Between meditation and art in Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia.
Monastery of St. Giovanni Evangelista in Parma
Among the best secrets kept inside the mighty walls of the 10th century Benedictine complex, there are three cloisters, an authentic oasis of peace in the historic centre of the city.
As soon as you enter, the silence draws your attention. The Benedictine rule welcomes visitors: “Ora et labora” written on the wall of the first and most recent cloister, called St Giovanni or "della Porta". It was built between 1537 and 1538, it has an arcade with Ionic columns, a central fountain inaugurated in 1589 and part of frescoes from the late 16th century, such as those by Leonardo da Monchio and Ercole Pio, dated 1579.
The Monumental Library is divided into three naves, with two rows of Ionic columns that support the ceiling made up of eighteen round vaults. The pictorial work by Abbot Stefano Cattaneo from Novara is amazing: it includes 5 geographical maps, the genealogy of Christ and 3 chronologies, 4 illustrations of the archetypal constructions of the Old Testament, the celebration of the victory of Lepanto, the decoration of the vaults and the one of the lunettes above the two doors.
The Chapter house is inside the loggia of the oldest cloister, called “del Capitolo”.
The Cloister of St Benedetto is the largest one. It was built between 1508 and 1512 with a very elegant line giving a sense of lightness to the 36 columns portico; each colum is separated from the next one by 26 figures of saints made by Giovanni Battista Merano and Tommaso Aldrovandini at the end of the 17th century.
Abbey of St. Maria della Neve in Torrechiara
It was founded by Pier Maria Rossi in 1471 around the pre-existing church dedicated to the Madonna della Neve.
The capitals of the fifteenth-century cloister recall those of the Main courtyard nearby the castle.
The original bell of "magister Antonius" and a terracotta tile taken from a marble by Amedeo (1481-84) representing the Flagellation, offer lovely views between the harmonious arches of the quadrangular perimeter.
Here you can peek into the rooms: among them, a small oratory with a fresco depicting the Madonna col Bambino in Mandorla.
Cloisters of the Church of St. Sisto in Piacenza
In this meditation itinerary, the cloisters of the Church of St. Sisto deserve a notice.
It was a beloved place to the Farnese family and inside there is the funeral monument to Margherita d’Austria and a copy of the famous Madonna Sistina by Raffaello, the original one was sold in 1754 to Augusto III king of Poland.
The cloister is a Renaissance temple and the first work by Alessio Tramello.
Visitors can cross the entrance door through a large colonnade with twenty-one arches in the centre; above the arches, ancient frescoed medallions are still visible, depicting eighteen images of emperors and abbots.
Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba in Alseno
It was founded around 1136 by St. Bernard, who was Dante's last guide to Paradise, offering a starting point during the 700th anniversary of the death of the Supreme Poet; the Abbey is a step of two Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe "Via Francigena" and "Route Européenne des Abbayes Cicterciennes".
The fourteenth-century square cloister is the heart of the structure - whose name comes from the legend of a white dove that outlined the perimeter of the future construction with straws deposited in front of the monks – and allows you to appreciate its architectural, decorative and mystical-symbolic quality typical of the Middle Ages.
These qualities and elements are combined together in a sublime integrity.
If you walk along the 40 meters perimeter of the cloister during certain hours of the day, you can recall a past of monastic meditation thanks to the contrast between existential rigour and artistic splendour of the details: knotted columns, figured capitals and figures supporting the vaults inside the portico’s internal corners.
Abbey of St. Colombano in Bobbio
The complex of the Abbey of St. Colombano is still today the heart of the village from a cultural point of view.
It is known as a source of inspiration for "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco, with its Scriptorium today unfortunately largely lost.
The complex was one of the most important monastic centres in Europe during the Middle Ages and the last one established in Italy by St. Colombano in 614.
Cloisters of San Pietro in Reggio Emilia
A wonderful example of a monumental complex of the Renaissance, in the historic centre of Reggio Emilia: the unique style of Giulio Romano meets Ionic columns, arches, gables and seventeenth-century statues of saints of the Benedictine order.
The structure is based along the two recently restored cloisters.
The smaller one - perhaps designed by Alessio Tramello - is a triumph of architectural elements.
The red and white marble columns by Clemente and the wall decorations by Moresino complete this oasis of peace next to the chaos of the city.
Alongside the Emilian elegant miniature there is the late Mannerist sculptural grandeur of the large cloister.
Today is an exhibition space, a cultural centre of international importance and a place for talks and meetings, for sociability and innovation; it is also a co-Working place with comfortable workstations, IT services and coffee breaks in the cafeteria space.
Monastery of St. Domenico in Reggio Emilia
The Monastery is the oldest places of devotion in the city; it was built between 1233 and 1236 during the preaching period of the monk Giacomino of Reggio.
Inside the complex there are two cloisters with a very original history.
The friars' cells overlooked the largest one, built during the sixteenth century, while in the small one the past meets the contemporary of Robert Morris's "Less Than" sculpture.
Between the first and second courtyard, two lunettes suggest the presence of seventeenth-century fresco.
The south part of the cloisters is now an exhibition space, while the first floor is headquarters of A. Peri Musical Institute.