The name of Massa Marittima is misleading, with the adjective "marittima", which means "maritime" in Italian, seeming to refer to the vicinity of the ocean.
The name is misleading, with the adjective "marittima", which means "maritime" in Italian, seeming to refer to the vicinity of the ocean or the fact, affirmed by various local legends, that far back in time the ocean lapped at these hills and later receded.
Actually, the adjective denotes the region in which the city is located: that very special environmental and cultural setting known as the Maremma, while the word "massa" signified in late Latin an aggregation of landed properties: thus, Massa di Marittima.
It is situated in the area of the "Colline Metallifere", or Metalliferous Hills, noted for the presence of minerals which have been associated since Etruscans times with the mining activity which have been such a distinctive feature of the city's economic and social history.
The city is divided in three parts called "terzieri", a division which came about during the thirteenth century when the transition from a feudal type of organization to a communal one was accomplished. Around the year 1000, the first urban nucleus established itself in proximity to the Castello di Monteregio (Castle of Monteregio) which, as the residence of the Bishop-Count, was built on the highest point of the hill.
In 1225, after the city was liberated from Bishop and the Free Commune had been proclaimed, work was begun on the public buildings necessary for civic life and which would form what later became known as the Città Vecchia (Old City).
The main square thus gathered together, the first example of such a form, all the most important buildings - the Cathedral, the Ecclesiastic Residence, the Palazzo del Podestà, the Town Hall, the Loggia del Comune, the Mint and the Public Fountain - and from it descended the streets of the Borgo, where the artisan shops were located.
During the first half of the 13th century, the large increase in population due to the favorable social and economic conditions created by the new institution of the commune made it necessary to enlarge the urban area.
This extension, known as the Città Nuova (New City), arose in the immediate vicinity of the Torre del Candeliere, which was just then being completed.
It was given a particular urban design characterized by an orthogonal grid plan, and the Church of S.Agostino was built to replace the older S.Piero all'Orto which was by now insufficient.
In 1335 Siena conquered the city and put an end to the Free Commune.
This was the beginning of a period of grave decay and depopulation.
A few years after their victory, the Siennese built the Fortezza, connecting it with an arch to the Torre del Candeliere, and a new set of city walls, which still divide the Old City and the Borgo from the New City.
Around the middle of the 16th century, under the rule of the Medici, and still more so during the eighteenth century with the policies of the Lorraine Grand Dukes, the necessary conditions were created for a renewal of mining activity, which was followed by a period of new prosperity and economic stability.
Massa Marittima, that despite the name is more than twenty kilometers far from the sea, is considered one of the medieval jewels of Tuscany. Its origins are wounded by mystery, traces of an human settlement of the Bronze Age has been found in its outskirts. In the Etruscan period the zone was known for the wealth of its mines, probably the city was the 'Massa Veternense' of Roman Age.
After this periods the settlement remained at the borders of the history at least until the 9th century, when it became center of the Episcopalian power, thanks to the transfer of the Bishop's Main Seat from Populonia. The Bishop preferred to leave the coast, became marshy and object of continuous raids of the Greek and Saracens pirates, to retire the court in the heart of the 'Colline Metallifere'. It seems that first wasn't selected Massa Marittima as seat, in fact are of 1016 the first traces of the existence on site of a church and of the beginning of the 12th century those of the constitution of an Episcopal center.
In the 1225 Massa becomes a free city-state, detaching definitely from the Episcopalian control, and from this time begun a period of great prosperity, thanks to the commercial exploitation of the mineral (iron, copper, lead, silver) of which the zone was rich, so much that the name of the town was changed in 'Massa Metallorum'. In this era were build the great monuments as the Romanic-Gothic Cathedral (initiated perhaps already in the 12th century), the Praetorian Palace and the Public Palace (1230), the Public Fountain (1265), all inside the town walls of the lower town, still today endowed by two gates (called Salnitro and S.Bernardino).
Afterward was launched a grandiose plain of transformation of the upper city, call subsequently 'New Town', and here was written the 'Codice Minerario', one of the most important juridical medieval documents of Italy and perhaps the most ancient example of job-legislation, with the purpose to control all the extractive, mining and entrepreneurial activities. In the first years of 1300 the city counted between 10.000 and 20.000 inhabitants.
The Public Fountain.
The prosperity, together with the strategic position, attracted on Massa the aims of Pisa, Siena and Florence, in whose disputes the town was involved up to 1337, when it fell under the Senese domination. Siena immediately planned, thanks to the imposition of strong taxes, the reconstruction and the enlargement of the fortifications: a second walls circuit was erected all around the 'New Town' and, between the 'two towns', the Fortress.
This acted in practice as 'bearing' between the old and new town, dominating both, englobing the ancient fortress and Episcopalian residence of Monteregio (of which don't remain traces) and the primitive Keep, the 'Candeliere tower', today reduced of a third part of its original height, joined to the walls from a bridge with rampant arc. In this point, to the vertex of the Moncini street that join the two town parts, rises the magnificent gate 'Alle Silici', with a double breteche (a small projection beyond the wall that covers the entrance below), perhaps the most beautiful and still intact medieval town gate of Tuscany. The form of the Senese fortress is like a 'butterfly', in fact the two wall curtains are separated by only 15 meters at north, in correspondence of the aforesaid gate, and by 42 at south, where they englobed the Episcopalian fortress. These defensive system was studied with the purpose to guarantee safety and external contacts in the case that both the parts of the city fallen in hostile hands. The town walls have the same characteristics of the fortress, endowed with machicolations (opening between the corbels of the parapet through which the defenders can drop rocks or fire projectiles against an enemy directly below them) in stone, alternated by square towers. Today are still intact the S.Francesco gate and the whole eastern side of the enclosure while a big part of the western side was demolished between the 18th and 19th century.
The Black Plague in 1348 and the loss of the autonomy caused the decline of Massa, so much that in 1408 the population was reduced to 400 persons. In 1555, defeated the Senesis from Charles the 5th army, allied with that Florentine, the city was annexed to the Granduchy of Tuscany. However, it was only thanks to the reclamation of the 18th century, made by the Lorena, that the zone reborned with the development of the agriculture and of the extractive activities. The city has been rediscovered, especially in the last century, from historical, researchers and artists that have contributed to bring its patrimony to the ancient shine, thanks to great works restorations. Today the town center of Massa Marittima is a forced destination for all the lovers of the Middle Age.
Of medieval origin, the Castello di Prata was owned by a rich local family tied by feudal bonds to the Bishop of Massa. In the mid-thirteenth century it fell under Siennese rule and was ceded to the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala. In the same period, the old Church of Santa Maria Assunta was also rebuilt and modified; today it is a complex composed of a cherch, a chapel and the campanile.
The first documents date to the 19th century. In the 13th century it belonged to the powerful Aldobrandeschi family. In the 14th century it was conquered by the Siennese; starting in 1404, it was administered directly from Siena. The circle of walls, a gateway arch and the fortress can still be seen. The Church of S.Sebastiano as it is today is the result of an 18th century architectural work imposed on a medieval plan.
Around the end of the 19th century, after an important pyrite deposit was discovered in the area, a mine was opened, and the village of Niccioleta was established near the by. It was characterized, like all mining towns, by a church, the villa of the director of the mine, and the low, simple houses belonging to the miners and their families.
The first nucleus of the settlement (14th century) owes its existence to the establishment of a metallurgical complex for working iron from the island of Elba, considerably enlarged in the Medici and Lorraine periods. It began to decline in 1830, when Leopold II decided to create a great iron-working center at Follonica. Worth seeing are the remains of the foundries with the first, rudimentary smelting oven from the 14th century.
In the immediate vicinity of Massa Marittima:
the archeological area of Lago dell'Accesa (Etruscan village, 7-6th centuries B.C.); Church and Convent of Vetreta (15th century, the first church built in honor of S.Bernardino); Molinpresso (14th century windmill in the shape of a fortified castle); Fonti di Bufalona (13th century public fountains); Ghirlanda (ruins of old train station); Capanne (important mining center. The equipment, by now unused for a long time, provides an interesting illustration of the techniques used in metalworking).
Been born in 1993 on initiative of the Photographic Group of Maritime Mass, the demonstration, especially in the last years, has gotten a notable comparison of public, proposing mostre3 of authors among the most representative of the contemporary photo, from Oliviero Toscani to Lucien Clergue to Anthony Salgado. Tuscany Photo Festival is opened in August with photographic shows, meetings and projections, while in September it proposes to the impassioned ones some workshops conducted by great names of international fame on the techniques and on the secret that allow to experiment and to understand as the photo can become authentic artistic expression.