Januari 27, 2023
National Museum of Science and Technology "Leonardo da Vinci"
National Museum of Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci”
Januari 27, 2023




We present a representative number of Italian Monasteries, and  among them the most important from both  religious and artistic point of view. Is well known that in the Italian history the role of religious institutions like the greatest monk orders was always very important for the culture and for the arts.

The Chartreuse of Pavia

The Shrine of The Holy House – Loreto

Basilica of Saint Anthony – Padova

Farfa Abbey

Basilica of Saint Mary of Salvation – Venezia


The Charteuse – Firenze

Fossanova Abbey

Pomposa Abbey

Casamari Abbey

Vallombrosa Abbey

Trinita` di Cava

Fonte Avellana

Sanctuary of Monte Sant`Angelo

Basilica of Saint Francis – Assisi

Padre Pio Church – San Giovann Rotondo





The Charterhouse of Pavia (Certosa di Pavia) is a monastery complex in Lombardy, northern Italy, situated 8 km north of Pavia. Built in 1396-1495, it was once located on the border of a large hunting park belonging to the Visconti family of Milan, of which today only scattered parts remain. The Certosa is renowned for the exuberance of its architecture, in both Gothic and Renaissance styles, and for its collection of artworks which are particularly representative of the region. The church is built on a Latin cross plan with a nave, two aisles and transept, typical of Gothic architecture. The chancel terminates with an apse. It is covered by crossed vaults on Gothic arches and is inspired, on a reduced scale, by the Duomo of Milan. The vaults are alternatively decorated with geometrical shapes and starry skies. The transept and the main chapel end with square-plan chapels with smaller, semi-circular apses on three sides. The Certosa has painted masterpieces by Bergognone including the panels of St. Ambrose and San Siro and, most significantly, the Crucifixion. Other paintings in the church include a Holy Father and panels by Perugino, Morazzone, Guercino, Francesco Cairo and Daniele Crespi.




The Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua (Sant’Antonio da Padova) is the largest church in Padua. Construction of the Basilica probably began around 1235, nineteen years after the death of St. Anthony. It was completed in 1301 although several structural modifications  took place between the end of the 14th and the mid 15th century. The Saint, according to his will, had been buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, probably dating from the late 12th century and near which a convent was founded by him in 1229. This church was incorporated into the present basilica as the Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna). Saint Anthony is a giant edifice without a precise architectural style. Over the centuries, it has grown under a variety of different influences as shown by the exterior details. The new basilica was begun as a single-naved church, with an apsidal chancel, broad transepts and two square nave bays roofed with hemispherical domes. The style was Romanesque. Later in the 13th century, the aisles were added in a more Gothic style, the length of each nave bay being divided into two aisle bays with arches and vaults. The interior of the church contains numerous funerary monuments, some of noteworthy artistic value. The Chapel of the Holy Sacrament (Cappella del Santissimo Sacramento) with its broad bands of polychrome and carved Gothic details has had many stages of decoration




The Basilica of St Mary of Salvation (Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute), commonly known simply as the Salute, is a famous church in Venice, placed scenically at a narrow finger of land which lies between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco on the lagoon. The Salute is a vast, octagonal building built on a platform made of 100,000 wooden piles. The interior has its architectural elements demarcated by the coloration of the material, and the central nave with its ring of saints atop a balustrade is a novel design. It is full of Marian symbolism the great dome represents her crown, the cavernous interior her womb, the eight sides the eight points on her symbolic star. The dome of the Salute was an important addition to the Venice skyline, and became emblematic of the city, just as the domes of the Cathedral in Florence and St. Peter’s in Rome were for their respective cities. The Baroque high altar arrangement shelters an iconic Byzantine Madonna and Child of the 12th or 13th century. The most represented artist included in the church is Titian, who painted St Mark enthroned with saints Cosmas, Damian, Sebastian and Roch, the altarpiece of the sacristy, as well as ceiling paintings of David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac and Cain and Abel.





The Charterhouse of Florence (Certosa di Firenze o Certosa del Galluzzo) is situated on a hillside just south of Florence. Niccolò Acciaiuoli, one of the most powerful Florence citizens of 14th century, built it in 1341 not only as a religious centre but also for the education of the young. The Church of Saint Lawrence is Mannerist in architectural style and filled with frescoes and pictures, a sumptuous marble altar of the 16th century and a crypt containing many tombs. It gives access to the beautiful Renaissance cloister with its large terracotta well by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia. The monks’ cells open onto this cloister, and those which are open to the public give an idea of Carthusian monastic life. Each consists of a room for sleeping and a room for praying. Their furnishings are severe but each has a tiny enclosed garden which was cultivated individually by the inhabitant. In addition to the large cloister, the small cloister of Conversi (Chiostro dei Conversi) is open to the public. This gives access to the refectory which is decorated with a pulpit from which lessons were read during meals. In 1957, a small group of Cistercian friars replaced the Carthusian monks as the inhabitants of the Certosa. They are largely self-supporting and maintain their old traditions such as the distillation of herb liqueurs and the manufacture of small handmade religious articles.




Vallombrosa is a Benedictine abbey in the comune of Reggello (Tuscany), 30 km south-east of Florence. It was founded by Giovanni Gualberto, a Florentine noble, in 1038. It was extended around 1450, reaching its current aspect at the end of the 15th century. Soon, the Vallombrosa abbey began benefiting from bequests and donations enriching its patrimony remarkably and rapidly developed into an authentic rural seignior.
Even if Florence annexed the monastery in 1280, it kept its autonomy and its own statute. In the XIII century, the abbot of Vallombrosa also became the Count of Magnale with the task to nominate his vicar to administer justice within the jurisdiction of the monastery. By 1377, the properties of the Vallombrosani included more than sixty holdings and plots of ground and a real community with more than 120 people had developed inside the convent. The monastery has its own business life based on timber trade and livestock farming. In the XVI century, the rich and powerful convent of Vallombrosa caught the attention of the Spanish troops during their presence in Tuscany. In the second half of the XVI century, the abbey started to thrive again and it was also restored. The congregation of the Vallombrosiani was suppressed in the Napoleonic age, when the French emperor initiated his fight against the religious brotherhoods, but it recuperated its properties in 1818. Later on, after the Unity of Italy, a second abolition of all the orders was settled. In 1866., the friars were obliged to abandon the complex again. They returned here in 1949, only, and took back the forest area that had thriven thanks to a huge forestation works since 1963. Today, the monastery is open for tourists and is selling local produce.



The monastery of Fonte Avellana is situated on Mount Catria, in the Apennine mountains, in the region of Marche. Its beauty is derived as much from the intentional poverty of the architecture as the magnificence of its proportions and the extraordinary size of the entire complex. It was founded in 980. Dante stayed here in 1318 and described the hermitage in Canto XXI of Paradise in “The Divine Comedy”. The spiritual life of the hermits was certainly influenced by Saint Romuald of Ravenna, the father of the Congregation of the Camaldolese Monks of the Order of Saint Benedict. The development of Fonte Avellana started with Saint Peter Damianus. Not only did his strong personality shape the original nucleus of the hermitage. Even more, it was because of his spiritual, cultural and organizing impulse that the hermitage became a centre of attraction and for spreading the monastic life and exerted a great influence in religious reformation and in social life. The monastery itself conserves an extraordinary scriptorium which was built projecting out of the side of the monastery, facing due south. Tall single light windows on each side are ingeniously arranged in such a way as to allow the maximum amount of light into the room for the greatest part of the day.



The Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Basilica Papale di San Francesco d’Assisi) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor, commonly known as the Franciscan Order. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. It was begun in 1228 and it was built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. With its accompanying friary, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The interior of the Upper Church is important as an early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica an unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period. The architecture is a synthesis of the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and established many of the typical characteristics of Italian Gothic architecture. As originally built, both upper and lower churches had a simple cruciform plan, a square crossing, a transept that projected by half a bay one each side, and an apse, the lower being semicircular and the upper polygonal. To the left of the church stands a free-standing bell tower of Romanesque design.



The Shrine of the Holy House (Basilica della Santa Casa) is a late gothic structure. The façade of the church was erected under Sixtus V, who fortified Loreto and gave it the privileges of a town (1586). The interior of the church has mosaics by Domenichino and Guido Reni and other works of art, including statues by Raffaello da Montelupo. In the sacristies on each side of the right transept are frescoes and fine intarsias. The basilica as a whole is thus a collaborative masterpiece by generations of architects and artists. The main attraction of Loreto is the Holy House, a well-known Catholic place of pilgrimage since at least the 14th century and a popular tourist destination for non-Catholics as well. It is a plain stone building; the niche contains a small black image of the Virgin and Child, in Lebanon cedar, and richly adorned with jewels. The statue was commissioned after a fire in the Casa Santa in 1921, and was crowned in the Vatican in 1922 by Pope Pius XI. Around the house is a tall marble screen designed by Bramante. The four sides represent the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Arrival of the Santa Casa at Loreto and the Nativity of the Virgin, respectively. The treasury contains a large variety of rich and curious votive offerings.


Farfa Abbey is a territorial abbey in northern Lazio, central Italy. It is one of the most famous abbeys of Italy and Europe. It belongs to the Benedictine Order and is located about 60 km from Rome, in the commune of Fara Sabina. Archeological discoveries in 1888 seem to prove that the first monastic establishment was built on the ruins of a pagan temple. This first monastery was devastated by the Vandals in the 5th century. The “Constructio Monasterii Farfensis”, a writing which dates probably from 857, relates at length the story of its principal founder Thomas of Maurienne. Farfa was the most important monastery in Italy both from the point of view of worldly possession and ecclesiastical dignity. It had one large basilican church and five smaller ones, rich in masterpieces of religious orfèverie. Between 930 and 936, it was rebuilt by Abbot Ratfredus. Berard, abbot from 1049 to 1089, made the abbey a great seat of intellectual activity. The Cathedral has a huge Romanesque gate, with magnificent floral freizes. The interior has three naves middle one surmounted with a lunette representing the Virgin and the Child. The Renaissance hall has several chapel: in the Curcifix Chapel is housed the most venerated image of Farfa. The interior wall of the façade has a fresco depicting the Last Judgment (1571).



Montecassino is a monastery complex near Rome. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. The site has been visited many times by the Popes and other senior clergy, including a visit by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2009. The monastery was constructed on an older pagan site and enclosed by a fortifying wall. St. Benedict of Norcia established here the Benedictine Order around 529. At Monte Cassino he wrote the Benedictine Rule that became the founding principle for western monasticism. Monte Cassino became a model for future developments but unfortunately its protected site has always made it an object of strategic importance. It was sacked or destroyed a number of times. It was rebuilt and reached the apex of its fame in the 11th century. The number of monks rose to over two hundred, and the library, the manuscripts produced in the scriptorium and the school of manuscript illuminators became famous throughout the West. The buildings of the monastery were reconstructed on a scale of great magnificence, artists being brought from Amalfi, Lombardy, and even Constantinople to supervise the various works. An earthquake damaged the Abbey in 1349, and although the site was rebuilt it marked the beginning of a long period of decline. The archives, besides a vast number of documents relating to the history of the abbey, contained some 1400 irreplaceable manuscript codices, chiefly patristic and historical.



Fossanova Abbey is a Cistercian monastery, 100 kilometers south-east of Rome. It is the finest example of a Cistercian abbey in Gothic style. The church (1187-1208) is closely similar to that of Casamari. The history of Fossanova dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. An ancient Roman villa, whose remains can still be seen today, was largely used by the Benedictine monks to build the first Romanesque construction. It was later enlarged by the Cistercian monks who settled in Fossanova around 1135 A. C. turning the complex into a vital center from the spiritual, as well as cultural and artistic, point of view. The fame of the abbey was fostered by renowned guests, such as Pope Innocent III and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Friars Minor Conventual have been in charge of the abbey since 1932. The Franciscans have a busy agenda. Besides the daily care of the rooms of the complex and the reception of a large number of pilgrims, they are committed to pastoral activity, especially through the administration of sacraments – the celebration of Sunday Holy masses, with a special attention to liturgy and preaching; a considerable number of baptisms, confirmations and weddings; confessions and spiritual retreats for small, organized groups. Artistic and cultural events often take place in the abbey and the Franciscans take an active role in their management, in collaboration with the Monuments and Fine Arts Office of Lazio Region. The ancient mixture of faith, culture and history make the abbey of Fossanova a charming place where everybody, absorbed in the harmony of spirit, art and tradition, can find a rest and distraction from the hectic pace of modern life.



The Abbey of Casamari is a Cistercian abbey in the province of Frosinone, in the region of Lazio. It is named for the “house of Marius.” Caius Marius was consul of Rome a record number of seven times. A Benedictine monastery was established on the site in the early 11th century and briefly flourished before falling into decline in the 12th century. The Cistercians completely rebuilt the Benedictine buildings between 1203 and 1217, designing a new abbey church and monastery based on the standard Cistercian pattern. Fortunately, most of the abbey’s architecture and monks survived the many hardships of the centuries, including a siege by Muzio Attendolo Sforza in 1417. The abbey was extensively restored in the 1950s. Today, the beautiful Abbey of Casamari still houses a Cistercian community. The Abbey of Casamari is built in the austere Cistercian style, specifically designed to avoid distraction and ostentation. The abbey is a beautiful sight, with delicate columns, vaulted ceilings, small stained-glass windows, and a lovely cloistered courtyard. The spiritual life of the monks of Casamari centers on common prayer and visitors can enjoy their Gregorian chant throughout the week. The other main focus of the monks is work, by which they earn a living for themselves and for the poor and missions. There is a small museum and bookshop at the abbey, and accommodation for guests is provided.


The Trinità della Cava (commonly known as Badia di Cava) is a Benedictineabbey located near Cava de’ Tirreni, in the Province of Salerno. It stands in a gorge of the Finestre Hills. It was founded in 1025 by a noble of Salerno who became a Cluniac monk and had lived as a hermit in the vicinity since 1011. Pope Urban II endowed this monastery with many privileges, making it immediately subject to the Holy See, with jurisdiction over the surrounding territory. In 1394 Pope Boniface IX elevated it to a diocese, with the abbot functioning as bishops. In 1513 the Cluniacs were replaced by Cassinese monks. The monastery was closed under Napoleon but the community remained relatively unscathed, thanks to abbot Carlo Mazzacane, and was restored after his fall. The abbey still provides the surrounding parishes with clergy. The church and the greater part of the buildings were entirely modernized in 1796. The old Gothic cloisters are preserved. The church contains a fine organ and several ancient sarcophagi. The monastery contains rich archives of public and private documents, which date back to the 8th century, and fine incunabula. The monastery later became the seat of a national educational establishment, under the care of the Benedictines.

1.       trinita di cava dei tirreni




The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo, sometimes called simply Monte Gargano, is the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the archangel Michael. It is located on Mount Gargano in the province of Foggia, northern Apulia. The historic site and its environs are protected by the Parco Nazionale del Gargano. The complex of buildings consists of the Battistero di San Giovanni in Tumba, damaged in 1942, and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The massive, octagonal campanile was built in the late 13th century by Emperor Frederick II of Sicily as a watchtower. It was turned into a bell tower. Behind a forecourt the sanctuary presents a portico of two Gothic arches, the right one of 1395 by the local architect Simone, the left one a reconstruction of 1865. From the portico steps lead down to the low arched nave. The cavern can be accessed from a Romanesque portal, called the Portale del Toro (“Gate of the Bull”): the doors, in bronze, were made in Constantinople in 1076, the donation of an Amalfitan noble. They are divided in 24 panels portraying episodes of angels from the Old and New Testaments. The archaic cavern opening to the left, with its holy well, is full of votive offerings, especially the 12th century marble bishop’s throne supported on crouching lions. Among the ex voto objects is a statue of the Archangel by Andrea Sansovino. During centuries, millions of pilgrims went to Monte Sant’Angelo in order to visit the Celestial Basilica . Among the pilgrims who visited the Saint Michael Archangel Sanctuary were many popes, saints, emperors, kings and princes.  Also Francis of Assisi went to visit the Sanctuary.





The Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church is a church in San Giovanni Rotondo, owned by the Ordine dei Frati Minori Cappuccini of Foggia. Built in devotion to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, it can accommodate 6,500 people seated at worship, with standing room for 30,000 people outside. The Genoan architect Renzo Piano designed the church. It is located in front of Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, a big Italian Hospital and Research Center, founded by Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. The shrine also includes a modern Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) on the forested hillside above, regular processions, and an English-speaking pilgrim’s office. The materials, selected to express simplicity and solidity, are local stone, wood and glass. The immense roof skin is finished in pre-patinated copper with a supporting structure of wood and limestone. The supporting structure consists of two intermeshing rows of Apricena stone arches arranged in a circle, a total of 21, that form an inner and an outer. The arches of the inner ring originate in the center of the three-quarter circle, where the altar is located. The radial structure brings the assembly as close as possible to the altar. The cost of the building, which took 10 years to design and build, has been met entirely by contributions from the faithful.





Pomposa Abbey is a Benedictine monastery near Ferrara in the region of Emilia Romagna. It was one of the most important abbey in northern Italy. The buildings are Romanesque. News of a Benedictine abbey at this site dates from the 9th century, but the settlement was probably two centuries earlier. Until the 14th century the abbey had possessions in the whole of Italy, but later declined due to impoverishment of the neighboring area and the presence of malaria. It played an important role in the culture of Italy thanks to the work of its scribe monks. In the 19th century the abbey was acquired by the Italian government. The church architecture shares the features of the late basilicas of Ravenna, and it is the result of several additions and transformations. It is dedicated to Saint Mary, consists of a nave and two aisles and contains a good mosaic pavement and interesting frescoes by Vitale da Bologna. The bell tower (1063), standing at 48 m, is one of the finest bell towers from the Romanesque period. Notable is also the Palazzo della Ragione. The abbey is certainly one of the most important historical places, and one of the most suggestive locations in the whole province: once an island surrounded by the waters of the Adriatic sea, the Po di Volano and the Po di Goro rivers, today it is an enchanting historical and cultural site.

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