The Museum of Religious Art at Tavarnelle Val di Pesa

The Museum of Religious Art at Tavarnelle is situated in the rooms on the first floor of the rectory beside the Parish Church of San Pietro in Bossolo. The collection was created in 1989 with artworks from the local churches, plus others already stored in the rectory of San Pietro and in the Church of Santo Stefano al Ponte in Florence. The Museum is mainly composed of 13th-18th century paintings, religious furnishings and a small collection of votive offerings.
The structure of the Parish Church of San Pietro that we see today probably dates from the second half of the 11th century and still preserves its original design on three naves with apses and arches supported by pilasters, thanks to the restoration and restructuring carried out in 1946-1947 to eliminate the Baroque additions. The portico on the façade was added at the beginning of the 16th century, when the rectory, which housed the community of priests who lived near the parish church and only went to its dependent churches (or suffragan churches) to celebrate Mass, was also restructured. Parish churches were the only places in the area that could administer Baptism: the foundations of a building identifiable with the ancient baptistery that once stood in front of the church and a large baptismal font in stone, now preserved in the parish church, were found, among other things, during the excavation campaign of the 1960’s.{slide= Paintings and liturgical furnishings}The Museum hosts several glass cases with 15th to 19th century liturgical furnishings; they come mainly from the nearby Churches of Santa Lucia al Borghetto, San Lorenzo a Vigliano and Santa Maria al Morrocco, as well as from San Pietro in Bossolo itself, where the two processional crosses (13th century circa) originated.The oldest painting in the collection also dates from the second half of the 13th century and is a Madonna and Child on a gold background in the typical Byzantine style of Florentine painting of the period. This painting on wood is attributed to Meliore di Jacopo and originally came from the Oratory of San Michele a Casaglia, even though it had long been housed at San Pietro. The early 15th century Madonna and Child by Rossello di Jacopo Franchi, believed to have miraculous properties, was instead removed from San Giusto a Petroio and brought to San Pietro in a great procession in 1718 to be placed in a chapel that had been built especially for the occasion. Old photographs show that various pieces of jewellery (crowns, rings) were once attached to the painting as a sign of homage and majesty: these and other additions were eliminated after its restoration in 1995.The Museum also contains paintings on wood from the Sanctuary of Santa Maria at Morrocco, situated only a short distance from Tavarnelle. These paintings were carried out by Florentine Neri di Bicci in the 1570’s for the three altars of the church, which was founded shortly before by Niccolò Sernigi: the Trinity was placed above the high altar, though only two large fragments of the work, featuring the Madonna and St. Sebastian and the St. John the Evangelist and St. Rochus, survive today; the Lamentation over the dead Christ and the Madonna of Milk and Saints stood above the side altars.Other works in the museum include the triptych of the Madonna and Child and Sts. Peter and John the Evangelist attributed to Ugolino di Nerio, the late 14th century Madonna and Child by Lorenzo di Bicci, the Madonna and Child with Sts. Martin and Sebastian by the Master of Tavarnelle and the Madonna and Child and St. John the Baptist in his youth by Empoli, respectively from the early and late 16th centuries.The Museum collection includes other 16th to 18th century paintings, a 14th century illuminated choir book, a magnificent altar-reliquary, numerous religious vestments and some interesting fragments in stone dating from around the 11th century that again come the Parish Church of Bossolo.
The ground floor also contains a small display of the so-called “embroidery of Tavarnelle”, a special type of stiff lace that was created from the idea of a nun in the early 20th century and perfected by the women living in the country areas around Tavarnelle. The lace is used to decorate clothing, but above all for enriching the linen in bridal trousseaux.Some of the adjoining rooms moreover contain a small but rich display of old fashioned farm tools that include original examples and mechanical reconstructions of machinery used for farming and other working activities.