Devotional Chapel of Santa Maria Piantasala – Casciano di Murlo

Travelling along a wonderful itinerary among the woods of Val di Merse and the evocative landscapes of the Crete Senesi, we can reach the Devotional Chapel of Piantasala, for many centuries the devotional landmark of the population of Casciano di Murlo.

The chapel was probably built where a modest road tabernacle once stood, situated near an important crossroads. Inside the tabernacle was a sacred image to which people turned to know which road to take but also to remember that only by relying on the Virgin Mary could one be assured of going in the “right direction”.

The itinerary leaves Siena to the west and heads along a series of tarmacked roads, with fairly moderate elevation gains, through the Val di Merse, characterised by a predominantly forested landscape.

Through Ville di Corsano one then reaches the centre of Casciano di Murlo where the chapel of Santa Maria a Pianta Sala is located. From here the route returns toward Siena, encountering Crevole, Radi and the postcard landscapes of the Crete Senesi.

  • The places of various artistic, cultural and religious interest are indicated in green on the map.

The evolution and importance of the Devotional Chapel of Piantasala derives from a combination of factors of a practical nature (population growth, changed political and territorial situations) but above all it was made possible by the devotion to this “place”, which century after century has always been present in the lives of the inhabitants of Casciano di Murlo.

We do not know exactly when the chapel was founded: we can only derive the first certain date about its existence from the fresco dated 1514 and signed by the Sienese painter Andrea di Niccolò (depicting a Sacred Conversation), which he painted just inside the building: on the right side of the chapel there is still the sinopia (the preparatory drawing) of that fresco.

Today in the Chapel of Piantasala, enclosed in a tabernacle above the altar, is a small eighteenth-nineteenth-century painting of the Virgin holding the Child in the act of embracing her in her arms. The image of this anonymous picture has, in popular devotion, replaced the original and miraculous image of the Madonna and the Sleeping Child, which has been lost trace of.

The various extensions of the architectural structure that the chapel has undergone over the centuries, the presence of a miraculous image such as the Madonna and Sleeping Child and its replacement with other sacred images, allow us to understand the attachment of the population primarily to the “place” rather than to a specific image of the Virgin Mary.

The Chapel is still place of worship which is always open, where it is possible to gather oneself in prayer, as have so many people of faith and travellers done over the centuries.

Many manifestations of popular piety and devotion take place in the Chapel of Piantasala, such as the celebrations of the main Marian feasts, first and foremost that of 8 September, Nativity of Mary, the day on which the village’s commitment to the Virgin Mary is also renewed.

Parish Church of Saints Justus and Clement – San Casciano di Murlo.

Founded as early as the 13th century, the church preserves works from the Chapel of Piantasala in its interior, such as Andrea di Niccolò’s fresco, dated 1514, situated on the right wall behind the altar. The painting depicts a Sacred Conversation: the Virgin Mary is seated on a throne with Baby Jesus standing on her lap and blessing with a hand gesture. On Mary’s right are Saints Sigismund and Augustine, while on the left are Saint Sebastian (who died a martyr’s death pierced by arrows) and Saint Roch, a French saint, curiously in the past much revered by local people.

On the wall in front of the fresco, also behind the church altar, is Buonfigli’s painting, also from the Chapel of Piantasala, showing instead of the Madonna and Sleeping Child (once revered in the Chapel of Piantasala) an anonymous Madonna and Child.

Special thanks to Mr. Guido Baldi who gave us the opportunity to visit the chapel and provided the reference texts.
“With the co-participation of the Regional Council of Tuscany”
Texts curated by Barbara Latini with the kind cooperation of the Office for Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage of the Archdiocese of Siena. Technical implementation Vernice Progetti Culturali S.r.l.u.. Itineraries mapped out by the Val di Merse Cycling Group.

The Route

  • Lenght: 55 Km
  • Elevation gain: + 1018
  • Maximum incline: 13%
  • Road surface type: mixed (tarmac 42 km dirt road13 km)
  • Type of bike recommended: (Gravel, tourism, road)