Abbazia di Novalesa
Borgata San Pietro, 4 - 10050 Novalesa (To)
Abbazia di Novalesa
At the end of the Val Cenischia, surrounded by an extraordinary natural amphitheatre along the ridge that joins the Rocciamelone to the Lamet, soars on a rise 828 metres high the Abbazia di Novalesa (Novalesa Abbey). This abbey was founded in the year 726 by Cistercian monks and it is one of the most significant historic and artistic landmarks of the Western Alps. It was dedicated to St Peter and St Andrew and, over a thousand years ago, it was among the most important abbeys in Europe, especially around the XI century, when the frescoes of the St Eldrado chapel were made. These frescoes are astonishing even today for the freshness of their colours. After having been plundered for years by the Saracens, the monks left the valley. They soon returned, though, to found other monasteries and villages, so many in fact that a few decades later the villages of the Val Cenischia, Ferrera, Venaus and Novalesa, set up a small diocese, which was autonomous for several centuries. In 1802 Napoleon entrusted the abbot Antonio Gabet, and the other Trappist monks from Tamié (Savoy), with the running of the home on the Moncenisio Pass, to give assistance to the French troops in transit. When in 1855 the Governo Piemontese (Piedmont’s Government) promulgated the Siccardi Law on the secularization of the State, the monks were forced to abandon the abbey. The buildings were auctioned and became a spa hotel, the library was given to the seminary and the manuscripts were moved to the Archivio di Stato di Torino (State Archives of Turin). After several vicissitudes, in 1972 the monastic complex was bought by the Provincia di Torino (Province of Turin), which entrusted it to the Benedictine monks.
The buildings still show traces of the past today. In the church, which was built in the XVIII century on the foundations of the pre-existing Romanesque church, remains of frescoes can be admired, such as the stoning of St Stephan, which dates back to the XI century. Nearby the monastery there are four chapels dedicated to Mary, St. Salvatore, St Michael and the most important of them dedicated to St Eldrado, which has two splendid series of frescoes (late XI century), with episodes from St Eldrado and St Nicholas’ lives.
Date of last update: 19/07/2010