Friday, November 01, 2019

The Abbey of St Columbanus in Bobbio, Italy

Later this month, the Church will celebrate the feast of St Columbanus, an Irish monk who founded several important monasteries on continental Europe in the mid-sixth and early seventh centuries. His last foundation, and the place where he died and was buried, was in the town of Bobbio, about 50 miles to the south of Milan, and in the Saint’s time, part of the Lombard kingdom. For centuries, it was one of the most important religious centers in Europe, boasting a famous scriptorium and library, which counted the fantastic number of 700 volumes at the end of the 10th century. In the later 15th century and early 16th century, the abbey itself was almost completely rebuilt, and very little of the previous Romanesque structures remains to be seen. The remains of St Columbanus and two other Sainted abbots are preserved in the crypt, along with part of a very interesting mosaic of the 12th century. (Click here to see the first of a series of 3-D panoramas of the mosaic; the others are accessed through the toolbar on that site.) Here are some pictures taken by Nicola de Grandi during a recent visit.

The church and abbey seen from the nearby Castello Malaspina.
The 9th century Romanesque bell-tower.
Part of the cloister.
The late 15th-century façade.
The paintings of Saints in the nave were done by a local artist named Bernardino Lanzani (1460-1530), during the last three years of his life, with the help of only a single assistant.
St Gregory the Great and four of early monastic founders, Ss Benedict, Columbanus, and the first two successors of the latter as abbot of Bobbio, Ss Attala and Bertulf. The image beneath represents St Gregory the Great anachronistically “approving” the Rule of St Benedict.
Over the altar, an 18th century painting of St Columbanus going up to heaven. 
A mosaic of the 12th century in the crypt of the abbey, showing episodes from the books of Maccabees. (I have inverted some of these photos so the images can be seen more clearly.)
The sarcophagus of St Columbanus, done by the sculptor Giovanni dei Patriarchi in 1480.
The sepulcher of St Attala, who succeeded Columbanus as abbot of Bobbio, and ruled for seven years, dying in 622.
The sepulcher of St Bertulf, who succeeded Attala, and died in 639 after 17 years as abbot.

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