– Daily life at the Commenda


In the historical documented periods  of the Commenda   of Centignano the only refences we were able to trace  regarding a Commendatore who had lived and there for a certain period of time and who had restored  the house and the church at the center of his possessions, were those regarding Niccolò Tornaquinci.

Normally the Commendatori, who were of the highest noble lignage, would prefer to entrust the management of the commende to delegates, who could also be members of their own family, because such properties were usually not very near important  cities.



Niccolò instead, left us a very lively and modern account not only  about what life was like in places like Centignano in the second half of the XVI century, but also about what it was like  in Central Italy,. His “ Quadernuccio dei Ricordi” is in fact a  logbook where he registered the income and expenses.of  the commenda. This document is preserved in the Knights of Malta Archive in Rome.

In April 1577, with the official letter  nominating him Commendatore, Niccolò left from Malta on a  galley ship, disembarked in Gaeta where with the money he had borrowed from Fra Pietro Spina, another knight, who had surely fought in the Battle Lepanto at Giovanni D’Austria side,  he travelled from Gaeta to Florence his native land.

The first item was a request on 27 of April 1577 of  a loan from the Monte della Pietò pf Florence of 200 florins with the  warranty of Girolamo of Giovanni Tornaquinci and his brother Benedetto.

With the money he received he started to prepare all that was necessary for his stay in Centignano.

One pair of shoes and one pair of slippers

On pair of waxed boots

A ferraiolo (cape) of “panno e velluto volto” (velvet cloth)

A white collar with grey buttons

Three pairs of socks

One pair of trousers “ciambellotto” of goat skin, wool and silk fabric

4 pairs of small scissors

12 forks and 12 knives

A lantern and a light

A saddle canvas haversack

The repair of a crossbow (including the strings)

Two travel containers

Niccolò left Florence with these titems on the 18th of May  1577, and rode  by horseback to Viterbo and Centignano.  On the 19th of May he arrived in Poggibonsi where he changed three horses. From Poggibonsi, he took the via  Cassia and went to Siena. On the 20th he arrivesd in Torrieri near Montalcino. The 23rd he reached Viterbo where on the 25th at the Quercia fair he ordered  from the mattress maker  Lorenzo 6 matresses, 6 pillows, and 3 bedsides. In Viterbo he also purchased other oil lamps , an earthenware inkwell, cotton for the oil lamps, bushel for the flour, wooden spoons, pottery. On a unprecised date he arrived in Centignano, where on the 8th of June he started to restore the church door  of and the vegetable garden, purchasing material from Mastro (Master) Michelangelo the ironsmith of Vignanello and bought wooden boards from Mastro Bartolomeo da Pisa, who lived in Soriano. The commenda at the time seemed to have been abbandoned.

In June he also hired the mason of Vallerano, Mastro Donato to build a wall and repair an arch above the door. Mastro Bartolomeo di Pisa, who lived in Soriano, worked for 4 days to fix the doors and the windows and was paid on the 27th of June

In the meantime Niccolò was joined by Monna Antonia servant  and Marco da Figline servant. On June 20th he received from Frate Pietro da Orte 7 barrels  of white wine for his personal use. Other deliveries followed. At the  same time he started to work on the vegetable garden and on the seedling part of the commenda. On the 13th of September five  men were paid to till the land. The head farmer was a man named Diego coming from Vignanello.



An important event documenting the relationship between the commenda and  Vignanello occured on November 12th. The Vignanello  Balio  of the Court and Community issued a ban which was agreed upon between the podesta (head of comunity)  of Vignanello M. Giovanni Stefano (or maybe Stefani) and Niccolo confirming  that whoever worked on the lands of the commenda was subject to the teiaticom,  that is a rent to be paid in kind. This meant that before  this, for a certain period the Commenda had not received the payment that had been owed to it.


In the meantime there were the arrivals of about six servants.

During the entire year of 1577, with the help of the Vignanello  and Soriano artisans. Niccolo fixed up and restored  his house,  and the church  Morever five  farmers were hired to work on the vegetable garden of the Commenda.

In 1578 NiccoLò was mostly involved in legal matters ,  regarding which he appealed  several times to the bishop of Civita Castellana,. to settle his disputes  with   Vignanello farmers., one of whose names has been handed down to us : Lallo d’Agostino.

During 1579 important restaurations were carried out both on the house and and on the churh:

“A m.(astr)o michele legniaiuolo da vignianello a buo(n) co(n)to delle sue giornate che a fatto una porta a una chamera e una finestra della chasa di s.(an)ta m.(ari)a cintigniano baiocchi 30”

Translation of Modern Italian “ To Master Michele, carpenter from Vignanello for the days spent making a door to a room and a window of the S. Maria di Centignano house. 30 baiocchi

“A m.(ast)ro michele fallegniame fiorentino di vignianello pp(er) giornate che ha lavorato acintignano pp(er) adornamento di legno atorno allaltare di s.(an)ta m.(ari)a cintigniano e pp(er) fare il telaro della ditta madona al tabernacolo e pp(er) fattura di 4 porte ciò(è) della stalla di dua chamere della sala e della porta di sala e finitura della p(or)ta davia e pp(er) suo resto in(tut)to auto sc. uno con(tan)ti”

Translation of Modern Italian “ To Master Michele  Florentine carpenter of Vignanello for days spent working in Centignano on a wooden ornament around the Madonna tabernacle, and also on the manufacturing of four doors, one for the stables, two  for the hall . one for the salon. For the finishing of the entrance door and other works received 2 scudi in cash.

On a later date the roof of a small church, which no longer exists was repaired

“A m.(ast)ro bartolomeo muratore et a suo fratello pp(er) 6 giornate infra(tu)tti adua sc(udi) uno e b(aiocchi) 50 aragione di b(aiocchi) 25. la giornata alloro spese et b(aiocchi) 60 a u(n) manovale pp(er) 4 giornate aragione di b(aiocchi) 15 il giorno assue spese pp(er) aver ristaurato la capella cioè rifatta il tetto rimurato la cornice di pietra attorno il tetto rinbochatola t.(u)tta aricciatola  et intonachatola tutta e ristaurato il muro t(u)tto dietro ala chapella ditta che sta dava(n)ti la chiesa di s.(an)ta m.(ari)a cintigniano che(….) il t(u)ttova in co(n)to di miglioramenti co(n)sta in(tu)tto 2 scudi baiocchi 10”

To Master Bartolomeo mason and his brother for 6 days one scudo and 50 baiocchi each.. The salary was  25 Baiocchi a day for expenses including the 60 Baioccchi for a laborer for 4 days at 15 baiocchi a day. The days were spent restoring the chapel, that is rebuilding the roof , , walling up  and plastering the frame of the stome of the roof , restoring the walll behind this chapel which is in front of the Santa Maria di Centignano the entire sum of 2 scudi and 10 baiocchi.

“Pagati a m.(ast)ro bartolomeo muratore che sta a vallerano baiocchi 15- pp(er) due pezzi di cornice di pietra che a fatti di nuovo li quali si sono messi alla sop(r)a scritta chapella”.

Mastro Bartolomeo mason was paid 15 biocchi for 2 pieces of the new door frame  which were placed on top of the Church inscription

In 1580 NIccolò rented the lands of the  Commenda of Alo S. Terni and of S. Maria di Centignano to Don Cesare Colonna and 1581 left Centignano for Terni , keeping the use of the church, This was a rateher usual decision among Commendatori and probably Niccolo decided this once the legal disputes were setttled, But before leaving the Commenda he completed the  final restoration that till today is one of the characteristic elements of the Church.

Addì 28 di aprile (1581)

“A co(n)to di miglioramento sc(udi) 2- pagati a m.(astr)° donato muratore a buo(n) conto pp(er) sua giornate a intonacare e inbianchare la sala e la facciata della chiesa di s.(an)ta m.(ari)a cintigniano et pp(er) rapezzare la finestra dellantichamera di detta chasa e murare un arme di marmo sop(r)a la chiesa pagò diego mio fattore sc(ud)i 2”

28 April 1581: For improvements Mastro Donato, mason was paid 2 scudi for a day’s work walling up and plastering the hall and the front of the church of S. Maria di Centignano repairing the window of the  antechamber of such church and walled up the marble coat of the arms over the church my head farmer Diego paid 2 scudi:

This is the coat still above the church’s door.


For this point on there are no further records of Niccolo Tornaquinci who died in the summer of 1586, and as far as the daily life of the  Commenda of Centignano it too until now remains a mistery.