“Water imprints”

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The worship of water traces its origins back to antiquity and continues to this day, representing a crucial element of community culture and spirituality. Since ancient times, humans have regarded springs and rivers as sacred places, linked to deities. Water has been perceived as a source of purification and healing.

In Italy, as in many other parts of the world, the worship of water has ancient roots and persists in the present, revealing itself as a central pillar of local culture and spirituality.

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Water and Semifonte

Semifonte,” whose name seems to derive from “Summus Fons,” indicating a source of great importance situated atop a hill. This geological formation has enabled an abundant presence of aquifers, making the location ideal for settlements. Archaeological research indeed attests to human presence dating back to the Etruscan era; one could even speculate about the presence of a necropolis.

The theme of water worship becomes distinctly evident in Semifonte. It’s also apparent in the place names that characterize the hill. Locations such as “Fonte la Docciola,” “Fonte alloro,” “Fonte Santa Caterina,” “il Bagnano,” and “lo sesso San Donnino” suggest a profound connection with water as a symbol of purification and healing.

Many of these sites have retained their cult-related attributes to this day. For instance, “Fonte la Docciola,” known as the “coughing fountain,” was traditionally used to treat whooping cough in children. Similarly, “Fonte Santa Caterina,” named after a Sienese saint who is said to have visited this spring, is also believed to enhance milk production in nursing mothers. However, a 16th-century inscription at the spring refers to the story of Ignazio, who supposedly conquered fever thanks to this very water.

The Baptistry: Evelien La Sud’s Work

In 1995, we recall an ambitious project titled “Six Architects and Six Artists for the Territory,” curated by Lara Vinca Masini. In this context, the Chapel of San Michele Arcangelo in Semifonte became the focal point of a work conceived by Evelien La Sud in collaboration with architect Raimondo Gramigni. The concept was to reinterpret the Chapel, located at the center of the hill, as a place designated for a “baptismal source.”

Beginning with the octagonal shape of its floor plan, the Chapel evokes an architectural characteristic inherent to many baptisteries.

Interestingly, a folk narrative recount tales of an ancient baptismal font right in that location. This version, although lacking historical and archaeological validation, stands as one of the many popular reworking that endure to this day.

On September 30, 2023, we will unveil the installation of Evelien La Sud’s work: a crystal baptistery crafted using digital technology and made accessible through augmented reality. This approach presents a contemporary reinterpretation of an artistic project that still resonates strongly with the place itself. This initiative harmoniously blends the inherent meanings of monumental architecture with the community’s shared perception, honoring one of the meanings indirectly suggested by the location.

Historical and Landscape Heritage

Historical Tuscan landscape

This initiative, funded within the framework of collaboration between Proloco BVE, Archaeological Group Achu APS, and the Municipality of Barberino Tavarnelle, places emphasis on a broad theme: landscape heritage.

Semifonte, on one hand, may not meet the expectations of those seeking the ruins of the castle or the mythical city defeated by the Florentines, but on the other hand, it offers a unique visiting experience. However, what one discovers upon arrival is a place that seems drawn into a timeless dimension. The 360-degree view encompasses a picturesque portion of Tuscany; we find ourselves practically at the center, surrounded by a distinct and highly anthropogenic landscape. Here, the actions of humans and nature have intertwined for millennia, each corner revealing stories, legends, and memories of historically renowned figures known across the world.

Everything here tells a story of those who have inhabited these lands; the sensed harmony encourages respect for these places and ignites interest. The concept of the landscape heritage park, conceived in the late ’90s, captured a distinctive aspect of Semifonte and the entire surrounding area. “Water Imprints,” primarily connected to the artistic installation and thus the water-related cults, aims to enhance the value of these places—their historical, spiritual, and scenic significance. The invitation is to visit Semifonte with an open mind, ready to absorb the elements that have enriched it with meaning over the centuries.

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