but also striking ,and contains a fine polychrome of wooden sculpture of the thirteenth century, depicting the Madonna with Child, which came here according to tradition by the same S. Francis from the ruins of the castle.

Of great interest is also the oratory of Saint Francis . They built around the stone bed that the friar used as a resting place sheltered from tree branches. On the altar a crucifix of the XV -XVI centuries, in a recess on the right wall, there is a Pietà of the sixteenth century,which is made by sun- dried clay and the skulls of two of the robbers converted by the saint.

Montacuto and the legend of the sackcloth of St. Francis

Coming from road SP 43 of Libbia , just after the village of Tavernelle towards Arezzo , you can reach the place of spiritual exercises known as the Cenacle of Montauto .

The slope is characterized by three buildings of significant architectural and historical interest and religious . A domain of the area is the fortified villa The Barbolana (second half of the sixteenth century. ) , an extraordinary private residence set on a square plan with angular bastions falling and a central tower . A little further on a cypress forest hides the Convent of Montauto , while the road continues up to the fence that borders the hunting grounds of the Castle of Montauto , an authentic ‘ eagle’s nest ‘ placed in the domain of the valleys of the Tiber and Arno. Thanks to the lords of Montauto , whose county was so powerful as to represent one of the last feudal empires, you know the encounter with the saint of Assisi, you know the story of the Convent .

In fact, it has preserved relics for a long time, including a piece of the sackcloth of S. Francis. In September 1224 returning from Verna , the Holy man stopped in Montauto where Count Albert Barbolani offered him as a gift of a new cloth in exchange for what he was wearing , soiled by the blood of the stigmata and sewed up with stalks of broom.

S. Francis indulged the Earl ‘s favour , who also expressed the desire to build a convent for his followers : but it took more than three centuries before that promise was kept .

Long after the saint’s death , not having received the promise yet , he appeared together with S. Antonio to a descendant of Count Albert, who received indication of where to build the church and convent . The legend also says that the stalks of broom with which he had sewed in his sackcloth, still bloom every spring .

The relic , seized by the Florentines in 1503, was carried into the church of Ognissanti in Florence, then a few years later , was placed inside the Basilica of Verna. It was saved from the war ruins , since 1960. The convent was inhabited by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Last Supper and it is structured for the reception of guests, in bedrooms close to the beautiful old oak forest and next to the church .

To visit the interior is recommended to make arrangements with the owners of the Museum System of Anghiari ( tel. 787 023 0575 Fax 787 356 0575 ; ) .

Afternoon: Anghiari – a village between heaven and earth

It is a place with a strong attraction for tourism , thanks to its beautiful landscapes. Anghiari boasts ancient roots and presents the visitor with its medieval characteristics, set on a hill dominating the valley of the Tiber and Soara . The picturesque stone houses , narrow streets , stairways , charming squares , are evidence of historical values handed down through the centuries.

Of course it was during the Middle Ages that Anghiari assumed particular importance for its obvious strategic position, which is pointed out for the first time in a document of 1048 , preserved in the archives of Città di Castello , although the first Roman settlements were earlier.

Thanks to Lord Galbino’s domain first and then the Camaldolese , the country saw one of the most important moments of its history in the Battle of Anghiari , June 29, 1440 , which marked the victory of the Florentine troops , supported by the pope, over the army of Milan.

With the formation of the Gran Ducato of Tuscany , the community of Anghiari expanded its territories beyond the Tiber . Following the events of the Napoleon period and Restoration, Anghiari actively lived the years of the Renaissance , to the plebiscite of 1860 which marked its accession to the Kingdom of Savoy.

The Convento della Croce

The Church is an extraordinary ancient architectural background to S. Martin Ruga, which seems to cut Anghiari in two, and then continues in the long straight road to Sansepolcro . It was built as a result of the passage in this place of St. Francis in 1224 , when the Holy planted a cross on top of the hill at the junction of three paths . The faithful built a small chapel there , which was followed by the construction of houses and palaces : that was how the new town took the name of Borgo della Croce . Brother Francis, evidenced by the long period of penance on Mount La Verna, returned to Assisi after receiving the signals of Jesus Christ’s passion – the cross, which was planted in Anghiari on the beautiful balcony that opens up the Tiber valley, far from the castle walls. It then became a living testimony of the cross, and then he brought the passage of Christ. After the death of Francis, the presence of his brothers increased in the area : the so called Zoccolanti, because of the wooden base of their sandals, which came from Verna to look for grain and oil.

As evidence of their stay in Anghiari , almost at the bottom of the steep slope of the Ruga , the former Hospice of the Friars still exists, and became the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Mercy.

Popular devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi eventually found expression in the transformation during the second half of the fifteenth century . The old Hospital of St. Martin , is placed on the top of the highway fourteenth century , in the Convent for the Sisters of St. Chiara .

The construction of the church began in 1499 and ended in 1566, the facade is distinguished by the elegant cloister with arches on Doric columns, closed in the nineteenth century to house an elementary school and a kindergarten . The restoration of 1987 returned the building to its original form : inside, a painting by Domenico Crespi (called Il Passignano), and a seventeenth-century painting with the Finding of the Cross is attributed to the Florentine painter Carlo Dolci. A fresco of the sixteenth century, depicting the Annunciation and a painting of the Madonna in Glory with Saints is attributed to the Florentine Giovan Battista Susini , in which you can see in the background an interesting glimpse of Anghiari in the mid- seventeenth century.

Inside the church there is also the tombstone of the historian Lorenzo Taglieschi (1598-1654). Thanks to the Annals of the Land of Anghiari, you have knowledge of most of the history of the village and its surroundings .

Thanks to a public subscription in 1868 the Convent of the Cross was turned into a hospital, a health care facility that has operated for about one hundred twenty years until it was converted into a district headquarters socio-sanitary and secure residence for elderly people.