The archeological excavation of San Michele alla Verruca represents one of the longest archeological experiences (1996-2003) that have ever interested an Italian archeological site of the Medieval era.
THE SEQUENCE OF SETTLEMENT AND THE HISTORY OF THE MONASTERY
S. Michele alla Verruca's monastery has been under archeological studies from 1996 to 2003. The annual champains allowed to rinconstruct the sequence of settlement and, as time passed by, it has been clear how high was the quality of the outpost, at least at some points of its history.
The main phases are:
1) the premonastic phase, that is the one that can be related to the existence of a chapel that had the same name (9th century).
The first phase, which corresponds to the premonastic settlement, has no archeological investigation. As it is known, the written sources testify that there was a chapel (that has the same name and the same location that the monastery is going to have), that is going to be contended by both the bishop of Lucca and the Aldobrandeschi's family. By the way, there is no evidence of this settlement, leaving even more uncertainty of its presence and interpretation.
2) the Benedictine phase, that we have to date back to the end of the 10th century.
The phase that corresponds to the life of the Benedictine monastery is marked by two principal moments of contruction. The first one, which goes from the end of the 10th century to the end of the 11th, is represented by a few yet unquestionable traces of contruction that can be found in the area of the church but also in the spaces that were used by everybody. The second one, that can be located in the first half of the 12th century, is a proper restoration that designs the new look of the coenobium.
3) the Cistercian phase, that is the one in which the monastery went under the control of the new order (more or less by the half of the 13th century).
Cistercians' control is characterized on the archeological level, but it doesn't correspond to the will of taking down the coenobium, that is also present in the written sources.
La prima è la ricostruzione della sala Capitolare e della Chiesa; una ricostruzione che non solo prevede l’impiego, per la prima volta, del mattone, ma anche una riorganizzazione degli spazi nell’aula di culto che tende ad armonizzare il vecchio edificio con le esigenze del nuovo ordine. Che l’interesse dei Cistercensi non sia, almeno agli inizi, solo strumentale, ma miri anche al recupero funzionale del monastero, lo si deduce dall’azione del nuovo ordine verso la comunità laica, alla quale siamo certi di poter attribuire l’utilizzo di un gruppo di tombe ubicate sul sagrato 3. L’impianto di questa area cimiteriale non è, infatti,
anteriore all’arrivo dei Cistercensi e può, allora, essere interpretato come un tentativo da parte del nuovo ordine di attirare sul monastero consensi e risorse attraverso la gestione di spazi funerari.
4) the Florentine phase , or to be more precise, the moment in which the Florentine troups occupied the monastery during the assoult to the Verruca's fortress at the end of the 15th century.
This site has been gradually abandoned by the end of the 15th century, but the process doesn't seem linear. It can be stated that some of the rooms were already collapsed due to some of the materials that have been found nearby the area. The church seemed to be the better preserved building when the troups started to use those spaces as their encampment.
5) the final abandonment and the temporary reuse of the ruins, documented by the descriptions of some travellers (like the Targioni Tozzetti's one) and also thanks to a serie of drawings that visually copied the decline and the collapse of the monument.
This sequence is documented only by the archeological patency.
From this moment on, this area became a support for those communities that were connected to the forest's economy. The ruins of the monastery has become the scenery for writers, illustrators and landscape painters that want to portray the antiquities of Monte Pisano.