Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo
This rather unassuming church is actually Paganico’s most beloved church and dates back to the 13th century.
It’s dedicated to the Archangel Michael, a rarity in Tuscany, and was originally home to the Humiliati (Italian Umiliati), an Italian religious order of men formed probably in the 12th century. It was suppressed by a Papal bull in 1571 though an associated order of women continued into the 20th century.
Inside is uniquely creepy with a Baroque style and a dark undertone that you don’t often see in Maremman churches. You can see the Archangel Michael slaying dragons in one of the murals, while in the others he appears to a handful of saints and followers in what is a rare 14th century cycle.
Further inside, you can see the remains of even older 13th century murals, while on the righthand wall, you can see my favourite piece in the church, a much worn and loved Crucifix in a gilded frame. Thought to be by a Nordic artist, it dates back to the 15th century and is the only one of its kind in the Maremma. It is stark and minimalist and incredibly moving. You’ll find you won’t be able to get it out of your head. The cuts and blood along the arms, chest and feet are incredible.
The story goes that the piece was found in the woods by a group of hunters. They left it in a church in nearby Civitella Marittima, but when they returned from the hunt, it was no longer there. They soon discovered that another group of hunters had taken it off to Paganico.
This led to a massive argument, which was only resolved when the hunters decided to entrust it to divine intervention. They tied the crucifix to a cart and left it decide where it wanted to go. The cart promptly made its way to Paganico and so it has remained.