Monasteries in Italy

Basilica of San Zeno

The Basilica di San Zeno name rests partly on its architecture and partly upon the tradition that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare"s Romeo and Juliet. It stands adjacent to a Benedictine abbey, both dedicated to St Zeno of Verona. St. Zeno died in 380. According to legend, at a site above his tomb along the Via Gallica, the first small church was erected by Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostr ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Verona, Italy

San Lazzaro Monastery

San Lazzaro degli Armeni is a small island in the Venetian Lagoon. Settled in the 9th century, it was a leper colony during the Middle Ages. It was later abandoned. In 1717 San Lazzaro was ceded by the Republic of Venice to Mkhitar Sebastatsi (Mechitar) and his followers who established an Armenian Catholic monastery. The monastery currently contains a church with a campanile (bell tower), residential quarters, library, ...
Founded: 1717 | Location: Venice, Italy

Säben Abbey

Säben Abbey was established in 1687, when it was first settled by the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg. Situated on the 'holy mountain', Säben was for centuries a centre of pilgrimage and controlled an extensive religious precinct. On the site of the present nunnery there was an earlier Roman settlement. Between the 6th century and about 960 there was a bishopric (episcopatus Sabiona) seated here. The church ...
Founded: 1687 | Location: Chiusa, Italy

Marienberg Abbey

Marienberg Abbey was founded in 1149 or 1150 by Ulrich von Tarasp and other nobles. It has maintained a long tradition of education and, at 1,340 m, it is Europe’s highest abbey. It retains a Baroque style with Romanesque elements, and has some well-maintained frescos. The history of the foundation goes back to Charlemagne, who established a Benedictine monastery between 780 and 786 near Taufers, a town which on the Vi ...
Founded: 1149 | Location: Mals, Italy

Abbey of Santa Giustina

The Abbey of Santa Giustina is attached to the basilica which was built in the 520s AD by the Prefect Opilius to house the remains of St. Justina of Padua and of other Christian martyrs of the city. By the 10th century the community has been under the Rule of St. Benedict. At that point the monastic community undertook renovations of the basilica. In 1110 the abbey was sacked by the troops of the future Holy Roman Empe ...
Founded: 520 AD | Location: Padua, Italy

Piona Abbey

Piona Abbey is a religious complex on the bank of Lake Como. The abbey is set at the top of a small peninsula, the Olgiasca, which points into the lake, creating an inlet. The original church of Saint Justina was founded in the 7th century; the ruins of an apse behind the current church of San Nicola belong to this original edifice. A new church was added some centuries later, though before 1138, as testified by an inscr ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Colico, Italy

Bolzano Franciscan Friary

The Franciscan Friary in Bolzano was founded in 1221. According a legend, young Saint Francis accompanied his cloth merchant father, Pietro Bernardone, on a business trip to Bolzano. While there, the young Francis took Mass in the Chapel of Saints Ingenuinus and Erhard, and the bells rang out. The Chapel is today part of the friary complex. However, the original structure was destroyed by fire in 1291 and the friary ...
Founded: 1221 | Location: Bolzano, Italy

Innichen Abbey

The Abbey of Innichen was founded in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 12th–13th centuries. Its collegiate church is considered the most important Romanesque building in Tyrol and the Eastern Alps and, it is home to a 13th-century sculpture and a fresco cycle from the same age in the dome. The original abbey was founded in 769, when Tassilo III, duke of Bavaria gave to abbot Atto von Scharnitz some lands going from t ...
Founded: 1140 | Location: Innichen, Italy

Praglia Abbey

Praglia Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1080. The first abbot of Praglia, Iselberto dei Tadi, who had become a monk in the monastery of San Benedetto Polirone in Mantua, is mentioned in a Papal Bull of Calixtus II in 1123. Until 1304 Praglia was under the direction of more powerful abbeys such as that of Polirone, the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua, and Cluny. By the 14th century the abbey had gained more a ...
Founded: 1080 | Location: Teolo, Italy

Neustift Abbey

Neustift Abbey is one of the most prestigious monasteries of northern Italy and Alpine region. It was founded in 1142 by the Bishop of Brixen. Buildings have been rebuilt and expanded several times until the 18th century. Neustift Abbey was dissolved by the Bavarian government in 1807. Today it is a convention center and ecological center. The abbey, since its establishment, has been a place of shelter for pilgrims ...
Founded: 1142 | Location: Vahrn, Italy

Eremo di San Colombano

Eremo di San Colombano monastery is notable for its location in the side of a mountain. Some natural caves, halfway up the rock wall of the gorge formed by the stream of Leno Vallarsa were certainly used from 753 AD (the date inscribed on the rock) from a Monaco hermit. According to legend, the hermit San Colombano first arrived there and killed the dragon that caused the death of children baptised in the waters of the r ...
Founded: 753 AD | Location: Trambileno, Italy

Muri-Gries Abbey

Muri-Gries abbey, first inhabited by Augustinian monks (1406), was pillaged by insurgent peasants in 1525 and was devastated during the Napoleonic wars. Suppressed in 1807 by the Bavarian government, it was given to the Benedictine priests of Muri (Switzerland) by the Austrian emperor in 1845. The oldest part is represented by the castle built in the twelfth century by the counts Morit-Greifenstein, whose keep has now be ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Bolzano, Italy

Maria Weißenstein Monastery

The beginnings of Maria Weißenstein go back to 1553 when Holy Mary appeared to the miner Leonhard Weißensteiner. He built a chapel which soon became a place of pilgrimage. The first Baroque church was built in 1673 and renotaved 1719-1722. The three towers were demolished in the late 1700s when the monastery was dissolved. The reconstruction began in 1800. In August, 1885, the image of the grieving Madonna, which Le ...
Founded: 1553 | Location: Weissenstein, Italy

Chiaravalle Abbey

Chiaravalle abbey was founded in 1135 as a daughterhouse of Clairvaux; it is one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Italy, although maintaining some late Romanesque influences.  After a series of temporary buildings had been constructed, the construction of the permanent church was begun around 1150–1160; it was consecrated on 2 May 1221. Works continued in the 13th century with the first cloister, s ...
Founded: 1135 | Location: Chiaravalle, Italy

Garegnano Charterhouse

Garegnano Charterhouse is a former Carthusian monastery located on the outskirts of Milan. It now houses a community of Capuchin Friars. The monastery, dedicated to Saint Ambrose but also known as Our Lady of the Lamb of God, was founded in 1349 by Giovanni Visconti, bishop and lord of Milan. It was then located some 4 kilometers from the walls of Milan. In the 14th century it housed, among others, the poet Petr ...
Founded: 1349 | Location: Milan, Italy

Mirasole Abbey

Mirasole Abbey was founded as a monastery of the Humiliati in the first half of the 13th century. Its economy was based on the working of wool and the production of woollen cloth. The Humiliati were abolished in 1571, and the abbey became the property of the Collegio Elvetico in Milan, which was taken over for the use of the Austrian administration in 1786 (the building is now the Palazzo del Senato); its spiritual lif ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Milan, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Goseck Circle

The Goseck circle is a Neolithic circle structure. It may be the oldest and best known of the Circular Enclosures associated with the Central European Neolithic. It also may be one of the oldest Solar observatories in the world. It consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across and two palisade rings containing gates in places aligned with sunrise and sunset on the solstice days.

Its construction is dated to c. 4900 BC, and it seems to have remained in use until 4600 BC. This corresponds to the transitional phase between the Neolithic Linear Pottery and Stroke-ornamented ware cultures. It is one of a larger group of so-called Circular Enclosures in the Elbe and Danube region, most of which show similar alignments.

Excavators also found the remains of what may have been ritual fires, animal and human bones, and a headless skeleton near the southeastern gate, that could be interpreted as traces of human sacrifice or specific burial ritual. There is no sign of fire or of other destruction, so why the site was abandoned is unknown. Later villagers built a defensive moat following the ditches of the old enclosure.

The Goseck ring is one of the best preserved and extensively investigated of the many similar structures built at around the same time. Traces of the original configuration reveal that the Goseck ring consisted of four concentric circles, a mound, a ditch, and two wooden palisades. The palisades had three sets of gates facing southeast, southwest, and north. At the winter solstice, observers at the center would have seen the sun rise and set through the southeast and southwest gates.

Archaeologists generally agree that Goseck circle was used for observation of the course of the Sun in the course of the solar year. Together with calendar calculations, it allowed coordinating an easily judged lunar calendar with the more demanding measurements of a solar calendar.