When we arrive in San Miniato, from whichever direction you look at it, you cannot help but notice its unmistakable profile with the beautiful Tower of Frederick II on its top. To date it is the undisputed symbol of the city, and in its shadow the Samminiatesi always find the comfort that only a mother can give: the Rocca (as it’s affectionately called) in fact, for us citizens, it’s as if it was part of our family since when we are born!
The history of the Tower of Frederick II has medieval origins. The city of San Miniato stands in a strategic position on a hill overlooking the surrounding valley, and is equidistant from the major city centers of the area such as Florence, Pisa, Volterra, San Gimignano, Siena etc… It was not by chance that it was chosen during the 11th century by the German emperors of the Holy Roman Empire as a center of power and control of all Tuscany. It was during this period that Emperor Ottone I built a majestic defensive fortification, endowing the village of San Miniato with imposing walls. The crowning of this work, however, was thanks to Emperor Frederick II who, on the highest peak of the city, had the famous Tower erected which still dominates the city.
The city walls
The Rocca was part of the first city walls, which enclosed the upper part of the hill where served as a keep: the highest tower in the city that was used as a lookout and defense tower in case of attack. Two other towers were part of the second city walls: the Cornacchie Tower (unfortunately destroyed) and the current Matilde Tower, the bell tower of the cathedral.
An inscription that was on the Rocca reported that the imperial chancellor Corrado da Spira had been appointed as superintendent of the tower, while thanks to historical accounts it’s said that the secretary of the emperor Pier delle Vigne was imprisoned inside on the charge of betrayal and corruption against the sovereign. We find the latter character in the Divine Comedy, in the 13th canto of Inferno, placed in the suicide circle imprisoned in the trees of a forest: at the base of the Tower we find a plaque that reports precisely this passage.
The demolition of the Tower
Unfortunately, however, the tower we see today is not the original. In 1944, during the retreat of German troops, the Tower was mined and detonated on the night of July 23rd and was completely destroyed. You can imagine the bitter awakening of the Samminiatesi the next morning when they realized that their symbol had disappeared forever, and that empty hill had left an open wound for the population. It was therefore decided to rebuild it thanks to the help of the architect Renato Baldi and to the engineer Emilio Brizzi, and in 1958 the Tower of Frederick II returned to its new splendor for the joy of all the citizens of San Miniato!