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 March 1273 by Bishop Guiscardo Suardi.
From its beginning the monastery experienced the continuous development and growth of its community. It was rebuilt in 1359 and was enlarged in the 16th- and 17th-centuries, but it was suppressed during the occupation of Italy by French forces during the Napoleonic Wars.
In modern times, it was converted into a Gestapo prison during the German occupation of Italy during World War II. The monastery was eventually returned to its own original function and to the nuns.
The monastery displays in Romanesque frescoes. Dating from the 13th and the 14th century, they are among the earliest examples of the fresco painting art in Lombardy, some of them are among the most ancient altogether.
Together with the Visitation, other frescoes are displayed, some of them well preserved. Scenes include the Just, the Blessed, two Angels with a trumpet, Saint Peter on the throne, the Hell, all attributed to the Master of the Life Tree.
The museum also houses five polychrome glass circles are displayed, originating from the 14th century stained glass window which decorated the apse of the old church. They are the oldest vitreous work in Lombardy.
The largest displays the Virgin and Blessing Child and shares with the two circles depicting the angels the peculiarity of the face and the hands devoid of color. The other two circles show, respectively, Saint Dominic Blessing and Peter of Verona, the first Dominican saint.
Next to the museum, also part of the convent complex, is the church, consecrated in 1273 and composed, following the female monasteries tradition, by an internal chapel constituted by a nave and two aisles, and by the external church.
The latter was radically transformed in the 17th century into a luminous Baroque environment, decorated by stuccoes and frescoes, including some by Pietro Baschenis, as well as several altarpieces situated in the side chapels.
Above the main altar is the 17th-century altarpiece of the Annunciation, executed by an unknown master; at its sides there are the altarpiece of the Adoration of the Shepherds (also by an unknown artist) and the Massacre of the Innocents by Pietro Ricchi.References:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.