No one is quite sure how or why San Gimignano was founded, but legend has it that it was the work of two Roman brothers named Muzio and Silvio. They supposedly built two castles in 63 BC, one of which grew into a village called Silvia. In the 10th century AD, the villagers changed the name to San Gimignano in honor of a bishop who had saved them from a barbarian raid.
Sam Gimignano - Walled Town
Photo: Sailko CC-By-SA
Although inhabited since ancient times, the first record of San Gimignano was in 929 AD when it was given by King Ugo di Povenza to the Bishop of Volterra. Although it was just a small village at the time, it soon became an important stop on the medieval pilgrimage route between Lucca and Siena. As the town’s wealth grew, so did the political yearnings of its local lords. Tensions were already rising by the 1200s when war broke out between Florence and Siena. San Gimignano chose to align with Florence, which won the war.
As a result, its fortuitous alliance with Florence, the city entered a period of peace and prosperity mostly under Florentine rule that lasted until the early 1300s. During this golden time, the wealthy residents of San Gimignano built huge towers all over the city. Between 70 and 76 towers were built as the feuding families attempted to construct the highest tower in the city.
Unfortunately, San Gimignano’s golden days ended in the 1300s when the plague swept the city first in 1348 and then in 1464 and 1631. Without much time to recover in between waves of sickness, the city’s population steadily decreased and economic stagnation occurred. The city did not begin to recover until the 1700s.
San Gimignano belongs to the province of Siena, one of the 10 provinces of Tuscany. It is located on the border with the province of Pisa.
(52.75 sq miles)
Aproximately 7,700 residents
56 / sqkm
(150/ sq miles)
St. Geminianus and Saint Fina
Saint day: 31 January
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