Monasteries in Italy

San Gregorio Armeno

San Gregorio Armeno ('St. Gregory of Armenia') is a church and a monastery in Naples. It is one of the most important Baroque complexes in Naples. In the 8th century, the iconoclast decrees in Greece caused a number of religious orders to flee the Byzantine empire and seek refuge elsewhere. San Gregorio Armeno in Naples was built in the 10th century over the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Ceres, ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Naples, Italy

Certosa di San Martino

The Certosa di San Martino is a former monastery complex and now a museum. Along with Castel Sant"Elmo that stands beside it, this is the most visible landmark of the city, perched atop the Vomero hill that commands the gulf. A Carthusian monastery, it was finished and inaugurated under the rule of Queen Joan I in 1368. It was dedicated to St. Martin of Tours. During the first half of the 16th century it wa ...
Founded: 1368 | Location: Naples, 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 Giacomo Monastery

Certosa di San Giacomo is a Carthusian monastery on the island of Capri. Count Giacomo Arcucci, a secretary to Joan I of Naples, established the charterhouse in 1371. He later became a monk himself in 1386. In 1553 the monastery was restored and fortified and a tower was erected which collapsed in the 18th century. There was often conflict between the islanders and the monks, who owned land as well as grazing and h ...
Founded: 1371 | Location: Capri, Italy

Certosa di Pavia

The Certosa di Pavia is a monastery complex 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. It is one of the largest monasteries in Italy. Certosa is the Italian name for a house of the cloistered monastic order of Carthusians founded by St. Bruno in 1044 at Grande Chartreuse. Though the Carthu ...
Founded: 1396-1495 | Location: Certosa di Pavia, Italy

Santa Caterina del Sasso

Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso is a Roman Catholic monastery perched on a rocky ridge on the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore. The monastery can be reached on foot by descending down a long winding stairway or by taking an elevator or by a number of ferry services or boats that dock at the pier. The construction of the monastery dates from the 14th century, although the more recent frescos are from the 19th ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Leggiuno, 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

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

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

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

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

Morimondo Abbey

Morimondo Abbey was founded in 1134 when a group of monks arrived from the mother house of Morimond in France. The monks settled in Coronate (now a frazione of Morimondo) and later chose the location for their monastery in Morimondo, about a mile away. Soon after its foundation the abbey acquired patrons and postulants from all social classes and the community of the monks had a rapid growth in the number of vocation ...
Founded: 1134 | Location: Morimondo, 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

Polirone Abbey

The Abbey of San Benedetto in Polirone is a large complex of Benedictine order monastic buildings, including a church and cloisters. The complex, now belonging to the city, houses offices, a museum, and is open to visitors. The abbey was founded in 1007 by Tedald, count of Canossa, the paternal grandfather of Matilda of Canossa, countess of Tuscany, with a grant to the Benedictine monks, of half his land lying be ...
Founded: 1007 | Location: San Benedetto Po, 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

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

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

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

Viboldone Abbey

The Abbey of Viboldone was founded in 1176 and completed in 1348 by the Humiliati, an order of monks, nuns and lay people who worked in the abbey producing wool cloths and cultivated the nearby fields with innovative techniques. After the suppression of the Humiliati by Pope Pius V (1571), the abbey went to the Olivetan Benedictines, who were forced to leave the abbey in 1773, when Lombardy fell in Austrian hand ...
Founded: 1176 | Location: Viboldone, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.