Villa Basilica


Altopascio was a centre of fundamental importance for the medieval system of roads as well as for the draining of the marshes. Starting from the 11th century it was the seat of the Hospitaller Knights of Tau, with the Pilgrims' Hospital, the residence and grain storehouses, the church of San Jacopo, the bell tower and the wall that can still today be glimpsed from afar. The Knights of Tau went out from here along the roads to the major cities of France, Germany, Spain and Flanders. Leonardo represents the tower and the stronghold of Altopascio on map RL 12685 (Windsor Castle) and indicates it on f. 23r of Madrid Ms. II.


The city, one of the most interesting in Tuscany as regards history and art, is represented on Windsor papers 12683 and 12685, and mentioned in the Codex Atlanticus (ff. 127 r and 305r). Leonardo mentions it already around 1487 on folio 64r of Ms. B, on which he draws some diagrams of bulwarks designed, according to a project by Brunelleschi, to flood the city. Although certain documentation is lacking, it is highly probable that Leonardo went to Lucca, where he would have visited such famous buildings as the Cathedral. It holds masterpieces of art such as the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia, as well as splendid works by his contemporaries, among them the Tempietto by Matteo Civitali and the altarpiece by Domenico Ghirlandaio. It is not perhaps by chance that in Lucca and its surroundings we find, at a later age, numerous works by followers of Leonardo, with subjects ranging from the Last Supper to the Magdalene.


A stronghold of reference between the Padule di Fucecchio and the marshes of Bientina. The name derives from the Emperor Charles of Bohemia (Mons Karoli). In 1437 Francesco Sforza consigned it to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder. Leonardo represents Montecarlo on map RL 12685 (Windsor Castle) and on f. 22v of Madrid Ms. II.

San Gennaro

Leonardo represents the stronghold of San Gennaro on map RL 12685 (Windsor Castle) and indicates it in Madrid Ms. II (f. 23r). The locality, in the Commune of Capannori, has a Romanesque pieve in which is conserved a terracotta "Angel", in the past polychrome, recently attributed by Carlo Pedretti to Leonardo himself.

Villa Basilica

Villa Basilica is a historic centre distinguished in the past by a Roman villa and a basilica. Located in an area lying between the territory of Lucca and the Val di Nievole, it was frequently devastated by the incursions of both Pisans and Florentines. It was a place where weapons were produced. Notable in the Romanesque Pieve of Santa Maria Assunta is, among other things, a "Crucifix" by Berlinghiero. Studied by Leonardo at the end of the route that began in the territory of Prato, it is mentioned on maps RL 12279 and 12685 (Windsor Castle) and on f. 23r of Madrid Ms. II.

Texts by
Alessandro Vezzosi, in collaboration with Agnese Sabato / English translation by Catherine Frost
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