The Santa Maria della Pieve Church in Arezzo is the oldest church in the city. The main work of art in this church is the polyptych “Madonna and Saints” by Pietro Lorenzetti. The bell tower of this church is considered the symbol of Arezzo.
Pieve di Santa Maria Church Arezzo
Address and opening times
The address of the church is Corso Italia 7 – 52100 Arezzo. Opening hours: 08.30 to 12.30 and 15.00 to 19.00 from May to September and from 15.00 to 18.00 the rest of the year. Admission is free.
The current version of the Santa Maria della Pieve church was built in the 12th century. From writings, it is known that there was a Pieve di Santa Maria as early as 1008, so in reality the church is even older.
By the way, a pieve is a country church with a baptismal font, which might seem somewhat strange since the church is in the central square of the city. However, at the time the church was constructed, the center of the city was not in this spot yet.
The church is slightly askew. This has to do with the fact that it was built on a hill.
Until the beginning of the 14th century various Gothic elements were added.
The bell tower dates back to 1330 and is considered the symbol of the city of Arezzo. The nickname Torre dei Cento Buchi refers to the many windows (buchi means “holes”).
In the 16th century the church was restored by Vasari. A second extensive renovation took place in the 19th century.
What to see
The façade is characterized by Romanesque arches with dozens of columns, each uniquely decorated. The lower floor is characterized by five arches. The central and the two outer arches frame a portal, the other two are bricked up. Above this are three more floors, with more and more columns and arches. One of the columns on the top floor is a karatid, a column in human form.
The so-called “Cycle of the Months” is depicted above the main portal. Carved in the 13th century, these reliefs represent the months of the year. The figures representing the months are engaged in farm labor. January has two faces, one looking back at the past year and the other forward to the next 12 months. The original colors have been largely preserved.
The back of the church overlooks the Piazza Grande, where the annual Giostra del Saracino is held.
Near the main altar under the half dome of the apse is the already mentioned Tarlati polyptych painted by Pietro Lorenzetti. He worked on this from 1320 to 1324. It was painted by order of Bishop Guido Tarlati.
Giovanni di Agostino made the hexagonal baptismal font in the 14th century..
The relics of the town’s patron saint, San Donato, are preserved in a 14th century bust under the altar.
The famous painter, writer and architect Giorgio Vasari is buried in the church, together with his wife. After his death in 1574, his tomb was placed in one of the chapels. In 1865, Vasari and other illustrious locals were placed in chestnut coffins and reburied. A plaque in the middle of the nave marks the spot where this happened.
A crucifix made in the 13th century by Margarito d’Arezzo hangs next to the door to the sacristy.
The fresco depicting “Saints Francis and Domenico” is by Andrea di Nerio.