Certaldo - Pretorian Palace
Piazzetta del Vicariato 4, Certaldo
tel. +39 0571 661219
April – October: every day 9:30 – 1:30 a.m. / 2 – 7 p.m.; November – March: 9:30 – 1:30 a.m. / 2:30 – 7 p.m., closed on Tuesday
In Certaldo Alta, you just need a glance to be seduced by the medieval village, intact and timeless. The Praetorian Palace is its center; let's think of the time when this place was the seat of power, and of the space that goes towards the horizon of the country behind its walls. For now, just one name: Semifonte.
The emperor Federico Barbarossa, in order to oppose the Republic of Florence and control the via Francigena, entrusted the counts Alberti with the Tuscan castles from Prato to the Val d'Elsa, but Prato was soon lost and the Alberti retreated onto this hill. They began to work on the construction of a new city, Semifonte. Florence responded and took possession of the Pogni castle, which was nearby. Only the suspension of the works calmed the Republic of Florence but, when they resumed, the Republic intervened to dismantle the defense towers of Certaldo, razed Pogni and Semifonte to the ground, and ceded the duties of the Francigena. This was the final blow. In the following years, the fief of the Counts Alberti was always linked to Florence, acting as the cornerstone against neighboring Siena. With just one, extraordinary, exception. Dante talks about it in Canto Ten of Inferno: the battle of Montaperti:
The havoc and great slaughter
which caused the Arbia to be colored red
[Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Hell, X chant]
The figure of Farinata degli Uberti stands out. He is a Florentine, who defeats the invincible Florence fighting with Siena, but in Empoli heroically opposes the decision of the winners to raze his city to the ground.
A remnant from that era in the Praetorian Palace can be found in the prisons, the hearing room, the chapel and the private accommodations. The adjacent Church of Saint Thomas and Prospero also houses the Tabernacle of the Executed, which was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli, and that originally was placed along the banks of the Agliena torrent, and received the last prayers of the executed. Moreover, there are two wide gardens: the first houses the contemporary work of art, the Garden of the Tea House by Hidetoshi Nagasawa, and the second the Time Capsule by Alan Sonfist.