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Massa Marittima

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Inhabitants in 1991: 9.518

The municipal territory of Massa Marittima extends for 283,73 square kilometres in a hilly zone at the southern extreme of the Metalliferous hills .City Seat of diocese and capital of a small republic in the Medieval period, it was Vicariate Seat under the Lorena. Within its borders there were originally the communities of Follonica and Monterotondo Marittimo, detached respectively in 1920 and 1961 to form autonomous municipalities.

Prehistoric finds confirm human presence in the territory of Massa Marittima from the last palaeolithic phase in the bronze age; the settlements consolidated in the iron age and continued their development in the Etruscan and Roman eras. The oldest written documentation relative to Massa Marittima goes back however to an act of sale in December 746, when the locality was taken into the diocese of Populonia, in its turn included in the territory of the Dukes of Lucca. It was this transfer of the Episcopal Seat, after the devastation of Populonia by the Greek and Saracen pirates at the beginning of the IX century which conferred to Massa a new economic and social importance and the dignity of City. The temporary dominion of the Bishops over the diocese, its outlines confirmed by Gregorio VII in 1074 and subjected to the metropolitan jurisdiction of Pisa by Innocenzo II in 1133, was, among other things, gravely limited, be it for the presence in the area of Lordly families from Lucca, Volterra and Pisa, or for the pressure exercised by the municipal of Pisa, who soon began to assert its political control over them. The Episcopal authority prevailed however with greater vigour over the city centre, of whom the Bishop remained temporary Lord for all intents and purposes until, in the first decade of the XIII century, a diverse assortment of residents and immigrants attracted by the mineral riches determined the formation of the municipality. The predominance of the new form of organisation of power was fairly rapid and was eased by the submission of the city to Pisa, stipulated by the Bishop oppressed by debts in 1216; less than ten years later in 1225, the Massa municipality acquired full political autonomy.

At the same time there was a perceptible urban expansion and strengthening of the fortifications (new wall belts in 1206, building of fortified houses and towers, among which the tower of the Candlestick in 1228) whilst the castles of the territory became progressively incorporated in the municipal jurisdiction. By the middle of the century the traditional tie with Pisa and the influence of the Aldobrandeschi Counts, concessionaries of Imperial rights over Massa in the XII and XIII centuries, were substituted by new alliances and treaties of “special friendship” (the first in 1241) with the Siena republic. The political clash between the Massa Ghibellini and Guelfi furthermore allowed the Siena municipality to set themselves up as guarantor of the internal pacification of the city: it was thus that in 1276 an ample alliance treaty was set up in which it was established, among other things, that Massa should be governed by Siena citizens for twenty years. Siena’s interest was amply justified by the riches of the Massa mineral district and was reconfirmed in 1307, with a new privilege alliance. Only in 1331, when the supporters of Pisa regained the upper hand of the Massa municipal government, did this allegiance suffer a brusque interruption. After military hostilities with Siena, to which followed a mediation attempt by the Fiorentini, a citizen disturbance promoted by Siena supporters in September 1335, determined the definitive establishment of the political dominion by Siena. The consolidation of the Siena authority however coincided with the beginning of a long period of economic crisis. In 1396 the mineral industry ceased all activity and in 1408 tax relief measures for the Massa municipal acknowledged the demographic regression of the city, reduced to almost 400 residents. A partial revival consolidated towards the end of the XV century, was irreversibly compromised by new disasters: the epidemics of 1522-23, the Spanish occupation in 1530, the assaults and raids during the Siena war (1554-55). Also under the Mediceo dominion, for the effect of the recurring Malaria the decadence continued. Only in the last century with the land reclaims of the Scarlino marshes, promoted by Grand Duke Leopoldo II di Lorena, and with the reopening of the mineral excavations, did a new prosperity phase begin. Massa is the birthplace of the family Albizzeschi, San Bernardino da Siena (1380-1444). Prata and the castles of Perolla and Tatti are also of historic interest. During the resistance the Massa territory saw a strong partisan activity, and in June 1944 at Niccioleta, a village grown up around 1940 near the local pyrite mine, eighty three miners were killed in the nazifascist reprisals.

Places to visit:
Palazzo Comunale, imposing Romanic complex born by the fusion of the tower houses of the XIII and XIV centuries.
Palazzo Pretorio, building in travertine stone from around 1230, has the façade covered in numerous Podesta coats of arms and by a basso-relievo representing the “Siena Wolf” . Inside is the Seat of the Civic Archaeological Museum with finds which range from the prehistoric to the Roman era.
Palazzo delle Armi, built in 1443 as arms deposit and Seat of the Museum of Art and History of the Mines
Porta alle Silici, from the XIV century unites the Massa wall belt with that of Siena.
Cathedral di S. Cerbone, Grandiose Romanic-Gothic building initiated around the middle of the XII century. The majestic two colour façade was skilfully built to augment the prospective effect of the Cathedral in respect to the irregular Medieval square on which in faces. The three nave interior is supported by travertine stone columns with finely decorated Corinthian capitals The Baptistery, original in being excavated in a single enormous mass of travertine stone and sculptured in beautiful relief. It houses innumerable works of art.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Picture by Sandro Santioli
Translated by Ann Mountford


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