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Strongholds and Battlefields Around Siena During Middle Ages, Siena, 25-26 October 1996

On 25 and 26 October the Siena's Tourist Department organised a conference on Strongholds and battlefields around Siena during Middle Ages.
Wilhelm Kurze opened the works considering the value of this kind of events, important also for the tourist promotion of a town like Siena, so deeply tied to its history and particularly to the Medieval period. The Tourist Department has published over the years some works of significant scientific value, as for example those by Wilhelm Kurze himself, collected in Monasteri e nobiltą nel senese e nella Toscana medievale, which is a valid contribution to the history of monastic institutions and to the events connected with the Tuscan territory.
This last conference has been very helpful in promoting scientific investigation, thanks to the number and variety of interventions. In his conclusions, Giuseppe Sergi gave a bright idea of the effectiveness of the works. The historian noticed how often conferences on local history deal with simple particularistic facts or with universal events not strictly related to the area. In this case, the lectures have succeeded in pointing out with precision general answers based on different local examples.
Four specific topics were discussed during the meeting: war events tout court on the opening morning; history of the structures on Friday afternoon; strategies and socio-political aspects of fighting on Saturday morning; relationships between castles and authority during the closing afternoon.
The first report, by Duccio Balestracci, started the works presenting the wars in Siena during the fourteenth century. The historian noted that in the course of that century Siena never lived in peace, and always had to control and defend its territory and, most of all, its boundaries. Afterwards, Aldo Settia related about military organisation and war technique in the collection of the Biccherna. These ancient books were the account registers of Siena, where any asset and outlay were written down. They are now a precious source of information and their reading originates acute and interesting reflections; wars were fought by all means and therefore were not a simple stereotyped ritual of knighthood: curiously, for example, one of the main expenses was that for magicians, astrologers and spies.
The next lectures were about the historical-architectural aspects. Italo Moretti proposed, with his usual sharpness, some interesting considerations on Siena's defensive structures. He pointed out that certain architectural elements had an aesthetic function more than a defensive one. Fabio Gabbrielli, thanks to the archive material he found, described the rich furniture and elegance of Spedaletto, a fortified grange owned by the Spedale of Santa Maria della Scala. The intervention by Roberto Parenti, interfacing archaeology with history of Art, suggested new answers to the ancient problem of the attribution of the fresco representing Guidoriccio da Fogliano in the Mappamondo room in Siena. On the following days the discussion about the argument continued on local newspapers.
It is worth noticing the novelty of Parenti's work. Applying archaeological methods to an object of art, he showed again how helpful can be to join various disciplines and schools.
This same principle was the core of the first lecture on Saturday morning. Andrea Giorgi and Roberto Farinelli presented the current state of their studies about castles in Siena's contado. Their competence linked historical and archive knowledge to the results of archaeological investigation. The two young researchers provided the guide lines of a widespreading of castles very common during the twelfth and the thirtheenth century, from which an economic reorganisation of the territory started. They defined this process secondo incastellamento, to distinguish it from the preceding ones, built with different functions, not yet completely explained.
Out of the Siena context, the works went on with the contribution of Gloria Papaccio and Paolo Pirillo. Joining again history and archaeology, they told about the episodes of a Florentine fortification system, in the Apennine Mountains, that defended the frontier between Bologna and Florence.
As the very title of her relation said, Angela Lanconelli described some territories "outside Siena's boundaries" presenting the fortresses of the Patrimonium, and how these were fortified and used by papal authority.
The two final relations, those by Amleto Spicciani and Mario Marrocchi, dealt with the relationship between castles and power. Spicciani illustrated the rule of castles since the eleventh century in organising the net of allegiances and ties for territorial defence, afterwards evolved in the feudal system. Mario Marrocchi explained how the strategic and military elements marked the history of a family of rural lords whose patrimonial lands were situated at the border with the Senese contado, in the ancient territory of Chiusi's county, in an area where different powers met and faced each other.
The acts of the conference Strongholds and battlefields around Siena during Middle Ages, due to their different approaches and to the variety of the argument, could be an useful inventory of specific facts, from which new and further progresses in the historiography may spring out.
It seems possible that military history could know a new scientific development based on original concepts and methods, already applied in the last years to other disciplines. Military history with its cross-cutting features, especially those concerning institutional, social and economical aspects, can provide new prospects to the Middle Ages historic investigation. Information: APT Siena, Via di Cittą 43. 53100 Siena Tel. 0577/281093-289378, fax 281041

Mario Marrocchi
(translated by Elisabetta Luchetti and Cristiana Marti)

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