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Inhabitants in 1991: 66.737

The municipal territory of Massa extends for 94,13 square kilometres in an area prevalently mountainous between the Alpi Apuane and the sea. Erected as a Lordly centre, Massa suffered numerous modifications to its territorial aspect over the centuries, until the last in 1938, when the municipality together with that of Carrara and Montignoso was abolished to form the new administrative unity of Apuania. The municipality was reconstituted 1 March 1946.

The Massa territory, as has been demonstrated in archaeological findings, was already inhabited in the bronze age, and for centuries it developed an original civilisation which finished when they took on Rome but finally yielded when faced with its expansionism. Massa is recorded for the first time in a document of 882 A. D. while in another document of 963 it is understood that a quarter part of the little hamlet was conceded by Ottone I to the Bishop of Luni. In the XI century after a long dispute between the Bishops of Luni, those of Lucca and various Lay Lords, Massa became a stable dominion of the Obertenghi. These built the first fortified nucleus (Massa Vecchia) and remained its Lords for nearly two centuries, arranging to be flanked in the government by curial experts. The dynasty having faded out, Emperor Federico II assigned it in 1248 to Lucca. It was the beginning of a long period of political unease for Massa: with the Ghibellini victory Pisa took it from Lucca (1260), but after six years it was again forced to give it up, and Lucca governed it until 1319 through the Cattani di Vallecchia. Then Uguccione della Faggiola came into power, followed by Castruccio Castracani, Gherardino Spinola from Genova who acquired it in 1329, Mastino della Scala (1336), then Luchino Visconti (1342), then Pisa with the vicars of Emperor Carlo IV. After other complex events which testify to the strategic and economic importance given to the municipality by those in power at the time, the people of Massa, once again free of the protective interests of Lucca and Firenze (respectively) recognised the Marquis Malaspina di Fosdinovo (1442) as their Lord. Under this local dynasty Massa developed and enlarged its jurisdiction until it became the centre of a small dominion whose independence was basically recognised as a balancing element by the more powerful States of Italy. In 1553 the direct dynasty of Malaspina faded out with the intrepid and cruel daughter Ricciarda, and the Marquisate passed to her son Alberico Cybo Malaspina who, thanks also to the prosperity of the marble sector (whose products were by now requested in all of Europe), reigned over it for seventy years, contributing to assuring the city and its territory a period of prosperity. During the XVII century the well being and civil progress of Massa however suffered an arresting blow and the successors to Alberico had to re-dimension their life style and that of their subjects. In 1741 the marriage of Maria Teresa Cybo with Ercole III d’Este, Duke of Modena, marked the end of the independence of the dominion.

Assigned in 1790 to Maria Beatrice d’Austria-Este, Massa was occupied by the French and in 1806 was aggregated to the Principality of Lucca as feudal to Elisa Baciocchi. Restored to the Estensi di Modena by decree of the Vienna Congress in 1815, it remained under them until 1859. With the realm of Italy, Massa became capital of the province and acquired, other than an agricultural dimension and bureaucratic administration, also an industrial aspect. Certainly the stagnation of the production activity and the economic crisis began with the outbreak of the first world war, apart from some fleeting hopes it was not resolved during the following decade. Meanwhile with the coming of Fascism contentions and ruptures occurred in the urban social fabric, the principal income, that coming from the extraction of marble, reduced progressively until it reached its lowest point in 1936, above all for the effect of the sanctions which precluded the best part of the foreign market to the local workers. An attempt to remedy this was in 1938 with the establishment of the Apuana Industrial Zone, which aimed at breaking away the city and the province from the excessive dependence on the marble resources. The new world conflict brought the hardest years of its history to the city: the township suffered grave destruction, hundreds of men were slaughtered in the Nazifascism reprisal actions. Confronted with such barbarism the population responded with ferocity and contributed to establishing a network of partisan formations among the most audacious and organised in Italy. The history of the post war city , even though there were some contradictions and a few setbacks, was characterised by a tenacious social economic progress. Among the Massa illustrious are Felice Palma (1583-1625) and the musician Pier Alessandro Guglielmi (1728-1804).

Places to visit:
Piazza degli Aranci, called thus because it is flanked on three sides by rows of orange trees.
Palazzo Cybo-Malaspina, elegant and imposing construction, facing onto Piazza degli Aranci; now Provincial Administration Seat of the Prefectural Offices, it was started by Alberico I and finished in the 1700 by his successors.
The Fortress, dominating the city an imposing construction of the Medieval era. From the walls, across an arcade which unites it, one reaches the Castello Malaspina, of Renaissance era, in excellent state of preservation.
Il Duomo, 1300s construction with Baroque interior, named for Ss. Pietro and Francesco, Originally a convent church it was raised to Cathedral in the 1800s. Over the centuries it has several times been remodelled and enlarged, as was the façade in 1936. Internally it hosts the burial place of Cybo-Malaspina and the Bishops. Annexed to the cathedral is found the Museum of Historic Sacred Art. .
S. Rocco, church which preserves an admirable wooden Crucifix, claimed to be the work of the young Michelangelo.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford

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