Immersed in the green of the Casentino, there is a place where history, spirituality and mystery meet and give those who visit it an unforgettable experience: it is the Pieve di San Pietro a Romena.
Located on the slopes of the hill dominated by the remains of the castle of the Guidi Counts, on the right bank of the Arno, in the territory of the municipality of Pratovecchio Stia, the baptismal church is the absolute masterpiece of Romanesque architecture in Casentino.
The building, declared a national monument for its importance, was built in 1152 by the parish priest Alberico. As the abacus of the first capital on the left says, the parish was built “in tempore famis”, that is in times of famine, by local and Lombard workers with influences from beyond the Alps, similar to those who worked in other Romanesque churches in Casentino such as Santa Maria a Stia and San Martino in Vado.
Place name of Etruscan origin, Romena probably already housed a temple that was readapted in Roman times. A Christian building later rose on the pagan building. Descending under the staircase on the right wall, you can admire the traces under the present raised presbytery of an early medieval triabsidate church built between the eighth and ninth centuries.
Over the remains of this structure Alberico built the architectural masterpiece with three naves that we admire today, although shortened compared to the initial project. The stone facade is not the original one because it collapsed in 1678 because of a landslide that swept the first two bays. The church was thus rebuilt shorter than about seven meters, with only five bays. An earthquake in 1729 did new damage, partially collapsing the robust bell tower, which was much higher than the present one.
Fortunately, the apse remained intact with two orders of overlapping arches and its multitude of columns, single lancet windows, mullioned windows and triple lancet windows, symbol of the parish and iconic image of Casentino. Inside the austere stone and the light that filters immerse the visitor in an extraordinary mystical dimension, in which sacred and profane intertwine seamlessly. Each capital and its abacus that surmount the powerful cylindrical columns is a small carved universe of symbols, human figures, real and mythological animals, biblical quotations and plant motifs to interpret.
For security reasons, the precious works that housed the church are visible inside the Propositura del Ss. Nome di Gesù a Pratovecchio. The most important are a panel with the “Madonna enthroned with the Child” of the late thirteenth century attributed to the Master of Varlungo and a dismembered triptych by Giovanni del Biondo of 1386, of which the central part with the “Madonna with the Child and Saints Peter and Paul” and a side part with “San Giovanni Battista and Sant’Antonio Abate”.
Today the parish is home to the Fraternity of Romena, a community that since 1991 has had the welcoming of people as its first value. Inspired by the parish priest that in the twelfth century built the church in a time of serious hardship for the population, offering God human creativity, the community founded by Don Luigi Verdi welcomes all those who cultivate, even unconsciously, the flower of beauty.
In front of the rectory and around the church is the Garden of Beauty, a natural terrace on the Casentino to relax and play in freedom and security. Inside there is a mulberry tree with a cross, which is the point of meditation where people meet or meditate. Another fascinating outdoor space is Lo Sguardo, an area in the shape of an octagon in front of which there is a cross overlooking the valley, from which you can send a message of love to anyone.
The Fraternity of Romena is a spiritual place for laic people, religious, families and anyone who wants to get back in touch with oneself, others and nature, inserted in a unique historical and landscape context.
Romena Castle, castle of the Guidi Counts