Archaeological investigations and monastic structures
Between 2005 and 2012, the University of Pisa, with support from the Municipality of Montescudaio and under concession from the Ministry of Culture, conducted a series of archaeological researches where the toponym Badia (Abbey) was located. They unearthed the structures of the women’s monastery of S. Maria (St. Mary), founded by the Gherardeschi counts in 1091, the remains of which are now visible in the archaeological area of the same name:
\ - the church, characterised by two construction phases, of which one prior to the monastery, dating back to the 10th century, and a Romanesque one from the 12th century
- the rooms of the cloister built south of the church between the 12th and 13th centuries, the southern one of which shows a door opening to the outside, subsequently walled up
- the well, placed at centre of the cloister, and the remains of some canal systems.
The excavations have rediscovered the ground floor walls, where the common activities of the nuns might have taken place; the small private cells, instead, must have been located on the upper floor, which has not survived the 1846 earthquake.
The monastery walls
The archaeological studies have made it possible to reconstruct the various building phases of the monastery and surmise the economic commitment demanded by each of them. Straight after the establishment of the monastery, during the 12th century the pre-existing church was extended, using beautiful squared stones placed in accordance with construction models typical of the Pisan Romanesque by workers heading from the same city context. The following century saw the completion of the cloister circuit by resorting to less sophisticated and costly late Romanesque techniques. The latest interventions, such as closing down the cemetery corridor between church and cloister, were carried out between fourteenth and fifteenth centuries through rougher building techniques and reused materials, a pointer to a tendency to save.
The cemetery area around the church
All around the church, excavations have uncovered several burials dating between the 11th and 14th centuries, the vestiges of which have painted a picture of the resident population and the funeral rituals of that age.
Tombs of pilgrims, who arrived through the road flanking the monastery and going up towards the castle, were also found. They testified to a constant flow of people and goods in the area until the end of the 12th century. In the archaeological area, we can discern the masonry tomb structures dating from different periods, even though the bulk of the deceased were buried in pits dug into the ground.
Based on the data collected, the monastic complex and the cemetery area were abandoned between the 15th and late 16th centuries respectively.
Full list of showcases of the Archaeology and History Documentation Centre of Montescudaio (CeDiAS).
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