The earliest record so far found mentioning Pretale is a small parchment dated 21.12.1256. It has reached us in pristine condition after seven centuries and is kept in the State's Archive of Siena in the "Diplomatico - Fondo Riformagioni", the most important registry because in it are filed all the major political acts concerning the Commune of Siena. In it are to be found Emperor', feudals' and Communes' charters together with acts of submission. Our parchment is kept, like all others, in its original aspect, a little roll, and like all documents of the time it is written in Latin, the only accepted language for official acts. Language though, only known to literates; clergy and public notaries.
It is the official and formal election of the Mayor of S. Quirico of Tonni, to which territory Pretale belonged, and to whom the municipalities grant power of attorney in their submission to the City of Siena; in the same period acts of this kind were stipulated in many of the small communities of the area that had fallen under the influence of Siena.
The prime function of such act was that of putting into being the new census established by Siena for fiscal purposes. In fact a general census existed before then, called "fiscal registry of the countryside" but, as it included every single inhabitant outside the city walls it proved to be of little use because it listed also all the people who weren't tax payer. The new criterion enlisted only those who had some kind of duties toward the treasury as they were entitled to take part to the political life.
Therefore, the names of the people that on that 21 December elected the Mayor, come to assume relevant importance not only because they let us know who were the inhabitants of the time. They give us information on their social weight and status and, further more, we can deduce the importance of Pretale itself for it is the place chosen for compiling the act.
But this is not all! Thanks to this document we are enabled to make other interesting discoveries.
First of all the name of the place itself, whose origin had had interpretation the most various and peculiar. Mentioning "Pratale" this parchment confirms beyond doubt the toponymy researches which derived the name from the Latin "Pratum" (field, meadow) ending once and for all any other theory.
Another important thing is the title of Magister next to three names. It must be explained that "Magister" described today's Architect, who, in those times had a dual function: that of designer and that of labourer. He was at the head of a group of "artifices", those skilled labourers working at those architecturally most important parts and decorations. The profession was considered at the time both, manual and managerial. This is in fact the reason why so many "Magister" although famous in the middle ages, unless they entrusted their name to small tablets encased on their works, have been destined to anonymity.
The frequency with which this title appears in the parchment is therefore rather unusual, but just because of such frequency we are entitled to deduce that in this area lived a very large number of labourers. And it is probably to them that we owe the vast presence of minor religious buildings. Testimony of a lesser architecture nonetheless equally pleasant and interesting.
Those buildings in fact, although not showing the perfect styles of major works, for the simplicity displayed, the fullness of their structure and the basic decorations, are evidence of deep knowledge and skilled techniques. As additional demonstration of the undoubted capacities of those workers it must be remembered that from the quarries of the Montagnola came the precious white marbles for the Duomo of Siena and the stones for the most important buildings of the city (palazzo Pubblico, Tolomei, Salimbeni). Such a tradition established itself so much that in 1320 Magister Alessio Nuti, building the Duomo of Pistoia, commissioned to such Puccio (of the deceased) Orlando, of S. Quirico at Tonni,"...several pieces of white marble from the Montagnola...".
It can be better appreciated the value of such an order, considering the well established habit of the time of using local materials for buildings because of the high cost of transport. A rule ignored only before works of extremely high importance requiring exquisite workmanship and top quality of materials.
Our parchment, thence, has also permitted us to establish what undoubtedly was the most important voice in the economy of the area and the history of this medieval Borgo. Confirmation of that and some other pleasant discoveries come from the comparison with later documents. For example drawing thin threads of interpretation we find the presence of a "Lucchese" at Pretale. Would it be possible to connect him with those skilled workers from Pisa and Lucca who moved to this area at the beginning of the XII C and spread the "zebra" style that became so famous in our territory? The very same Lucchese turn out to be, together with a son, business partner of a "Lunbardus" and also for him the same question arise legitimately. Could he be the heir of those labourers that in the XI C, when architecture had a new impulse, moved to Volterra's territory and then to the Sienese's, diffusing their building methods?
It is a peculiar coincidence this partnership, especially in this area so much vocated to the building trade. But also because one of the shared properties is a "citine", namely a place for the production of quicklime indispensible for the preparation of mortar, so important to induce Siena to promulgate tough laws regulating its production and sale.
Appearing from this ancient document are therefore precise relationships between individuals, the territory and historical processes.