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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: The Knights Templar and Tuscany (Monte Amiata)

Updated: Mar 28

PART 83: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps and what we are learning along the way.


We love every minute of it, and what was once a dream is our life!


We live in Tuscany in the Fall, then back again in the Spring, and in California for the rest of the time (in a previous blog, I explained why we live in Italy only part of the year).


Step 1: As we explore areas in Italy, we discover some gems worth sharing. Some of these are well-known tourist magnets; others are lesser known but always amazing.


This week, let's explore the Knights Templar in the Monte Amiata area of Tuscany.


Step 2: Who were the Templars?


The Knights Templar was a military order in the Middle Agrs that followed a monastic lifestyle and was trained in combat to protect Christian holy sites and pilgrims in the Middle East and other places. They were a significant and elite part of the Crusader armies, with their headquarters first in Jerusalem and then in Acre, near Haifa in Israel. The Order was founded in 1118 and stopped functioning in 1312.


They were actually suppressed, but that is another story.


Step 3: History of Templars in Tuscany


Tuscany was one of the wealthiest and most advanced economies in western Christendom, and the trade routes between East and West passed through it, as did the pilgrimage routes to Rome and the Adriatic ports for embarkation to the East. From receiving their first donation in Tuscany in 1138, the Knights Templar built an impressive network of receiving houses connecting the cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, and the coast.


Routes to Maremma's hills and the coast from Florence to Poggibonsi and San Gimignano converged with those from Siena at Frossini, north of Massa Marittima.


There are eleven verified Templar buildings in Tuscany, four of which are in the Maremma Grossetana area: the Church of Mercy in Grosseto, the Magione of San Salvatore in Grosseto, the Pieve di Santa Cristina and Ospedaletto in Rochette Fazio, and the Pieve Santa Mustiola at Sticciano.


Numerous places in Maremma and greater Tuscany are believed to have a connection to the Templars. Local legends and the symbolism that can still be seen today on doors and walls strongly suggest this connection, but there is no solid evidence for many of the sites.


Step 4: The Templars and the Maremma


The Templars exact location in Maremma is not well documented as they were exempted from paying taxes by Pope Innocent II; thus, their presence is not found in administrative documents.


However, as stated above, various symbols can be attributed to the Templars along the main communication routes of that time. These symbols provided reference points for pilgrims, who could receive the message that they were safe and protected and on the right path.


Some of the places in Maremma where these symbols can be found include San Rabano in Alberese, San Martino in Magliano, S. Pietro e Paolo in Sovana, the village of Rocchette di Fazio, S. Salvatore in Istia, and throughout Arcidosso.


Step 5: Templar symbolism found in the area


The primary emblem of the Order of the Temple was the Patent Cross, which had arms that widened at the ends and was used to identify the Templar members. The word ""patent"" comes from the Latin ""patentem,"" which means enlarged. In addition to the Patent Cross, the Templars used various symbols to allude to their mission and beliefs. These symbols can be found throughout the village of Arcidosso and in its parish church.


Step 6: The Templars and Arcidosso (our town!)


Arcidosso is a village situated on Mount Amiata connected to the Knights Templar. The town is rich in symbols frequently used by the Order of Soldier Monks.


Around the year 1000, Arcidosso was ruled by the Aldobrandeschi family, one of the most powerful families of the Middle Ages. During that time, the Maremma territory, like much of Europe, was perilous due to the presence of pirates and bandits. Hence, it was crucial to protect both the population and the pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.


To achieve this, the Templars were established to safeguard the roads the pilgrims used. Initially, the Order consisted of a few knights known as ""Poor companions in arms of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon."" Later, the Templar Order grew, and their protection was extended to the major routes used by pilgrims, such as the Via Francigena and through the town of Arcidosso.


Step 7: Hunting for Templar Symbols in Arcidosso


Taking a stroll through Arcidosso village, one cannot miss the mysterious Templar symbols on buildings, the castle, and churches like San Leonardo.


  • Church of San Leonardo


The Church of San Leonardo is situated in a medieval square, the convergence point of several alleys. On the church's left side is a rectory displaying the coat of arms of the Abbey of San Salvatore.


Beside the rectory was a hostel that used to provide pilgrims refuge. The original door is located on the short side of the building, beneath the arch. Even though it is blocked up, the arch of the door bears the symbol of the Agnus Dei (a lamb with a cross), representing Christ.


On the right side of the supporting column of the entrance portal of the church, at the height of a person's face, you can see the patent Templar cross.



In an alley behind the church, on a cornerstone of the wall, underneath the electrical wires, there is an inscription, believed to be from the 16th century, that contains several alchemical symbols, such as a circle with a point, which represents the sun, and a triangle with the points downwards, which represents water. On the jamb of a window, on the other side of the same building, there is the symbol of a fish and a patent cross.


There seems to be a convergence of Templar and alchemical symbols in Arcidosso.


  • Via Talassese and Clock Tower


Via Talassese is one of the main streets in the village. Several shops lined the road, as indicated by symbols on the buildings. For instance, a horseshoe can be seen above a former blacksmith shop. On the arch of a window on this street, you can see a circle with rays, an alchemical symbol of the sun.


In 1200, the Aldobrandeschi constructed Porta di Mezzo as an entrance to Via Talassese. Later, Porta di Mezzo was remodeled during the rule of the Republic of Siena with the addition of the clock tower.


Palazzo Giovannini, the home of one of the families closely associated with the Medici, is located near Porta di Mezzo, or Clock Tower, along Via Talassese. The portal was added in the style of a diamond-pointed symbol to add prestige to this family's important building.


A particularly significant alchemical symbol can be seen in the stone coat of arms at the corner of the building: a seven-pointed star or the heptagram.


  • The heptagram on the Palazzo Giovannini


The heptagram represents Venus in cosmology. However, the number seven is also seen as the number of perfection and the number of life, where matter meets spirit. It is also the alchemical number of the seven elements (air, fire, water, earth, life, light, and magic) and the seven planets (sun, moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn). Seven is also a significant biblical number.


The significance of the heptagram here is still under debate, as are many other Templar images found in the area.


The intriguing open question is: why is there a convergence of Templar and alchemical symbols throughout the town of Arcidosso? (That could be a great topic for somebody's dissertation!)


Step 8: Sources: https://persaperilmondo.com/arcidosso-e-templari/. World History Encyclopedia.


Insights:


Uncovering proof of the existence of the Knights Templar in Tuscany sounds like a chapter straight out of "The Da Vinci Code." However, the focus here is on historical facts rather than fiction.


Regardless of one's personal beliefs about the Templars, they were an intriguing society of the past whose remnants still exist today for curious individuals to discover. Their symbols and legacy continue to be researched and debated by scholars and enthusiasts alike.


More next time.


Now on sale for $2.99: My book is ""Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy."" Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CRKMKPWF?ref_=cm_sw_r_cp_ud_dp_X2WRQ3PTG2ZDD7AVF6GH


And also, on Amazon Italy:


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