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, south of the church, and, in the 14th century, the crossing tower and the refectory. In 1412 a small chapel was built next to the southern transept. Today it is used as the sacristy.
In 1442 the abbey was placed in commendam. In 1490 Cardinal Ascanio Sforza (the brother of Ludovico il Moro, duke of Milan) commissioned Bramante and Giovanni Antonio Amadeo to construct the Chiostro Grande ('large cloister') and the chapterhouse.
During the Renaissance, numerous painters and artists worked in the abbey: to this period belong for example Bernardino Luini's works. From 1614 to 1616 the brothers Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Mauro della Rovere decorated the interior walls of the church with the frescoes which are still visible today.
When the Napoleonic Cisalpine Republic was founded in 1798, the monastery was partly demolished. What remained included the church, part of the small cloister, the refectory and the entrance buildings. In 1861 Bramante's cloister was destroyed to make way for the construction of the Milan-Pavia-Genoa railway. The abbey remained a private property until 1894, while the Cistercians returned in 1952.
Chiaravalle Abbey is a beautiful temple and well worth seeing, but only for those staying in Milan for over a weekend, otherwise it is too far out to be worthwhile.References:
Roman Walls of Lugo are an exceptional architectural, archaeological and constructive legacy of Roman engineering, dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The Walls are built of internal and external stone facings of slate with some granite, with a core filling of a conglomerate of slate slabs and worked stone pieces from Roman buildings, interlocked with lime mortar.
Their total length of 2117 m in the shape of an oblong rectangle occupies an area of 1.68 ha. Their height varies between 8 and 10 m, with a width of 4.2 m, reaching 7 m in some specific points. The walls still contain 85 external towers, 10 gates (five of which are original and five that were opened in modern times), four staircases and two ramps providing access to the walkway along the top of the walls, one of which is internal and the other external. Each tower contained access stairs leading from the intervallum to the wall walk of town wall, of which a total of 21 have been discovered to date.
The defences of Lugo are the most complete and best preserved example of Roman military architecture in the Western Roman Empire.
Despite the renovation work carried out, the walls conserve their original layout and the construction features associated with their defensive purpose, with walls, battlements, towers, fortifications, both modern and original gates and stairways, and a moat.
Since they were built, the walls have defined the layout and growth of the city, which was declared a Historical-Artistic Ensemble in 1973, forming a part of it and becoming an emblematic structure that can be freely accessed to walk along. The local inhabitants and visitors alike have used them as an area for enjoyment and as a part of urban life for centuries.
The fortifications were added to UNESCO"s World Heritage List in late 2000 and are a popular tourist attraction.