SERRA SANT’ABBONDIO AND THE FONTE AVELLANA HERMITAGE: BETWEEN HISTORY AND SPIRITUALITY
Serra Sant'Abbondio, a small town with a characteristic and ancient historical center, has a history that has its roots far back in time. We are located at the foot of Monte Catria, in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, in the Cesano valley.
An area that hosts one of the most evocative places in the Marches: the Camaldolese Hermitage of Santa Croce of Fonte Avellana.
Founded in the 10th century, the Monastery was in time a very important place of worship, much to be mentioned even by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, after he had presumably stayed there in 1318.
The territory of Serra Sant'Abbondio has been populated since the Bronze Age and over the centuries it has been inhabited by Umbrians, Celts, Romans, Longobards and Franks. It was also the scene of historic battles: in 295 a.c. that between Romans and League of Gallo-Samnites, and in 552 d.c. that of the Byzantine army of Narses.
The history of this small town, of about a thousand souls, is inextricably linked to the Camaldolesi Congregation. The monastery, founded by San Romualdo di Ravenna in about 980, is a monumental complex built in white stone, consisting of a church with a crypt, a cloister, a chapter hall and a beautiful scriptorium.
In 1384 Serra Sant 'Abbondio was annexed to the Duchy of Urbino, and here in 1481 Duke Federico da Montefeltro built a fortress to defend the valley. Subsequently in 1502 Serra Sant 'Abbondio was conquered by the Borgias, who tore it to the dukes, who, in order to reconquer it, destroyed its fortress.
Today the municipality is a reality rich in history and culture and still preserves an Agrarian Commonage dating back to the Middle Ages.
The most important event held in Sera Sant' Abbondio is the Palio della Rocca, a historical re-enactment that recalls the construction of the Rocca by the Duke Federico da Montefeltro, with a picturesque race of geese.
TO BE SEEN
The center of the small town certainly deserves to be visited: it is surrounded by a mighty wall of white and red stone, in which there are ancient openings called "Doors of the Dead", whose name derives from the popular tradition according to which they could be crossed only after death.
Two of the four ancient entrance doors are still intact: the Porta Santa and the Porta Macione, dating back to the 13th century.
But the most interesting place to visit is undoubtedly the Hermitage of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana, both for its historical importance and for the aura of mysticism that still surrounds it today. A place of silence and reflection as in the past, when the rule of Saint Romualdo, prescribed to gather in solitary prayer in the cells, reciting the psalms.
The complex consists of a church with a Latin cross plan, with an elevated presbytery on the crypt and dating back to the 11th century. Together with the cloister and the scriptorium, it represents the oldest part of the Monastery.
The "Scriptorium", dating back to the 13th century, is the most important environment of the entire hermitage, a place where the scribes monks observed the Rule of Saint Benedict, transcribing ancient Greek and Latin classical texts on parchment, enriching them with precious miniatures.
It is precisely the "Scriptorium" of Fonte Avellana, one of the few still preserved in its original state. Most of the manuscripts produced here were transferred to the Vatican Library in 1500, where they are currently kept. In Fonte Avellana there are only eleven , among which the most valuable is "The NN Code", a breviary that tells about the diffusion of the Guided system of notation in the "Scriptorium".
In the hermitage there are two important libraries: the historical library and the modern library.
The historical library, set up in 1733 by Abbot Giacinto Boni from Forlì, preserves almost all the ancient library heritage of Fonte Avellana, consisting of about 25,000 volumes printed since 1400. The oldest book kept here is an incunabulum of 1470.
The modern library contains about 7,000 volumes of theology, literature, philosophy, history and patristic character. It was set up in 1965, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Dante Alighieri who, in Canto XXI of the Divine Comedy's Paradise, dialoguing with San Pier Damiani, described Fonte Avellana as his own.
Today the Monastery, as well as being a place of worship, is a destination for tourist hospitality and the theater of cultural and historical events.
Just outside the town, the sacred aedicule of "Santa Maria della Canale", frescoed in the 15th century, is worth a visit. Also of architectural interest is the Church of San Biagio, with an early Christian crypt dating back to the 5th century.
Absolutely to visit the Pharmacy of the Hermitage, where you can buy the products of the Camaldolese tradition and the Botanical Garden, open to the public since 2007.