Gragnanella and Castelnuovo, in Garfagnana Italy

by: halsema.org editors

To see additional photos and maps of Gragnanella, Castelnuovo, Garfagnana, and San Bartolome Church follow this link
Contemporary Gonfalon: Community of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana

"Gragnanella is an ancient medieval suburb surrounded by woods of chestnut tree and cultivated fields to 480 mt. of altitude, distant only 5 kms from Castelnuovo Garfagnana, chief town of the valley." The english meaning of the word Garfagnana is "Big Forest."

Running alongside the Provincial road, on the right side of the River Serchio, for 2305 metres up to Colletto, and then leaving it and climbing up the hill, situated on the left, 5 km far from Castelnuovo, you can find Gragnanella Castle, made up of 41 residences, with 21 families and 106 inhabitants. It has also 52 buildings scattered over the country, with 16 families and 101 inhabitants; so that the parish registers 207 inhabitants in total. In 1600 it had only 180 inhabitants and in 1832 only 157.

Its location is really agreeable; very fruitful is the soil, whose slabs are washed by the river Serchio; salubrious indeed is the air. The longevity of inhabitants in this village is remarkable, and it has always been also characteristic of its vicars.

The castle lays on the extremes slopes of mount Sombra. On the East is allocated Pievefosciana, on the South Castelnuovo, and on the North the other villages extending up to the Alp of S. Pellegrino. The stretch of road leading from that provincial road to Gragnanella is awful, and hardly practicable by beasts of burden. In ancient times it was a single village, but afterwards it was made of one piece with Castelnuovo.

Center of Cupola: San Bartolome Catholic Church, Gragnanella: Martyrdom of San Bartolome

Its parish church is devoted to s. Bartolomeo, and this is remembered in the title of S. Bartolomeo de Gragnano in the Papal Bull of Pope Alexander III dating back to 1168, addressed to Pievano of Pievefosciana. Its most ancient chancellor remembered is Baldassarre Bartolommei, elected on October 30th 1488 and in charge of it for 37 years. He asked the Pope and achieved on August 30th 1498 also the Benefice of S. Andrea from Cerretoli after the acknowledgement of the poverty of Gragnanella’s one. Among his successors, Antonio Bertoni from Vergemoli, appointed on June 1st in 1612, was remembered as a high-cultured man and was extremely devoted to the good of his church, for whose sake he vindicated half of the goods illegally usurped, partly out of others’ malice, partly out of negligence of the chancellors in charge before him (1). Obviously, this thing inevitably caused him pains and dangers, and eventually compelled him to retire for a while from Gragnanella. Lucca’s bishop Alessandro Guidiccioni the young, who loved and esteemed him eminently, summoned him and kept him at his house. When the situation was appeased, Bertoni came back to the affection of his parishioners, highly benefited by him especially thanks his singular charity. He founded the so-called Castle Hermitage, afterwards suppressed in the last century. Another of Gragnanella’s chancellors, Giovanni Fiori from Valico di Sotto is worth mentioning.

After directing for twenty years that Parish, Francesco IV, who appreciated his unusual doctrine, offered him the direction of the new Castelnuovo Seminar, and a job as teacher of theology and dogmatics. This village, willing to set up a Confraternity within its church, asked for approval of its Chapters by the Government on November 14th 1840.

The Rocca (fortress) of Castelnuovo

Gragnanella:
Land belonging to the Vicarship of Castelnuovo. In the Bull issued by Alessandro III it is mentioned as Ecclesia S. Barthol. De Gragnano, and this is not to be confused with Gragnana, since the church of Gragnanella is subject to Pieve of Fosciana, tackled in the Bull, whereas Gragnana is subject to Pieve di Piazza, which is entirely Diocesis of Sarzana. It has a Parish, and it has its own commune. Dating back to 1593, when the priest Piero Campori, who became successively Cardinal, was Secretary of Mons. Cesare Speziano Bishop of Cremona, and Papal Nuncio for emperor Ridolfo, for apostolic letters of Clemente VIII. He had among his others entries a 50-golden-ducats annual pension for being a lifelong invigilator over the vicarships of the jointed villages of Gragnanella and Cerratolo.

Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Saint Peter and Paul, small Romanesque Cathedral of XII the century.

Castelnuovo:
Although Roque Leonardi was born and baptized in Gragnanella, it seems he may have move to the Castelnuovo area of Garfagnana before he left for Menorca.

The Territory
Situated at an altitude of 277 metres, Castelnuovo is the principal town and the heart of the green Garfagnana area, a territory that constitutes the northern part of the valley of the Serchio River, which runs between the mountain walls of the Apuan Alps and the Appenines. The town is 40 km from both Lucca and the Versilia coast.

The ancient outlying villages of Palleroso, Monterotondo, Antisciana, Gragnanella, Cerretoli, Colle and Rontano are beautifully situated and accessible on country paths through "green woodland. A walk to these viIlages alllows visitors to be in contact with nature and at the same time to discover the traditional daily rhythms of an agricultural people and to admire their rural architecture.The town's patron is St Peter, with his, feast day on 29 june.

'The main festivities include the Carnival, with its procession of floats and masked celebrants, Commerce Week in August, and the traditional September Fair featuring folklore, sport, mu'sic, gastronomy and artisan activities. But all the way from June to October there is continuous cultural activity, with the outlying villages featuring traditional popular events. From Castelnuovo the most important tourist sites of the Serchio Valley can be quickly reached. There is trekking on foot or on horseback, mountains-bike itineraries, modern and efficient sports facilities for any sort of activity-from swimming to tennis, football and athletics.

Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral Facade, Castelnuovo.

Historical Background:
The earliest documents date back to 740 AD, when Castelnuovo must have been a small village depending on the nearby parish church of Fosciana. By 872, just over a century later, the town was alreadv defended by walls and castles.

Under CountessMatilda it became came a transit point. Then followed Frederick I, the Papacy, a free commune, the Florentines and the Pisans fighting Lucca for control. The ring of defensive walls was enlarged in the l4th century. In 1430 the town, together with many other Garfagnana settlements, submitted voluntarily to the rule of the Este family and obtained important privileges that brought it to the highest point of its development.

Interior of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral Castelnuovo, Garfagnana. Ceramic altar peice by the famous artist Della Robbia.

Castelnuovo became Provincial capital and as such the residence of the commissars and governors sent to rule over the Province. Among these were the poets Ludovico Ariosto (1522 1525) and Fulvio Testi (1640 - 1642).

At the end of the 18th century the occupying French forces put down a popular uprising with great harshness. With the establishment of the Napoleonic principality of the Baciocchi family the town because the seat of a prefecture. The Este family was then restored to power and ruled the Garfagnana till 1859, when by plebiscite it was annexed to Piedmont and in 1860 to the Kingdom of Italy. lt was included in the Province of Massa and again became the seat of a sub-prefecture. In 1924 Castelnuovo was fìnally transferred to the Province of Lucca. 

1) This fact is mentioned in the following inscription:
D.O.M. -DE ANNO MDLXXXXIII DIE XIII APRILIS- PRESENS ECCLESIA ESPOLIATA FUIT DE MEDIETATE- BONORUM MALITIA ALIQUORUM ET RECTORUM- NEGLIGENTIA TANDEM DIVINO AUXILIO ET- ILLUSTRISSIMI ET REVERENDISSIMI D. D. ALEXANDRI VIDICCIONI EPISCOPI- FAVORE RESTITUITA FUIT IN PRISTINU IUS- ANNO MDCXVII DIE XII APRILIS RECTORE ET ACTORE PRESBITERO ANTONIO BERTONIO- DE VERCELLIO.

In this church you can also read this other epigraph:
STEFANO . DINIO. MILITUM . TRIBUNO- CARPI . REI . MILITARIS . PRAEFECTO- CAPHERONIAE . QUESTORI .- DEFUNCTO . AN . CIXXXVIII . AVO. B. M. MAXIMUS . P. ANN CICICLIII.


The Leonardi Family Home Page - Site Index - Search - Contact Information - Guestbook

Updated Thursday, December 2, 2004