The green and silent plain of Montaperti, located close to the so called “Gate of Chianti” on one side and the famous “Crete Senesi” on the other, was the scene, on September 4 of 1260 of one of the most famous and bloody battles that the history of Italy reports between Siena and Florence; the battle ended with such an overwhelming victory of the Sienese, in spite of the smaller number of forces, that Siena still keeps fresh memory of the event.
In those years, commercial and financial interests of the two cities had long been in conflict and economic rivalry resulted in political rivalry and egemony in the area. In Florence there was the supremacy of the guelphs, supporters of the Pope, in Siena of the ghibellines, allies of the emperor Manfred of Swabia, the natural son of Frederick II.
Despite the numerical superiority of the Florentines (guelph army in fact consisted of 3000 cavalry and 18000 infantry), in Montaperti the Sienese after 11 hours of uninterrupted battle had an overwhelming victory. Guelph army losses were estimated at about 10000 deads and 15000 prisoners whereas ghibellines lost only 600 men with 400 wounded. A victory so cruel as to remain etched in the words of Dante Alighieri in the famous song X (85) Hell: “ …Lo strazio e l’grande scempio che fece l’Arbia colorata in rosso, tal orazion fa far nel nostro tempio”.
All documents of the second half of 1260 have mysteriously disappeared from the Archives of Siena, which is why the epic conflict of September 4 of that year was nearly erased from history, but the echoes of the battle of Montaperti still resonate in various ways in the territory.
The chronicles of Siena of 1430 mention the location of the clash between the two armies as “Monte Aperto” (“Open Mountain”, ancient name of Montaperti), in the valley of Malena where there was a castle owned by the Berardenga family which owned all the land in the area as far as the Arbia.
Today this place is called Montapertaccio (the suffix “accio” is applied to the names of the places whose most relevant building has been destroyed). The castle ruins are still visible under the pyramid erected at the end of 800 to commemorate the victory of the Sienese. The farm “Le Pietre Vive” is located at the foot of this pyramid.
The greatest sienese painter of the sixteenth century, Domenico di Giacomo di Pace, called Domenico Beccafumi (1486? Montaperti-Siena 1551), was born in Montaperti, in a peasant family. He took his name by Lorenzo Beccafumi, owner of the land on which his parents worked, who also was his master of painting.
According to some sources, it was in remembrance of the memorable battle of Montaperti and the escaped danger that the Sienese decided to hold the Palio of Siena, one of the most ancient horse races in the world and probably the most important and better known historic event in Italy. The race is run in the famous square of Siena called “Piazza del Campo” on July 2nd in honour of Our Lady of Provenzano and on August 16 in honour of our Lady of the Assumption.
The race, to which only 10 of the 17 districts in which Siena is divided attend is named after “pallium” (wool coat), a drape of fine fabric to be hung in the Church of the winning district. From the eighteenth century has emerged the idea of a painted drape. In fact the oldest drape, which is kept in Siena in the museum of the district of the Eagle, dates back to 1715.
The carriage called “Carroccio” that parades during the historic parade of the Palio of Siena was rebuilt on the basis of drawings of the likeness of the one used in the aforementioned battle.
In July 2010, at the commemoration of the 750th anniversary, the Palio has been dedicated to the battle of Montaperti.