Monasteries in Italy

Franciscan Monastery

The Franciscan order arrived in Brescia around 1220, after a visit to the city by the founder himself. Construction of the convent structures began around 1254 and continued for over a century. The cloister of the adjacent Convent, designed by Guglielmo da Frisone, was completed in 1394. In the 14th century, it is likely the entire walls and ceilings were frescoed, but the creation of chapels and other restorations co ...
Founded: 1254 | Location: Brescia, 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

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

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

San Salvatore Monastery

Monastero di San Salvatore is located on the left bank of the Oglio river, in the municipality of Capo di Ponte. Established at the end of the 11th century, it was the first and only Cluniac priory in Val Camonica. The monastery is an important example of Early Medieval religious architecture.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Capo di Ponte, 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

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

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 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

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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.