Village of Santo Stefano di Magra
Comune di Santo Stefano di Magra: piazza Matteotti - Santo Stefano di Magra (SP)
Telefono: 0187 69 71 11
Fax: 0187 69 97 69
Ex dogana in piazza della Pace Ex dogana in piazza della Pace La chiesa di Santo Stefano La chiesa di Santo Stefano Casa torre in piazza della Pace Casa torre in piazza della Pace Santo Stefano vista dall'alto Santo Stefano vista dall'alto

Positioned at the confluence of the rivers Magra and Vara, even Santo Stefano di Magra, a municipality in La Spezia, has been significant from ancient times as an important Medieval village belonging to the dominions of the Republic of Genoa. Visit this town and look for the remains of its past while listening to the Liguria Heritage audio-guides!

Santo Stefano, a long history - I

Santo Stefano di Magra, a municipality with a high population density in Val di Magra, has always held an important role because of its geographical position, at the confluence of the rivers Magra and Vara. It is also on the Via Francigena which was continually travelled along by pilgrims, intent on reaching the places of cult of Rome, Santiago or the Holy Land, and which connected with Emilia over the Cisa pass.
The first mention of Santo Stefano di Magra appears with the imperial document of Otto II from 981, in which the mercantile nature of the village, which fell under the Bishops of Luni, was stressed. This was again confirmed on 29th July 1185 in the imperial privilege granted to Frederick I Barbarossa, which exalted the development from parish church to village to market.

In just two centuries it is evident that an in-depth transformation occurred. Around the antique parish church a well-organized inhabited area developed that was large enough to require direct management by the bishop, who had the job of administering justice and imposing taxes for goods sold at the market and on fishing. The growth of this village can be connected to the fortunate period in which the Lunigiana villages lived in parallel with the definitive decline of Luni.
In this period the development of fortified military bases and the continuous construction of castles was supported by the bishops of Luni, then by the Marquises Obertenghi and again by the Malaspina family or by the local lords, the Dominions of Vezzano to name one of the main ones, all intent on expanding into this promising region.

It was at Santo Stefano di Magra that the Bishop strived to take care of his own interests; indeed just a short distance beyond the village the road divided into two branches. One led across Mount Bardone and took travellers to Lombardy, the other connected with the eastern riviera, therefore Genoa, giving life to a road system that was extremely precious from an economic viewpoint.

In spite of the interest taken in it, Santo Stefano continued developing fairly autonomously. Thanks to an arbitral award from 1202 that stipulated peace between the Bishop and the Malaspina family, we know that Santo Stefano in the meantime had become a municipality, with the managing class of the “milites” who, together with the consuls and the people, appear as signers of the document swearing alliance to the bishop.

Santo Stefano, a long history - II

During the 13th century Sarzana, one of the Lunigiana villages, grew and soon proposed itself as the leading centre of the valley.
On 05th July 1235 Santo Stefano decided to go against the role it had taken on since its foundation and acquired for its people Sarzana citizenry, following the expansion and independence plan on behalf of the Bishops of Luni.
It was an important element of this alliance, because even though Sarzana had a main role, surrender was never mentioned in the relations between the two villages. It was always Santo Stefano that autonomously managed the claim of its rights, such as in the case of the negotiations of 1257 with the bishop of Luni, aimed at regulating the “forum sive mercatum” to be held on Sundays. The importance of negotiation conclusion cannot be underestimated however, when it was established that the municipality would receive half of the profits from the market during May. We must, however, relate this concession to an attempt by the bishop to make agreements with the valley markets in order to downsize the power of Sarzana rather than an admission of the importance of the municipality of Santo Stefano di Magra.

Towards the end of the 13th century, with the death of Bishop Enrico da Fucecchio, the interference of the bishop in the villages of Lunigiana was positively decreasing and Santo Stefano returned with Sarzana until the swearing of loyalty to Castruccio Castracani, who had become viscount of the Luni comitat and defender of the Municipality of Sarzana in 1321.

Between the 14th and 15th centuries, Santo Stefano’s geographical position was initially the fortune of this village. It was the cause of a series of attempts to conquer by different noble lineages. Between 1344 and 1402 it was the Viscounts who won, but after twenty years the power went to the Fregoso family, who passed it to the Bank of Saint George in 1484 and, naturally, to the Republic of Genoa towards the mid-16th century.
The Genoese obtained notable commercial and economic advantages, at times to the detriment of the inhabitants of Santo Stefano, to then stabilise and balance themselves in the benefits from the second half of the 17th century.

In a Medieval era, many inhabitants of the hinterland of today’s La Spezia have probably been to the “market in the village of Santo Stefano”. There seems to be nothing strange in this nowadays, each city hamlet had a market, be it big or small, but one time owning a market identified the commercial nature of a village and made it more prestigious than the others. Listen to the audioguide 1that Liguria Heritage has dedicated to Santo Stefano di Magra to give this village its correct historical weight!

The intervention

The monument requiring renovation consists in its entirety of three different buildings, all close to each other: the three-storey ‘fortified house’, the old customs house (now a library, also three storeys high) and the area covered by the reconstructed fortified walls, covering approximately 200m2.
The renovation project aims to develop the potential this cultural and architectural asset offers in order to revitalise the old town centre of Santo Stefano di Magra, making it more appealing and stimulating the area’s social and economic conditions.

The fortified house has been empty for many years and is in a state of disrepair due to the lack of maintenance, as is the former customs house, with its old plastering and floors.
The area where the fortified walls will be reconstructed consists of a hill with a dirt road and various types of broken paving, the result of various different types of restoration work carried out at different times.

As part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), the intention is to reinforce the fortified house in order to allow its use, to refurbish the finishings, plastering, floors, doors, windows, wiring and plumbing and carry out energy efficiency improvements.
As regards the old customs house, the work will involve repairs to the outside plastering and paving, the stone window ledges and a moderate extension of the ground floor. The reconstruction of the fortified walls in reinforced concrete and the repair and replacement of the paving are also planned.

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