Convento dell' Osservanza

Convento Osservanza Radicondoli
Convento dell' Osservanza, Radicondoli
The Convento dell' Osservanza near Radicondoli nowadays provides for secular didactic activities. The Centro Studi Etologici and by the Ethoikos Society are engaged in ethological studies and teaching, while musical activities, including a music school, are provided by the Dulcimer Fondation pour la Musique.

History and architecture of the Convent

The structure of the Convent goes back to the end of the 15 C. Over four centuries it hosted a community of Franciscan Minor Friars devoted to strict Observance. The last friar died in 1960 and in 1962 the Convent was sold. In 1994, after years of neglect, the Convent was bought by a private company and restoration began in 1997 and was completed in the autumn of 2001.

The famous survey of Tuscany by Repetti indicates that the Convent goes back to 1447, but this is not confirmed in the documentation now held at the St. Francis Convent in Florence. The "Chronicles of the Friars Minor (or Lesser Friars) of the Ognissanti Province " states that the convent was founded in 1424 by a certain Friar Thomas of Florence but later to be abandoned due to the failure of the people of Radicondoli to contribute to the upkeep of the friars. In 1493 another Friar, Piero of Siena, was granted permission to sell the existing Convent and use the funds to build a larger structure. This report is confirmed in a more detailed account made by Friar Bulletti. In 1494, Pietro Vitelli of Siena, another Friar, who was anxious to see the return of the Observant Friars to Radicondoli, petitioned the Municipal Councils of Siena (Minore and Maggiore) in order to obtain a better-suited plot of land on which to build the Convent closer to Radicondoli. On the first of January of the following year, the council appointed four Massari (a kind of executive committee) and ordered them to negotiate with three Massari of the Opera di San Simone the terms for the transfer of Il Contarino, a area of land within the Alle Manente district belonging to the Opera di San Simone. The Municipality also charged the four Massari to set up a lime kiln for the use of the friars and other administrative duties until the construction of the Convent had been completed.

In 1589 the church was consecrated either by Monsignor Guido Servi or by Servidio Servidi, Bishop of Volterrra.

Don Angelo Santarelli, a former parish priest of Radicondoli, relates that following the suppression by the Napoleonic regime in 1810 and by the Italian State in 1865, Noferi Santi lay claim to ownership of the Convent until it was put up for sale in 1880. Various families owned it until the Bulgarini family acquired it.

The present structure results from the merger of two previously separate parts: the church and the convent proper. The approach is via a short cypress-lined avenue fronting the small portico of the church. This sizeable stone structure has a rectangular ground plan with a belfry embellishing its left side. The portico takes up the front elevation of the church and has a small rose window in the centre. It is the only external feature of the building which does not have a purely structural function. The portico facade consists of a series of three rounded cotto arches resting on brick pillars, this composition is mirrored by three stone pilasters on the rear wall. At its centre, there is a marble-rimmed door leading to the church. Inside, the single-nave church, is flanked by four gesso-built altars, two on each of the longer sides. The style of the ornamental features suggests that these were added during the 18 C restoration.

The presbytery has a square ground plan, with four corner pillars on which stand four rounded arches supporting the flat dome. The latter is adorned by a series of concentric decorative motives painted with shapes of small clouds and little angels which also seem to be of 18 C origin. Beyond the presbytery is the quire, covered with a barrel vault. The church has natural light through large windows placed high up on the longer sides. Two large wooden trusses hold the pitched roof structure.

From the outside, the Convent looks like a very simple rectangular structure around an internal cloister. This is the most important part of the building and the cloister obviously received great attention at the time of its original construction as indicated by its excellently balanced proportions and the very beautiful polycentric brick arches on the first floor. There are also other typical features of the monastic building tradition, such as the long internal corridors adjacent to the internal cloister. They too have been the object of great building care, they are covered by barrel vaults and crossed vaults at the corners. At intervals of about two metres, there are load-bearing arches which form a sustaining ribcage for the vault.
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