Pistoia, a city of Roman foundation, which maintains its original urban aspects even in the Dark Ages.
The municipal territory of Pistoia extends over an area of 236,77 square kilometres on the edge of the plains, between Monte Albano and the Appenniniche slopes on the left of the river Ombrone, partly in the plain partly hilly and part on the first foothills of the mountains. A city of Roman foundation, which maintains its original urban aspects even in the Dark Ages. In the first centuries after the year one thousand it was surrounded by walls which enclosed a surface of around ten hectares, enlarged during the 1200s in so much that the new walls, constructed in the first half of the 1300s and still in existence, contained an area of one hundred and forty hectares. The municipal growth stopped like this until 1877 when the municipal borders were enlarged with the aggregation of the districts of Porta al Borgo, Porta Carratica, Porta Lucchese and Porta San Marco, while in 1939 part of the district of Cireglio was detached and aggregated to the municipality of Piteglio.
The city of Pistoia, which claims its origins in the II century B.C. due to the fact that the Roman army needed to make use of a fortified settlement as a logistic base in the war against the Liguri for the conquest of the Appenninica area, it developed rapidly, also thanks to the fact that it was crossed by the via Cassia.
It was on the rise overlooking the city that, in 62 B.C., the rebel Catilina was surrounded by two Roman legions and killed. At the time of the first Barbaric invasions it suffered destruction and consequent depopulation which considerably reduced the urban area; at the end of the V century however, the presence of their own Bishop was documented. Elevated to the rank of King’s City by the Longobardi (who made it Seat of a Gastaldo [Steward] independent of the Duchies of Lucca and Firenze), at the centre of a committee in the Carolingian era, during which most of the Pistoia territory ended up being divided up in a series of possessions already held by certain Lordly dynasties like the Counts Guidi and the Cadolingi, its inhabitants quickly organised themselves in a municipal organisation, as is shown in the first mention of the Consuls of Pistoia, which goes back to 1105, while the oldest written statute is ascribable to 1117. In the XII century the city was in full expansion and enlarged its boundaries with a second surrounding wall. Under the influence of notable commercial instigations, its politics were orientated towards an alliance with Pisa, which is also testified by the artistic activity of Giovanni Pisano, preserved in the church of Sant’Andrea. Pistoia’s importance grew with the expansion of the exchanges and commercial traffic in the Dark Ages, thanks to its position at the point of convergence of the routes to the north of Italy, the Valdarno Inferiore and Firenze.
During the XIII century it fought a long series of conflicts against Prato, Firenze, Lucca and Bologna and at the same time it was divided internally by the district struggles between the Guelfi and Ghibellini, aggravated at the end of the 1300s by the split between the Bianchi and the Neri, originating from an internal division in the Cancellieri family. In 1306, in order to punish a government in part Bianca filo Ghibellino the Fiorentini army and that of Lucca united, after a hard eleven month siege and starvation the city was conquered and the walls razed to the ground. In the following years there were episodes of struggle and brief moments of independence which were alternated by the incidents by certain members of the local magnate class and Castruccio Castracani from Lucca (Lord of Pistoia from 1322 to 1328) and to the always more unavoidable Fiorentina guardianship, in the person of the magistracy by the Captain in Charge. From 1401 the dominion of Firenze was definitely affirmed over Pistoia, helped not least, by the civil struggle which continued to divide the two opposing families of the Panciatichi and the Cancellieri. Using as an excuse the centuries old feud which continued in the city and in the territory for a further century, Cosimo I in 1538 abolished for a decade all forms of auto-government, trusting the city and its territory to four all powerful commissioners and successively (1556) to a consul of the Pratica Segreta (secret commission) so that in time Pistoia followed, completely overwhelmed, the choice and the fate of the Medicea politics. In 1643, it was attacked by the Barbarini, in the war between the Farnese of Parma and Pope Urbano VIII, but was able to fend them off. During the Leopoldina era, which without doubt marked a moment of economic and cultural revival for the city, a politics of dynamic attention to the needs of the people was put into action, with the administrative reforms, prepared by considerable public works incentives for the resurgent entrepreneurial class.
The encouragement by the Grand Duke also maintained the important diocese synod convoked in September 1786 by Bishop Scipione de’Ricci with the intention of activating many reforms in the Jansenistic sense, pronouncing among other things of being in favour of the subordination of the church to the State; nevertheless the synod decisions were definitively condemned in 1794 with the edict “Auctorem fidei by Pontiff Pio VI. The French domination at the beginning of the 1800s was lived without particular tension, in fact even with a little satisfaction to see the city made Seat of a Subprefecture. The Lorenese restoration determined in the first place an appreciable withdrawal by the jurisdictional faculty, with the establishment of a Kings Commission in the city and the reestablishment of the county Podesta office, in order to establish an enlargement of the jurisdictional territory with the nomination of Pistoia as capital of the district, and finally a new downgrading (1851) as soon as an animated hotbed of anti Grand Duke activity emerged. The cultural urban centres such as the Science, Letters and Art Academies in fact promoted meetings of lettered men with patriotic aims and Niccolò Puccini, a landed gentry from there, was a person of not little importance in the domain of the moderate Toscans. Between the 18 and 1900s another from Pistoia, by adoption, stood out for his intense political activity as well as his cultural interests: Ferdinando Martini. During the twenty years of Fascism founded in Pistoia by the agreement of the land owners and managers of the major industrial complexes, compensated by the provincial autonomy granted in 1927, the opposition to the regime, even though severely repressed, had survived clandestinely by way of groups which were seen in the Italian Communist Party, but also of diverse orientation, above all among the students: libertarian communists, anarchists, Catholics. Following the armistice Pistoia was occupied by the German army for a further twelve months, the population continued to suffer and it was made worse by the frequent allied bombardments; even with many difficulties the partisan movement managed to distinguish itself with both actions in the city and from bases placed in the Pistoia mountains.
After the war Pistoia keenly applied itself to the work of reconstruction, while the local administration powers were trusted to the political strength of the left. The notable improvement of the way of life, evident in part from the 1960s, brought a consistent growth of the resident population and rapid construction development in the suburbs, without evident strain on the tranquil and industrious Pistoia society.
Among the illustrious men who were born in Pistoia one must at least mention the poet and jurisconsult Cino da Pistoia (1270 ca.-1336), artist Niccolò di Tommaso (middle XIV sec.), chronicler ser Luca Dominici (1363-1410), humanist Sozomeno (died1478), poet Antonio Cammelli (1436 1502), Giulio Rospigliosi (1600-1669) who became Pope with the name of Clemente IX, burlesque poet Niccolò Forteguerri (1674-1735), sculptor Marino Marini (1901-1980) and architect Giovanni Michelucci (1891-1991).
Piazza della Sala, from the Longobarda era, the “Sala Regis” (King’s Salon) was erected here, that is the palace of the governor of the city. A triangular square, since the year one thousand it has been the Seat of meetings, parties and markets. At its centre is found the Pozzo (well) from 1453 with covered columns.
Piazza del Duomo; large space of Medieval origins, onto which the major public and sacred buildings of the city face.
Palazzo del Comune, elegant example of Gothic architecture built between 1200 and 1300 firstly under the direction of the Guelfi, then under that of the Ghibellini. The interior was defined in the XV century. It hosts, on the first floor, the Civic Museum formed by the collection of sacred art.
Palazzo Pretorio, rich with mullioned windows with two lights and coats of arms, it was built in 1367 on a pre-existing building.
Palazzo dei Vescovi, constructed in the X century next to the Cathedral, as Episcopal residence, it was successively enlarged . The complex was the Episcopal Seat until 1786. Today it is the property of a bank, and one can still visit it. In the basement the Archaeological Route has been organised, equipped to illustrate the evolution of the zone; The Capitolare Museum, on the first floor, where it is possible to admire the Treasures of the “Opera S.Jacopo” and the extremely precious shrine of the Virgin.
The Cathedral, dominates the square of the same name with a fascinating façade with three different balconies. Founded in the V century, it was remodelled in the Romanic Pisa form in the XII and XIII centuries. In the following centuries it underwent diverse remodelling, the last in 1951. It is named for S. Zeno. The three nave interior preserves paintings and statues by famous artists, together with the Renaissance masterpiece by Verrocchio: the Sepulchre Monument to Cardinal Forteguerri.
Baptistery, an octagonal plan, in Gothic style, found in front of the Cathedral. It was erected in 1337 on the location of a previous church. The interior conserves a precious finely worked marble tank from 1226.
Ceppo Hospital, present day sanitary structure, it was constructed in 1277 between the first and second surrounding walls. The extremely beautiful Fiorentino arcade, was enriched successively by the enamelled freeze from the studio of Della Robbia, figuring the “Sette Opere di Misericordia” (The seven works of Compassion).
S. Giovanni Fuorcivitas, church constructed between the XII and XIII centuries, with an incomplete façade, but with the northern side covered in white and green marble and decorated with three blind arches. The single nave interior preserves among other works a notable pulpit by frà Guglielmo da Pisa from 1200
S. Andrea, parish church founded in the Dark Ages, it is an example of Romanic Pistoia architecture; has an incomplete façade. The three nave interior is very narrow and holds a precious pulpit by Giovanni Pisano and diverse sculptures.
S. Bartolomeo in Pantano, church which owes part of its name to the marshy location on which it was decided to erect it in 1159. The Romaic Pistoia style has an incomplete façade. The bell tower was erected over a cut off tower. The interior with basilica plan is frescoed and conserves a pulpit by Guido da Como from 1250.