The old Francigena Road and the Grancia of Montisi
The history of the long Francigena Road, which stretches from Canterbury, through France, and finally arrives in Rome, goes back beyond the time of documented history.
Since the beginning of the last millennium this important road was already well traveled by many pilgrims journeying to Rome and then back to their countries of origin. Along this route “rest houses” were organized for travelers, where one could find food, accommodation, medical care and various other services. These “rest houses” multiplied as time went by.
One of them, the “Spedale di S. Maria della Scala” in Siena (one of the most ancient European hospitals), carried out many works along the stretch of the Francigena Road crossing the Sienese territory, which became more and more important from the beginning of the 13th century onward. Following purchases and private donations, the Ospedale came into possession of large amounts of land in the Sienese area.
The necessity of managing the administration, storage and distribution of the land’s produce, led the Ospedale to build fortified farms, called “Grance”. Many Grance had been built by the second middle of the 13.th century. Today there are 15 Grance still in existence. The Grance were mostly built by enlarging or restructuring pre-existent buildings: some within or at the end of a village (Serre di Rapolano, St. Quirico and Montisi), others completely isolated in the country (Cuna, St. Giusto and Spedaletto). Up to the second half of the 18.th century they represented the hinge of the economical system of the Ospedale, which became the main agricultural producer of the Sienese State.
The “Granciere” (a friar nominated by the Ospedale) was at the head of the Grance, supervising all the production activities. The Grance included the Granciere’s home, the farmers’ homes, granaries, cellars, olive presses, wells, ovens, sometimes a grain mill, stables, barns and a small church.
Today nearly all the Grance have lost their original function. Some have become museums, others are used for concerts and exhibitions. Only one is still functioning as it did long ago: the Grancia of Montisi, purchased by our ancestor Jacopo Mannucci Benincasa in 1778 and still remaining in our family.