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 autonomy, funded by donations of various rulers and families. Most of the cloisters and church were rebuilt in the 16th century. Only the belltower retains medieval construction. The basilica church, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Santa Maria dell'Assunta), was designed in 1490 by Tullio Lombardo. Construction of the nave was completed in 1548, and of the principal door and the cupola in 1550.
The abbey has works by many prominent late-Renaissance painters of the Veneto. The cupola and large canvases in the library and refectory were painted by Giovanni Battista Zelotti. He also painted the Assumption of Mary in the church and the cupola. The apse was frescoed by Domenico Campagnola. Chapels have altarpieces by Alessandro Varotari, Antonio Badile, and Paolo Veronese.
The 16th-century library has been converted into a repository for the National Monument Library, and currently houses approximately 120,000 volumes. The monumental refectory is decorated with medallions carved by the Lombardo family, depicting the Baptism and Martyrdom of St Giustina, and Christ Pantocrator. Inside, the large fresco of the Crucifixion on the rear wall was painted by Bartolomeo Montagna.
In 1810 the monastery was closed for nearly two decades. The buildings fell into a dilapidated state and were used as barracks and a storage depot. It is remarkable that the artworks and library survived.
Benedictine monks did not return to the abbey until the early 20th century, and still use parts of the buildings. Many structures have been restored, and the monks provide tours. The monastery also accommodates visitors, including those on spiritual retreats. Work continues on book restoration in the library.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.