The Abbey of Farneta, dedicated to Santa Maria, rises on the small hill of Farneta, close to the beautiful town of Cortona, and excluded from the phenomenon of becoming a marsh thanks to the 320 metres of altitude that characterize it.

The foundation of the original monastery is reportedly to be attributed to the Benedictine and Olivetan monks between the 9th and 10th centuries, thanks to the intervention of the Counts Ronzano. However, the installation of much older materials re-used in the construction denote a preceding and older architectural significance. In fact, many archaeological findings from the Etruscan and Roman eras turned up in the immediate vicinity of the Abbey, such as the Etruscan vases and brick craters of the 4th century BC, so much so that we are led to suppose that the church with the apses oriented towards the east rose over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the god Janus or to Bacchus.

Roman civilization resided for a long time on this hill, to the point of making it possible to find coins dated from 217 BC and 275 AD and leaving its own imprint also in the place name of the locality. The origin of the word “Farneta” can in fact be traced back to the word “farnia” [English oak], from the Latin “farnea”, a vulgate name for designating a typology of oak tree. Farneta also acted as a river port during medieval times, with a landing stage for the boats that navigated on the Chiana, thus enriching itself considerably and assuming total autonomy also in the religious sphere, considering that the Abbey was independent of the parish of Montecchio and had been raised to the role of free priory with the further privilege of a baptismal font.

Thanks to its current appearance, the evident interventions which the church has collected can be attributed to the 18th century, as well as to the first half of the 20th century. Its interior reflects the tendency to a co-mixed cross planimetry, with a more developed transept. The raised presbytery is enriched with a total of four of semicircular apses, one of which is lateral. Both the crypt and the holy water stoup, made from two Roman capitals, indicate the commingling of tastes between ancient and medieval that can be found throughout the building. Connected to the Abbey of Farneta, a small archaeological and paleontological museum has been prepared in the sacristy that is the custodian of important fossils, Etruscan urns, and other findings of more than minor importance.

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