In southern Tuscany, there’s no shortage of churches, parish churches and monasteries dotting the Maremma. Pilgrims and travellers who love religious architecture can find breath-taking buildings, from Grosseto to Pitigliano.
We start in Grosseto, home to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, built beginning at the end of the 13th century under the direction of master builder Sozzo Rustichini, who also oversaw the construction of the façade of Siena’s cathedral. The church was later extensively restructured, but the southern side still conserves its original appearance. The portal is particularly impressive, richly decorated with plant, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic motifs.
In the same diocese as Grosseto’s cathedral, we find the Parish Church of San Martino in Batignano, a small church from the 12th century and built with recycled materials from Antiquity from the nearby town of Roselle.
We continue our little pilgrimage through the Maremma with the Jubilee churches in the diocese of Pitigliano, Sovana and Orbetello. The first is the Cathedral of Santi Pietro e Paolo in Pitigliano. The earliest mention of a parish church dedicated to the two saints was recorded in 1061, while by 1276, there were instead three, one of which – which was certainly located where the current cathedral is – later became a collegiate church and took the name of Santi Pietro e Paolo. The church was modified many times over the centuries, especially in 1509. The bell tower is particularly interesting, originally used for civic and military purposes. The structure only included two orders, but during the Medici era, a third one was added, transforming it into a proper bell tower.
Next up is the small and truly “secret” Sanctuary of the Addolorata in Cerreto, Sorano, built in 1854 with the aim of replacing the crumbling Parish Church of Santa Maria dell’Aquila and to commemorate when the Virgin Maryappeared to a local girl in that very place. The miraculous event was later celebrated with the addition of a chapel in the early 1900s.
Our journey comes to an end in the forest on the slopes of the Monte Argentario, home to the beautiful Sanctuary of the Presentazione di Maria Santissima, the headquarters of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Its construction began in 1733 under the direction of Paolo Danesi di Ovada, the founder of the congregation and later known as Saint Paul of the Cross. The saint, who arrived in Porto Ercole in 1721, decided to found his refuge on the mountain, and the bishop of Pitigliano gave him the Hermitage of Sant’Antonio. Once he gained a religious following, the priest built a new building in a place shown to him by the Virgin Mary. After construction was interrupted because of the War of Succession between the Spanish and Austrians, work began again, and on September 14, 1737, the sanctuary was opened for worship.