Pava in the Valley of the Asso is surely one of the oldest and most important transit places which pilgrims used in the Etruscan-Roman period.
It was also here that one of the oldest Christian communities of Tuscany was born and developed.
In the late 80′s the small borgo of Pava became a private estate and the new owners painstakingly restored the farmhouse, canonica (priest’s house) and pieve (church).
The church of Santa Maria di Pava dates back to the 4th century. Over the centuries, it was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, due mostly to the fact that the Val d’Asso and the Val d’Orcia were part of the great struggle between Siena and Florence.
In fact, towns such as San Giovanni d’Asso, San Quirico, Monticchiello and even Pienza were actually built as fortrezzes used in these ongoing battles.
A conflict between the bishops of Siena and Arezzo over the area ended when Enea Silvio Piccolomini became Pope. At this time Pieve a Pava was brought under the new diocese of Pienza.
From the original structure, there remains a remarkable piece of rock, which can be seen on the outside of the lateral wall of the church. Behind the church, one can still see a more or less circular foundation of the apse of a later version of the church.
The portal is enriched with a fresco, from the early 14th century, representing the ‘Madonna with holy child and two saints’.
In the 18th century, the church was partially destroyed by an earthquake, and rebuilt, which explains the numerous baroque touches.
The Archeological Excavation Site of Pava
The site, at the foot of the romanesque church, S. Maria in Pava, was discovered during a survey in 2001. The plenitude of possibilities was cause for great interest and especially auspicious was the location: a fundamental crossing point of the river Asso.
The first excavation followed magnetometer results that enabled researchers to recognize shapes possibly connected with the primitive Pieve di San Pietro church (apsidal form).
Successive excavations revealed the stone perimeter of a paleochristian church; the second apse had a base for the altar and a small interior apse. Also discovered was a small treasure cache with gold and silver coins dating to 527 and 541 d.C., some of which were unknown to the coin dealers of that age. Some findings are shown in the Castle.
Also uncovered were the remains of a thermal system, an industrial kiln and over 200 burials pertaining to a cemetery of a later period.