2021 is the 800th anniversary of the consecration of the Abbey of Chiaravalle, in 1221. It is also important as one of the first Gothic buildings in Italy. The centuries have passed and have left few traces of their passage: the splendid colours frescoed on the walls are ageless.
For those coming from “outside”, coming into contact with this place can be a great relief. Thanks to the silence and the quiet that you can find here only a few miles from the buzz of Milan.
The community is self-sufficient, the monks can provide for the basic needs of survival. Eight hours of work, eight of rest and eight hours of incessant prayer. There used to be hundreds of monks, and now they are less than twenty.
It is just one of the largest abbeys situated just south of Milan, a Cistercian monastic complex of great spiritual, creative, and historical significance. It is also a cornerstone of agricultural advancement in the location. The abbey was started in 1135 by San Bernardo di Chiaravalle at the head of a team of monks from the Burgundy abbey of Clairvaux, in north-eastern France. Motivated by the need to return to the faithful observation of the Benedictine rule “ora et labora” (pray and work), the Cistercians worked out outside the cities, committing themselves to function in the areas, redeeming and making the land productive, contributing to the advancement of the regions while respecting the bordering atmosphere.
The building, made from brick, was built, starting with the choir, and the apse, to be able to perform religious features as quickly as possible, as well as in 1221, the archbishop of Milan formally consecrated the abbey of Chiaravalle (the church). Later on, the works continued with the construction of the initial cloister and, in the initial half of the fourteenth century, with the addition of the tower.
Between 1493 and 1497, the chapter home and the large cloister started to be built, while the belfry days back to 1368. In 1798 the directorate of the Cisalpine Republic decreed the suppression of the abbey, and a component of the facility was knocked down. In 1860-62 the complicated went through additional modifications due to constructing the Milan-Pavia-Genoa railway route.
The Great Cloister, the novitiate, the dormitory, the abbot’s residence, the chapter residence and also a component of the cemetery churches were damaged. In 1923, the community and the abbey of Chiaravalle became part of the metropolitan area of Milan.
The tower of Chiaravalle Abbey
The tower’s construction dates back to 1329, two centuries after that of the monastery of Chiaravalle, and is attributed to Francesco Pecorari of Cremona. The tower, 56.2 m high, was built in solid masonry, and with its complicated intertwining of floors and combinations, it refers to the Lombard late Gothic style. It consists of three superimposed bodies with an octagonal plan, each consisting of three floors. The walls are interrupted by hanging arches, mullioned windows and small loggias on columns, and at the top, there is a conical cusp.
The belfry houses one of the oldest bells mounted in the Ambrosian system, which is still operated by the monks using a rope that reaches the ground. The bell rings to gather the monks for the liturgy of the hours and during the Sanctus.
You can reach the Chiaravalle Abbey in 20 minutes from the centre of Milan. Get the yellow underground in the direction of San Donato, get off at Corvetto and then get the 77 bus going to Via Unica Poasco that will take you just outside the Abbey. You can’t miss it, in the flat Po Valley, you can see its gothic tower for miles.
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