Cuna Grange is an excellently conserved example of a fortified medieval farm. Its size and characteristic red bricks really make it stand out. It is also one of the most interesting architectural structures in Tuscany.
There is evidence of a ‘spedale’ here in the twelfth century. This spedale gave assistance to pilgrims and merchants travelling on the pilgrim’s route, the Via Francigena, which passed through the nearby town of Arbia. A document by Pope Eugenio III states that the building was owned by Torri Abbey. The whole area came under Sienese rule in the thirteenth century except the “small estates at Cuna and Castelluccio” which were donated to Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, one of the most important hospitals at that time. The rector of the ‘spedale’ immediately decided to enlarge the existing building. The Grange developed into a small independent walled hamlet, with towers and gates, houses with a kind of farm-fortress at the centre.
The rector’s successor was probably Giovanni de Tolomei. He began the construction of a new barn and restructured the church dedicated to Saint Giacomo and Saint Cristoforo in 1314. In the fourteenth century, deep seated political and military instability meant that the spedale had to fortify itself even more to protect its reserves of grain. At the time, fortified country barns were known as ‘Grancia’.
Cuna Grange consists of one square walled building and two corner towers which were built to defend the grange to the south. The main entrance opens into an ‘L’ shaped courtyard from which it’s possible to reach the interior rooms and storerooms via a ramp that makes it easy to bring cattle in. It is a fortified farm surrounded by fourteenth century walls. A second defensive wall encircles the first and encompasses the farm and village houses. The main entrance of this second wall is still intact.
Cuna was only sacked once in 1554 by Austrian-Spanish troops during the last war of Siena. In the second half of the sixteenth century a roof was added to the farm and towers which covered the pre-existing battlements. The main house, which lies within the two fortified walls, was built in the seventeenth century. Cuna has often represented a place of asylum for kings and popes, for example: in1386 for Urbano VI, in 1420 for Martino V, in 1451 for Paolo III. In 1640, Carlo di Guisa of the Lorena family died here.