S. Innocenza a Piana



The Pieve of St. Innocence at Piana, or simply the Church of Piana as it is called in this area, is located about 3 Kms. from Buonconvento and from the top of the hill where it was built, dominates the Stile River valley.

The Pieve’s history gets lost in the night of the years and for this reason is surrounded by a veil of mystery. It is difficult to date the construction; some historians would put it in the 7th – 8th century. At that time, in fact, the farming population was in great need of protection from the assalts of the barbarians. (Thus  explaining the fortified structure of the building.)

From the time of its founding, the Parish of St. Innocence was considered one of the richest of the diocese because of the extention of its lands and the amount of its revenue. The importance of the Parish grew as the years passes, thanks also to the treasures collected by the various rectors, who often were members of powerful Sienese families. After 1282 the assets of the Church of Piana were united with those of Vescovado, and the  Bishop of Siena became rector also of the inhabitants of the Arbia Valley.

Heavier fortifications were ordered by the Republic of Siena for the Church of Piana in 1398. Its location as a defense point was important for repelling attacks of the Florentine soldiers who had infiltrated the Sienese territory the previous year. Due to lack of funds at the time, the Republic delegated the Spedale ( hospital,  a  very rich institution ) to buy the church and carry out the fortification.

After the reconstruction, the site was so safe and welcoming that Pope Paul III stayed there. The occasion was on July 7, 1533 during the Pope’s return trip to Rome from Nice where he had met with Charles V of Spain  and  Francis  I  of  France.Free from Vescovado of Siena in 1599, the Church of Piana became indipendent again several centuries later. In exchange for this achieved autonomy, it was established that the parish would supply the bishop’s refectory whit a certain amount of “moscatello” wine (demonstrating the excellent quality of wine produced in this area).

An enrichment of the Pieve’s decorations began in the 17th century.Thanks the  to succession of vicars serving as regents of the church, paintings, altars and baroque plasters were added. With the fall of the Republic of Siena and the passage to the Grandutchy of Madici Family, the Church of Piana became less important. Its history followed the fate of the residents who were mostly farmers. Gone the time of well- being, the parish persevered with the modest offerings from the community. Nevertheless, in 1889 a bell tower was erected, there bells were hung and the cemetery was restored. Cracks in the nave made restoration of the building itself necessary in the 1933. Some valuable frescoes were revealed as the work began. This discovery forced the Sienese section of the National Department  Responsible for Monuments and Arlistic  Treasures  to intervene. The Sovrintendenza decided to destriy the baroque altars of the 1700’s and to remove the black and white striped stucco which “made the church resemble a funeral parlor”. Its original simplicity was restored. In excavating below the main altar, material compiling the ancient altar was discovered and reconstruct.

With the gradual adbandon of the fields, the Church of Piana ceased to have a guiding role in the lives of the people of the Arbia Valley, and in 1963 the parish was transferred. The changing fate that characterized the history of the  Church of Piana did not however erode its attraction.The building, whose outline rises magestically in the sky, stimulates even now great historical and architectual interest. A visit to this site offers tranquil and peaceful moments.