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:
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.