The church was built, together with the monastery, not far from the city wall, in the mid eighth century by the Lombard doctor Gaidoaldo; it is the most important and best documented Lombard building in Pistoia.
The first monastery, placed in the care of Benedictine monks, was soon joined by the abbey which, up until the year 1000 was independent and very rich, with properties in Pistoia, as well as in the territories of Lucca, the Lunigiana and Maremma areas. In the mid twelfth century the monastic church was renovated and was given the form of a basilica with the three naves and semicircular apse that we see today.
The Benedictines lived in San Bartolomeo until the mid fifteenth century when Pope Eugenio IV, with the death of the last abbot and seeing the few monks left, turned the monastery over to the Order of Regular Lateran Canons. These lived in the ancient abbey until the second half of the I700s when the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo turned it over to the Vallombrosa monks who stayed here for about thirty years. Afterwards the church took on the parochial function that it still serves today and the monastic quarters have long been turned over to public use.
The front of the church, whose style conforms to the Pistoian Romanesque taste for polychrome decoration, is divided into five archways over columns as if to suggest a portico along the façade. In these there are three doorways and over the middle one we see a sculpted architrave. The two arches to the sides of the main door are decorated with the rhomboid motif common to the Pisan kind of Romanesque architecture while the arches on the far sides have small circular windows added in the Baroque period.
The rich sculptural decoration over the main doorway, together with the capitals in the nave and the pulpit by Guido da Como, constitute one of the most interesting groups of medieval sculpture in the city of Pistoia. To the right and left two small lions frame the front; another two, shown dominating a man and a church, flank the polychrome arched lintel over the main doorway; the architrave under an acanthus leaf cornice, portrays the Apostolic Procession: at the center we see the Savior with Saint Thomas ascertaining the truth of the Resurrection, to the right and left are the Apostles with books or scrolls, bordered on each side by two angels.
Art historians have dedicated many years of research to discovering who created these sculptures; most ascribe them to Gruamonte who in the 1260s signed the architraves of the churches of Sant'Andrea and San Giovanni Evangelista, which are similar to these if only for the Pisan style that they have in common.
Radical restoration in the 1960s is party responsible for the archaic feeling one senses inside the church; here we find the decoration of the apse's vault intact with the powerful Christ between Saints Bartholomew and John the Evangelist.
This masterpiece by Manfredino d'Alberto is one of the best examples of fate thirteenth century painting still to be seen in the city.
Piazza San Bartolomeo, 6 - Pistoia
For further informations:
Tel: +39 057324297
Comune di Pistoia