An itinerary on the footsteps of the Battle of Montaperti

battaglia montaperti

The Battle of Montaperti, an important historical memory for Siena

The Battle of Montaperti is a fundamental part of the historical memory of Siena and the Sienese; it is known today as the glorious victory of the Sienese Ghibelline troops against the Guelphs of the eternal rival Florence.

Reconstructing the events of a clash that took place on 4 September 1260 is the task of historians who, with competence and a wealth of detail, have dealt with the numerous publications made over the centuries from the event, managing to compensate for some gaps, especially in the last decades.

Instead, what I want to share with the reader in these lines is the series of material testimonies that Siena and the surrounding area still preserve of that battle, making an itinerary on the footsteps of that event.

San Giorgio Church, Siena

1. The romantic age pyramid

So let’s begin looking back the footsteps referring to the Battle of Montaperti by retracing the same path the troops took after the victory from the battlefield to the city of Siena.

The first testimony is still present today precisely on the hypothetical site of the clash, in the vicinity of the locality called Montaperti; here, on a small hill, stands a pyramid built in the Romantic age, where Dante’s tercet of Canto XXXII of the Inferno was placed, in which a such Bocca degli Abati speaks to the poet on his journey to the Underworld…

battle of montaperti

Madonna delle Grazie, Dietisalvi di Speme, Cappella del Voto, Siena Cathedral

From the hill where the pyramid stands, the skyline of Siena is clearly visible. A journey by car to take the Chiantigiana road, or better still in a trekking route, takes us with a distance to travel of about 18 kilometers, to the city of Siena.

To enter the historic centre, it would be ideal to do so from Porta Pispini, historic access of the city from which the victorious troops entered, according to what is said in the chronicles.

2. The Florentine painting in Siena

Upon walking along the street of the same name, you have to reach the Santa Maria dei Servi Church, where an altarpiece kept inside the church, painted by Coppo di Marcovaldo after the victory of the Sienese Ghibellines, refers us to the unfortunate story faced by this Florentine painter who had to paint a work for his rival Siena…

3. The church dedicated to the holy soldier…

Our itinerary on the footsteps of the battle of Montaperti continues in Via Pantaneto, where we find the San Giorgio Church, a building today has a late Baroque façade but which actually has a much more ancient origin; the erection of this church dates back to 1260, built precisely to celebrate the victory against Florence; the reason for the dedication of this church to San Giorgio has to do with some events of the battle.

4. The Martinella

Continuing along Via Pantaneto, it would be necessary to stop and visit the Museum of the Contrada del Leocorno; it is here that a bell is kept, known by the name of Martinella, an object that a tradition has it belonged to the Carroccio the Florentines carried into battle.

How Martinella arrived in the Contrada museum is motivated by a story that has many fascinating elements, with many anecdotal traits, a story that is however worth knowing…

5. Cerreto Ceccolini’s tower

Once taken Via di città, it’s possible to go up towards the Duomo; halfway there is Palazzo Chigi Saracini. Nineteenth-century historiography has rediscovered the particular links between this building and the battle of Montaperti. It is from the Torre dei Marescotti, now incorporated in the building, where Cerreto Ceccolini was able to see and tell the dynamics of the battle…

6. The fresco featuring the return from the battle

In the concert hall of the Palazzo, which now houses the Accademia Chigiana, the return of the victorious troops from Montaperti is frescoed, this for further emphasis given to the link between the palazzo and that clash.

battle of montaperti

The “Madonna con gli occhi grossi”, Maestro di Tressa, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

6. The Florentine carroccio poles

Finally we arrive in the Cathedral, where, at the corners of the pillars under the dome, there are still two long wooden poles: these two elements are said to come from the Florentine carroccio…

7. The Madonna delle Grazie

Also in the Cathedral of Siena, in the Cappella del Voto, a small jewel of Baroque architecture, there is preserved the painting of the Virgin with Child by Dietisalve di Speme, a work known by local devotion as the Madonna delle Grazie and which today embodies both a particularly dear icon to the Sienese faithful and a painting hasìving a particular link with the victorious Sienese troupes in Montaperti.

8. The Madonna con gli occhi grossi

The last important visual testimony of the Battle of Montaperti is kept inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, where the so-called “Madonna con gli occhi grossi” (Virgin with Big Eyes), a painting dating back to the early thirteenth century, is another important icon in the history of that battle.

The significant series of material testimonies present in Siena confirms how much the battle of Montaperti events, now consecrated by myth, are still alive in the historic memory of Siena; I will be happy to organise a guided tour on request that will return to the places and images of that event ⟢

To read about The Battle of Montaperti (Italian books):

  • D.Balestracci, La Battaglia di Montaperti, Laterza, Bari Roma, 2017;
  • R. Ceppari, M. A.Turrini, M.Ascheri; Montaperti : storia iconografia memoria; Monteriggioni : Il Leccio, stampa 2013;
  • M.Cenni, Per la battaglia di Montaperti : 1260-2010 : discorsi nella ricorrenza dei 750 anniFirenze : Aska, 2011;
  • Accademia dei Rozzi; Accademia degli Intronati; Alla ricerca di Montaperti : mito, fonti documentarie e storiografia : atti del Convegno, Siena, novembre 2007 / a cura di Ettore Pellegrini Siena : Betti, 2009;
  • C.Dal Monte; Il sabato di Montaperti : lo strazio e ‘l grande scempio che fece l’Arbia colorata in rosso; Foggia : Edizioni della vela, 2001;
  • R.Marchionni; Battaglie senesi = Sienese’s battles ; testo di Roberto Marchionni ; illustrazioni di Roberto Marchionni ; traduzione di Miriam Grottanelli de’ Santi Siena : Marchionni, 1996;