Pieve di Corsignano jewel in Val d’Orcia

 

The Pieve di Corsignano has something magical about it. Being one of the most important stages that we can find along the Via Francigena, it is a place absolutely to see. Its current appearance in Romanesque style dating back to the 12th-13th centuries only partly hides its even more ancient origins dating back to the 6th century. If the façade shows a certain uniformity, the interior highlights the various interventions over the centuries necessary to enlarge the primitive small church without bell tower.

Pieve di Corsignano
Pieve di Corsignano

Pilgrims’ stop on the Via Francigena

Pieve di Corsignano, an ancient parish church, once called San Vito in Rutiliano, already mentioned in a parchment preserved in the Chapter Archive of Arezzo, dated June 20, 715. The parish church was on a route that had always been beaten by pilgrims and was also marked in 1306 in a map preserved in the State Archives of Siena as “stradam veteram per quam itur ad Corsignanum”.

The bell tower of the parish church of Corsignano

The bell tower (not open to visitors) with its cylindrical shape, is an imposing and distinctive element probably of the Ravenna school, typical of small churches with baptismal font. At one time it must have been taller and certainly had a travertine roof. Travertine that we also find in the altar (considered original) that was found under a floor, removed in the last century.

The Pieve di Corsignano, a church rich in decorations, is like a book that must be read and reread. Many works but simple and influenced by workers arrived in the area for the construction of the majestic abbey of Sant’Antimo.

The baptismal font of the parish church of Corsignano

The parish church houses the baptismal font where Enea Silvio Piccolomini was baptised in 1405 and later became pope under the name of Pius II. A plaque commemorates the baptism of the pontiff in this font: Hic duo Pontifices sacri baptimatis undas, Patrus accepit, et pius inde Nepos. The baptismal font at Corsignano has dimensions that make it date after the replacement of the baptism by immersion with that by infusion.

Corsignano baptismal font – Photo credit: giovanni paccaloni on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

The interior decoration of the parish church denotes, once again, that the workers who worked there came from different areas. The penultimate pillar on the left before the presbytery shows a very ancient motif of Germanic origin, a decoration of intertwined snakes coming from the Lombard tradition.

The Regulus Snake

Inside the church there is one of the few representations of the serpent ruler. the sculpture is on the capital of the last column on the left. The Roman deity, this fantastic animal had also entered the tradition of Tuscany and other central regions and was defined by St. Gregory the Great as “the king of snakes”.

The crypt

The crypt is a small, fascinating, mystery. Small has a semicircular apse with four cross vaults. It is dated in the XII century even if it may have had an earlier origin. In fact, its position independent from the church suggests that it could originally have been a shrine. A column, extensively decorated with elegant and suggestive figures, central supports the vaults. The light filters through a small opening giving further magic…

The facade

The façade of the parish church of Corsignano is decorated with small arches and offers the vision of a small mullioned window with a female figure acting as a caryatid.

facade of the Pieve di Corsignano

Pieve di cosignano – Photo credit: bonacherajf on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

There are two doors to the church, the main door and the side door, both highly decorated. The first shows symbolic figures such as the double-tailed mermaid in the front of the architrave, a recurring symbolism in the Romanesque period. The side door opens to the south as in almost all the ancient Sienese parish churches. Here we find jambs adorned with geometric interlacing with equine figures, on the architrave is carved the birth of the Saviour, the visit of the Three Kings, the adulation of the shepherds and the figure of the Virgin. There are also weaves, tendrils, animal shapes as the Lombard taste required.

Head towards the last column on the left and take a look at the capital of the column: you will find a sculpture of the serpent ruler. It is one of the few representations of the ruler snake that has survived in its original form to this day. The serpent ruler was a Roman deity, it was still known when the church was built and does not necessarily represent evil, although St. Gregory the Great defines him as the “king of snakes”.

How to get to Pieve di Corsignano

Wedding at Pieve di Corsignano

The magic and spirituality that envelops the Parish of Corsignano are palpable. In the summer, the Tuscan countryside, its scents are recalled with intensity and the sound of cicadas recites a sort of mantra that enchants. The Pieve di Corsignano is the right place for an intimate and suggestive wedding and in fact many couples choose it for their most beautiful day.

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