Passions & Places

Abbazia di Sant'Elena

Abbazia di Sant'Elena

Founded in 1005 by Saint Romuald, Sant’Elena was born as a Benedictine Abbey, yet in 1180 it joined the Hermitage of Camaldoli, entering the Camaldolensian Congregation. The Abbot’s right to exercise the civil and criminal jurisdiction, including the right over life and death, increased the abbey’s importance.

The territory ranging from the Gola della Rossa to Moie, including the Massaccio Castle in Cupramontana, and the more ancient castle in San Marcello, was under the Abbot’s jurisdiction.

Decadence began in the 15th century when Pope Innocent VIII took the Abbey away from the Camaldolensian order, by appointing a commendatory Abbot, Cardinal Giovanni Colonna. Though having all the powers of an Abbot, he was not a monk belonging to an order and was not obliged to reside in the Abbey.

On 6th April 1816 the Abbot sold the Abbey and all the assets to the Pianesi family, who became the legitimate owner.

The Abbey Sant’Elena is a large Romanesque-Gothic building made of small stone blocks. Outside the whole group of buildings almost seems a church-fortress.

The church has a basilica-design with three naves; the single apse is wide, semicircular, with two double-splay windows.The most significant element of the exterior is the façade, with its tall belfry and the portal whose decorative motifs range from the Romanesque to Gothic and Byzantine styles.

The interior is wide and impressing, just like a cathedral, and is divided in three naves by composite pillars. Capitals are in Romanesque style.

The interior halls of the old Monastery have barrel and cross vaults made of bricks. Vaults are 6 m. high, walls are all made of stone and all of these elements are exposed. The most ancient hall dates back to the 11th century, it has a barrel vault and the floor is made of large stone blocks, it was probably the Abbey’s first settlement.

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