A map from 1233, originating from the archives of the Amiata abbey of S. Salvatore, says that in that year in Grosseto the ‘contrada loci fratrum minorum’ already existed there. The Order then seems to have had a convent very early on in the Maremma city, and maybe even since before the death of St. Francis, according to Father Luca Wadingo, analysist of the Minor Friars of the XVIII century.
According to tradition the friars founded a place of recovery for the sick, called “Ospedale di fra Roncone”. It is possible that Andrea da Grosseto, who in 1268 translated into the vernacular the Trattati morali di Albertano da Brescia (Moral Treatise of Albertano da Brescia), an illustrious example of primitive Italian prose, was a friar of the monastery.
The church presents a simple façade with the doorway characterised by a lunette with a fresco. The interior is a single nave and conserves various works of art, including the famous Crucifix by Duccio di Boninsegna.
In 1704 probable indications of the area occupied by the monks were found: a niche in the wall where an ancient wooden statue of a monk stood, and under the rubble a stone altar broken into several pieces; in 1724, in occasion of roof repairs, a roughly painted supper room, attributed to the Benedictine refectory.
So it seems that the Franciscan convent was built using older structures, forming a rightangle with the church of St. Francis that seems to have incorporated the Benedictine one, as building started in the 1280s. The building of the Medici Walls from the end of the XVI century led to a reorganisation of its area. The particular attention paid to the convent and its church by the Grosseto Council is attested to by the civic statutes and archived documentation, from which it emerges that the council intervened a lot in the decoration, repairs and renovations.
At the beginning of the XVIII century the construction of new barns started, occupying the area on which the building of the “Giuseppe Friuli Foundation” was constructed in 1975. Like the other older interiors they were given the name of a saint a terracotta effigy of which was placed over the respective door. One of these barns, that of St. Claire, was rented to the council as a theatre, and in 1805 served as shelter for the French troups passing through towards Grosseto.
The convent was abandoned after almost six centuries of life during the French domination in 1808, and its goods were auctioned off. The buildings of the convent were, for many years, put to various, civic uses.. In 1930 it was again given over to worship.
In the 1860s the Church of St. Francis was used as a Cathedral while St. Laurence was closed for renovation, and then in 1865 it was used as a storehouse until 1880 when it was given back to the Rector of the Cathedral. The most important intervention on the building was the 17th century addition to the chapel, and in 1623 the bell-tower was rebuilt. With the radical renovation at the end of the 19th century the plaster altars were removed from the walls.
Article edited by the Province of Grosseto