The abbey of San Bartolomeo in Cantignano is one of the oldest religious buildings in the Piana di Lucca area, located in an isolated position on a plateau at the beginning of the Vorno valley, in the midst of green hills.
A long history characterizes the small town that has preserved within its city walls the memory of all its glorious past, from Roman times to the present day.
The name of the town is in fact of Roman origin and derives from the Latin noble Cantinius, the Roman colonist who was assigned the lands of the current Cantignano where probably also a thermal complex was located.
A black and white mosaic above the door of the left transept of the church dates back to that period, as well as a tombstone now conserved in the National Museum of Villa Guinigi in Lucca and various other finds and different fragments including the lower masonry walls of the current church, toegther with the remains of the Roman aqueduct.
New excavations have brought to light the remains of a cult building dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries and despite having been restructured several times, numerous traces of the early medieval foundation are still evident, especially inside.
The first church and monastery were built by Benedictine monks from Bobbio in the 7th and 8th centuries. The basement parts of the walls of the apse area and of the left transept in opus spicatum date to this period together with other fragments of minor value. The name Badia, which it assumed, and many ornaments of the interior including the figures of a Lombard king and queen painted on the pillars of the high altar, confirm that it was a Benedictine abbey until the beginning of the century XII when it passed under the Camaldolese order by the will of bishop Rangerio from Lucca.
The church was rebuilt by the monks of Camaldoli after a period of decline also due to the disastrous wars between Pisa and Lucca, right in the Vorno valley, around the "castellaccio" in the immediate environment of the monastery.
A third monastery, still existing today, known as the "palace of a hundred windows" was always built by the Camaldolese in 1455.
In the 18th century, a last intervention considerably modified the building by receding the new façade to which a portico of at least seven meters was added. The interior was also redone on that occasion, but then dismantled with a restoration in the 1960s. Inside there is a panel by Agostino Marti with the Madonna enthroned between the saints Bartolomeo and Martino painted in 1516 on commission from the Gigli family; the predella depicts the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, the Lamentation over the Dead Christ and the Almsgiving of Saint Martin.
Today, the church of Badia is a small building in the shape of a Latin cross, with an apse and portico, protected by a powerful modern bell tower.
The volume stands out against the background of a large meadow, a small vegetable garden of the abbey and with the background of the hills of Vorno, at the foot of Mount Pisano.