During the recent renovation of the farmhouse that now houses the “Agriturismo Due Comuni” we found, under the wall plaster a stone plaque with the words “1784 MENSA DI LUCCA“. We asked ourselves what the Mensa di Lucca was, what happened in 1784 to be worthy of a plaque and why it was put on the wall of our building.
After the first article on the history of San Gervasio and the second on the Valdera and the history of the two municipalities that give the name to our company, we want to tell you about our farmhouse and the Mensa di Lucca.
The stone plaque is the one in the picture below. Nowadays the wall on which it was found is inside the house, instead at the end of the eighteenth century it was an external wall of the farmhouse; only in the next century it became an internal wall for the expansion of the building.
The term “Mensa di Lucca” refers to the set of properties and related rents that formed the personal heritage of the bishops of Lucca. The bishop of Lucca was a kind of feudal lord and had his own officers who managed his estate and related income; with these incomes he provided for the livelihood of his person and his court. The patrimony of the Mensa consisted essentially of plots of land, entire farms and estates, including houses and warehouses, located in a fairly large area. The lands of the Mensa extended beyond Lucca in the Garfagnana, in the Valdera and in the lower Valdarno up to Montopoli, Ponsacco and Pontedera.
The Mensa granted its land and buildings to farmers through “livello” contracts. “Livello” was a type of agricultural contract remained in use until the nineteenth century through which the owner (nobleman, monastery or church) granted in use a good against payment of a fee. Most of the income came from these rents, which were paid both in kind (wheat, straw, millet, oil, wine, animals) and in cash.
Returning to the origin of our plaque, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was an important lawsuit relating to the castle, the farm and land of San Gervasio. The lawsuit was between the Mensa di Lucca and the Alamanni brothers on one side and the Rucellai brothers on the other side. The Alemanni and the Rucellai were important Florentine families. Extensive documentation on the lawsuit can be found in the archiepiscopal archive of the diocese of Lucca.
“The Mensa, by nature of contract, and as a direct owner, as the castle and the land are purchased by the bishops of Lucca since the eleventh century, had the obligation to defend its level in the peaceful enjoyment of the goods that had been granted”.
The cause concerned the possession of the castle and the land of the village of San Gervasio, a possession that depended on the authenticity of a parchment containing the purchase contract made by bishop Anselmo in 1075. In 1770 the archbishop of Lucca commissioned Don Sebastiano Donati to defend the interests of the Mensa. In three years Donati collected throughout Italy a large number of manuscripts and documents to form a fairly organic jurisprudential and diplomatic collection that he then decided to publish. The result of the case was favourable to Donati and to the Mensa di Lucca, which obtained a sentence completely favourable to his theses.
The case ended in 1784 with the victory of the Mensa di Lucca that, therefore, probably made to affix on the border of the property the plaque today visible in our reception.