|Pari, on the Siena to Grosseto road|
It chanced that my husband's oldest friend, known since they were both twelve, was staying half an hour's drive away, with his sister, in another small town, by the name of Torri. "Torri" = "towers" though we could see only one. It belonged to the Abbey of Santa Mustiola, first recorded in 1070.
(The Roman Martyrology records under 3rd July: “At Chiusi, in Tuscany, in the reign of the emperor Trajan, the holy martyrs Irenaeus, deacon, and Mustiola, a matron, who were subjected to various atrocious tortures and merited the crown of martyrdom”).
Our friends had discovered that the Cloisters of this Abbey would be open on Monday and Friday mornings at rather approximate times, so off we went on the first available Monday, before our trip to San Gimignano, to see what there was to be seen.
|The cloisters at Torri|
Which actually turned out to be quite a lot. The cloisters date from the 13th or 14th century though they have been restored. The cloister has loggias on three levels, the lowest of which is decorated with black and white marble and supported by columns, some intricately carved.
But its glory is really the sculpted capitals.
This is a fairly conventional Adam and Eve, being tempted in the Garden of Even. Some others have interlaced abstract designs, which are quite Celtic in flavour.
But others are of animals
Some, like these two ?geese, ?doves have their necks entwined, providing a symbol of harmony and love.
Others, of similarly unclear taxonomy, are more involved with their own anatomy than with the other half of the couple.
But on the whole there is more entwining than tail-chewing. And none of the biting of others that Michelle Lovric told us about in Venice in few weeks ago.
The second loggia is built of brick, whose pinkness is reflected in the herring-bone pattern of the cloister floor. The third loggia is made with wooden columns. It's a strange development, isn't it? For the quality of materials to diminish, the closer to heaven the eye progresses. It suggests that the valuable marble and rich carvings were intended to impress those who strolled at the lower levels.
|Crest at Torri Creative Commons - Ian McKellar|
And on certain days in Siena, the highly-decorated floor, normally covered, is exposed for vistors to see.
|The Erythraean Sybil by Antonio Federighi|
There are ten Sybils altogether, twice as many as Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And many other subjects, like a huge Slaughter of the Innocents. 600 years on from this decorative scheme it is hard to put ourselves into the mindset of the first viewers, any more than we can understand the animal iconography of a century or two earlier in Torri.
But it's always worth seeing any art treasure which is not often available to the traveller. Have you found other examples?