Discovering the Jubilee in Tuscany: Livorno, Massa Marittima and Piombino

To celebrate the Year of Mercy, every diocese will open "Holy Doors" in its territory. A perfect opportunity to visit some of the finest regional churches

In Tuscany, the Jubilee itinerary that best combines the beauty of the territory with spirituality of the same is the Diocese of Massa Marittima-Livorno and Piombino. In this stretch of Etruscan coast are authentic jewels of religious architecture like the Cathedral of San Cerbone in Massa Marittima and centres of great religious importance such as Montenero Sanctuary.

 We open our coverage with their beautiful (and in our opinion underrated) Massa Marittima Cathedral, which rises at the top of a staircase overlooking the main square. The layout, from an urban point of view, is simply brilliant and the effect of the church violates the usual architectural perspectives - almost as if it popped out of a painting by Giorgio de Chirico - making it an example that is perhaps unique in the world. Its construction began in the early eleventh century but started long before that. At first glance, you'll see two styles: the Romanesque on the lower section and the Gothic style, which came about in 1287 when Giovanni Pisano oversaw works to enlarge and enrich the Cathedral. On the facade, the third order of columns is adorned with three spires.

 

 

We continue with "sister" churches, namely the small Co-Cathedral of Sant'Antimo in Piombino, which shares the role of fulcrum of the diocese with San Cerbone. Built in 1377, over a church dedicated to St. Michael, Piombino Cathedral was designed in a Sienese Gothic style and was initially dedicated to St. Augustine. Many changes have occurred over the years. The most extensive modifications happened in the 1930s, when the facade was restored and the left aisle was added. Meanwhile, following the suppression of the church of Sant 'Antimo in Canali, the cathedral inherited its name and dedication. The mosaic from the '30s is particularly beautiful and decorates the lunette above the main entrance.

 

 

The last "particular church" of the diocese is also the only one which will open an island Holy Door in Tuscany. It's the Church of the Nativity of Portoferraio, dedicated to the town's maritime history, as evidenced by the frescoes in which Elba entrusts its crafts to the Virgin Mary.

 

We move to the province (and the diocese) of Livorno and in particular to one of the holiest hills in the entire region, the mountain on whose slopes lies Montenero Sanctuary, where the Madonna is the patron of the region. The origins of the sanctuary date back to Pentecost 1345 when, according to tradition, a poor crippled shepherd found a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary and followed an intuition to a hill, then known as a refuge for bandits and therefore called the "mountain of the devil.” Beyond the legends surrounding the story of the image of Our Lady, it seems more likely that the icon appeared in Montenero after a revival of religious fervour, which took place around 1341. In that year, the inhabitants of Livorno, then little more than a village, organised a self-worship of holy images, something that was opposed by the ecclesiastical authorities. It's possible that the image was hidden and later found near the banks of the “Ardenzo" River. The legendary pastor is then said to have taken the image to the top of the mountain to be entrusted to the custody of a hermit.

 

 

We conclude the Jubilee pilgrimage on the Etruscan Coast with the St. Francis Cathedral in Livorno, almost completely rebuilt after the bombings of World War II. The facade has a porch with round arches, which some attribute to Inigo Jones, father of the English Renaissance. After the war, two other smaller arcades were added in front of the transept, while the apse area, already changed in the early decades of the twentieth century, was transformed with the construction of a large exedra flanked by the bell tower rebuilt there.

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