A short distance from the center of the town of Montale, suspended between urban settlements and countryside following Via Giovanni Boccaccio, you come across one of the most fascinating relics of the past. The Abbey of San Salvatore in Agna is named according to Apennine stream that flows just a few steps from the church and winds its way through the plains after descending to the valley. It was one of the fulcrums around which the earliest settlements of the Montale territory developed. Retraceable in the historical archives as far back as 772, it depended on the Abbey of San Salvatore in Brescia. The complex also included a convent of Benedictine nuns, and was called “monastery of the Queen” in the carolingian period because it was held as personal asset of wives and daughters of royalty, for the benefit of private property.
On the initiative of Ludwig the Third, in the early tenth century, the abbey was assigned to the dependency of the Bishop of Fiesole, who ran it for the following decades taking turns with the Guidi family, until the complex was annexed to the monastery of San Bartolomeo in Fiesole. The existence of the abbey was tormented, determined primarily by its pivotal position, a valuable stop along the route that from the Cassian way crossed the Apennines and reached Badia a Taona, today in the town of Sambuca Pistoiese. For this reason the church was a “hospitium”, shelter for travelers and pilgrims.
Closed to function in the sixteenth century because of the abandonment of the monastery, the abbey went under the control of the Canons Regular of the Lateran until the second half of the eighteenth century, when it was assigned to the Knights of Santo Stefano, who kept the property until the half of the next century.
The church of San Salvatore was extensively restored in the early decades of the twentieth century, with many additions in style, as to recover and enhance its primitive Romanesque features. The church is built around a Latin Cross structure. It has a single hall, a jutting transept and a raised choir with three apses that overlook the mullioned windows. The external structure is composed by a shell of river pebbles. They remind us of the the churches of Santa Maria and San Leonardo in Artimino, in the municipality of Carmignano, which were built in the same period of the monastery. The external decorations of pillars and arches and the proto-romanesque architecture of San Salvatore reveal the influence of the Emilian artistic culture in Tuscany and, at the same time, disclose their distant Lombard origin.
The façade is gabled and decorated by a series of small blind arches supported by slightly jutting pilasters. The same pattern can be found along the other walls and apses. The archivolt above the portal is built with wedge-shaped stones. The attic is a beautiful structure of diamond-shaped blocks that lean on brick arches.