San Pantaleo

The locality of Campo Zeppi, in the community of San Pantaleo, is of very ancient origins. This area was the heart of the signoria that the Counts Guidi transplanted, beginning from the end of the 11th century, between Cerreto and Vinci. At the time the small church of San Pantaleo was part of the castle diocese of Vinci until Florence took possession, in the middle of the 13th century, of all the lands, castles, and rights of the powerful noble lineage, including the castle of Vinci and the church of San Pantaleo. The countryside landscapes where the farm bearing the name of Campo Zeppi is still found today, where the husband of Leonardo's mother, Caterina, lived, must not have been dissimilar from what we can see today. When Leonardo lived with his father's family in the village of Vinci, he certainly walked the paths that led to his mother's parish church, the little church of San Pantaleo, to the house of Campo Zeppi, and to the furnace of his stepfather, in Val di Streda. Today, among the "Paths of Genius," you can walk along the "Via di Caterina", from the castle of Vinci to the little church of San Pantaleo. Or take the path of the Pleistocene hills, of path 12-C on the "Hiking Trails Map" (Municipality of Vinci).

Around the year 1000, the area of San Pantaleo was on the eastern border of the diocese of Lucca, which roughly reached the stream Streda. The parish of Lucca, which marked the border straddling the Streda, was that of Cellere, the ancient parish church of Cerreto. At that time also the villages of Strela (Streda), Tuliano (Toiano), Franchoni (Franconi farm), and Ceule (Ceoli), small localities situated near San Pantaleo, belonged to the parish of Cellere and depended on the bishop of Lucca. With the foundation of the castles of Cerreto and of Vinci on initiative of the Counts Guidi, within a century, the whole area of San Pantaleo, located on the border between the two castle dioceses, became, in effect, dominion of the Guidi. The church of San Pantaleo is mentioned for the first time in the mid-13th century as part of the possessions of Count Guido Novello. The reporting document was the deed of sale of the Valdarno property of the noble family to the city of Florence, including the castles of Cerreto and Vinci. Guido Novello ceded, together with his share of the castle of Vinci, also the entire property of the church of San Pantaleo: ecclesiam Sancti Pantaleonis totam cum pertinentiis suis. The area of San Pantaleo belonged to the district of Vinci, as did also that of San Bartolomeo a Streda, dating, therefore, back to the time of the signoria of the Counts Guidi.
However, the small Guidi church remained dependent on the parish church of Cerreto, now moved inside the castle and dedicated to San Leonardo. During the 14th century, the parish church of Cerreto became patronage of the Adimari family, who were also beneficiaries of the rural chapel of San Pantaleo. At that time this Florentine family had vast possessions in the surroundings of Cerreto and Vinci, including some properties at Campo Zeppi. A sale dating back to the year 1332, in fact, documents the presence of the Adimari in territorio de Vincio, loco dicto Campo Zeppi (in the territory of Vincio, of place name Campo Zeppi). The same place where, a century and a half later, Caterina, Leonardo's mother, lived.
We owe to the research of the scholar Renzo Cianchi, the Biblioteca Leonardiana’s first librarian, the information related to the family of the man who married Caterina after the birth of little Leonardo, the son she had with Piero di Antonio da Vinci. The page of the land registry declaration of Leonardo's grandfather recalls, among family members dependent on him, his grandson of five years, the "non legiptimo" (illegitimate) son of his son Ser Piero, “nato di lui et della chaterina che al presente è donna dachatabrigha di Piero del Vaccha da Vinci”. (born of him and of the Chaterina who at present is the wife of Achatabrigha of Piero del Vaccha da Vinci." Cianchi's meticulous work on archival documentation has brought to light the identity of Caterina's husband, Antonio di Piero di Andrea Buti / del vacha, known as the Achattabrigha, and his family, who had been settled in Campo Zeppi di San Pantaleo for over a century. At the beginning of the 15th century the Buti / del vacha family had about twenty members belonging to three family groups: the family of Piero di Andrea del vacha, the father of the Accattabriga—who at that time was just born—and the families of their two paternal uncles and of a cousin. The house of Campo Zeppi was therefore a typical farm house of the Florentine countryside, able to host a multinuclear family like the one in which Accattabriga was born. That house was on the hillock, cultivated, as then, with vines and olive trees, punctuated by the rustic cottages bearing the name of "podere (farm) Campo Zeppi".
On the late 16th century map by the Capitani di Parte Guelfa relating to the community of San Pantaleo, these Leonardian sites are clearly recognizable. Along the road that runs along the left side of the river Vincio, you can see the stylized outline of the small church of San Pantaleo, while on the right, beyond the river, the small groups of houses connected by short lanes become increasingly concentrated, culminating in the dense agglomeration indicated by the toponym canpo zeppi. The stylized drawing of the 16th century map renders the idea of the landscape that characterized the countryside around Vinci and, in particular, the small rural village of Campo Zeppi. Here Leonardo’s mother lived for over thirty years, together with her husband's family, a family of farmers from the many terrains of the farm of San Pantaleo. However, about Accattabriga we also know that he was a kiln worker and that he worked in the brick kiln that was located in the locality of Mercatale, in the community of San Donato in Greti. This area, in fact, was particularly rich in clays, the raw material necessary for production of bricks. The geographer Repetti described the geological formations found just below San Pantaleo as: "marine or stratiform soil". Near San Pantaleo was situated, since the times of Leonardo, the locality of Colle Marino dei Ridolfi, probably referring to the fossils of marine origin, those same "nichi" (fossil shells) that Leonardo had observed a little farther down, toward the Arno, as we read on the folios of the Codex Atlanticus dedicated to the "azurine" clays of the “taglio di Colle Gonzi” (Colle Gonzi cut).
The church of San Pantaleo, which was the first church of the Counts Guidi and later the parish of Caterina, Leonardo’s mother, and of the Buti family of canpo zeppi, is located about two kilometers from the center of Vinci. At the time of Leonardo, the church must have appeared like a small oratory in the countryside with a single room, a double-sloping roof and a bell gable, similar to the appearance of the nearby churches of San Bartolomeo a Streda and San Zio. The design of the church, showing a similar appearance, is visible in the detail of the map of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa concerning the community of San Pantaleo. Today the gabled facade with oculus, with double-sloping roof and cross at the top, is partially covered by a porch with a canopy supported by two plastered brick columns. On the left, it is abutted by the bell tower built in 1859 and the oratory of the Santissimo Nome di Gesù, dating back to 1690. One can retrace the byways of the countryside that were familiar to Leonardo during the earliest years of his life, such as the so-called "Via di Caterina," a country path that starts off from the village of Vinci, near the Androne Ciofi, where Leonardo's younger half-brother managed an inn, to arrive at the church of San Pantaleo, passing in front of the farms that still bear the name of "podere (farm) Campo Zeppi".
Texts by
Silvia Leporatti / English translation by John Venerella