The sanctuary of Romituzzo
Driving along the Cassia, in the southern suburbs of Poggibonsi, we come across the Sanctuary of Romituzzo.
The name derived from the hermitage that some women had built in that place at the beginning of the fourteenth century, at that time Casino En Ligne a solitary area. Near this hermitage was built a tabernacle in which, between the end of the fourteenth century and the beginning of the fifteenth century the image of the Madonna with Child was painted by an unknown artist of the Sienese school.
Given the growth in devotion towards this image, a wooden chapel was built to protect it at the beginning of 1400.
Only in 1460 di Antonio Adimari, lord of the nearby castle of Strozzavolpe, build, with the contribution of the people of Poggibonsi, an oratory surrounded by an elegant loggia. Dedicated to the Madonna della Neve, it reached its maximum splendour in the sixteenth century, a period in which most of the many votive offerings were hung on the upper part of the inner wall of the church.
From the seventeenth century on, the Sanctuary went through a long period of decline. This finished, after various ups and downs and the bombing of the Second World War, on 1st March 1967 when it was made a parish with Don Fosco Mezzedimi as parish priest.
Thanks to the donation of this priest, an expert in the history of Poggibonsi, it was possible to totally restore the Sanctuary; work began in 1992 and finished in the Jubilee year of 2000.
The outside of the Sanctuary features and elegant and artistic cotto bell tower, located on the left-hand side of the church, dating back to the sixteenth century.
It is accessed through a wrought iron gate in the loggia, made in 1926 by the master blacksmiths Regoli and Stricchi, and restored in 1999. The church has a single nave with a truss roof; there are two altars dating back to 1612 on the sides. The high altar is an artistic work in pietra serena dating back to the late fifteenth century.
The recently restored artistic ciborium in pietra serena was made in 1943 by the architect, Carlo Del Zanna, of Poggibonsi, and was donated by Sig.ra Erminia Mostacci, the mother of the defunct Don Fosco Mezzedimi. Above the altar there is a sixteenth century fresco depicting the Crucifix. The same artist painted a second fresco, located in the sacristy, depicting the Pietà. Both operas have recently been restored.
The inside of the church is dominated by the presence of devotional offerings. About 5,000 are made from pressed paper and represent various parts of the human body, about 90 instead, are elegant painted panels. These tangible signs of a naive but sincere faith are the most beautiful expression of popular religiousness in Poggibonsi from 1400 to today.
During the last restoration, in 1994, the devotional offerings, by then in a precarious state of repair, were totally restored and catalogued by the Fine Arts and Historical Office of Siena.
Legend has it that the image of the Virgin of Romituzzo was discovered, in 1300, under a heap of snow by a peasant attracted by the moans coming from it. It seems that the rock on which the Madonna is depicted, initially moved to the side of the road, returned to the place in which it had been found and that the first tabernacle was built in that point.
The venerated fresco in the Sanctuary is today decorated by two gilded bronze crowns donated by the city and made in 1996 by the artist, Giuseppe Calonaci, from Poggibonsi.