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This abbey was founded by Riprando, bishop of Novara, member of the family of the Signori di Biandrate (Lords of Biandrate), between 1039 and 1053 on the remains of an old monastery. During the third century, due to the strategic position of the building, the complex was fortified and was for a long time successful as a centre for material wealth and spiritual richness. At the beginning of the XV century a ‘ricetto’ (enclosed group of houses for villagers’ protection), was built to protect the farmers from bandits’ raids. At the same time, the abbot Barbavara decided to improve the abbey by rebuilding it following the original design, but giving the complex Gothic features. Only the bell tower and the four-sided portico are in Romanesque style as they were left untouched. Barbavara had also an elegant palace built to entertain distinguished guests such as Galeazzo Maria Sforza. After his death, the abbey gradually declined and, in 1801, after Napoleon’s conquest, it was sold to the Isnard brothers who used it as a farmhouse. When, in the early nineteen hundreds, the Church’s interest in the monastic complex was revived, the buildings were bought by some parish priests who, in 1958, started the restoration work. Today, the fortified abbey has a four-sided portico on two floors in Gothic-Lombard style, which is in front of the church. The church was built on a rectangular plan and divided into a nave and two aisles. The façade, decorated with brickwork panels, acts as a background to a large round window, at its end are three brick spires surmounted by crosses. The cloister, which dates back to the XIV-XV century, has on the walls of the low portico the remains of a cycle of frescoes on St Benedict’s life. The bell tower, which is 35 metres high, was built alternating river pebbles, arranged in horizontal layers or in a herringbone pattern, as well as bricks and square stones from Roman buildings and graves.

Via Barbavara 5
28060 San Nazzaro Sesia NO

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