Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Messages from the past in Nonatola


Nonantola is one of the many anonymous and seemingly uninteresting little towns that fill the Pianora Padana. I have passed through it many times without stopping on my way to work appointments. I was told some time ago that it had an abbey that was well worth visiting. The Modena earthquake meant I had to put my visit off for quite a long time.  
Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
The Abbey of Nonatola has recently reopened after a long restoration made necessary by the 2012 earthquake. It was once one of Italy’s most important monasteries. It features prominently in the Lombard domination of the area, with a strong connection to Matilde of Canossa.
Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Entrance, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
It was founded in 752, but the incredibly sober and simple Romanic church we see today dates from 1013. The impact of the architecture on entering the building is quite something. The building was returned to its original state in the nineteenth century, when the Baroque additions were stripped out. In the crypt, you can see the bones of Saint Anselmo, the founder of the abbey, preserved as a relic.
Abbazia di Nonatola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola,MO
The Presbytery is on a higher level than the rest of the church. This is typical of basilicas of the Romanic period. At the top of the stairs you turn a see the main part of the church below you.
Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
On entering the crypt, one of the largest in Europe, one is confronted by a forest of columns. It is very suggestive. The crypt was buried in the fifteenth century due to infiltration of ground water. It was restored in the last century and many of the columns are replacements. Some of the original capitals survive.
Cripta, Abbazia di Nanontala, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Relic of St. Anselmo, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Cripta, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
In the Nave an intricately carved marble Roman fountain has been repurposed as a font. It is one of the few decorations in this church.
Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO
The big surprise of the visit was the contents of the small museum next to the church. One section of the museum has some parchment documents on display which date from between the ninth and twelfth century. They are remarkably well preserved considering their age. There is a lovely colourful Evangeliary on display that dates from the eleventh century. It is incredible to think that these documents are more than a thousand years old in some cases.
Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Parchment signed by Matilda di canossa, Abbazia di Nonantola,MO

Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Parchment, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Evangeliary, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Byzantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO 

Bysantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Bysantine funeral shroud, Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, mO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO

Abbazia di Nonantola, MO


Nonantola is just another example of the hidden suprises to be found in out of the way places here in Italy.
Nonantola,MO

Nonantola, MO


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Along an Ancient Road at Sassalbo


Last Sunday, seeing that the weather was awful on the Emilian side of the Apennines, but on the Tuscan side it was a sunny autumn afternoon, I decided to return to a fascinating footpath that starts at Sassalbo, MS.
Sassalbo MS

Sassalbo MS

Sassalbo is just below the Cerreto Pass, isolated in the Valley below the main modern SS63 road that runs down to Aula. Sassalbo was once an important staging post on the most ancient of the roads that cross the Cerreto Pass. It was a stretch of this road called the Via Modenese which I decided to follow. 
A small anonymous alley between a row of houses, after a few hundred meters, soon becomes a fascinating trip back into the past, when this was the main road between the Lunigiana and Reggio Emilia.
Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS


Dry stone walls border the road paved with large flagstones, as you pass through the sweet chestnut woods, once a vital source of sustenance for the local population. 

Sassalbo,MS

Sassalbo, MS

Sassalbo MS
As the path rises above the woods the flagstone gradually disappears and the path becomes a narrow footpath. Another forest trail takes us to Lago Padule a large lake hidden away in the woods.
Lago Padule, MS

Lago Padule, MS

Lago Padule, MS

Lago Padule, MS

Lago Padule, MS
I retraced my steps as the sun was sinking bathing the ancient road through the woods with a golden light.
Via dei Modenese, Sassalbo,MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo,MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS


Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo,MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo,MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo,MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo, MS

Via dei Modenesi, Sassalbo,MS

Sassalbo, MS
I also brought back a nice bag of chestnuts.