Calolziocorte, 04 marzo 2014   |  

S. Maria del Lavello, a Reinassance monastery restored to its original splendor

di Viviana Vestrucci

The ancient Monastery and Sanctuary, built close to the river Adda, is an ideal starting point to discover the religious and artistic heritage of the Lake of Lecco area

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Calolziocorte (Lecco), Sanctuary of S.Maria del Lavello, the cloister

The Sanctuary and  Monastery of S. Maria del Lavello is located on the left bank of the river Adda at the foot of the San Martino valley in a wonderful landscape  between mountain and water, in the municipality of Calolziocorte, around 7 km from Lecco . The Monastery, built by the Friar Servants of Mary, the Servites, by the beginning of the 16th century, is one of the most important religious monuments of the Renaissance period in the Lake of Lecco area, in a strategic location on the road linking Bergamo to Como and to the main Alpine passes.

Here, in the past times, the rapid stream of the Adda slowed its speed, allowing to ford from one shore to the other. Santa Maria del Lavello monastery complex is part of the “Cloister Route”, an international cultural and religious tourist route touching the districts of  Lecco, Güssing in Austria and Leipzig in Germany, aimed at showing the common roots of the European history and identity. The  “Cloister Route” was conceived in 2002 within the NCE project (Network, Culture, Economy) to promote the discovery of the cultural, religious and environmental heritage through sustainable tourism.

Santa Maria del Lavello convent can be the ideal starting point of this route in the Lecco district, that includes also the Piona Abbey, located in a beautiful position on the north-eastern shore of the Lake of Lecco, and the church and the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria Nascente at Sabbioncello (Merate), both already described in previous articles published in this section of Resegone Online.

Beyond its importance as a great historic and religious monument, Lavello offers the opportunity to spend a day in the nature, walking or going by bike along the river Adda through the cycling path connecting Calolziocorte with Lecco, passing by the village of Pescarenico with its ancient convent of the Capuchin Friars made ​​famous by Alessandro Manzoni’s novel “The Betrothed”.

Thanks to the former railway bridge crossing the river close to the Lavello Monastery, that has been recently transformed into a pedestrian and cycle bridge, bikers and walkers can now also reach the opposite Adda shore and take its fine cycling path leading south to Trezzo d’Adda along the river (see another article in this section), or north towards Olginate, Garlate and, through the Azzone Visconti Bridge, get to the centre of Lecco. The tour on both shores offers wonderful views on the mountains: Resegone, Grigna, Magnodeno, Monte Barro.

The History of the Monastery and the Church

The first religious building on this site was a little church dedicated to San Simpliciano, and later to Our Lady, near the castle built in the 11th century, that was destroyed at the end of the 14th century during the wars between the cities of the Po valley. The church, however, remained and was enlarged by some hermits, who had settled among the ruins of the castle. During the works for the church a spring was discovered below an ancient grave and it was believed to have miraculous effects. The fame of the place attracted lots of pilgrims and in 1510 the Friar Servants of Mary came from Bergamo and started to build the monastery, too.

The church was completed to its present dimensions in the 17th century, but in 1772 the Senate of the Republic of Venice ordered the suppression of the monastery. A long period of decay and neglect began for the Lavello and its miraculous spring, that suffered the last hard blow during the Second World War with the allied bombardments. In 1948 the church was opened again,  but the restoration of the complex was carried out from 1998 till 2002, first in the interior of the church for the restoration of the frescoes and paint decorations.

The works for the floor were completed only later in 2005 and the excavations brought out also the remains of the old spring. Further works were carried out from 2007 till 2012 to restore three paintings in the Church, thanks to the support of the Fondazione della Provincia di Lecco within the initiatives of “restitutions” project, i. e. the commitment to protect and restore the artistic heritage of the Lecco territory and give it back, in all its original beauty, to the local communities.

The Convent and the Church

The Lavello complex, built between the 15th and 16th century, consists of three principal bodies connected  by two internal courtyards. The main cloister, with access from the main entrance on the ground floor, has twenty round arches covered with vaults on stone columns and leads to the kitchen and the large refectory. The minor cloister is closed on all four sides with elegant porticoes on slender columns, while on the upper floor there are exhibition rooms, a large Renaissance gallery and the apartment of the Prior.

The Church, with a late Gothic style portal, has one nave and is divided at the height of the pilaster strips in three parts by two ogival arches of Gothic style. Among the paintings, a big fresco of the Crucifixion probably painted by Giovanni De Tornelli, a votive image of Our Lady, an Annunciation dating back to the first years of the 16th century, fragments of other decorations and stories of the Virgin’s life by Domenico Scaretti from Pontida painted on the triumphal arch.

The complex is managed by a foundation, Fondazione Monastero di S. Maria del Lavello, whose office is available to organize guided visits and provide information. Phone: 0039 - 0341 - 1590101


Opening hours of the Sanctuary:

9 a.m to 12 a.m / 3 p.m to 6.30 p.m on weekdays

9 a.m to12.00 a.m / 3 p.m to 9 p.m on Sundays and holidays. No guided tours nor visits during religious services.  


List of lodges and restaurant in Lavello:

Hotel Monastero del Lavello ***, in an ancient building adjacent to the monastery, with a bar with open-air tables on the river shore (phone 0030-0341-645099);

Osteria Marascia (phone 0039-0341-644064);

Ristorante Lavello (phone 0039-0341-646343).

There is also a nice pick-nick area along the river, not far from the convent.

The Monastery can be reached by train with the railroad line Milano-Lecco-Sondrio and Lecco-Bergamo-Brescia, the Station is Calolziocorte-Olginate.

By road with the regional highway ex-SS 639 Lecco-Bergamo or the State highway 36 Milan-Lecco.

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16 Agosto 1924 il cadavere di Giacomo Matteotti, rapito e ucciso da squadristi fascisti nel giugno dello stesso anno, viene ritrovato in un bosco a Riano (Roma)


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