Events of the Abbey between the 14th and the 15th centuries
By the mid-thirteenth century, the monastery had been fully built and the structure of the coenobium underwent no changes deep into the fourteenth century, when several building interventions were carried out. They included the delimitation of the cemetery corridor south of the church, with the aim of emphasising the separation between the space of the dead and that of the living.
In this period, the abbesses were quite active in purchasing, selling and exchanging land, a sign of a certain degree of comfort and a relative economic independence, further corroborated by the variety of tableware used at the facility. If a good deal of the proceeds of the monastery stemmed from land-related income, another portion of the revenues must have consisted of burial rights and the sums paid for offering prayers for the dead.
Movement of people and goods in the Abbey area
One of the main pointers to the economic well-being of the monastery and its ability to procure goods from different commercial districts lies in the ceramic finds. If, in the 13th century, the Abbey table boasted containers produced in the area of Pisa and Volterra, as well as from Tunisia, southern Italy and Liguria, between the 14th and 16th centuries we can discern a certain shift in the provenance of the tableware used at the monastery. Pisan majolica is in fact replaced by enamelled containers from factories in the Florence and Siena area, to which we should add plates and bowls in engobe and engraved ceramic manufactured in central-northern Tuscany and in the Emilia area. In the kitchen [07_10], the lion’s share belongs to the raw ceramic receptacles from the local factories, while the pantry makes room for the Figline di Prato basins as well.
The ‘dowry set’ of nuns
Several bowls and plates used in the Abbey during this period show geometric shapes scratched into the surface under the foot after cooking and finishing the ceramic. This is a phenomenon widely encountered in the pottery of convent sites from the late medieval and modern age, both in Italy and within the Mediterranean region. We lack certainty on the reasons behind this phenomenon: given that this habit is mainly come across in female monastic communities, a theory has been propounded that it might be a system to identify the dowry sets of the nuns flowing into the communal facilities at the time of taking their vows.
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