The Legends of Casa Lemmi
The Legend of San Francesco
In the Palazzo Lemmi, it has been recently discovered, an antique room with triangular cavities engraved in sandstone, thought to be of roman origin. This room has a passageway that leads to either the Cassia of Francigena opposite the Collegiata.
Some artefacts lead us to speculate the San Francesco travelled to Palazzo Lemmi. For example, the original Palazzo Lemmi’s position was infront of an antique borgo rendering it a place of recovery for people on pilgrimages.
There is also an interesting portrayal on San Francesco on his way to San Quirico D’Orcia towards Siena. This is depicted in Sassetta’s (Stefano di Giovanni, 1392-1450) celebrated painting ‘Le Nozze Mistiche di San Francesco con la Poverta’’ which is at the Museo Conde di Chantilly. Monte Amiata and Val D’Orcia create the setting for the scene in the painting, believed to represent a phase in San Francesco’s life
According to studies of San Fransesco, whilst travelling on the Francigena street, he was presented three women representing the virtues from the ‘Regola dell’Ordine’: Chastity, Poverty and Obedience. San Francesco celebrated his mystic ceremony with his chosen vitue: Poverty.
In the painting ‘Le Nozze Mistiche di San Francesco con la Poverta’’, San Francesco is barefoot, with loose hair and dressed in rags to accentuate his choice of living with minimal material items. He is offering a wedding ring to the virtue Poverty, who is dressed in green. On each side of Poverty is Chastity, dressed in white, and Obedience dressed in red.
After the ceremony, the three virtues fly towards the heavens, each holding an item representing their virtue. Obedience is holding as oxbow, Chastity is holding a white lily (representing purity), and Poverty, looking over her shoulder as she acknowledges her new husband, is holding an olive tree branch. Tradition says that this branch would be the timber used for Jesus’ cross.
A particularly interesting feature of this painting is the background: unquestionably Monte Amiata with Via Francigena leading down to the scene of the virtues on the right of the road and San Francesco on the left. The castles on the right side of the painting are clad in keystone and positioned according to where they were in real life. In order from bottom to top there are: San Quirico (recognised by the roman gate), Vignoni (behind the virtues’ heads) and Castiglion D’Orcia from which the Orcia landscape flows across the scene. Behind San Francesco’s head is the highest castle reached by one of the two paths of the Via Francigena. The other path continues towards the Paglia Valley and not the Campiglia.
The castle that ascends up the mountain is presented with a solid perimeter and angular towers that are overlooked by the Visconti fortress, its tower being the highest. Although we cannot assume that the geographical representation is accurate, the high defences and positioning of the castles give a sense of a hostile lifestyle.
Sassetta’s recreation of Val D’Orcia is likely to have been taken from an antique inn, Briccole, where the Archbishop of Canterbury stayed in 831 A.C. On his trip from Rome to Britannia, passing a property from the same owner of Casa Lemmi, 15km from San Quirico, he would have been present at the encounter portrayed in the painting.
From this information, it is supposed that San Francesco, after the mystic encounter, continued his way to Siena, taking a break at San Quirico D’Orcia, probably in the recently discovered room in Palazzo Lemmi.
The actual property in the recollection of this event is, in itself, a relic of San Francesco. It depicts him with the saint’s hair, having just come out of San Quirico, on his way from the Capuccini Convent (already one of the family properties of the owners of Casa Lemmi).
The Osenna God and the Cave
It is rumoured that at San Quirico there was a river called Osenna, now nonexistent. This seems unlikely considering that fact that San Quirico is on a hill with no means for a river to flow, unless the geological characteristics of the site were drastically changed by events such as earthquakes.
There is another possible explanation for the river. In the houses of the village exist caves where water emerges and vanishes without any connection to rainfall or any event connected to precipitation. Casa Lemmi has two of these caves.
At this point, all the facts and theories knit together to form a rational story board: the Etruscan origin of San Quirico, the concealed character of the Etruscan rituals, the existence of the pagan site from which the Collegiata rises, the name Osenna for the mystic river that then disappeared and the name (P)Orsenna of the Etruscan King who ruled at the time. From this information, it is concluded that the Osenna was a divinity connected to King Porsenna and the disappearance of his tomb.
In addition, during the renovation of the antique Palazzo Lemmi, a forgotten cave was discovered a few metres under the main entrance, located right in front of the Collegiata. It is evident that the cave was excavated by hand and the instruments used can be deduced by the traces left behind.
These instruments were then used by the Etruscans, Romans and during the medieval times. The cave has steps clad in travertine or sandstone, and on the left there is a cavity excavated into the clay with a function difficult to identify. Perhaps it was a space to contain food in, a baptism fountain, a sacrificial shrine to the gods or a frigidarium.
In the centre of the cave there is another cavity (this one is vertical) that connects to the old Cassia leading to the Francigane.
The sides of the cave have stone carved figures, some of which are disquieting, and difficult to decipher the exact time they were created. Etruscan stone is located in very few places, most of it has been destroyed, and when found, can be difficult to understand.
The cave is closed to the public, but can be seen with prior appointment with the friends of Casa Lemmi and Palazzo Lemmi, where people can stay as pro tempore guests. Only a certain point can be reached in the cave so as not to disturb the silence, but also because of the difficult descent. The cave can also be seen from outside, as far at the palace’s gate.