14th Century icon in the mill of San Cristofero – barganews.com v 3.0

14th Century icon in the mill of San Cristofero

The Romans already two millennia ago developed the effective and revolutionary grinding technique with rotating stone millstones, operated with the energy of water.

With the fall of the Roman Empire the first mills fell into disrepair, where they existed, due to lack of maintenance. This progressive decline gave way again to the primitive hand grinding, which then remained in use for the crushing of cereals, especially inside the structures for reasons of autonomy and defense. reclaimed and fertile territory, the need was created to build mills, small industrial plants of primary necessity for the transformation of cultivated products.

The landowners were the first to equip themselves with a water mill where this providential element abounded, thus favouring the installation and development of milling plants. This is the case of the mill that belonged to the Opera di San Cristoforo of the then Pieve di Barga. This religious body exercised the pertinent juridical right both on the works of derivation of the waters and for the granting of the building license, working side by side with the municipal bodies.

They also enjoyed considerable economic resources which allowed them to build a water mill on the Corsonna stream. It was built in the shelter of a limestone rock of Alberese, a precious and elegant ornamental stone that is characterised by its durability and hardness used in historic buildings in monumental architecture and in the external facing of the cathedral.

In the seventeenth century the factory became the largest that has ever existed in the Barga area , with a mill equipped with five grinding plants, a crusher for the olives, instruments to work with hemp wooland other fabrics.

In 1696 it was the subject of a last reconstruction, together with another mill, located on the left orographic side that belonged to the assets of the Chapel of Santa Maria, which lasted up until the total destruction caused by the ruinous flood of the Corsonna stream, which took place in the year 1748, as is is well described in the municipal resolution of 30 December 1788 (page 324).

The mill, of which there are no written sources of the first installation, is perhaps mentioned for the first time in the year 1281 in a medieval parchment of the church of San Cristoforo preserved in the State Archives of Florence. It is included among the properties belonging to the Opera of San Cristoforo in the estimate of Barga in 1477, in the properties described in the Opera of the same name together with the land located in the Ronchi, Santa Maria (where the toponym “San Cristoforo” still exists today) and Campovillese (today Capannelle and Tribbio) a vast agricultural area located in the best exposure to the sun at the time below the territory of the municipality of Sommocolonia.

This mill was reachable from Barga on a mule track crossing the San Cristoforo bridge (today’s Catagnana bridge), which led to the right orographic side of the Corsonna, where the properties of the Opera existed.

In this place was found on 5 September 1512, the Byzantine-style icon of uncertain origin depicting the Madonna tenderly holding the infant Jesus later entitled as the “Madonna del Mulino”, from the recollection of the derivation of the name.

On the 8th September it was carried in procession to the church of the Pieve di Barga (which became a proposition only in the year 1680) and destined for public worship.

The icon was painted on a gilded panel for private devotion, in fact it was located at the mill owned by the Opera di San Cristoforo.

The fourteenth-century work has been recently restored and is kept in the Barga Duomo.

The mill of San Cristoforo in the span of a millennium has experienced numerous changes, from installation, to expansions, renovations and its destruction, it has gone through historical cycles, social and political revolutions.

Immaculate Conception the church celebrates the Madonna del Mulino by renewing her memory. For centuries on this solemn feast day, the millstones and millers remained in respectful and rigorous rest.

Article by Emilio Lammari — there is as site on line called madonnadelmolino