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Art & History

Chiaravalle Abbey: a monk’s life near Milan

News > Art & History | Chiaravalle Abbey: a monk’s life near Milan

Leaving Milan suburbia from south, you gets the impression to being in a country side; hectares of greenery stretching over the plain that, in a few kilometers from the province of Milan pass to that of Pavia. In this part of the city  has not been absorbed by the city hinterland like the Northern, where the countries in a few years have been incorporated into the city’s urban fabric. In his part of the southern suburbs, Milan offers its rural side. Very closed to the city the best known town is Chiaravalle, with its Abbey.

abbazia di chiaravalle 2


The high tower, the beautiful frescos and the old mill

Founded in 1135 on land originally swampy, not far from Porta Romana, the Abbazia di Chiaravalle (Abbey of Chiaravalle) it was desired by the will of San Bernardo. The Monaco and French theologian was the main promoter of the Abbey, which was also built with the help of benefactors and the Milanese authorities and in 1221 it was consecrated by the Bishop of Milan, Enrico Settala. In 1798 the monastic community was suppressed by the Cisalpine Republic and the complex underwent a period of disrepair and neglect. Only the late nineteenth century began the recovery activities of the monastery. At 1952 the monks came back to their monastery life.



The complex, whose the full name is Santa Maria di Ravegnano, is recognizable from afar because of its tower, 56 meters architectural work and consists by eighty white columns of Candoglia marble. The structure follows the plant-type of Cistercian Abbeys, characterized by Romanesque and Gothic elements and presenting, among others, the three places of traditional life of spiritual retreat for monks: the church, the cloister and the refectory. The facade of the Monastery of Chiaravalle church is the result of restoration began in the early years of the twentieth century while the apse chapel is flanked by three other lower overlooking the transept. The cloister has been extensively rebuilt and today you can see only a group of four original columns called “annodate” (knotted) while the other three corners were rebuilt. Here you can admire the graffiti (attributed to Bramante) depicting the Milan of the time: the Cathedral is described again without its steeples, while Santa Maria delle Grazie is under construction and the Sforzesco Castle is recognizable with the Filarete’s tower.



Important artists have contributed to the decorations and the interiors, including works by Bernardino Luini and the Fiammenghini brothers. The construction of the sacristy is of 1412 and was expanded in 1600 and 1700. Here, until the expulsion of the Cistercians, Ludovico il Pio’s cross was preserved, brought to safety by the monks in the church of Santa Maria at San Celso, where it’s conserved now. Chiaravalle Abbey is also present inside the old mill. Built in 1138 about, the structure has been restored and, since 2009, is running again and is used by the monastic community.

How to arrive in Chiaravalle

Chiaravalle is accessible from Milan by bus from the stop 77 of the Brenta MM3 or Corvetto . By car you can be reached by taking Corso Lodi and follow the signs for Chiaravalle . E ‘ can take advantage of private visits.

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