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Fossanova Abbey




Near Priverno stands the fine Abbey of Fossanova in its verdant rural setting, nestling in the valley of the River Amaseno at the foot of the Lepini Mountains.  You enter the monastery complex through a gateway which is guarded by a large tower. (Medieval monasteries were similar to small fortified towns, being surrounded and protected by strong walls.)  A cobbled road leads to a courtyard where you get your first view of the magnificent  abbey.

 











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The first Benedictine monastic settlement a small Romanesque construction was built in 529 AD on the site of an ancient Roman temple.  It was dedicated to the martyr Santo Stefano. (Some Roman remains can still be seen today.)


The site was taken over by Cistercian brothers in 1135  and the construction of the abbey’s church commenced in 1163.  In the vicinity, the friars, who were  renowned for their proficiency in engineering, also built a dyke to drain some low lying marshy land close to the river, and it is from this “fosso nuovo”  (new ditch)  that the name of  Fossanova is derived.


The Cistercians built the beautiful abbey in a French Early Gothic style, which was revolutionary in this area of Italy, the Abbey is considered to be a magnificent example of Cistercian architecture.




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It is very similar in design to Saint Bernard’s Abbey at Clairvaux in Burgundy. The church was dedicated to the martyr Santo Stefano and Santa Maria and was consecrated by Pope Innocent III in 1208.


It is built of limestone and  has an elegant stately facade, with a central Gothic entrance, inlaid with mosaics, and there is a sizeable rose window and a beautiful faceted bell tower or lantern.