Once upon a time in Vezzolano


As promised, I am completing today my tour of the Abbey of Vezzolano. If you missed the description of the Abbey you can read my previous post here.

If you read my previous post about this magnificent medieval Abbey you already know that despite its 3 naves structure, internally the Abbey only have 2 because the right nave was used to built one of the 4 aisles of the Cloister, probably due to the collapse of a section of the hill which forced the architect to rotate it by 90 degrees.

The Cloister is where we you go once you complete the visit to the Church. It’s a peaceful and relaxing place, whose ambience provides a sense of tranquillity.

The first thing you see is a marvellous Chapel sponsored by one of the most powerful local families of the time, called Radicati. The frescoes are beautiful and meaningful.

The Radicati Chapel at Vezzolano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The fresco is divided into 4 sections. From the bottom to the top you see the body of a member of the Radicati Family who was buried in the Chapel, then the famous legend of the Emperor Charlemagne who founded the Abbey, then the Epiphany and, at the very top, Jesus Christ surrounded by symbols of the 4 Evangelists: the winged Ox for Luke, the winged Lion for Mark, the eagle for John and the Angel for Matthew. Although a bit damaged, the frescos it pretty integer and let itself be admired as in the past times.

However the most intriguing section of it is the second scene

The legend of Charlemagne. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

This fresco is connected to a legend involving the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire: Charlemagne. Based on oral traditions, Charlemagne, was hunting with a couple of friends in the woods around the village of Albugnano when suddenly a monk appeared before them, scaring the horses. The monk invited the Emperor to look at three coffins left in the woods. 3 Skeletons came out of them and started making a macabre dance while the monk spoke out a line saying something like this:

Remember: they have been exactly like you are and you will be exactly like they are. Build a new Church to honor the Virgin Mary and you sikness will disappear”

The misterius monk

In fact, based on some researches, the Emperor was suffering from Epilepsy.

This is just a legend as there are no supporting documents for the story, but it’s a nice one. Isn’t it?

Then, the cloister appears before your eyes with its round columns built in several styles due to the verious restorations occurred through the centuries. The first section is definetly medieval and dates back to the 1100s.

The oldest section of the cloister of Vezzolano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The cloister was built in pure Romanesque style with very simple decorations created by alternating redbricks and sandstones, providing a nice chromatic effect. This place was meant to allow the monks to relax and pray in a very tranquil place. To be honest with you, the sense of silence and relax is really tangible.

All the side chapels were frescoed, however only one is still integer while others still display some portions of the former decoration but the major part disappeared.

Remains of the frescoes at Vezzolano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

I kept walking under the arcades of the cloister and when I reached the door of the former refectory a lovely view over the full complex appeared:

The cloister and the Abbey of Vezzolano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

The place was also used to host the pilgrims along the via Francigena, a long route from northen Europe to the Holy land which in most of the cases passes through the present Italian Region called Piemonte where the Abbey is. That is why the Abbey not only had the dormitory for the monks but also some extra rooms for the pilgrims.

There is a new route out of the Abbey due to the safety measures enforced during the pandemic, thus I also had the chance to walk behind the apses, which also is a nice view.

The Apses of the Abbey of Vezzolano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

In my own personal opinion, the Abbey of Vezzolano is a very beautiful place and it really doesn’t matter being religious or not to appreciate it. You can’t help but admire the expertise of the architect and the workforce of the Middlle Ages, which despite being always treated as a dark period, is was an era of geniality, creativity and innovation.

If you want to locate the Abbey you can refer to this map

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