Chiusi could not exist without its villages which in ancient times were rich in inhabitants, rocked and protected by the forest..
The first settlement in these places belongs to the Goths around the barbarian era. We know that the Goths, in 553, defeated by Byzantium, remained here as mercenaries.
La Rocca became, as Fatucchi writes (one of the most qualified scholars of the early Middle Ages) “a barbaric settlement“, “a Byzantine fort“, largely composed of Ostrogoths elements placed there by Byzantium to stem the invasion of the Lombards.
Here you can find the small and ancient church of the seventh century, dedicated to San’Agata, to which the Goths were very devoted. The church has undergone various transformations over the centuries. It is currently in good condition and you can admire the ancient bell dated 1240, a tabernacle or ciborium erected in 1497 and a crucifix by the artist Franco Cardinali of 1969.
Also interesting is the house built by the Cardinals behind two huge boulders separated by a cleft.
From the Statale you reach the Spino Pass where you can admire a beautiful landscape that dominates the Casentino and Valtiberina valleys.
Along the path n.061 you can also get to the Melosa refuge and then to the Sanctuary of La Verna
Vezzano is an ancient village whose name derives from the stagnations of water that were called “vizzai“.
In the center of this picturesque village, we find what we can consider the “mother church” of Chiusi della Verna. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin in Heaven and has the title of Pieve. This name was given to the villages with a baptismal font and other churches.
“Ubi pagus, Ibi plebs” (where there is a village, there is the people) was used to say.
In this church children were also brought from neighbouring villages for baptism, and it has been written that Michelangelo Buonarroti was baptized here: “It is handed down here that Michelangelo Buonarroti Simoni, descendant of a noble family, has been baptized here”.
Recently, the remains of this illustrious parish have been found and brought to light: an ancient entrance portal, a single window that stands out on the back wall, and an artistic and monumental baptistery.
Three wooden boxes containing the relics of the saints were found at the centre of the altar, which testify the antiquity of the church. The boxes contained three sheepskin parchments with the name of the saints and the date. They are dated 1228, the period of St. Francis.
La Beccia is a small village at the foot of the Verna cliff. From this place there is an old mule track called “ansilice” that leads to the sanctuary of La Verna. Along the route there is the Uccelli Chapel erected in the place where San Francesco was greeted while he arrived in the area for the first time.
Dama in Casentino was called “Ama”, a toponym of probable Etruscan origin.
Since ancient times, Dama was a point of reference for all the travellers who went from the Casentino to Romagna or the Tiber valley. From the Etruscans to the Romans, from the Middle Ages to the last century up to our days it has always been necessary to make a stop in the village of Dama.
Here you can admire the beauties of the Casentino: the bare Arno and the Pratomagno. In the year 1362, in the letters of Abbot Aleotti, it is reported that the church of San Lorenzo was part of the jurisdiction of the Cassino monks of SS.Flora and Lucilla of Arezzo, who also owned the nearby Sarna castle. A road from Chitignano, passing through Taena, Rosina, Sarna, Dama and Biforco, headed towards the Serra pass and crossed the Apennines. In the village of Dama there are small groups of houses that have various names: Casapino (perhaps because the first house was built by a certain Pino); Fontanino (because next to a small source); Bozzi (of unknown origin). Today the town is spread on two sides by the State Road.
The village of Dama deserves a stop to walk along 208 with houses and buildings erected on the road that leads to the Verna.the narrow streets that go up the village. In the stone of a doorway, perhaps using an old architrave, a cross is carved; detail that can be found even in a house in Sarna.
Many houses in the village have been renovated, but there are many similar elements among the stone houses. Some houses still preserve the typical slab roof, that was once a characteristic of Casentino.
Piazza della Fonte is a very large square near the church, where there is still the public fountain and wash house the, which now nobody uses anymore. The roads that descend from the hill are narrow, bent and steep. They widen where they meet the modern road, with in the sides the most recent buildings.
Important is the stone construction of the school, built in 1934 by the National Institute of Culture against Illiteracy which now houses a public exercise on the ground floor and the headquarters of the Pro Loco Dama Association on the upper floor. The other houses are of modern construction, built essentially for holidays.
The fraction of Compito is about 3.5 km from Chiusi della Verna, in the direction of Pieve Santo Stefano. In this village there is the church of San Martino, a sacred building of Chiusi della Verna.
The church, in Romanesque rural style, preserves a fifteenth-century altarpiece depicting the “Madonna and Child between Saints Francis and Martin” by Neri di Bicci. The archaism of the Florentine painter is visible in the abundance of gold and decorations in the garments of the figures, in order to cover a certain poverty of inspiration, although they are inserted in a vast landscape of Renaissance inspiration.
Also, along the way, we find the ‘source of San Francesco ‘where, it seems, the friar stopped to make his donkey drink.
the hermitage of casella
from the website “Il Cammino di Assisi“
The legend says that St. Francis, after receiving the stigmata, left La Verna on the 30th September 1224. The itinerary that he was supposed to follow was winding towards Monte Arcoppe (Montalcoppi), the Foresto to reach the village called Casella (Caprese Michelangelo); from here, via Castello di Montauto, Sansepolcro, Città di Castello, he would have reached Assisi.
At Casella, he wanted to stop for a ritual. From that height, where the eye sweeps in the vastness of superb landscapes, St. Francis, aware that this journey would have been without return (he will die in Assisi on 3 October 1226), looked back to La Verna and said with profound emotion: “Goodbye, mount of God, holy mountain, mons coagulatus, mons pinguis, mons in quo beneplacitum est Deo habitare! Goodbye mount Alvernia, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit bless you! Stay in peace, that we will no longer see each other“.
This sentence can be found in the first historical trace that we have of the Hermitage of Casella: a manuscript that bears the date of 30th September 1228, day-anniversary of the departure of the Saint. Similar words can be found in a book printed in Florence in 1628 and preserved in the library of Verna, which, after describing the stop of St. Francis, reads as follows: “And he said these words with plenty of tears; with the help of his companions, they planted a cross in this same place, where he said these words to the mountain and made the departure. In memory of this, was canonized in the year of the Lord 1229, the community of Caprese, Sovaggio among others built this chapel”.
In the same text we also read: “In this Chapel the Lord works many miracles, through the merits of his servant Francis: the people of the surrounding area go every year to visit the Chapel on the second day of Pentecost, and the Reverend of Piovano di Sovaggio, under whose Parish the Church belongs, tells the mass in this day and the devotees offer their prayers, gifts and vows in that Holy place. Whenever the earth suffers from rain, people uses to go in procession to pray for that need, and in sign of their petition they take a slab from the roof, it has not rained the same, or the following day. This is the reason why the Chapel was built“.
At the beginning, there was only a small chapel, before the adjacent hermitage was built. It already existed in 1522, because in that year, as it is clear from a document of the Caprese Michelangelo Municipal Archives: “January 22, 1522. Come and waited at the Chapel in the alps di dicto comune è venuto ad habitare uno romito, homo relligioso et devoto il quale desidererebbe … stanziorno per dicto asino fiorini quattro larghi d’oro“.
The hermits at Casella succeeded each other over time, we do not know if uninterrupted or irregular, at least in the first centuries. On the 14th of April 1733, Andrea Nofrini of Parrocchia di S. Biagio in Fragaiolo, introduced himself to the Bishop of Sansepolcro to obtain the license “to be able to wear the robe of the Father St. Francis, to become a hermit in order to serve God in this vocation“.
From the end of the 16th century onwards, there are many news about the Hermitage, many names of hermits who stayed there, detailed descriptions of the interior of the church and the hermitage, inventories of the sacred furnishings and very precise reports on the entrances, exits and oblations of benefactors.
The devotion with which the inhabitants of the surrounding villages climbed to the Hermitage to celebrate religious rites has always been great: The last hermit seems to have been Giuseppe Veri from S. Giorgio in Salutio, who was hermit on that hill until the beginning of our century.
Since then, for many years, both the church and the hermitage have remained abandoned and were seriously damaged. However, in the 80s, the faithfuls of Chitignano, Caprese, Subbiano and Chiusi della Verna expressed the desire to rebuild the Hermitage; they joined the competence of local administrators and authorities, and after few years of hard work, largely voluntary, the Eremo della Casella returned to its former glory.
Today we can breathe again that holy air that has always been breathed from that distant 1228. It is not difficult, looking towards the Sanctuary of La Verna, imaging the old St. Francis, crying, on his knee and praying.
The name of this town derives, according to some, from Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, or from “bacia“, an ampoule that usually contains wine.
In this place, in the middle of few houses, there is a chapel, belonging to the parish of Chiusi Della Verna. In the ’50s there were very few residents. Now there is only the Chapel of Baciano abandoned along with the now uninhabited houses.