Civate, 12 novembre 2014   |  

Where legend meets history: the abbey of San Pietro al Monte in Civate

di Veronica Pozzi

Just one-hour walk form the tiny village of Civate, the mountain hides a legendary Romanesque complex where a community of Benedictine monks used to live. Behind the pending arches, frescoes will take visitors into a fantastic journey populated by winged creatures and mysterious animals

san pietro al monte

A picture of the Romanesque complex

The complex of San Pietro al Monte is a treasure that deserves to be discovered. Not only for the breathtaking view that can be enjoyed from there, but also for its artistic and historical importance that makes it unique at a European level.

The monastic complex, situated at about 650 meters on the sea level, is composed by three buildings: the abbey, the chapel of St. Benedict and the remains of the old monastery. The abbey hosts one of the four ciboriums still present in Northern Italy and you can check this video out, if you still doubt about its unmissable beauty.

Civate is a tiny village situated on the northern banks of the Lake of Annone, close to Lecco. Evidence of human presence there dates back to the prehistorical era but its growth has been a continuous process, thanks to its strategic position, on the commercial routes between Switzerland and Bergamo. It had its most prosperous period when a community of Benedictine monks lived there, starting from the mid-ninth century. The monks, who are no longer living there, left behind them the monastic complex of St. Calocero, that can be visited in Civate, named after the martyr when his body was moved there, in the ninth century. But the mountain also hides an other treasure...

From the village's centre, it is possible to take an old, mountain path through the woods that, in one-hour walk, leads to complex of San Pietro, set on a ridge up Monte Cornizzolo. According to the legend, the abbey and the monastery were founded in 772 CE by the last Longobard king, Desiderio. It was a way to thank God for having given back the sight to his son Adalgisio, after he had suddenly struck by blindness.

In the Carolingian period, the complex acted as a lighthouse for a renewal of the cultural and monastic life and was regarded as a meeting place for monks and pilgrims.

Hanging arches welcome the visitor when he arrives in front of this Romanesque complex. The abbey of San Pietro al Monte is decorated with pilasters, built at set distances as the style typical to Como wants. It is only when the visitor reaches the top of the staircase that he is welcomed by Christ, depicted over the door, standing with his arms open as he was founding the church.

Once entered in the abbey, you will be surrounded by frescoes and stuccoes, taking the visitor into a fantastic world made of winged creatures and lions: some of them were probably made by the Benedictine monks themselves. But what is really grabbing the visitors' attention is the ciborium, one of the four examples that can still be seen in Italy: with his Roman fashion, it is similar to the one in the abbey of San Ambrogio, in Milan.

The crypt dedicated to the Virgin Mary deserves to be seen too, before moving over to the neighboring oratory of San Benedetto, used back in the days as a place where to pray and meditate.

The association of volunteers is glad to host English-speaking visitors and can provide them with audio-guide, which are available in German, French and Spanish as well. A guided tour in English can be also be arranged on request, to be sent via email to or calling them on 3463066590.

«We have many visitors from Japan and Germany», said one volunteer. «They are amazed by the view we have here, which overhangs the lake and the valley. They enjoy the old path they have to take from Civate very much and they all like the Romanesque style the complex offers».

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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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