Parrocchia

Santi Pietro apostolo e Marco evangelista

Pieve a Nievole



History


St. Peter “Prope Neure” Ancient Church
The current Sts. Peter Apostle and Mark Evangelist parish church is most likely superimposed on the ancient plebs Santi Petri de Neure (cfr. Atti Tavole Rotonde, vol. 1) mentioned for the first time in an old paper bearing the date 21st May 700, kept in hard copy at Lucca Historical Archive.
The ancient church is also cited in a later document dating February 716: it is a report compiled in the very church intended to settle a dispute between the bishops of Lucca and Pistoia about administrative borders: the latter gave formal undertaking in the presence of King Liutprando’sheralds that he would that he would acknowledge that the church would be under Lucca’s sphere of influence.
No traces remain in existence of this earlier building, presumably made out of wood, it is however probable that some archaeological evidence is still lying within the current church’s perimeter. Nevertheless, due to a shallow depth soil, we are afraid that the 12th and 19th century constructions may have deleted what was left.
Nothing do we know about what happened throughout the centuries, and as far as chronological dating is concerned, the information we have is derived from archaeological and architectural features.

Twelfth Century Rebuilding
We can state that the ancient St. Peter a Neure church had been increasing in importance for centuries until it was completely rebuilt in the late 12th century: the renovation work fell within a wider modernisation process addressed to all the churches in the Lucca district. The 12th century church floor plan can be recreated through both the 1820s Leopold-era Land Registry and the 1997-1998 archaeological excavations (cfr. Atti Tavole Rotonde, vol.3).
The building was extended so far as to become one of the largest churches throughout the Lucca territory. A quite impressive-sized bell tower was added to the historical complex (the current bell tower restored in 2008 was build on the still today unbroken original base), accommodations and service spaces were enlarged (part of the previous fortified building is still in elevation but it has now become part of private buildings next to the bell tower [cfr. Tavole Rotonde, vol. 2, p. 4]). Massive foundations’ archaeological remains account for a defensive wall surrounding the ecclesiastical compound, including the dwelling and the courtyard designated for the tithe collection.
A twenty-six Venetian silver coins “nest egg” together with a small molten-lead cross, definitely a devotional artefact, can be both ascribed to the ancient Pieve a Nuere’s heyday: the latter is a typical pilgrim object found in the church burial site, dated towards the end of 11th century and currently kept in the parish. The coins are preserved at Larciano Museum.

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries Decadence
Sequences of political unrest, wars and devastating epidemics caused St. Peter a Neure church’s unceasingly relentless downfall (cfr. Atti Tavole Rotonde, vol. 2, p. 33). People and clergy had sought shelter and escaped to the fortified hamlet of Montecatini, leaving the potentially dangerous and unhealthy swamps.
The past glorious church, whose priest-in-charge had already moved elsewhere, was neglected but it still kept on serving the poorest people from the countryside who could not afford to leave the area, in spite of the imminent threats. During the 1430 pastoral visit, the church was in a serious state of disrepair: the furnishings had completely deteriorated and the baptismal font was found smashed into pieces and therefore impossible to use.

The Renaissance
Archaeological traces show that operations were probably resumed starting from the 16th century, even if the site’s return to life is due to the impressive population growth that will take place only from the following century onwards (cfr. Atti Tavole Rotonde, vol. 4).
The church was under extremely poor conditions and its “in cornu evangeli” side aisle (the one on the left side entering) had collapsed. The arches underwent a just-enough quick fix in order to make the whole building usable. In the meantime, the bright and large brand new Corpus Domini Company’s Chapel had been finished in 1700. The chapel was built on people’s request, probably in order to meet their need: the previous and crumbling church was no longer able to carry out its role as a proper place of worship. It had in fact lost its parish-status and downgraded to a minor church, subjected to the Rectory of St. Peter Apostle (already called St. Michael the Archangel), located in the near-by hill of Montecatini.
Such a negligence situation had been going on for years up to 1820s, when some of the Grand Duke’s engineers ascertained that a renovation project would have been unfeasible cause of the building’s high deterioration rate.
This compelled them to the planning for a new church and the project was undertaken by the Bernardinis, a very well-known craftsmen and architects family (cfr. Atti Tavole Rotonde, vol. 1). Together with this church, finished in 1846, they also were in charge of two other churches’ construction: San Leopoldo in Albinatico and Santa Maria della Neve in Chiesina Uzzanese. The three buildings are very similar and characterised by a plain neoclassical style. Since then there have been no historically relevant events and history has turned into current affairs.

N.B. - All the references to Quaderni Pievarini and Atti Tavole Rotonde can be downloaded from www.sanpietroaneure.it, our historical studies centre website.