Guide to Valdarno: Ambra and Badia Agnano


Guide to Valdarno: Ambra and Badia Agnano

Ambra . A small town - the second in the community by population - that soars over a hillock of modest elevation next to the state road leading to Siena. The ancient castle of Amber (once possessions of the powerful noble families of the Ubertini and Tarlati) is situated on a hill, along the road, southbound leading to Siena. Located in the ancient part the village is impossible to miss the bell tower of the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta, arising high on the panorama. It is established that the ancestors of Benvenuto Cellini (the Florentine Renaissance artist), were from here and here had estates, this is attested especially by the autobiography of the same silversmith, sculptor and writer of the 1500s.

The bell tower was built in the first two decades of the twentieth century (there are documents that certify the opening in 1920) and part of its bells were created with bronze cannons, remnants of war in the First World War. There is little left of the original fort, with the exception of traces of the old walls and alleys of the "Castle." Formerly it was an industrial center of a certain local importance, especially for the production of silk and over time underwent further development period due to the opening of a tobacco factory, active since the early twentieth century until the first decade of the new millennium.

Badia Agnano . takes the name from one of the oldest abbeys in the area and whose toponym is either of Etruscan or Roman origin. Of the imposing holy building, once a wealthy landholder only the parish church remains. 
All the rest followed the Napoleonic provisions which, in 1811, suppressed the religious orders and their relative holdings. Inside the church it’s housed a canvas of 1637, painted by Bernardino Santini and portraying the Visitation. As for the genesis of the name, researchers are divided: there are those who favour an Etruscan origin - the name would derive from Ani, god of fertility - while, according to others, it would originate from the Latin name "Annius" or "Agnus". 
Of the original abbey complex, only a few structures remain, namely the church, the parsonage and a smaller chapel, while the remnant has been converted to residential use. Badia Agnano was founded around the year 1000 AD by the powerful noble family of the Ubertini.

In the early twelfth century, it joined the congregation founded by St. Romuald - the Benedictine order based at Camaldoli. The ancient abbey church, recently restored, almost certainly belongs to this period: in fact, it consists of a single nave covered with wooden trusses, at whose end stands single simple transept. Once dedicated to St Mary, as of today, the title of the church is that of the Saints Tiburtius and Susannah. The title change - probably owed to the commendatory abbot Leonardo - took place in the sixteenth century. The structure is built off well aligned and squared limestone slabs. The absence of decoration reflects the purely spiritual and austere style of the Camaldolese Congregation. The abbey was later fortified and the village eventually developed all around it. In 1431 (in that year it had an abbot and five monks) is described by Blessed Traversari (Prior of Camaldoli) in these words: "a well built, ancient and extremely rich abbey". 
A few years later, in 1470, the decline began because of the alternation of a series of abbots and it ended only with the arrival of the future holy bishop of Milan, Carlo Borromeo who, in 1564, returned the abbey to the Benedictine order. Despite the neglect due to the Commandery, in an inventory of 1583, the church is described as well-preserved; following the restoration carried out in 2003 it was brought back to its original splendour. The inside features a wooden crucifix suspended in the apse and a baptismal font which still features the crest of the Benedictine order: two doves drinking from the same cup.

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