According to tradition, Passignano was the seat of an Etruscan settlement, while during the Middle Age it turned into a monastery.
In historical documents, however, the first testimony of Badia a Passignano can be found in a document of the 9th century, in which the first stone of the Abbey, in year 891, is mentioned. After a period of decline, during which the abbey was used as the seat of a sacerdotal order, Badia was given a new vital rush by San Giovanni Gualberto, the founder of the monk order of the Vallombrosani, who spent the last years of his life on the hills around Passignano. Here he received the visit of Pope Leone 9th, while headed to Florence, and here he asked to be buried on 12th July 1073.
After these events, the abbey increased its influence over the nearby churches, and also its jurisdiction grew stronger, extending to the majority of the Tuscany territory.
In 1255 the abbey was turned upside down by the followers of the Florentine Scolari family. Only the church survived the attacks, and the monastery was rebuilt behind the initiative of the abbot Ruggero del Buondelmonti, who provided the building with an excellent fortification, as the unsuccessful invasion by Henry 7th of Luxembourg proved in 1312.
The power and richness of the abbey continued to increase over the 14th century, swallowing a large part of the territories of Val di Pesa and Chianti. But it was that same richness and the disputes for the control of power that caused the end of its independence, when Lorenzo il Magnifico took possess of the monastery and gave it to his son Giovanni.
With the Pope’s permission, Lorenzo chased the abbot and the priests away. But under the successive Pope Leone 10th, in 1499, the convent returned in the hands of the priests, who paid the Medici family a yearly reward of 200 scudi.
The monks Vallombrosani remained the sole proprietors of Badia a Passignano, until Napoleon dissolved the confraternity and confiscated all goods belonging to the congregation.
Badia is constituted, beside the monastery, by two churches:
San Michele and San Biagio.
San Michele has the shape of a Latin cross, and was readjusted numerous times over the centuries, but today it is still possible to admire the crypt opening under the central part of the transept. The upper part of the impressive bell-tower was rebuilt in the 19th century, while the statue of San Michele dominates the façade. The angel holds the globe on one hand and the sword on the other hand, and he is ready to use it to defeat Satan, which is represented under the shape of dragon or snake. The work is strongly influenced by the Byzantine style, and was supposedly made by a certain Arriguccio, who was given hospitality in the abbey in the 12th century. The inside is embellished with a wooden choir of the 16th century (a work by Michele confetto); a statue of San Giovanni Gualberto supposedly made by Giovan Battista Caccini; and a pictorial cycle decorating the vault of the Chapel, with scenes of the Saint' s life, a work by Alessandro Allori.
The sacristy hosts a reliquary ( a remarkable work of the Florentine jewellery art), with the remains of the Saint. In the nearby church of San Biagio, built between the Romanic and Gothic period, some beautiful frescos belonging to the school of the Ghirlandaio are to be admired. A Last Supper by the Ghirlandaio is hosted inside the refectory hall of the ancient monastery, now a villa. Here some other frescos by Stefano Rosselli are visible, inspired from the Bible, as well as some episodes of San Benedetto’s life by Antonio Filippelli, and a fresco of the Annunciazione, dating back to the late 15th century.