• Castello di Catignano
  • Catignano, Gambassi Terme
  • Italy
  • Tuscany
  • Florence
  • Gambassi Terme


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  • 1000 AD - 1600 AD


    • The excavation of the castle of Catignano had as its main objective the collection of new data which would aid in the diachronic reconstruction of settlement and production dynamics in this territory and shed light on the inherent problems of the transition from late antiquity to the medieval period. Its position along a stretch of the via Francigena and via Volterrana, provided the possibility for making a closer examination of the medieval road network. The synergy of the data gained from historical sources and archaeology should make it possible to establish the castle’s typology, reconstruct its evolution and check whether an early medieval village developed there, as the toponym of Roman predial origin would appear to indicate. Catignano castle was one of the earliest of the twelve castles included in the census of the municipality of Gambassi. It was first mentioned as a castrum in 1075, but the toponym already appeared in 1007. It was the home of the Cadolingi counts, under whom it probably underwent incastellamento. When this family line came to an end in 1113 it became the property of the Alberti and the bishops of Florence and Volterra. In 1237 it became a municipality together with Varna, under the jurisdiction of San Gimignano, although remaining autonomous. Amongst the entourage of the Cadolingi the nobiles of Catignano stand out. They held power until the end of the 13th century, when the castle was annexed by a Florentine contado. In 1313, on the passage of Arrigo VII in the Valdelsa, it was partly dismantled. It suffered further damage in 1325 during the war against Castruccio. The plague epidemics of 1348 and 1363 caused further degradation. It continued to survive as a municipality and in 1537 corrected and formulated its own statutes. In 1564 the population was constituted by ten families. In the 2008 campaign three excavation areas were opened on the summit of the hill. The investigations produced the following results: - the uncovering of substantial tracts of the curtain wall on the south side and of a square tower. The walls were abandoned in 14th-15th century, the tower in the 16th century. - The walls of at least five rooms were uncovered. Room B was destroyed by fire during the second half of the 15th century: the finds recovered (a shield boss, arrow head, sword) attest a siege. In the 16th century new structures were built upon the collapses of the earlier buildings (not yet excavated). Of the new structures patches of terracotta floors came to light in rooms A, B and C. These were robbed in the 17th century. - Between the 18th and 20th century the summit was sporadically occupied. Continuity of use of the towers seems probable. Residual fragments of jars datable to the 10th-12th century and a fragment of an Attic vase attest the prolonged use of the site, the substance and nature of which will be defined by future excavation campaigns which will extend investigations to the whole of the summit area.
    • The second excavation campaign on the castle of Catignano (Gambassi Terme, FI) took place in the summer of 2009. The northern curtain walls and a part of those to the east, west and south were identified. The results showed that part of the wall together with the square tower uncovered in the previous year, were the earliest structures, probably part of the keep. During the 16th century silos and rooms A, B, C, G, H, I, some with cellars, were constructed in this vast quadrangular area, partially cutting into the earlier occupation levels. Area 1000 was widened in the direction of tower B, so that it covered all of the summit plateau between the two brick towers, and also extending the east and west limits of the area. Seven new rooms were partially excavated. Excavation of the rooms identified in 2008 continued, concentrating on the three silos in rooms A and C and uncovering the cellar abutting room B. Area 3000 was extended to the north-west and south-east of the curtain wall, thus documenting the latter’s limits. The entire north-western stretch of the wall, from the north-west corner to the square tower was uncovered. A walled structure revealed in plan was interpreted as the northern entrance. Abutting the north-west side of the curtain wall was a rectangular room with a floor of mezzane tiles, similar to the floors in rooms A and C situated inside the perimeter of the wall. On the south-east side a small part of the curtain wall was found, documenting the south-eastern limit of the defensive walls. Numerous fragments of oil jars a beccaccio, found in secondary deposition, used as fill or in the foundations of the walls for the new rooms, may be indirect evidence of the territory’s agricultural vocation, in particular olive cultivation around the mid 14th century. The finds dated the main phases of the site to between the 12th and 17th century. Seven phases were distinguished: PHASE I (pre 14th century): construction of the curtain walls, square tower and keep on the summit. PHASE II (14th-mid 15th century): partial reuse of the keep walls for the construction of new rooms. PHASE III (second half of the 15th century): destruction and abandonment of rooms A, B and C, M and N; damage to the curtain walls. PHASE IV (end of the 15th-beginning of the 16th century): reorganisation of the summit area: rebuilding of the walls; new rooms built on the collapses of the preceding structures, some with cellar, and three silos. PHASE V (16th century): period of use of rooms A, B, C, H and the silos. PHASE VI (17th-18th century): abandonment of the structures within the walls; destruction of the curtain walls; construction of rooms E, D and O abutting to the exterior the remains of the curtain walls. Construction of the brick towers. PHASE VII (18th-20th century): sporadic occupation of the hill.
    • The excavations concentrated on the south-western area of the site. The south part of the curtain wall, with new rooms attached, was exposed. Trenches were opened on the north curtain wall and on the structures in the central area. The cellar of room G was partially emptied. Two test trenches on the south-western part of the hill confirmed the presence of an archaeological deposit. The data acquired from three excavation campaigns suggests a number of hypotheses regarding the structures present in the three main identified periods and their spatial distribution. _Period 1 (12th-13th century): foundation and occupation of the first castle of the Cadolingi_ The stratigraphy relating to this period had been removed by subsequent restructuring, however a careful analysis of the walls provided enough data for a reconstruction of how the site probably would have looked. The construction technique of the northern curtain wall, in squared limestone blocks with worked surfaces, is the earliest, but it is not known how far it extended or whether it completely surrounded the hill. It is certain that a large stone structure stood at the centre of the site and the towers A and B probably already existed. The four silos at the centre of the hill probably date to this phase; they were subsequently destroyed by fire during the 14th century. Therefore, the first castle of the Cadolingi, mentioned in medieval documents, probably only originally consisted of a quadrangular stone fortification, to which two stone towers and the silos were added soon afterwards (end of the 12th-13th century?). _Period 2 (14th-first half of the 18th century): refoundation of the castle_ Almost all of the structures found date to this period. The new curtain wall had a rectangular plan (circa 15 x 25 m) with a small, square tower in the north-eastern corner. To the east and west the new brick-built wall rested on the foundations of the two large towers. Inside the fortification there were six quadrangular rooms, some with small square structures (well?, storage for dry foodstuffs?). Rooms B and G had cellars accessed by brick-built stairs. The main entrance, in the south curtain wall, opened onto a corridor with a short staircase leading to an open space (room A), delimited by Tower A and Room C, whose upper floor was reached by a staircase. The curtain wall, compromised by land slippage or collapses, was rebuilt during several interventions and reinforced with new facings. This new structure can be dated to between the end of the 13th and the first half of the 14th century, when Catignano was part of the _contado_ of Florence. The Florentines probably undertook the work of rebuilding the castle, which included the excavation of the central part of the hill with the loss of the floors and walls of the earlier castle. _Period 3 (second half of the 15th-16th century):farm structure and abandonment_ Following the destruction of the 14th century castle, which had lost its defensive function, the site was gradually transformed into a farm, exploiting the 14th century rooms but changing their function and organisation. A brick threshold in room H functioned as the entrance to the farm. Some rooms were paved with _mezzana_ tiles. The remains of a stone hearth came to light in room B. The cellars below rooms G and B were reused. The finds from the collapses consisted of the domestic equipment in use on the farm in the 16th century. The structure’s final abandonment was probably caused by a natural disaster, clear evidence of which is visible in the southern part of the site: land slippage, or the earthquake which occurred in the mid 18th century. Subsequently the site was sporadically occupied.


    • M. Mendera, S. Bartali, B. Tixier, 2009, Gambassi Terme (FI). Catignano: la campagna di scavo 2008, in “Notiziario della Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici della Toscana”, Firenze: 367-368.