Propositura di Santa Maria Assunta (Stazzema)

The church of Santa Maria Assunta is a sacred building located in Stazzema. It is one of the historic settlements of the area, together with Barga, Pietrasanta and Seravezza.
It symbolizes the power of the Archdiocese of Pisa in Upper Versilia.

The first hints of today’s parish church date back to 850 AD, originally with a single nave, with a trussed roof; which was used for construction by the Romans. The current parish church dates back in its architectural form to the XIII century. The façade, closed on the southern side by a portico, is divided horizontally by arches on corbels carved with zoomorphic motifs and opens at the top with a large rose window closed in the 19th century to make room for the organ on the counter façade. Above the entrance portal there is a fresco (baptism of Jesus) by the master Marcello Tommasi. The interior, with three naves, renovated in the sixteenth century when it received the beautiful coffered ceiling, preserves the Assumption of the Virgin, by Pietro da Talada, an eccentric painter active between Versilia and Garfagnana shortly after the mid-fifteenth century, a predella by Zacchia the Vecchio dated 1525 and a marble Saint Anthony Abbot attributed to Niccolò Civitali. The organ placed in 1808 was built in 1787.

Furthermore, on the left side of the facade, under the loggia, an ancient Roman urn dating back to the 1st century AD was walled into the wall, and it is the only remaining part of the Roman temple of Mercury, built around 200 BC. With the arrival of the Romans in Versilia; this makes it the oldest cult site in the entire Versilia area.

The bell tower hosts a powerful concert of 3 bells, sung in E flat minor. Of these, the small and large bells were cast by Giovanni Battista Bimbi of Fontanaluccia (MO) in 1857 and the mizzen cast by Giuseppe and his son Giovanni Battista Bimbi of Villa Collemandina (LU) in 1830. There are also two bells of which the large one is the work of Ludovico Bimbi of Villa Collemandina (dating back to 1827) and the small one recast by Lorenzo Lera of Lucca in 1949

The seventeenth-century loggia has been in precarious conditions for a year now (due to serious neglect); with the risk of the collapse of the coverage, so much so that it has been cordoned off since that date.

The monumental organ

Historical news:

The organ was brought to Stazzema in 1808 following the demolition of the collegiate church of San Pietro. In this way the collegiate organ was sold to the church of Stazzema; that he sold his own to the no longer existing parish church of San Vito in Montignoso, as an organ of great value; which in reality was not and in fact in Montignoso underwent continuous rearrangements and revisions. It was reassembled in the church of Santa Maria Assunta which is located at the beginning of the town of Stazzema. It is positioned above the main door on an elevated structure, called the choir loft. It is accessed via a wooden ladder positioned on the right near one of the two side entrances of the church. The sound box, in Baroque style, is enriched by gilded wooden sculptures.

The construction of the organ is traced back to the Tronci of Pistoia. A plaque commemorates “Antonio Tronci, Filippo and Benedetto”, whose firm was called upon to carry out an initial rearrangement of the organ at the time of its positioning in the church of Stazzema. This intervention cost 150 sequins. The latest restoration, for a value of approximately 100 million lire. A special restoration committee was set up, chaired by the then parish priest Don Nello Pochini.

Structure and special features:

The organ which dates back to 1787 has all the characteristics of the Italian organs built between 1500 and 1700: it has a single pedal and a single keyboard.

1) The keyboard is very small different from others. Like many keyboards of the period of its construction, it is composed of 30 white and 18 black keys. The fact that it has so few white keys goes to show that its range is less than the typical 4 octaves. Even the keyboards of the 18th century organs had a limited extension, but still around 40 keys. It is a keyboard with a “bare” first octave. In the “scavezza” octave the first octave (that of the lowest notes) does not have the complete succession of notes like the “normal” octaves but is composed of only five keys. These five keys represent the sounds F, G, A, B, C. In order to be able to complete this octave (the notes C, D, E would be missing) the black keys F # and G # and the E key were used like this: the first E key actually produces the C sound, the F # key produces the D sound, the G # key produces the E sound, and the rest of the octave reverts to keyboard keys. Because of this “bad” octave, 4 notes are missing: G#, C#, F# and Eb. The music that was performed at that time was in fact composed in keys that did not require the presence of these notes. This is therefore a very important feature of its construction era.

2) The pedal board: it is made of wood and has the same peculiarity as the “scavezza” keyboard in the pedal board. Its main function is to amplify harmonic chords.

3) The registers: There are some registers which offer the possibility of listening to sounds which are no longer achievable by modern musical instruments such as the nazardo. The registers which are operated by 15 different levers, located on the right side of the sound box, allow each single element of the keyboard to produce a note with different timbres. A singular feature lies in the fact that part of the registers are broken. This means that they do not affect the whole keyboard but only half of it. The registers indicated as “bass” act on the low part (on the left) while the remaining ones act on the high part (on the right). This makes it possible to obtain different timbres at the same time, one for the accompaniment (counter singing) and the other for the melody (sopranos and soloists). The stops of the Stazzema organ belong to three different families:

– Main: (main, octave, tenth fifth, etc.) which can also be operated all together by a single lever.

– Flutes: (nazardo, piccolo, has no staff)

– Reeds: (trumpet, clarinet, English horn, bombard) which appear to be very rare and innovative registers at the time of the Tronci family, the organ builder brothers originally from Pistoia, characterized their musical instruments with these “concert” registers, in particular the register of croissant that became their hallmark.

It is possible to hear the sound produced by all the pipes simultaneously by operating 9 registers in addition to the main one.

– The joints. through which the air arrives through the action of the registers, there are 720 of which 56 are visible. The others are enclosed in a large Baroque-style sound box. They are of different sizes and made of circular tin and square wood for the basses.

Currently the organ works with the aid of an electric motor which feeds the bellows. However, this is connected to its ancient lever (still functioning) which has not been eliminated to maintain the integrity of the musical instrument and guarantee its preciousness. Above the lever that operates the bellows is a graduated wooden ruler along which an indicator moved to indicate the amount of air still present (“almost empty”, “full”, “little air”, etc.). The organ is still functioning today.