Morimondo Abbey

Morimondo, Italy

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. 

The Church

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.

Wooden choir

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.



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Founded: 1134
Category: Religious sites in Italy


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

MIRCO MANTOVANI (4 months ago)
The Abbeys were born as a moment of faith and work. Today, the historical moment changed, they still have the "magic" of the past. Organized outside (parking and restaurants). We were alone on a cold morning and we were able to enjoy the whole complex just for ourselves
Marco Sala (5 months ago)
Beautiful abbey dating back to around 1100. A historical testimony absolutely to be seen, as well as one of the most important cultural interrupters in Lombardy. The management of the place is treated with fine care by the owner. I absolutely recommend the guided tour for a deeper knowledge of the convent. The neighboring village is also worth a visit. Ample paid parking
Piero Bitetto (2 years ago)
Alex O'Neil (2 years ago)
Absolutely fascinating Abbey. Beautiful in both daylight and at night.
Pieraldo Preialmini (2 years ago)
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