Praglia Abbey

Via Abbazia 7, Praglia Teolo

The name Praglia comes from the Latin word pratolea, meaning ‘meadow’, in reference to the vast stretches of meadow that surround the monastery. In c. 1100, Count Maltraverso di Montebello, a noble Paduan, founded an aristocratic association, hence initiating the history of the abbey. During the Middle Ages, this religious centre was a stronghold of the Benedictine Order and, as it is still inhabited by monks, not all the abbey buildings are open to the public. The abbey is made up of a series of four-sided cloisters joined by a grand refectory, an ordinary refectory, a basilica and a prestigious ancient library that was built following the reconstruction of the monastery in 1400. The library boasts a collection of around 100,000 books including many rare texts, restored in the renowned book laboratory run and managed by the monks themselves.

Useful information: the abbey’s official website

 

The Camaldolese Hermitage of Mount Rua

Founded by the Camaldolese Benedictines at 416 metres above sea level (records mention the presence there of two hermits from the Camaldolese community of St. Matthias of Murano in 1335), this is the home of monks of this order, an order which follows the Rule of St. Romuald, a Benedictine monk born in Ravenna in 950 a.d. Originally built out of wood, it was completely rebuilt in stone in the sixteenth century and it is perfectly in keeping with its surroundings. The monastery’s thick cloister walls surround 14 cells that look like little houses, consisting of a room for rest and study, a chapel with altar, a bathroom and a woodshed. There is a small walled vegetable garden outside every single cell. The church, built in 1542, is a simply decorated single-nave edifice with side chapels and wooden choir. The hermitage is kept separate from the guesthouse by a splendid iron gate installed in 1550 by the Contarini family. Despite the strict rules of cloistered life, monks are allowed to receive visits from relatives and walk in the surroundings of the hermitage at certain times of the year. For further details, call 049 5211041.

 

The Monastery of San Daniele

Via San Daniele 50, Abano Terme

The monastery of San Daniele was built by the Da Montagnone family, who were of Longobard descent, for Benedictine monks between 1076 and 1078. In the mid-fifteenth century, it became the property of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Saviour in Venice, who restored the site, up until 1771 when the monastery was dissolved by a decree issued by the Republic of Venice and put up for sale. Bought by a Venetian lawyer, Federico Todeschini, who gave it to his daughter as a dowry in 1832, the monastery was partly turned into Villa Castello. Ever since 1958, the property has been owned by Benedictine refugee nuns from Fiume (Rijeka), who have restored the site’s ancient splendour thanks to many conservative restoration programmes.

Useful information: the monastery’s official website

 

Monteortone Abbey

Via Santuario 63, Abano Terme

‘The apex of non-Benedictine monastic architecture in fifteenth-century style’ (F. A. Barcaro), the church of Monteortone is a national monument.

The Santuario della Madonna della Salute was built in 1428 on the site where a miraculous image of the Madonna, hidden in the water of a hot spring, was discovered, a find which is still commemorated to the right of the façade by a stone statue of the Virgin Mary.

The church has a Latin Cross floor plan, with three apsed naves and a fifteenth-century bell tower. The old convent, which was initially an Augustinian monastery in the fifteenth century, on the left of the church, is now the property of the Salesian Order and is run as a geothermal spa hotel.

The start of the Mount Ortone trail, set up by the park authority of the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills, starts off from the back of the church.

Useful information: Monteortone’s parish website

 

 

Mount Madonna Church

This beautiful church dedicated to the Madonna of the Mount is located at the top of the hill; records from 1253 already mention its existence. The abbey consists of a simple church boasting a fourteenth-century statue of the Virgin Mary and a small Benedictine monastery affiliated to the abbey of Praglia. An ancient place of pilgrimage, this is undoubtedly one of the oldest centres of Marian devotion in the diocese of Padua.

Useful information: the church’s website

 

 
 
The Oratory of St. Anthony Abbot

The Oratory of St. Anthony Abbot, located on the southern slope of Monte della Madonna, can be reached along an easy footpath from Passo Fiorine. The building, in fourteenth-century Romanesque style, is all that remains of a larger site that included a bigger church, of which the foundations of the apse are still visible near the bell tower. The oratory has recently been restored and a section of old wall is all that remains of the old monastery. A will written in 1215 provides proof of a monastic community of the Benedictine Congregation ‘degli Albi’ up until the first half of the fourteenth century. In 1405, the monastery was affiliated to that of the Paduan monastery of All Saints and, from the early 1600s on, the abbey of Praglia. One of the most noteworthy features of the site is the existence of a small natural grotto dug into the hillside next to the small church. There is a natural spring inside the grotto, which makes it the perfect place for hermits. It was the place chosen by St Felicitas of Padua as well, between the eighth and ninth centuries, and her remains are preserved in Padua’s Basilica of St. Justina, near the altar dedicated to her.
 
 
 
 
The Ruins of Olivetan Monastery on Mount Venda

A will written in 1197 mentions a donation to the monks of Venda and documents the existence of a religious community near the summit of the highest hill. The first monk to retreat to this place was Adamo di Torreglia who lived in a cave on the summit until 1160. In 1209, Stefano, a former prior of St Justina, and Brother Alberico built two small churches dedicated to St Michael the Archangel and St John the Baptist, and from 1229 on, the small hermitage became a true monastery following the Rule of St Benedict. Bequests made by the aristocratic family of Maltraversi di Castelnuovo and, later, the Da Carrara family, increased its importance and a more imposing church dedicated to St John the Baptist was built on the site of the first two churches. In 1380, the site was given to the Olivetan Congregation, an aristocratic order of expert painters and wood carvers. The church, with a single rectangular nave and imposing bell tower, boasted an altar, a carved wooden choir, a presbytery with carved trachyte lesenes and a crypt dedicated to the Madonna under the main altar. The monastery with its imposing, austere layout featured corridors, cells, storerooms, a cloister and vegetable gardens. After a long period of calm that lasted until 1771, the Republic of Venice dissolved the monastery, moved the monks away and auctioned the site and its lands, which were bought by the Erizzo family. The once-grand monastery became a shelter for shepherds and inevitably fell to ruin.

 

 

The Ruins of Mount Orbieso's ancient monasteries

The old mule track once known as Strada Fonda follows the natural crest of Mount Orbieso, connecting two old monasteries. The remains of the first one you come across, after having taken a short detour at the start of the long ridge of Mount Orbieso, are those of the Priory of St. Eusebius. Built on the site of an old church that was the valley’s main parish church up until the late twelfth century, it was owned by the monks of Praglia. Old maps show what the original structure was like: there was a small church with portal, rose window and a bell tower with a high spire attached to a network of buildings, a monastery, a courtyard with a well and a workshop. With the dissolution of the monasteries, the priory was sold into private hands and is now a total ruin. The monastery of Santa Maria Annunziata is at the other end of the Strada Fonda trail, connected to the plains of Steogarda along a short path to the west where a high-altitude road ran from Faedo to Galzignano. Built in 1233 on the summit of Mount Orbieso, this modest community experienced changing fortunes. Following a crisis within the Benedictine Order, the site’s ownership passed to Camaldolese monks. In 1458, it was affiliated to the monastery of St Michael of Murano and in 1770 it was dissolved following a decree issued by the Republic of Venice and converted into a farm. Today, the monastery is in ruins but the buildings that remain still testify to the site’s ancient grandeur: the entire site is surrounded by a twin curtain wall to protect its cloistered status, within which was a rainwater cistern, an arched portico for welcoming guests who came up to the site from the valley below and, at the other end, a secondary entrance that led out into the fields in the plains west of the monastery. The old church was attached to the portico.