Inclusion in the World Heritage List: Banff, Alberta (Canada), 7-12 December 1990
San Gimignano is located in Tuscany, 56 km south of Florence. It was an important stopover for pilgrims travelling to and from Rome along the Via Francigena and became a free municipality from the second half of the 12th century. The aristocratic and upper merchant bourgeoisie families who controlled the city, built numerous tower houses (some of them up to 40 m high) as a symbol of their wealth and power. These were built between the 11th and the middle of the 13th century. Although only 14 of these still remain today, San Gimignano has retained its atmosphere and its medieval town structure, characterized between the 12th and 14th centuries, by the construction of numerous, prestigious palaces alongside the existing buildings. The city also boasts numerous masterpieces of Italian art between the 12th and 15th centuries. In from 1353, when the town was in decline, it fell under Florentine control. The cyclical succession of famines and plagues drastically reduced the population, leading it, over a period of one hundred years, to the level of the other numerous "lands" in the Florentine countryside, and, in fact, preserving it from the urban transformation that many Italian historic towns underwent after the Middle Ages.
The historic centre of San Gimignano is a cultural site of exceptional value, since it has maintained a homogeneous architectural and urbanistic character. It is also a remarkable example of 12th and 13th century medieval architecture, in which the characteristics of the different Florentine, Sienese and Pisan styles are found.
Criterion I - Representing a masterpiece of man's creative genius.
In the Historic Centre of San Gimignano there is a series of Italian artistic masterpieces dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, still in their original architectural context. In the Collegiate, in particular, there is the fresco with the Last Judgment by Taddeo di Bartolo (1393), as well as the Martyrdom of St Sebastian by Benozzo Gozzoli (1465) and above all the magnificent frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio (the Santa Fina cycle, 1475), while the Annunciation is in the Baptistery (1482). Other exceptionally valuable works are the large frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli depicting St Sebastian and St Augustine.
Criterion III - Being unique or exceptional evidence of a cultural tradition or of a living civilization or one that has disappeared.
San Gimignano is exceptional evidence of medieval civilization, as it contains all the typical structures of urban life, within a limited area: squares and streets, houses and palaces, wells and springs. The frescoes by Memmo di Filippuccio, commissioned by the City in 1303 to decorate the rooms of the Podestà in the Palazzo del Popolo, are among the evidence most frequently used to illustrate daily life in the fourteenth century, providing details of the domestic space.
Criterion IV - Constituting an extraordinary example of a building category, of an architectural or technological ensemble, or of a landscape, that illustrates one or more important phases in human history.
The urban landscape of Florence, dominated by the towers of its public palaces (Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo della Signoria) shows how public institutions prevailed over personal power - the height of the noble tower-houses was periodically reduced after 1250, while in San Gimignano, the castellation of which dates back to 998, the 14 towers proudly built higher than its buildings retain the appearance of a Tuscan feudal city, controlled by rival factions always ready for conflict. They attest to an important moment in history that cannot be documented in cities like Florence, Siena and Bologna, despite their extraordinary monuments.