The History of the ConventConvivium
The History of the Convent
The Convent of Santa Maria al Prato at Radda in Chianti was built in the 18th century when the existing Romanesque oratory was given over to a religious community, who carried out renovations and the construction of the building next to the present church, as well as creating the portico in front of it.
The place name “Santa Maria” has ancient origins. The consecrated building is mentioned in the early 9th century as a destination for pilgrims to worship an image of Our Lady, believed to be miraculous, and was later subordinate to the church of San Niccolò in Radda as an oratory for Marian devotion. Inside is a work by Neri di Bicci, dated 1474, depicting the Madonna and Child with Saints Nicholas, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene and Anthony Abbot.
In the 18th century various prelates, and in particular the Bishop of Fiesole, concerned themselves with bringing a religious community into the heart of Chianti, and the project came to fruition in 1708 when it was donated to the Reformed Friars Minor by the community of Radda in Chianti. The first stone of the Convent was laid on 8th September of that year, while the design and responsibility for the project and construction were entrusted to Brother Salvatore Siracusa, assisted by Brother Camillo di Corsignano. Two years later part of the Convent was inhabitable although the whole structure was not completed until a few decades later.
The Convent was surrounded by the Friars’ vegetable garden and to the left of the entrance was a Stations of the Cross path, now replaced by private homes built a few decades ago. Inside the building the refectory and shared fireplace room were on the ground floor, and the friars’ cells on the upper floors.
In 1773 the Convent was visited by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, commemorated by the marble plaque still visible in the cloister.
The religious community was abolished first by the French government in 1808, an act which was revoked in 1815, and then in 1866 by the Italian government, and the building became the property of the state. Having passed under different owners, the Santa Maria al Prato complex was purchased in 1935 by the Provincia Toscana delle Sacre Stimmate dell’Ordine dei Frati Minori. The friars remained until 1974, when their numbers were so reduced that they were moved to other centres.
In 1996 the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and Fondazione per la Tutela del Territorio del Chianti Classico Onlus purchased the property, which had been mentioned to the Minister of Culture and Heritage as possessing cultural value, while the church was handed over to the Misericordia organisation of Radda in Chianti who still manage it today.
In 2003 the Fondazione per la Tutela del Territorio del Chianti Classico directly supervised the renovations and raised the necessary funds.
Restoration work was carried out in full respect of the original structure, the organisation of the rooms and their use, so today the Convent contains various spaces dedicated to promotion of the Chianti area and all its productive, artistic and cultural expressions.
Since 2014 the Convent has been the head office of the Casa Chianti Classico.
Legend: Register entry showing the Convent (18th century)
By kind permission of the Istituto degli Innocenti Archive, Florence