According to historical and legendary sources, the origins of the complex of San Pietro al Monte date back to Desiderio, the last king of the Lombards. In their last completion, the current Romanesque buildings date to the 11th century. The housing parts of the monastery were probably destroyed during the 12th century for political reasons. Afterwards, the monastic life continued in the monastery of San Calocero, in the town of Civate. The monks who had been living in Civate since the early Middle Ages were first the Benedictines and later the Olivetans. The history of abbey ends in 1798 when Cisalpine Directory declared the abbey suppressed. The restoration and maintenance works started around 1930 thank to Mons. Polvara and then to Don Vincenzo Gatti of the “Beato Angelico Family” . Their spirit still continues in the presence of the volunteers of the Association “Amici di San Pietro al Monte “.
A central staircase leads to the semi-circular pronaos, characterised by mullioned windows, up to the entrance to the Basilica of San Pietro. On the portal you can see the Traditio Simboli with Christ giving the keys to St. Peter, symbol of the power of the Church and the book of his Word to St.Paul. Inside, two saints, Marcello and Gregorio, welcome the worshippers dominated by the Celestial Jerusalem, and above the door, in the internal lunette, Abraham with three people in his laps.
Four twisted columns, joined at the base by the Grifo and the Chimera, support the 4 rivers of the Earthly Paradise. Next to them, two chapels, to right and left, are respectively dedicated to Saints and Angels. The apse conch has a fresco of the Christ Pantocrator, inserted in an almond, between the angels.
The structure of the central nave has a simple hall, closed at the top by a roof with exposed truss ceiling. Originally the walls were completely frescoed and decorated with two bands of stuccos. The frescoes that we can appreciate now are more recent and of votive nature. On the counter façade a marvellous fresco tells an entire passage of the Apocalypse: a woman gives birth, while a dragon with seven heads threatens the child; the angelic hosts intervene, leaded by the archangel Michael, who wins the battle; the child is placed in the central almond and He is the winning Christ, sitting on the throne. On the left of the nave, the parapet of the access stairway to the crypt is decorated with three large stuccoes relating to the Salvation of Man.
The Ciborium above the altar is of considerable artistic interest. The four external corners show the symbols of the four Evangelists, the eagle, the ox, the lion and the man. The four cuspidated faces have the theme of the Mistery of the Faith, showing Christ on the cross flanked by the Madonna and St. John the Evangelist, the Resurrection, the Transmission to the Church of the Paschal Mystery and Triumph of Christ. Inside the Ciborium four angels support a hemisphere, symbol of Heaven, in which the Lamb, image of Christ, is surrounded by 18 saints. Some of them in a white robe, others in a red cloak.
The Crypt is the oldest part of the architectural construction. In ancient times, it was mainly decorated with stuccoes, now largely disappeared. Six granite columns support the cross vault. On the left, close to the altar, there are traces of the Presentation of the Child Jesus at the Temple. Behind the altar, you can see the Crucifixion, with Christ, the Madonna, St. John the Evangelist and two soldiers. Above there is the rare image of the Dormitio Virginis, with the Madonna in the middle sleeping the sleep of death, surrounded by the apostles and Christ with his angels. Two angels carry Mary’s soul towards the Hoy City. The mullion windows illuminating the scene are framed by frescoes showing the prudent Virgins holding a lighted lamp , including Saint Agnes, a unique and astonishing example of the wonderful and balanced pictorial expressiveness of the Romanesque in this church. Behind the western wall, under the nave of the church, there are interesting archaeological remains of a tall medieval building.
The oratory of San Benedetto stands in front of the Basilica of San Pietro. The building has a square plan with three semi-circular apses, decorated outside with continuous hanging bows and in the central apse, also with a band of dragon tail teeth. The interior is bare, because the construction has never been painted. The composite pillars, in the centre, no longer support the vault perhaps fallen. In the presbytery wall there are three single-light windows. The only decorated element is the altar. On its front, there is a representation of the deesis Byzantine: the Risen Christ is flanked by the Madonna and St. John the Baptist. St. Benedict is depicted on the right side of the altar and St. Andrew on the left side, to remember the role of a funeral chapel. From the western gate of San Benedetto you can see the northern side of San Pietro, where the housing part of the medieval monastery once stood.
How to behave:
All people are welcome in San Pietro al Monte, but it is important to consider that it is SACRED PLACE, reserved in particular for the ART VISIT and PRAYER. Therefore, a respectful attitude and clothing are required within the whole property, including grassy spaces around the buildings of worship. So it is forbidden to camp, sunbathe in skimpy clothing, light fires, disturb or play noisy games and anything that alters the tranquillity of the environment.
How to get there:
San Pietro al Monte is located at 663 meters above sea level and can be reached from the village of Civate (Lecco), going up a mule track accessible only on foot: it takes about an hour of medium difficulty walking to reach the monastery. It is therefore necessary to consider the climatic conditions, to be self-sufficient and wear suitable clothing and footwear for the excursion.
by reservation only
• Saturday from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m. and from 1.00 p.m. to 3.00 p.m. (only from March to October)
• Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m. and from 1.30 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.
All proceeds from visits and offers are allocated to the restoration and maintenance of the monastery complex
Association “Amici di San Pietro al Monte”
Tel. 346 3066590