The territory of Vicopisano preserves valuable examples of Pisan Romanesque style due to its numerous parishes and churches in a diffused way among the villages and towns along the Monte Pisano: the church of Santa Maria di Vicopisano, the most important and mentioned for the first time in documents in 934, the church of San Jacopo in Lupeta (sec. VIII), the church of Sant’Andrea in Nocciola (sec. XII), the church of San Martino al Bagno in Uliveto Terme (sec. XIII) and the beautiful church Santa Giulia in Caprona mentioned in 1096 but definitely antecedent.
It is very likely that even for these places and along the route that led to the Romanesque churches of Vicopisano pilgrims walked along the important Via Francigena, the ancient road that connected Rome to Canterbury, now among the most fascinating walking paths of Europe and affecting the Tuscany region for 380 km, and about 38 towns: a major cultural route that follows the trail through the ages, through places and unspoiled landscapes, dotted with artistic treasures and ancient traditions.
For the value of their historical and architectural and artistic heritage and the beauty of the places where you stand, the church of Santa Maria, the church of San Jacopo in Lupeta, the Church of Santa Giulia and the church of San Martino al Bagno are inserted within an itinerary dedicated to the Pisan Romanesque territory of Pisa and Mount Pisano, and in a wider community project of enhancement and promotion of the Romanesque in Europe: ITERR-COST Itinera Romanica – Itineraries and network of the Romanesque in Corsica, Sardinia and Toscana. The website of the project examines the issue in detail and describes the churches, their history, style, architects and artists who were involved in their construction, provides news and information for those who like to read up before venturing into the tour route through the territory.
The Romanesque Churches
- Pieve Santa Maria – Vicopisano
- San Jacopo in Lupeta
- Andrea in Nocciola
- San Martino al Bagno
- Pieve di S.Giulia – Caprona
The monastic buildings
Since centuries before the 1000 the southern coast of the Monte Pisano, placed behind Vicopisano, was in fact the chosen area for the construction of numerous religious buildings, mostly monastic, placed often along elevated streets of communication and protected by vegetation. They testify to the will of the Church to widespread religiosity in rural areas and at the same time to effectively control the territory. Among these buildings are San Michele Alla Verruca (IX-XI) and the Eremo of San Salvatore (XII century): located outside the village of Vicopisano, they can be reached starting from the parish church of Santa Maria, going in the direction of Buti, and taking the left scenic road that leads to the medieval fortress of the Verruca.
It is along this road that you encounter first the remains of the monastery of San Salvatore, also called the Romitorio. The structure, which still has the appearance of a real fortress, consisted of a convent, the cloister and the church. Attested from the middle of the thirteenth century, it belonged to the Augustinian and was used until the nineteenth century; later it was transformed into a private home, and for that reason today it cannot be visited. We then reach the place where stood the church and the monastery of San Michele Arcangelo, attested from the middle of the ninth century and was originally the residence of the Benedictine order. The complex was abandoned during the fifteenth century, following the extensive damage suffered during clashes between Florence and Pisa, who settled in the nearby fortress of Verruca. Today they survive in elevation only a few structures of the church, and an archaeological dig is bringing to light the walls of the convent.
The other religious buildings
Besides the churches of the Romanesque period and of the structures of the Verruca, in Vicopisano and its immediate surroundings, you can discover also other ecclesiastical buildings, a sign of a great religious vitality and a strong economic and social vitality of the whole territory.
In Vicopisano deserves special mention The Maria Addolarata Church in Via Crucis, very interesting for its architectural features and also for its location. It stands on the top of the hill Mirra, which is reached by climbing up the ascent steep punctuated by 14 stations of the Passion (Via Crucis) recently restored.
Moving to San Giovanni alla Vena, you can visit the parish church of San Giovanni Evangelista – which houses many works of art including the wooden Cross of the mid-thirteenth century, attributed to Henry of Tedice – and the charming oratory of Santa Croce in Castellare built on top of the hill that rises above the village and star every year in May of the most important festival.
In the town of Cucigliana is to remember the church of St. Andrew the Apostle and the oratory of San Martino in Valle. The main church of Lugnano is dedicated to the Saints Quirico and Julietta, but to remember is also the Church of St. George.
At Uliveto Terme the main church is dedicated to San Salvatore, nineteenth-century reconstruction of a building of the XI century ruined by a flood of the Arno; noteworthy also the church of the Santissima Annunziata, much loved by the people of Uliveto Terme.
Other religious buildings::
- Pieve San Giovanni Evangelista
- Oratorio del Castellare
- Maria Addolorata
- Santissimo Salvatore
- Ruderi di San Michele alla Verruca
- Eremo di San Salvatore