The Pieve di Santa Mustiola in Sticciano

On the Knights Templar trail in Maremma Tuscany

The Pieve di Santa Mustiola in Sticciano is on the Knights Templar trail in Maremma, but is it or isn't it a true Templar location in Tuscany? Take it from me, the answer doesn't matter, because the trip to see it will reward you with a view made in heaven and more.

Despite many interventions over the years to curb the land sliding around it, what you see today - apart from the bell tower which was rebuilt in the 19th century and, similarly, the double flights of steps to its main door - is pretty much how this church would have looked when it was first built.

Pieve di Santa Mustiola Sticciano Maremma TuscanyThe front of the church with the symbols in the door lintel, including the Knights Templar cross.

 

A little bit of history

The earliest surviving records to mention the Pieve are dated 1188, in which it is recorded as being dedicated to Santa Mustiola. It didn't receive its current day title of the Chiesa della Santissima Concezione until the mid-fifteenth century, when it came under the patronage of the Sienese Piccolomini family. Which is why, as far as its Knights Templar association goes, it is recorded as the Pieve di Santa Mustiola.

The Piccolomini family were Tuscan nobility, whose initial wealth came from trading (including arms). They had counting houses throughout northern-Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and England. Sticciano became their property in 1461. They also owned through the centuries nearby Castiglione della Pescaia and the Isola del Giglio. As well as a lot of other castles, towers and fiefdoms.

The lintel above the front door has carved geometric and floral designs, and two stylised eagles. As well as, in its centre, what is considered to be a Knights Templar cross.

Knights Templar cross in Sticciano Tuscany ItalyThe lintel is believed to pre-date this church, reused from the previous building on the site.

 

The two eagles in close-up. I can see a pupil in eye in the first one, can you? I know that it is only lichen that has formed it, but it has done so perfectly!

Sticciano church eagle

The second eagle - no pupil staring at me in this one!

Sticciano church stone eagle

 

Some of the lintel's floral and geometric decorations.

Chiesa della Santissima Concezione Sticciano carved floral and geometric stone decorations in the lintel above the front door.

 

A Knights Templar location in Maremma, or not?

Well, first of all, the Pieve di Santa Mustiola is documented amongst the churches and ancient pilgrims resting places in Maremma considered to be, without any significant doubt, Knights Templar sites.

However, in my research for this page, I spoke with a revered archaeologist in Maremma who knows his stuff about the churches and cathedrals around here, and he told me, irrevocably at that, that no Templar ever set foot there!

Apparently he isn't the only one to hold such an opinion, as one of his students wrote a whole thesis on the place and Templars there were not!

I made a mental note for when I ask him about other locations: apparently archaeology and the Templars don't get along together all to well ;)

 

But the jury is still out

But that said, in my humble opinion the jury is still out. Why? Well, because the likeness between the Sticciano Templar cross and the Knights Templar stone in the Cour del la Commanderie at La Rochelle - the Templar's French harbour headquarters and largest base - is nothing less than remarkable.

Take a look for yourself.

This is the Sticciano Templar cross.

Knights Templar cross

 

And this is the "croix templière en relief" at La Rochelle.

Templar cross at La Rochelle France

 

So, as much as I though that this church was going to be one of those on Maremma's Templar trail that I could say quite irrevocably was a Templar site due to the weight of historic evidence rather than legend, it appears that I can't!

But what does that matter when the view from the double steps to the front door is one that takes your breath away and is made for sitting and staring at the world. :)

The left side church door with no where to go! The hill top town in the background is Montepescali.

Sticciano Chiesa della Santissima Concezione in Maremma Tuscany

The view from the lovely village of Sticciano reaches all the way up and down the valley and across the plains of the river Bruna to the coast and out to the Tuscan archipelago. And inland to the hill towns of Vetulonia, Giuncarico, Montemassi, Roccatederighi, Sassofortino and Roccastrada - all made for days out exploring.

Panoramic views from Sticciano in Maremma Tuscany Italy

 

But if you look closely...

But it is the rear of the church - and its semicircular apse - that I found the most fascinating. When I really looked at it that is, because there were four "men" looking back at me!

Pieve di Santa Mustiola in Sticciano

 

Can you see their faces?

Apse of the Pieve di Santa Mustiola in Sticciano with stone Romanesque faces

It is clear that originally there were more - maybe another four. But the symmetry of the decoration pattern changes from one side of the apse to the other, so I can't be sure. But these are the four that remain visible today.

Romanesque man number one.

Romanesque stone face Sticciano

Man number two - a little harder to see in the photograph, but he is very evident when you are stood on site under him.

Romanesque stone face Sticciano

Man number three. This one is interesting because his eyebrows have been carved at an even height, which would have given him an altogether different kind of expression from the others.

Romanesque stone face Sticciano

 

Sticciano man number four.

Romanesque stone face Sticciano

 

And if you look closer still...

If you are standing at the rear of the church looking at the apse face on, above it on the left hand side you can see something else too. It isn't that obvious, but one of the sandstone building stones has words engraved on it with the date 1259.

Sticciano Pieve di Santa Mustiola stone carving with 1259 date

It is thought to probably be a reference to restoration works on the church, rather than its date of construction, which would have been much earlier.

I was hoping when I saw it that it was another Templar reference, but my archaeologist friend said no to that idea too!

The "campanile" - bell tower - was rebuilt in the nineteenth century, but it looks to me that it needs some attention on high pretty soon!

Pieve di Santa Mustiola bell tower Sticciano

 

 

Explore some more...

  • Take a walk around the village of Sticciano

 

 

 

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