Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Santa Maria Di Vallombrosa. Patrimonio E Vita Economica Di Un Grande Monastero Medievale

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Santa Maria Di Vallombrosa. Patrimonio E Vita Economica Di Un Grande Monastero Medievale

Article excerpt

Santa Maria di Vallombrosa. Patrimonio e vita economics di un grande monastero medievale. By Francesco Salvestrini. [Biblioteca Storica Toscana a cura della Deputazione di Storia Patria per la Toscana, 33.] (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore. 1998. Pp. xiv, 347. Lire 59.000 paperback.)

It was once said that the abbot of Santa Maria di Vallombrosa could journey down the Arno from his isolated abbey to Florence without leaving his monastery's property. Salvestrini has thoroughly studied the formation and administration of this vast patrimony from the foundation of the monastery to the fifteenth century. In this exemplary piece of economic history, he studies the administrative styles of the monks, how their holdings compared to those of other religious houses and more especially the laity. The book is a collection of tightly focused studies of the formation of the patrimony, the style of administration, the organization of production, and, finally, a short, but fascinating study of the Vallombrone's woodlands. In the eleventh and early twelfth century, the monks were part of the religious reform circle and found support from the Countess Matilda, the Guidi counts, and other rural aristocrats. Later in the late twelfth and thirteenth century, significant gifts came from newly arrived residents of Florence, not the older urban aristocrats. The popularity of the monks was clearly related to the position of the monks in the religious world of the upper Arno Valley, but, unfortunately, Salvestrini's tight focus on economic matters has left unanswered the question of why the laity supported the monks.

The most interesting and informative chapters of the book are those that highlight the organization of the monastery's lands. Vallombrone did maintain some demesne lands, almost exclusively woods and meadows. They seem to have done no direct farming with laborers or lay brothers (converse). Their arable lands were most often let as complete farms (podert) to local farmers or as simple "pieces of land"-which were often leased to the monastery's own conversi. …

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