Biennale Nazionale Arte Fabbrile

Wrought iron museum

The upper Casentino valley has always had a connection with Florence and in particular Stia was the Mercatale of the Castle of Porciano so all the commercial and craft activities connected with it took place here.

n the 1300s in Florence there were three Arts of iron forging craftsmen guilds: that of Blacksmiths, that of Chiavoioli, Ferraioli and Calderai, and that of Corrazzai and Spadai. All workers, even those living in the lands subject to Florence, had to enroll in these guilds, and there were many Casentino blacksmiths enrolled in the Arts.

With the passage of centuries some trades related to iron forging disappeared, however when in 1770 the Chamber of Commerce replaced the Arts throughout the Grand Duchy, forgers were divided into three categories: blacksmiths, magnans, key-makers and farriers.

The old village of Stia sits slightly elevated from the urban development of recent decades. The old and the new are separated by the Staggia stream, which gives a beautiful small waterfall. For centuries, the abundance of water has shaped the local economy based on wood, iron, and wool processing.

The traditional abundance of water is the bill of location for many activities including ironworks. Water is used not only as motive power but also as a means of transporting lumber to Florence and Livorno.

During this period the population is mainly employed in agriculture, but many inhabitants are also employed in manufacturing.

The various Casentino communities thus appear as compartments specializing in different manufactures.

Of particular interest is the increase in the number of blacksmiths from the early 1800s until 1861 in Stia, and it was also possible to identify through data in the Leopoldine Cadastre of 1825 the presence within the ancient village of small workshops and an ironworks.

The small village, in this period has the highest concentration of people employed in the fabricile activity of the whole Casentino: in 1841 there were 23 blacksmiths, plus 9 working at the Ferriera out of a total of 2911 inhabitants.

Families employed in this activity include Francalanci, Pecchioni, Berti, Aiazzi, Benucci, Ricci, Cendali, and Scalpellini.

In addition to these were the employees of the Ironworks, who came from the Pistoia area where skilled labor for ironworking could be found.

The ironworks produced coarse work: spades, hoops for barrels, vats, buggy rims, which were then refined in blacksmith stores.

By 1850 the ironworks were selling their products throughout the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Until about the middle of the 20th century the art of iron-beating was handed down from father to son in the workshops, but with the advent of industry and the gradual abandonment of the countryside this ancient craft became increasingly rare until the presence of blacksmiths in the area was exhausted or nearly so.

This is the explanation and motivation for why the BIENNAL at STIA.

The Biennale dell’arte Fabbrile, was born in Stia in 1976 thanks to the bold intuitions of Pier Luigi della Bordella and Ivan Bruschi (an antique dealer from Arezzo) and the fundamental support of Vittoriano Frulloni the then Mayor.

Pietro Annigoni, who at the time lived on Via Montalbano, at the Mayor’s request drew “The Blacksmith of Stia,” which was to become the iconic image of the event, making it known worldwide.

These thought of establishing an Exhibition Market of Forged Iron that would preserve the memory of a time not even too distant, in which our grandfathers and great-grandfathers handed down in their workshops an ancient knowledge, the knowledge of the hands that work the raw material and make it a usable object.

The second edition was in 1977, but the third was organized after two years, given the importance it began to assume, and it has been ever since.

Today there are no longer blacksmith workshops in Stia, but since that distant 1976 every two years (odd years) blacksmiths from all over the world meet in Stia to still feel like a medieval guild, to exchange different knowledge and techniques helping us to preserve and reenact this cultural heritage of ours.

The event initially took on the character of a market exhibition of handicrafts, immediately gathering a large number of participants, representing a successful interweaving of tradition and novelty and drawing crowds of visitors and buyers to the various stands of the national event.

As early as 1979, the first forging courses began; on November 6, 1979, the first Professional Course for the artisan and artistic working of wrought iron began.

In 1981 it became the International Forging Competition.

Among the years to be remembered for the topics covered are.

– 1989 where the BATTLE OF CAMPALDINO is remembered.

Drawings of the weapons used in the Battle of Campaldino on June 11,1289 are recovered from the Stilbert Museum, which will be used by Italian and foreign blacksmiths in their forging. Some of these are exhibited at the Palagio Fiorentino.

– 1993 with the PERSONALE DI TONY BENETTON.

– 1995 with THE CHAIN OF HUMAN FRATERNITY located at the Old Monumental Cemetery around the War Memorial.

– 1999 with the attempt to finalize the work on the construction of the parapets of the Bridge of Our Lady, which was not completed due to compliance with regulations on the safety of people due to the presence of overhangs, too large spaces, and so on.

The pieces produced in that year were used in part for the construction of the Gate dl Cemetery, and the remainder are included in the fence of the small square in Montalbano Street.

Since 2003, the WORLD FORging CHAMPIONSHIP began with the following themes:

– 2003 – ANIMALS

– 2005 – SACRED ART

– 2007 – THE FASCINATION OF LIGHT

– 2009 – BALANCES

– 2011 – EVOLUTIONS

– 2013 – PLASTICITY

– 2015 – MASKS AND PUPPETS

– 2017 – DREAMS

– 2019 – GENIUS MDXIX

– 2021 – …….. E QUINDI USCIMMO A RIVEDER LE STELLE

The Woolen Mill in Stia is now the center of a museum hub that has grown over the past twenty years. Inside, one part is dedicated to the Wrought Iron Museum, where the most beautiful works created over the years are on display.

Twenty-five artists from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Yugoslavia, and Poland will join those from Italy.

On this occasion, the exhibition features an innovative forging competition related to the 7th centenary of the Battle of Campaldino.

The exhibition over the years has evolved a great deal, changing its initial set-up as a market show and now becoming a full-fledged exhibition where wrought iron becomes the protagonist as an artistic artifact.

The location has also changed. If before it was the Tanucci Square that served as a theater for the event, now the Lanificio di Stia is the perfect setting for the event.

The completely refurbished environment, thanks also to cleverly installed plays of light give special suggestions to visitors.

During the four days of the event (always the first weekend of September) the whole town turns out to be involved in the event. The public gardens host the forges, Tanucci Square welcomes the sculptures submitted to the competition and becomes the scene of the evening musical performances.

Every two years the blacksmiths, interpreters of an ancient artisanal civilization, thus have the opportunity to meet to stimulate their creative spirit and refine their working techniques thanks to the indispensable transfer of ideas they manage to achieve on that occasion.

Stia has always opened its doors to both masters and young blacksmiths from all over the world, earning international recognition as an “Event without Borders,” an undisputed showcase of high quality artistic craftsmanship.

A prodigious effort extended to the entire village community with the purpose of protecting and enhancing an age-old tradition and preserving a product that must remain authentically d.o.c.

The last edition was flanked by multiple initiatives, including the market exhibition, the world forging championship, the international design and drawing competition, the international sculpture competition and the photography competition.

The Stia Biennial is part of the 2003 European Ring of Iron Cities, an association that brings together the most important European-level exhibitions and experiences in the field of Wrought Iron in order to promote and protect this ancient art form.

Moreover, since January 2016, the Stia Biennial has participated, as a patner of a European team made up of five other nations, in the European Erasmus + project for the creation of the European Iron Academy (EIA), the purpose of which is to encourage the professional training of highly qualified craftsmen in the field of metalworking.

In order to enhance and incentivize the blacksmithing trade and to have its professional figure recognized, the Biennial Association and the Municipality of Pratovecchio Stia have established a training course,

Today there is a need for a specific and complete preparation in which one learns techniques and acquires that high level of professionalism necessary to cope with the innovative drive and evolution of contemporary art.

In this direction, the School of Forging (The first professional courses for the artisan and artistic working of wrought iron date back to 1979) has been structured by dividing the training path into a series of courses of various levels whose program is meticulously designed to offer students an educational path that can provide the technical skills and stimulate the critical and creative capacity , deal with contemporary stylistic paths in order to pursue a recognized professional career in an autonomous manner.

The new permanent headquarters of the Forging School, a facility available to the area to host The training paths inherent in craftsmanship, is nearing completion.

Thanks to the municipal administration and the Tuscany region, it will be possible to give stability and continuity to this activity, which trains and qualifies blacksmiths from all over Europe every year. There are countless, in fact, requests coming in for participation in the so.

The inauguration is scheduled for September 9.

Last, but not to be forgotten, is the Wrought Iron Museum, which is intended to represent the synthesis of more than forty years of the event’s history and an essential point of departure toward a future of the Biennale increasingly linked to the interpenetration of forging, art and design.

It is destined to become an important component of the tourist and cultural offerings of our valley, extending to the whole year round the possibility for tourists to appreciate the connection of our territory with forged art and artistic craftsmanship.

Just a few numbers……

n.300 blacksmiths participating in the event

n.24 countries participating in the event

n. 30,000 attendees during the four-day event between visitors and insiders