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 vocations.
The building of the church began in 1182 and was finished in 1296. A long interruptions (probably a few years) occurred after December 1237 when the monastery was assaulted by Pavian troops and various monks were killed. Indeed, militants from Pavia and Milan often looted the area and wars hampered the success of the abbey. Frederick Barbarossa and his troops looted Morimondo in 1161. An interruptions occurred also in 1245 due, once again, to the raids of the imperial troops.
A slow decline began in the 14th century due to external situations. Some of them are the looting in 1314 and the change into a Commandery in 1450, a conversion which occurred for all abbeys with Cardinal Giovanni Visconti, Archbishop of Milan, and Commander and Abbot of Morimondo.
The restored stability led to reconstruction of the cloister around the year 1500, the reconstruction of the portal of the sacristy, the painting of the fresco of the Madonna and Child (1515) attributed to Bernardino Luini, and finally the carved wooden choir of 1522.
In 1564 the abbey became a parish after a decision of St. Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, and the change gave new fervor to Morimondo. In the same year Borromeo stripped the Abbey of its land-holdings, in order to give financial aid to the Ospedale Maggiore of Milan. Another fervent period was in the 17th century when the abbot Antonio Libanori (1648-1652) from Ferrara was able to effect a revival of the cultural and spiritual life of the monastic community. During the 18th century, palaces were built at the north and west borders of the cloister. The abbey was suppressed on May 31, 1798 in the wake of the French Revolution; the presence of the Cistercian monks was stopped, and the illuminated manuscript of the library were dispersed.
From 1805 to 1950, priests at the former monastic church continued to minister the parish.
While Morimondo Abbey is the fourth Cistercian monastery founded in Italy (1134) and the first in Lombardy, the abbey church is quite different from all other 12th century Cistercian buildings. The church construction being postponed till 1182, previous architectural experiences were exploited and surpassed. In fact, the Cistercian architecture in Morimondo Abbey adopts some gothic features, e.g. the cross vaulted arches, which can also create rectangular spans. Spans with a rectangular basis in the nave are paired with spans with a square basis in the side naves and the sense of verticality is dramatically increased. The magnificence of Morimondo is related to its eight spans while previous abbey churches are smaller. The majesty of the church of Morimondo comes mainly from its total essentiality and the message of order given by the bricks. The Renaissance and Baroque styles did not alter the spirit of the twelfth century building.
The current wooden choir replaces the original stalls and was fabricated in 1522 by Francesco Giramo, an artist from Abbiategrasso. It is an interesting example of Renaissance wooden furniture as shown by the compact and architectural design, which is after the style promoted in Lombardy by Bramante, and by the technique used to engrave the figures, which were curved with woodcuts made with hot iron. The represented symbols hint to its use as a place of worship. Although derived from classical antiquity according to the Renaissance style, they represent spiritual values such as generosity of the God’s gifts (the fruit basket) or the saving action of Christ (the fish).
In the cloister the layout typical of a Cistercian monastery is still legible despite successive interventions (the three arcades built in 1500 - 1505 and the north and west sides raised in mid eighteenth century). The chapter house is fully maintaining its original features, and the refectory and the kitchen, now having a beautiful seventeenth-century style, is nevertheless reminiscent of the original layout.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.