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The Balestro crossbow tournament in Sansepolcro


Interior of San Giovanni di Evangelista at Sansepolcro


Weekly market at Sansepolcro

Welcome to Sansepolcro
from Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population:  15,923 (2004)
Official website:
Sansepolcro
Wikipedia: Sansepolcro
Map:
MapQuest

Sansepolcro - or Borgo San Sepolcro as it is also known - is a town on the western borders of Tuscany in the upper reaches of the Tiber River Valley, a hop skip and jump from Umbria, the Marche and Emilia Romagna.

Although Sansepolcro has not been overly blessed by great architecture or splendid monuments, it is a pleasant place to spend time after driving through the verdant Tuscan (and Umbrian) countryside that surrounds the town.

The recently renovated Romanesque "cathedral", dedicated to San Giovanni di Evangelista, incorporates a few Gothic and Renaissance touches, there is a 16th century fortress, and a few palazzos representing Gothic, Renaissance and Mannerist traditions (Palazzo Pichi, Palazzo Giovagnoli, Palazzo Rigi, Casa Piero della Francesca).  In short, Sansepolcro's old quarters branching off its main street, the ancient Via Matteotti, are a pleasant stroll and, when hunger strikes, you can sit to a very good Tuscan lunch or dinner at Fiorentino's.

Sansepolcro does have various claims fame.  It is, for instance, the terminus of the FCU railway, a privately owned concern that serves the region.  It is also headquarters of Buitoni, one of Italy's largest and most successful pasta manufacturers.  But, Sansepolcro is principally distinguished as the birth - and resting - place of the great, and extremely influential Renaissance painter, Piero della Francesca (1420-1492 AD).  Two lesser lights, the mannerist painter, Raffaellino del Colle (1490-1566 AD)and the proto-Baroque painter and architect, Santi di Tito, (1538-1603 AD) were also sons of Sansepolcro.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the towns people take great pride in their Civic Museum and Gallery (Museo Civico) where works of these, and other artists, including a piece by Luca Signorelli, can be viewed along with a wide variety of artifacts and objet d'art dating to a time before Sansepolcro was said to be founded, in 1000 AD or so.  Of particular note is an indisputable masterpiece, Piero's painting of the Resurrection, which he painted in 1463 AD.

As to Sansepolcro's history, much is lost in the mists of time.  It was said to be founded in 1000 AD by two pilgrims returning from Jerusalem.  Legend has it they built an oratory around relics they claimed had come from Christ's sepulcher - hence the name "San Sepulcro".  The Benedictines established an abbey here in about 1012 and more or less governed the town, but it soon came under the control of a local family, the Camaldolesi.  By the early part of the 13th century, the town was under the aegis of the city of Arezzo, then of Perugia.  By 1441 AD it was absorbed into the territory ruled by the Florentine Republic, where it stayed until it was overtaken by the powerful Lorena dukedom, whose rule was ended by the Napoleonic conquest.  The Treaty of Vienna restored Sansepolcro to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany where it remained until the Duchy was absorbed into the modern state of Italy in 1861.

Today, tourism, woodworking, gold-smithing and earthenware pottery manufacture supplement the economic activity of the larger food processing and confectionary industries that find their home in Sansepolcro.

Art lovers devoted to Piero must visit Sansepolcro because The Resurrection must be seen.  Others may find there way here simply because an exploration of western Tuscany is a wonderful way to spend a day or two.  In either case, a visit to the town will not disappoint.

by Vian Andrews, September 5th, 2006

Region of Tuscany

43°34′N 12°09′E

Distances

Anghiari - 11 km;
Citta di Castello - 18 km;
Arezzo - 40 km;
Montepulciano - 87 km;
Perugia - 70 km;
Siena - 100 km:
Florence - 117 km;
Lucca - 186 km;
Pisa - 220 km;
Rome - 236 km

Directory

Places to stay near Sansepolcro

Country House Torre del Guado

Villa La Castellaccia

 


Coat of Arms of Sansepolcro

 


The Resurrection, by Piero, in the Pinacoteca of Sansepolcro

 
During his last years, Piero wrote two major treatises on art: On the Five Regular Bodies, which analyzed the symmetry and geometry of the human body, and On Perspective in Painting in which Piero laid out the rules for mathematical perspective in painting.  Both books were "mandatory" reading for Renaissance artists.
 
Did Piero's Resurrection save Sansepulcro  from allied bombing during WW2?  Some say that the city, a local Axis  headquarters was to be bombed, but that the officer in charge, knowing that Aldous Huxley had declared the Resurrection the most important painting in the world, scotched the bomb run.
 
Other notable ancient churches in Sansepolcro are Chiesa di San Francesco, the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Chiesa di San Rocco, and the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino.
 
Festivals and events: The "Palio della Balestra" (Crossbow Tournament) held every year on the second Sunday of September.  Everyone decks out in Medieval costume.