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

Astino Abbey

Astino Abbey was founded around 1070 by a group of members of the Vallumbrosan Order led by John Gualbert during a time in which, through reforms, clerics were trying to revive the Catholic Church"s position. The Romanesque church and the first conventual buildings were built by Bertario, the first abbot, who supervised the abbey for 21 years until 1128. The monastery was suppressed on 4 July 1797 by the ciil ...
Founded: 1070 | Location: Bergamo, Italy

San Paolo d'Argon Monastery

The Monastery of San Paolo d"Argon was a Benedictine monastery decorated by premier painters of the late-Baroque era. The monastery was initially founded in the 11th century. It was reconstructed in the 16th century to take on the present layout with two cloisters. The design is attributed to Pietro Isabello. The frescoes (1624) in the refectory were painted by Giovanni Battista Lorenzetti. Starting in 1684, th ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: San Paolo d'Argon, Italy

Matris Domini Monastery

The Matris Domini Monastery was an enclosed female monastery. It houses a museum featuring several medieval frescoes with religious themes. The monastery was founded during the second half of the 13th century by the Dominican Order to house a community of nuns. There is no certain date for the foundation, probably during the rule of Bishop Algiso da Rosate or that of Erbordo Ungano. Its church was consecrated on 25 M ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bergamo, Italy

San Salvatore Monastery

San Salvatore (or Santa Giulia) is a former monastery in Brescia, now turned into a museum. The monastic complex is famous for the diversity of its architecture which include Roman remains and significant pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Renaissance buildings. In 2011, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a group of seven inscribed as Longobards in Italy, Places of Power (568-774 A.D.). The monastery i ...
Founded: 753 AD | Location: Brescia, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.