The Romanesque church of San Pietro a Cascia, built between 1130 and 1150 by Countess Matilde of Canossa, is considered one of the most beautiful and elegant churches of the Valdarno Superiore. Arriving in the square in front of the church, you will understand why title was attributed to the church.
La Pieve is located in the town of Cascia, a place strategically positioned because of the old Cassia Vetus (the current Setteponti) and the famous Wine Route that flow into this place. In the thirteenth century the churchyard played a very important role in the area and for many years, the Bishop of Fiesole also had the title “Pievano di Cascia” to demonstrate the importance of the church.
The beautiful facade of the Romanesque church of Cascia di Reggello, decorated with archers, is preceded by a four-arched loggia with classical columns and capitals. It is considered one of the most characteristic of the Valdarno, and was added in the Renaissance period in order to give more harmony to the structure and to offer shelter from bad weather to buyers in the market that used to take place in the square.
The square tower, which is on the right side of the church, dates back to an earlier period than the church structure. In fact it was formerly built by the Longobards in the VIII century with the purpose of guard tower. The tower has undergone many changes that can be seen due to the different size of the stones used for its structure.
The last major change made to the tower dates back to the early 1800s when new bells were put in place and the large windows were opened. From the top of the tower there is a breathtaking view of the Valdarno and the town of Cascia.
The interior of the Pieve di San Pietro in Cascia
Entering the Pieve di San Pietro in Cascia we directly notice the most classic Romanesque architecture. In fact we find a three-nave plant, of which the central one is double compared to the two lateral planes. The three aisles are delimited by 12 columns (six for each side) with capitals in Corinthian style. The interior of the church is illuminated by the sunlight that filters out 24 narrow single-faces that lie on the exterior walls and above the columns.
The presbytery area, bordered by two quadrant pillars, ends with a semicircular apse in which there is a 1200 carved wooden crucifix. For a period of time the interior of the church of San Pietro in Cascia was plastered and frescoed. Today, unfortunately, there is no trace of these frescoes except for a small detached detail located in the left nave depicting an announcement and attributed to Mariotto di Cristofano.
In the left nave, there used to be the “Trittico di San Giovenale” by Masaccio, a beautiful painting rediscovered in 1961 inside the church of the homonymous hamlet of Reggello. Currently the triptych is in the nearby Masaccio sacred art museum, behind the church.
If you are near Reggello or somewhere in the Valdarno, the visit to Pieve di Cascia is nearly mandatory.