Badia of SS. Salvatore, Giusto and Clemente in Volterra (PI) - ArTeSalVa

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The Camaldolese Badia in Volterra (PI)

An old Camaldolese monastery in the province of Pisa

The Camaldolese complex was built around 1030. It was enlarged and decorated between the 17th and 18th centuries. It was abandoned in the middle of 19th century and in the last few years it has been partially restored.

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Badia of SS. Salvatore, Giusto and Clemente in Volterra (PI)

An old Camaldolese monastery in the province of Pisa

The Badia of SS. Salvatore, Giusto and Clemente overlooks the so called "cliffs" of Volterra near Pisa. Built around 1030 as a Benedictine monastery, the administration of the monastery was later handed over to the Camaldolese order. Enlarged and embellished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by famous architects and painters, it was abandoned after the earthquake of 1846. In 1866 the property of the complex was partly transfered to the state and partly alienated to private parties. in the last few years the complex has been partially restored, yet it is still in a state of decay.


The Badia Camaldese is located outside the city walls of Volterra on top of a promontory whose front edge is characterized by the rocky cliffs of the "balze," typical rock formations found in Volterra. The building's history is closely connected to its particular topographical location as well as to the events which took place at the ancient church of San Giusto al Botro. Tradition has it that two chapels at the burial sites of the saints Giusto and Clemente during the second half of the 6th century. After these original chapels were destroyed during the Lombard invasions, they were rebuilt and expanded at the end of the 7th century by Alchis, then "gastaldione" of the city of Volterra.

Between 1030 and 1034, bishop Gunfredo da Novara—in order to renew local reverence for the two saints—decided to restore the chapels, uniting them into a single architectural complex named San Giusto al Botro. On Mount Nibbio, an elevated site near the two chapels, Gunfredo also founded the Badia monastery which was dedicated to San Salvadore and placed under the rule of the Benedictine order. The new monastery was granted all those properties formerly belonging to San Giusto al Botro as well as many privileges which were confirmed and extended by subsequent bishops of Volterra. In terms of its architectural plan, the Badia was comprised of an eastward-facing main body divided into three naves by two rows of stone columns and culminating in an apse decorated by dichromatic stones and featuring lancet windows. Around 1113, the Benedictines of the Badia joined the rule of the order of San Romualdo and the monks donned the white cloak of the Camaldolese. These monks were placed in charge of both San Salvadore and San Giusto al Bordo and, due to their efforts, both churches were enlarged and enriched over the course of the following centuries.

 Around 1340, the abbot Fazio da Ravenna hired painters from the Giotto school to paint San Giusto al Botro. These painters also created frescos for the church of the Badia. The period of the "commendatary abbots" began in 1485 when Giusto di Gherardo Buonvici surrendered governance of the abbey to cardinal Giovanni Medici, who later became Pope Leo X. During this period, Mario Maffei (named abbot in 1516) and his successor Giovan Battista Riccobaldi del Bava began several new renovation projects for the structure. The cloister was restored between 1521 and 1551, although the work was interrupted from 1530-1532 when the monks abandoned the Badia as a result of a Florentine siege. When the monks returned, a stone quarry was opened in order to restore the buildings that had been damaged during the siege and, under Bava's direction, a new renovation project was begun. In 1562, Bava put an end to the commendatory period and handed control of the abbey back to the Camaldolese order, although he would maintain his role in the Badia's adminsitration until his death in 1566.

 The interior of the building underwent radical changes in 1576 as a result of the apostolic visit of bishop Giovan Battista Castelli, when the building was updated to meet the dictates of the Counter-Reformation. The church's walls were painted and the medieval frescoes were covered over.
Additional repairs also took place in the cloister, the dormitory, and—most significantly—the refectory, which was restored by master stone-cutters Bartolomeo Sandrini da Fiesole and Cosimo da Volterra. In 1597, the Florentine painter Donato Mascagni also furnished the refectory with a series of frescos depicting scenes from the lives of saints Giusto and Clemente.

 The church of San Giusto al Botro partially collapsed into the balze in 1614 and 1627 before totally collapsing in 1648, resulting in the transfer of many building materials and decorations to the Badia, where they were used to decorate the façade and the altars. In 1621, the monastery's western side was enlarged and the rooms of the ground floor of the abbot's quarters were given vaulted ceilings. During the second half of the 18th century the monastery underwent a general reorganization. The staircase providing access to the dormitories was rebuilt. The monasteries rooms were also plastered and new and new frames were put in place. A new granary was built on the right side of the nave and the church's columns were marbled and its altars were decorated with new bases and pedestals.

 In 1767 a large earthquake caused structural damage to the church. Along with the vaults and roof of the main nave, the church's façade, chancel, and tribune were rebuilt. In 1808, the abbey was suppressed by the Napoleonic government, but the monks took possession of the abbey again in 1816 and began to restore it, although the precarious condition of its structure threatened future catastrophe. In 1818, a portion of the dormitory ceiling collapsed. An evaluation conducted by the Florentine architect Gaetano Baccani revealed that the monastery was suffering from widespread deterioration. Its vaults were split open by large cracks and its walls were coming apart. In order to reinforce the Church, Baccani decided to build three external buttresses. In 1846, however, another earthquake caused new structural damage including several cracks as well as the collapse of vaults and rafters. After Italian Unification, the fear of another earthquake and the general instability of the structure led the monks to abandon the Badia and move into the convent of San Francesco.

 The abbey became property of the Italian government in 1866, which sold a part of the monastery and rented out the rest to private parties. In 1880, decorations from the church's interior and from its external walls were transferred to the Guarnacci Museum. The rest of the monastery was appraised during the following years. The Ministry of Public education, which had received part of the monastery from the Italian government, decided to consolidate the building in order to guarantee its survival but to leave the Badia in a state of ruin. After prolonged exposure to harsh atmospheric conditions, the church's roof collapsed in 1895. The town of Volterra then took charge of the structure, assuming the responsibility of its maintenance until 1907 when it returned it to the administration of the Italian government which once again decided to sell it. In the second half of the 20th century, part of the Badia was acquired by Volterra's Cassa di Risparmio which has secured the entire structure and financed its partial restoration.


Badia Camaldolese

via Pisana - 56048 Volterra (PI)

GPS coordinates: 43.415815,10.850608

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This section provides guidance on the archives that have been examined and the available archival sources gathered during the project.

  • Badia of SS. Salvatore, Giusto and Clemente in Volterra (PI)

    • Breve discorso su Volterra
    • Descrizione della Badia di Volterra
    • Dimostrazione dei capitali occorrenti per acquistare S. Francesco
    • Elezione del conservatore apostolico del monastero
    • Lettera (minuta) di Cesare Spighi al Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione
    • Lettera di Baldassarre Franceschini a Francesco Maffei
    • Lettera di Giuseppe Bessi al Sindaco di Volterra in riferimento agli affreschi della Badia
    • Lettera di Mario Maffei a Paolo Riccobaldi Del Bava
    • Lettera di Mario Maffei a Paolo Riccobaldi del Bava
    • Lettera di Mario Maffei a Paolo Riccobaldi del Bava
    • Lettera di Mario Maffei a Paolo Riccobaldi del Bava
    • Lettera di Mario Maffei a Paolo Riccobaldi del Bava
    • Lettera di don Viazzoli al procuratore generale in Roma
    • Perizia
    • Processo verbale della soppressa Badia di Volterra
    • Relazione del medico Jacopo Pagnini sulle iscrizioni antiche della Badia di Volterra
    • Ricordo
    • Ricordo dei denari necessari alla badia di Volterra
    • Ricordo del debito di 200 scudi della Badia di Volterra
    • Ricordo del prestito per la Badia di Volterra
    • Ricordo della cappella Minucci in S.Maria degli Angeli a Firenze
    • Ricordo della costruzione della Cappella Minucci in S. Maria degli Angeli a Firenze
    • Ricordo di un debito di Bernardo Buontalenti col monastero
    • Ricordo di un debito fatto per restaurare la Badia di Volterra
    • Rinuncia del Comune di Volterra alla conservazione degli affreschi della Badia
    • Riproduzione degli affreschi del refettorio della Badia
    • Risposta dell'abate generale dell'Ordine a Gherardini
    • Saggi di scavo alla Badia di Volterra e stacco dell'affresco del Franceschini
    • Scavi archeologici
    • Stato attivo e passivo della Badia Camaldolese di Volterra
    • Supplica del vescovo di Volterra al commissario imperiale per il rilascio di due busti d'argento dell'ex Badia
    • Visita alla Badia di Volterra
    • Visita alla Badia di Volterra nel 1767
    • Visita della Badia di Volterra nel 1785
  • Chronology

    In this section you can see a brief history of the most significant phases of construction, transformation and restoration of the buildings.


    • 568 hermits Giusto and Clemente’s burial grounds, situated near Volterra, are transformed into two small chapels
    • 583 the Lombards destroy the two chapels
    • 690 the gastaldione Alchi transformes the two chapels in two church dedicated to St. Giusto and St. Clemente
    • 1030 o 1034 the bishop Gunfredo da Novara restores the two churchs to merge them into a complex known as Saint Giusto al Botro. Near Saint Giusto al Botro is founded a Benedectine monastery and a new church
    • 1105-1113 the administration of the monastery is handed over to the order of the Calmadolese
    • 1139 the abbot Guido rediscovers the bones of Saint Clemente
    • metà XIV secolo the abbot Fazio da Ravenna has the old church of Saint Giusto painted by painters from the “Giotto school”
    • 1485 the abbot Giusto di Gherardo Buonvicini renounces the governance of the abbey in favor of the cardinal Giovanni Medici, future pope Leo X. The period of the commendatory abbots starts.
    • 1491 the old church of Saint Giusto is restored
    • 1516 Mario Maffei is nominated commendatory abbot of the abbey
    • XVI century Mario Maffei starts a phase of renovation of the abbey
    • 1530-1532 the monastery is abandoned after the sack of the city by Francesco Ferrucci
    • 1535 a stone quarry belonging to the abbey is opened and the church restored
    • 1562 Giovan Battista Riccobaldi del Bava, to whom Mario Maffei had ceded the abbey in commendam, renounces to the post in favor of the Camaldolese order but stays as administrator until his death in 1566
    • 1566 masters Bartolomeo Sandrini da Fiesole and Cosimo da Volterra work on the new refectory
    • 1576 following the apostolic visit, the walls are repainted thus covering the medieval frescoes
    • 1596 the master stone cutter Giovanni Tortoli da Fiesole works on the cloister
    • 1599 the cistern of the cloister is built
    • 1612 Giulio Parigi surveys the balze (rock formations typical to the Volterra area) and writes up a report of the state of the old church of Saint Giusto
    • 1614 the entrance stairs and façade of the old church of Saint Giusto collapse in the balze. Relics and artworks are saved
    • 1621 works to extend the structure continue, different rooms are covered with vaulted ceilings and the building expands north, towards the vegetable garden
    • 1627 other parts of the old church of Saint Giusto collapse. The up-keep of the church is given to the one of Saint Salvatore. It is decided that a new church dedicated to Saint Giusto just outside the door of Saint Francesco is to be built
    • 1632 the altars of the Nativity of Mary and Saint Romualdo are rebuilt in the church of Saint Salvatore using materials from the old church of San Giusto
    • 1648 the old church of Saint Giusto fully collapses into the balze
    • 1763 the granary over the nave of the church is rebuilt and the reservoir in the vegetable garden of the abbey behind the sacristy is made
    • 1764 the church’s façade is restored
    • 1767 a strong earthquake causes stuctural damage to the church. Stone stairs are built to access the dormitory and the small church within it
    • 1768  rebuilding work starts on the choir, apse, vaulted ceiling and roof of the nave of the church 
    • 1807 the henhouse is turned into living quarters for peasants
    • 1808 the abbey is suppressed by the Napoleonic government
    • 1816 the abbey is officially re-established
    • 1819 the oil mill is rebuilt, a big portion of the roof and vault of the dormitory collapses. Architect Gaetano Baccani is called in for a survey. The monastery and the church are in ruins, the vaulted ceilings are open and walls disconnected 
    • 1827 the first attempts of failed transfers of monks from the abbey to the convent of Saint Francesco are recorded
    • 1846 a strong earthquake causes damages to the church and convent, then repaired
    • 1861 the monks abbandon the abbey and move to the convent of Saint Francesco
    • 1866 the abbey is suppressed by the Italian government, then is in part sold and in part rented to private citizens
    • 1895 the roofs of the church’s naves collapse
    • 1936 some parts of the abbey are unstable
    • XX century a part of the abbey is bought by the Foundation of the Cassa di Risparmio di Volterra. The rest remains public domain.

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