Of all the provinces of Tuscany, Arezzo has stepped forward as the one that has best embraced the chance to spread redemption to every corner of the territory on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy. In the Arezzo area, eight "particular churches" were chosen, temples - on the threshold of the great Roman basilicas – where you can receive a plenary indulgence.
We begin our pilgrimage to the places of worship in Arezzo with the Cathedral of Saints Pietro and Donato, the construction of which was sanctioned in 1277 by a decree that was "in honour of God, the Blessed Virgin and the patron saint Donato". But the decisive hand in the work was a visit from Pope Gregory X, who in December 1275, while returning from the Council of Lyons, fell seriously ill and stopped in the city where he died on January 10, leaving the sum of 30 gold florins for the new Cathedral. The exterior facade, which remained barren for centuries, was finished between 1900 and 1914. The interior, with three naves and without a transept, but with five bays divided by piers, is characterised by a polygonal apse. The seven windows cycle by Marcillat are masterpieces and were painted in two phases between 1516-17 and 1522-24. Marcillat was also responsible for the Biblical stories, painted in the vaults of the first three bays of the nave, in the first on the left side and the design of the staircase which leads to the basilica. The most important work kept in the Arezzo Cathedral is the fresco of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca from the 1560s.
We stay in Arezzo with the "Holy Door" of the Church of San Francesco, where, in addition to frescoes by Bicci di Lorenzo and Piero della Francesca commissioned by the Bacci family, is the remarkable crucifix on the altar, whose features express pain and resignation, attributed to Duccio and probably dating to 1289.
The Diocese of Arezzo stands out for having chosen as its "particular churches" places of worship located between the mountains and the countryside. First of all is the Sanctuary of La Verna, the place where, according to legend, St. Francis received the stigmata on 17 September 1224. The Sanctuary, nestled in the forests, includes the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the corridor and the Chapel of the Holy Stigmata and the Basilica dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, where you can still admire the 'Annunciation', one of the masterpieces by sculptor Andrea della Robbia. We continue our tour with a visit to the small Montecasale Hermitage in Sansepolcro - a place of primary importance in the Franciscan spirituality and one of the oldest centres of aggregation. Hidden among the foliage of Casentino, we find another "Holy Door", the beautiful monastery in Camaldoli Fontebuona, whose structure is characterised by a large cloister whose upper floor consists of a corridor with a barrel vault, along which lie the monks' cells. Among the works of art in the monastery are seven pieces by Giorgio Vasari.
We move to Cortona to go to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie Calcinaio, founded - according to Vulgate – thanks to an image of the Madonna and Child (painted on the wall of a leather tanning tank), which on Easter Sunday of 1484 began to work miracles. The icon, revered as sacred, is still visible on the main altar of the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The legend of the image of the Virgin kept in the small church of the Sanctuary of Maria del Patrocinio in Castelnuovo Berardenga is similar and has been considered miraculous for centuries.
We conclude our brief pilgrimage in Arezzo with the Collegiate Church of Santi Michele and Giuliano di Castiglione Fiorentino, which is preceded by an elegant porch that was completely restored in '800 and is the last of the "Jubilee churches" in the Diocese of Arezzo.