The slow physical decay of this hermitage on Mount Pisano seems to have set in during the course of the following (i.e., eighteenth) century and continued until about the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was in a state of complete dilapidation. An author, E. Ridolfi in 1868 portrayed a vivid picture of its deplorable sight.
He wrote, “I shall dwell but shortly on the hermitages which once were built on the mountains around the ancient parish of Massa Pisana. Since centuries fallen to pieces, they are not but heaps of debris ... There remain only ruins of the hermitage of Spelonca, situated on top of a mountain whose very name is derived from a huge cave which, beneath a towering mass of rocks, deeply extends into the mountain side.”
He continued, “The oratory has lost its roof, but its walls, formed by rather still well-jointed stones, are still standing. There also still exist the staircase which had been cut into the rock and once led to the row of cells, and the cisterns which served to quench the thirst of the hermits.”
These were picturesque ruins, indeed, to which the inhabitants of S. Maria del Giudice climbed in solemn procession on the Rogation Days (special days of pennance) in the Church's year. The former hermitage’s small chapel had been restored at the beginning of this century by a member of the Barsotti family of S. Maria del Giudice, but after his death it had once more fallen into neglect.
The people of S. Maria del Giudice call the hermitage “Sant’Agostino,” in acceptance of the tradition that it was once inhabited by Augustinian hermits.
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