The Aboca Museum in Sansepolcro

mortaio in bronzo aboca museum

In Sansepolcro, the elegant Bourbon Dal Monte palace hosts the Aboca Museum, dedicated to the centuries-old use of plants in the treatment of diseases.

Through thematic rooms, each object tells about the close relationship between wild herbs and their use by man, since the most remote history.

The first room is the mortar room: indispensable apothecary and cook utensils, made of stone or metal; the most frequent are those in bronze, cast in the same mold as the bells: the mortar is therefore only an inverted bell and the pestle is its clapper.

Display cases with precious volumes show delicate illustrations of herbs and flowers, while on the ground, in the various rooms, oriental rugs with stylized herbs and flowers with a highly symbolic content make a fine show.

Another room is dedicated to pharmacy jars, beautiful, with the most varied shapes and decorations. The pharmacy jars were used to put raw materials or medicinal substances with decorations and cartouches that specified their content such as the “deer tears”!

The glass room also has some curious surprises, such as the eighteenth-century breast pump, a complete kit for bloodletting, an ancient “First Aid” case and a fake book, which was to be hidden in the library of some monastery among thousands of others, and which, inside, contained secret drawers for the storage of drugs and medicinal principles.

An intense perfume invades next room: the Hall of herbs. Hanging from the ceiling to dry bunches of wild herbs spread their aromas, while in plain view the most varied utensils, from scales, to a large grater for bark, to a series of ancient boxes make a fine show of themselves.

It’s possible to visit a real ancient apothecary that has been rebuilt in the museum, with its stills, mortars, tools of various kinds and where a crocodile hangs above the large fireplace, which I discover to be the symbol of plant fertility.

We find the same crocodile in the room where an ancient pharmacy was completely rebuilt. The shelves on the walls are full of jars and original packages of preparations and medicines, in the center the pharmacist’s counter with the scale.

To “strengthen” the therapeutic effect of herbs there is nothing better than invoking a Saint: here is a “List of some Saints to be invoked as special lawyers in the infirmity of life”, a sort of handbook where, for each sorrow, the saint of reference is indicated and the day on which it is celebrated; one above all: San Pantaleo, which is celebrated on July 27 invoked by the “Desperate by the doctors”!!!

The phytochemical laboratory and the poison room, the small secret environment accessible only to the pharmacist, close the interesting circuit.

Benedetta Tintillini


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