The fields surrounding Badia a Isola were once a large swamp or bog that accumulated rain water from Monte Maggio. 'Isola' refers to an island or the only solid piece of land on which the original borgo was built. Now the Abbey is surrounded by flat fields filled with sunflowers in summer, and it is an easy and enjoyable walk from Monteriggioni. This kind of stroll through the Tuscan country side brings the visitor into a much closer contact with life here and is highly recommended.
The Romanesque Abbey of St. Salvatore at Badia a Isola
The Abbey, built in the 11 C by the Cluniac Benedectines, has a façade decorated with miniature arches and the interior consists three aisles divided by columns alternated to cross-shaped pillars. The christening font, dating back to the 15 C, and the cloister, now in ruins, are worth a visit. There are also some frescos and the famous altar by Taddeo di Bartolo, one of Duccio di Boninsegna’s disciples, showing the Virgin and the Child.
On 4 February, 1001, Ava, the widow of Ildebrando dei Lombardi di Staggia, founded a family monastery dedicated to San Salvatore in the area of Borgonuovo, a "submansio" (halting place) on the via Francigena, documented between 990 and 994 in the itinerary of Segeric, Archbishop of Canterbury. From the middle of the 10 C, the nobles of Staggia began to build up a strong dominion over the lands of this territory, from Montemaggio to Val di Strove. The Isola (island) Abbey was built, as indicated by its name, on the edge of a swampy area located at the crossroads between the counties of Florence, Fiesole, Sienna and Volterra, in an important stretch of the Via Francigena at the junction of the secondary roads leading to Florence and Siena. This abbey, with its extensive properties, was conceived as a means of consolidating the heritage of the founding family, thus creating an alliance between monasticism and nobility, religious acts and political goals, a common occurrence in mediaeval society. During the 11 C, the abbey continued to expand with the acquisition of lands and castles, further strengthening its control over the territory and the Via Francigena, where both the hospice, documented from the year 1050 onwards, and the xenodochio (pilgrims' refuge area), documented from 1002, were built to offer assistance to wayfarers. Between the 11 C and the 12 C, the monastery complex was already completed and had the aspect of a fortified village with walls, portal and defensive tower, the latter of which is identifiable with the bell tower. Also erected during this period was the new abbey church, consecrated in 1173 in honour of San Cirino, with its three-apse basilica layout and three naves with poly-lobed pillars alternating with columns of Lombard derivation, a style widely diffused throughout the Benedictine abbeys of the Val d'Elsa. A twin portal in the style from beyond the Alps opened out from a façade, typical of the pilgrimage churches and still partially visible today. Between the 13 C and the 14 C, the abbey authorities started to give way under the expansionistic pressure of the surrounding townships, particularly Sienna, which fortified the monastery in 1376, making it part of its own castle system along the border of the county of Sienna. In 1446, the Isola Abbey was coupled with the monastery of Sant'Eugenio near Siena.
The torchlight procession along the via Francigena
On Christmas Eve, a torchlight procession takes place along the Via Francigena. It starts from Piazza del Castello of Monteriggioni and proceeds along the ancient road to Abbadia Isola.
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