church of St. Peter
Between Florence and Arezzo the Pieve di San Pietro di Gropina, in the municipality of Loro Ciuffenna, dominates the Valdarno.
Gropina is a small country of few houses and the great Pieve is justified by the fact that it is in an important crossing point between Arezzo and Florence.
The present church was built around the 12th century on a pre-existing 8th century longobard church that was built on a former early Christian church which in turn took the place of a pagan temple (...about the vocation in destination of a site!).
The fact of being a bit out of the way has probably contributed to its preservation and is certainly one of the most beautiful and best preserved monuments of Tuscan and Italian Romanesque.
Unfortunately, the fact that it was built in local stone (sandstone) did not help the conservation of exteriors, but the interior is a splendor!
The church is shrouded by semi-darkness (the light comes only from the apse and a twin on the façade shielded by alabaster slabs), but as the eye becomes accustomed to the low light emerge one by one its treasures.
First of all, the wonderful Longobard pulpit.
There are the symbols of three evangelists: the fourth evangelist is represented - a small one - in the frieze underneath, above the "prayer" decorating the pulpit support. Who knows why the good evangelist Luca was discriminated ... Perhaps an accident during sculpture, or perhaps a mere distraction of the sculptor. However the artist repaired with an ox head, a symbol of Luca, inserted in the frieze ...
The circular ambone (it should not have been easy to do in the 8th century!) is decorated with perhaps the most wonderful two-tails siren that you will never see: lean (like all Longobarde sirens) but with a brilliant hair and an amused look.
She is overwhelmed by a male figure who might want to compete with the siren, imitating her posture badly, but two snakes charge to punish the impertinent imitator.
The beautiful capital of knights shows us some armed men with on the edges naked men precariously balanced between a horse and the other.
One of these riders rides the horse to the quarrel.
One of these riders rides in reverse.
It seems that the knight is King Theodoric guilty of being particularly violent (and Aryan) and the legend wants him kidnapped by a horse that dived into the crater of a volcano
And then the other sculpted capitals to speak to contemporaries: eagles, fighting tigers, St. Augustine, St. Peter (church holder) and Saint Paul, sows, demons, Christ in sacred almonds, Samson snatching the lion, sinners with snakes in the breasts, manticore, wolves ...
All the expressive force of medieval bestiary.