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Valvisciolo Abbey

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Abbazia di Fossanova Abbazia di Fossanova

The "Valvisciolo Abbey", mysterious both in its name from the double meaning, or Valley of Sour Cherry Valley Nightingale, both for the origins attributed to the Basilian monks and the Knights of the Temple, replaced by the Cistercian order was suppressed after the temple, with the Church, the Cloisters and Chapter House, where a portion of plaster is engraved words in medieval characters SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS included, unique, in a circle divided into twenty-five parts by five concentric rings and five areas ...

Sito Web: http://www.cistercensi.info/abbazie/abbazie.asp?ab=90&lin=en


The abbey of Valvisciolo, in the line of Clairvaux via Hautecombe and Fossanova, is dedicated to Saints Peter and Stephen. It is situated in the municipality of Sermoneta, in the province of Latina, at the foot of the Monti Lepini in a setting of olive groves, vines and woodland typical of the southern Marittima region.

The name “Valvisciolo”, the last name used to designate the abbey in official documents, probably derives from the Latin Vallis Lusciniae, the valley of the nightingale, a definition that brings to mind the typical features of the surrounding countryside.

On account of the paucity of documents and the fragmentary nature of sources available to us, we know very little about the abbey’s foundation and earliest years. The difficulty in mapping out a precise chronological history of the abbey is due also to the fact that two other abbeys with similar names existed a short distance away at the same period. Recent research suggests that the first settlement dates back to the turn of the first millennium and that it was home to a community of Basilian monks. The Knights Templar then occupied the complex, as shown by the presence of Templar symbols in the decorative schemes in many parts of the abbey. And it was only later that the Cistercian Order took over, with a deliberation by the General Chapter dated 1206 enjoining the abbots of Fossanova and Casamari to supervise the transfer of a community of monks to the abbey.

The abbey was given in “commendation” to the Caetani family, lords of the entire area, in 1411 but a Cistercian community continued to reside on the premises for over a century. It was downgraded to the status of secular priory at some time between 1523 and 1529, and it was later completely abandoned due to wars, plague and malaria. In view of the appalling state of the buildings, Pope Paul III decreed the total suppression even of the priory in 1540.

A community of Cistercian monks from the Feuillants Congregation returned to Valvisciolo in the early years of the 17th century and continued in residence until the Napoleonic suppression. Ownership of the complex then returned to the Holy See and Pope Pius IX lavished a great deal of attention on it. He came twice in person to supervise the progress of reconstruction work that he had ordered. The pope’s personal intervention later allowed a part of the monastery’s assets to be rescued too, thus granting a community of Cistercian monks from the Congregation of Casamari, who took up residence in 1864, the means required to ensure their physical and spiritual survival.

The abbey complex of Saint Peter and Saint Stephen of Valvisciolo comprises two distinct sets of buildings: the ancient part around the cloister, and two more recent buildings, built perpendicular to one another, adjoining the original complex on the south.

The church, which dates back to the 13th century, has a simple, flat tripartite west front reflecting the church’s interior subdivision into a tall nave and two lower side aisles. Its rather stern plainness is offset by a round-arched central door and by a rose window whose “petals” consists of concentric small arches. The clearly visible hiatus in the stonework on the south side of the west front reflects the restoration work ordered by Pope Pius IX in 1863, for which whatever material was lying around the site was pressed into use without much regard for the quality of the cut stone. The church’s other outside walls present the same kind of irregularities, as well as a series of doors and windows that are different from one another, bearing witness to the abbey’s troubled history and to the succession of different resident communities that it has seen over the centuries, each of which was keen to adapt the complex to its own needs. The interior of the church reflects the Cistercian architectural tradition in terms of its simplicity and the bulky feel of the structure, but it lacks a transept. The nave is not only taller but also better lit than the side aisles: its internal space, scanned by the rhythm of the pilaster stripping, immediately draws the visitor’s eye towards the high altar. The colours visible on the walls and the decorative scheme representing imitation brick jointing in the vaulting over the nave presumably date back to the 13th century. They were revealed in the course of a recent restoration campaign.

The cloister was restored and the arcade vaulting rebuilt in 1957. In all likelihood the cloister was originally a single storey affair with a simple slanting roof resting just above the arcades, as can be deduced from the still visible marks on the arcade walling. The arcades themselves consist of a series of small round-headed arches resting on slender shafts whose capitals are decorated with prevalently floral motifs such as stiff-leaf carving, with traditional Christian symbols such as fruit, cross-bearing lambs and candelabra in between the leaves.

The only part of the monastery that retains its original features is the chapter house. Its groined vault rests on two rather stout central columns with water-leaf capitals. Two rows of benches where the community would sit during chapter still run right around the room. The room is lit by three round-arched windows in the east wall and by a door with a single-light round-arched window to either side of it in the west wall giving onto the east cloister walk.

The lay brothers’ range originally located in the west wing of the monastery was completely restructured in the course of the 19th century restoration work, the upper floor being turned into the monks’ dormitory. However, it is still possible to trace the original disposition of the rooms in this range thanks to stretches of walling and pier bases that still exist inside the building today.

The complex is currently occupied by a community of Cistercian monks belonging to the Congregation of Casamari, while the abbey church is used as a parish church by the population of the surrounding area.


Monasticon Italiae, I, Roma e Lazio, a cura di F. Caraffa, Cesena 1981, pp. 167-168, sch. 202.

Le Camere Pinte

Le Camere Pinte

La soluzione ideale per dormire e visitare Sermoneta il suo Centro Storico ed il Castello Caetani... i vicini "Giardini di Ninfa", la Riviera di Ulisse...

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