The Abbey of Sassovivo

Years ago I posted an entry entitled “In My Backyard” to my former blog in which I mentioned the never-ending thrill of having so many magnificent places and so much world-class art in my backyard.  No entry ever received more comments!  The essence of the comments was “Do you get used to it, does it lose its magic?”.  While looking out from the Genius Loci and from our “house above” onto a 12th century abbey (or onto the picturesque medieval hill towns of Spello, Assisi and Montefalco  is normal it most certainly has not lost its magic!

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An afternoon ray of sunshine through the clouds casts a dream-like light on the 12th century Abbey of Sassovivo as seen from Genius Loci and our “house above”.

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 the magnificent setting of the Abbey of Sassovivo  – only seven km. from Foligno and fourteen km. from Genius Loci

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The abbey lies majestically in the ancient oak woods at an altitude of 565 meters on a rocky spur at the foot of Mount Serrone where it overlooks the Valle Umbra.

Founded by the Benedictines around 1070, it was based on an existing castle of the Monaldi family on a site probably used in ancient times as a sanctuary.

It quickly increased its power and prestige thanks to numerous donations. In 1138 its possession extended from Rome (the basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati) to Perugia, Spoleto and Camerino.  In the following centuries it had 97 monasteries, 41 churches and 7 hospitals. In the late 15th century the abbey passed to the Olivetan Benedictines.

The abbey began to decay from the 15th century.   In the course of the Napoleonic Wars, it was partially closed …and in 1860, after the fall of the Papal States, its dependencies were divided between the Italian state, the local bishopric and private citizens. Today, part of the Abbey belongs to the Diocese of Foligno, another part to the State and the third part to a private family.

Some parts have been and continue to be used by the seminarists of Foligno in the summer months. Between 1951 and 1957 the monastery was inhabited by a group of Benedictine Monks taking refuge here after exile from the communist regime in Prague.

In 1979, the Bishop of Foligno entrusted the Abbey to the Community of “Little Brothers of Jesus Caritas of Father Charles de Foucauld” who are still living there today.

In the 1970s-1990s a substantial program of restoration was carried on.  The church is under restoration again after having been damaged by an earthquake in 1997.

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the lovely entrance to the remarkable cloister

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 detail of the remarkable frieze

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 the exquisite terracotta frieze of intricately decorated columns and small Gothic arches above the remnants of the three registers of different types of mosaics

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 three of the 128 marble columns of the cloister

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 It had been years since we had returned to the Abbey.  At a late/leisurely breakfast on a glorious, late August Sunday we decided to run over before lunch:  what a luxury to have so much art in our backyard. 

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We soaked up the sun as we checked the state of the on-going restoration…and spoke with the Rome archeologists who were working on a new area (sorry, they preferred we didn’t photograph the area) they discovered just last year by chance.

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 …a lovely backyard outing on a gorgeous Sunday morning

 

-Mary