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Santo Stefano di Magra

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Santo Stefano was born as a crossing point for pilgrims traveling along the Via Francigena, and even today, because of its location, it continues to be an unavoidable junction, one of the most crossed gateways by those people who move into the area of ​​La Spezia .
Some earliest knowledge refer to a premature mercantile feature: a diploma of Otto II dated 981 remembered in fact the "mercatum in plebe Sancti Stephani ", subjected to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Luni. During the Middle Ages Santo Stefano positively accepted the submission to the neighboring and powerful Sarzana, by maintaining a certain independence. With the arrival of the Genoese domination the village lost some of its commercial power, but in the seventeenth century, once again, the central location was crucial in the resumption of trades . At the end of the nineteenth century, the construction of the railway line and the rapid growth of the nearby city of La Spezia imprinted a turning point in the local economy, which specialized in the production of glass, refractory and stone materials. Finally in 1930 the reclamation and the regulation of the river Magra transformed the marshy ground in the fertile plain that we see today.


The village of Ponzano Superiore

Santo Stefano represented a milestone along the Via Francigena, the “via peregrinalis” par excellence to Rome, Compostela and the Holy Land . The vestiges of this fervent period can still be seen in the architectural monuments which can be found also in the nearby town of Ponzano . The scholars of urban history have no doubt about the ancient origin of Ponzano: according to Landinelli the name of the village comes from the consul Gaius Pontio Ligo. Others link it to the "Fundum Pontianum" of the Tavole Velleiate. In the pretty residential area there are holy images, small chapels and altars dating back to the sixteenth century, and they are located on the main journeys to invoke the protection during the pilgrimage. Along the staircase that leads to the church of Ponzano, for example, you can see the well-preserved coat of arms of St. George on horseback with the dragon, dated 1541, which is witnesses as a sign of the membership of Ponzano to the Republic of Genoa.


The “Via Francigena”

The journey from Canterbury to Rome is a journey of history, a major route walked in the past by thousands of pilgrims traveling to Rome. It was especially at the beginning of the second millennium that Europe was covered by a multitude of souls “in search of the Lost Heavenly Home”. This route bears witness to the importance of pilgrimage in medieval times: it was to travel mostly by foot (for penitential reasons) with a distance of 20-25 kilometers-per-day, and had the pilgrimage to the holy places of Christian religion as one of the fundamental devotional aspects. It is known that the centers of attraction for humanity in this way were three : firstly Rome, the place of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul; Santiago de Compostela, where the apostle St. James had chosen to rest in peace; and naturally Jerusalem in the Holy Land. The pilgrim travelled in a group and wore the insignia of the pilgrimage (the shell for Santiago de Compostela , the cross for Jerusalem , the key for St. Peter's in Rome) . It must be said that these pilgrimage routes were at the same time streets of intense trading and that they were covered by the armies in their movements.



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