The pagan myth of Hercules and the Christian purity of the virgin who is pregnant. Sacred and profane, religious beliefs and classical cultures merge here in Alta Valtiberina, among the rounded hills that lead to the Tiber valley.
Monterchi is perched at the centre of a rugged plain with ancient and medieval convents and churches. The imprint of myth is engraved on the coat of arms of the municipality. Formerly referred to as Mons Herculis, Monte d'Ercole, according to an ancient legend was founded by the Semidium after defeating the Idra of Lernia, the terrible monster with serpent's heads. However, since the Renaissance, the name of the village resonates throughout the world for the presence of an absolute treasure in the history of art: the Madonna del Parto, the famous fresco by Piero della Francesca considered among the most extraordinary and enigmatic works of the Italian Renaissance.
The origins of Monterchi are very ancient, but only documents from the 11th century have been found. An unstable terrain between the Città di Castello and Arezzo, belonging the Adalberti and then the Lambardi, upon the background of the struggles for power between Emperors and Popes.
Its history is marked by the constant presence of earthquakes that over the years have often destroyed its heritage. Nevertheless, its historical centre preserves the medieval imprint in its urban layout, made of an impressive well-preserved wall, a network of narrow streets along which churches, stone constructions and workshops are placed. A place of art and memory, but also of small villages and religious temples enclosed in the Monterchi countryside.
Like San Michele Arcangelo in Padonchia, with its paintings ranging from the 15th to the 16th century, San Michele Arcangelo a Pianezze, with a romanesque style XV century fresco of the Madonna della Misericordia, the church of St. Lawrence, situated on top of the hill , or the ancient church of St. Martin with the mysterious monolith called “Tina Homo Selvatico”. The churches of Sant'Apollinare, San Simeone, St. Benedict and Madonna Bella are noteworthy.
One jewel is the small church known as the chapel of Santa Maria di Momentana that in around 1459 inspired Piero della Francesca to make the composition of the Madonna del Parto, a fresco designed for the main altar of the temple, in honour and memory of his mother, but that today is kept in the museum of the same name. The work is an exaltation of maternity, with the Virgin that is little more than adolescent and that is shown to be pregnant, at the centre of autumn curtain as an apparition that preserves living and real contours.
The Museum of Weights and Measures is very interesting, in the sixteenth-century Palazzo Massi, which collects instruments of all ages for the measurement of the most varied weights: from the giant blocks of centuries past to the precision scales for scientific experiments. Cultural, artisan and folkloristic initiatives are repeated regularly during the year. Concerts are also held in the Garden of the Madonna del Parto Museum, from June to September, and the festival of polenta is in the autumn.