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Cervara Abbey (Italian: Abbazia della Cervara or Abbazia di San Gerolamo) is a former abbey in the territory of Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria, northern Italy, on the coastal road leading to Portofino. It is a national monument of Italy.
Origin of the name
In the Middle Ages this place, as the whole stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Tigullio down to the sea to Portofino, it was called Silvaria (silvae from the Latin word meaning "woods"), because it was full of vegetation. The term was later Silvaria Italianate in Cervara.
Later, Pope Eugene IV transferred ownership of it to the Benedictines of Monte Cassino (c. 1420) and had it restored. The monastery became a center for the spread of Flemish artistic influence in Liguria, with works such as the Cervara Polyptych (1506), by Gerard David, and an Adoration of the Magi triptych by Pieter Coecke van Aelst.
The monastery was elevated to the rank of abbey in 1546. In the same period it was fortified in response to the increasing inroads made by North African pirates. In the late 18th century, after the French conquest of Italy, the abbey was suppressed and sacked. The precious Cervara polyptych was split up and sold separately. Four panels are now in the gallery of Palazzo Bianco in Genoa, while the other three are in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
In 1804 French Trappists acquired the abbey and opened a school there, but they remained only until 1811. The complex subsequently became the property of the Diocese of Chiavari and, in 1859, was put up for sale. Giacomo Filippo Durazzo, a member of the Genoese nobility, acquired it in 1868; three years later he donated it to the Somaschi Fathers. From 1901 to 1937 the abbey was entrusted to the French Carthusians and in 1912 was declared a national monument.
The abbey is now owned by private individuals and is open to the public for cultural performances or concerts, or it can be visited in small groups by appointment.
The abbey was rebuilt for the first time in the 16th century, with more work in the apse, while during the 17th century were changed from the high altar and the choir. In the 18th century were added more decorations in marble and complete painting of the walls. The current owners, immediately after buying the Abbey, began an unprecedented restoration work that is returning to the monastery to its former beauty. The long and careful restoration has as its goal the full recovery of the monument and is maintained for the structural architect Mide Osculati, while the painting restorer by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon (director of the restoration of the The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and Director of the Conservation and Restoration Center of the Venaria Reale, under the supervision and with the collaboration of the Office for the Environmental and Architectural Heritage of Liguria. During 2011 was recovered one of the last rooms: the prison of Francesco I di Francia in the tower, a plaque, commemorating their forced stay, reports the famous words that he wrote to his mother Louise of Savoy the night of the disastrous battle of Pavia on 24 February 1525 against the army of Emperor Charles V: "All is lost, except honor."
The abbey has a consecrated church, a 16th-century cloister, the tower, the main body of the building and a beautiful garden.
The church has a Latin cross plan, made by striking feature apse angle that simulates the bowed head of Christ. The columns separating the three naves appear to be built with blocks alternating slate and marble, in the typical architectural style of Liguria, are actually two colors of brick covered with plaster. During the recent restoration work was discovered a burial which in all probability is the archbishop of Genoa Guido Scetten, poet and scholar, fellow student and friend of Petrarch.
The Saracen Tower
It is located at the entrance of the complex, opposite the entrance of the Church. It was built in the 16th century to defend against raids by Saracen pirates, and despite his sighting function has the distinction of being set back from the monastery, it is considered a sign of respect and subordination to the sacredness of it.
Quadrangular in shape and two orders of levels.
The marble decoration dates from an 18th-century restoration.
What was once the garden of the Benedictine monks is now the only monumental Renaissance Italian-style garden preserved in Italian Riviera. It is unique in that it is directly facing the sea (in Liguria there are no other because plants suffer the salt), and because it is spread over two levels. The feeling is that of being on the prow of a ship almost completely surrounded by the sight of the sea and coast: on one side the Gulf of Tigullio - which runs from Rapallo to Chiavari - across the promontory of Portofino - with the inlets of Paraggi and Portofino. The Italian garden is simple, linear, proportionate, without indulgences formal essences without flowering showy and noisy, as befits a place that was religious. The Garden Monumental is created with hedges of boxwood (Buxus sempervirens L.) and refined achievements of topiary cones and cones surrounding the 17th century marble fountain depicting a putto. Around the garden and the main building, terraces and gardens alternate framed pergolas, columns painted or brick, rare plants and blooms that steal exceptional attention depending on the season: a shadowy Court takes its name from an age-old and monumental scale plant wisteria (Wisteria sinensis L.) columns of the upper garden are completely covered with fragrant jasmine Trachelospermum jasminoides L., bougainvillea, the rare pink capers, the bignonia, grapes, pepper tree pink, camellias, roses, hydrangeas, sterlizie and several other species. In the upstream, there is another garden, set in a land once cultivated in bands, where you lose sight of the Garden Monumental, but not that of the sea, and earns the frame of the characteristic Mediterranean: the ancient Mediterranean forest is full of aromas and crackling. The oak dominates in the bush, the Aleppo pine, mastic, viburnum, strawberry tree and all other trees the crown. Each has carved a niche in which it thrives and flourishes. Around the life teeming with creatures great and small: a rare beautiful butterfly Charaxes jasius that feeds only on the leaves dell'Arbutus unedo, the upupa cackling, with a host of various other birds present, but completely invisible. Glimpse traces of the fox and the unequivocal boar.
Herb Garden and Garden of the Hesperides
The monks orchard has been preserved and enhanced by the current patron with citrus trees. On the side facing the mountain, has been kept traditional vegetable garden where the monks since the Middle Ages grew the "simple" (plant varieties with medicinal virtues), medicinal plants and herbs of the promontory of Portofino, low box hedges and particles alternating crops such rare species of citrus in terracotta pots, as was customary in monasteries. Among the herbs are: Calendula, Allium schoenoprasum, Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon), Ruta graveolens (rue Grass), Helicrysum italicum (Helichrysum), Melissa officinalis, Mentha piperita, Origanum vulgare, Origanum majorana (marjoram), Pimpinella anisum (Anise or Pimpinella), Rheum officinalis (Rhubarb), Rosmarinus officinalis, Salvia officinalis, Santolina chamaecyparissus, Timo common Thimus Faustini, Thymus × citriodorus 'Anderson Gold' (Thyme-leaved yellow). A portion of the garden where plants, among others, the cedar bread, lemon twist, lemon Florence, bergamot, bitter orange, bitter orange, grapefruit, Calamondino varied, Mandarin Chinese or Nagami, the fortunella oval or oval kumquat (Fortunella margarita) and the "hands of Buddha."
The prestige of San Girolamo della Cervara and its outstanding location, made it a preferred destination for the passage of illustrious personages, whose visits are written in the pages of local newspapers: the poet Francesco Petrarca, Saint Catherine of Siena on the way back to Avignon, Pope Gregory XI (1376) to Prince Maximilian of Austria, Don John of Austria, the famous leader who defeated the Turks at the battle of Lepanto (1571), again, I went to the writer Alessandro Piccolomini and Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor the wireless telegraph. There were also those who found himself stopping at Cervara regardless of the will: Francis I of France, King of France, after being defeated by Charles V of Spain at the Battle of Pavia in 1525, waiting to leave for Spain, had the singular misfortune to be imprisoned in the small tower overlooking the sea, from which he was able to "enjoy" for a week of stunning views over the bay of Portofino.
In its history the Cervara Abbey has hosted a plethora of famous people, including Pope Gregory IX, Maximilian of Austria, Francesco Petrarca, Saint Catherine of Siena and King Francis I of France, who was held here as prisoner in 1525 after his defeat at the Battle of Pavia.
Today at La Cervara, thanks to the striking views of the garden and the wide spaces are organized, weddings, outdoor symbolic ceremonies, gala evenings, cocktails but also business meetings, award ceremonies, conferences, concerts. Here were held weddings of the famous singer Rod Stewart with Penny Lancaster June 16, 2007, of the English national football player Wayne Rooney (Manchester United F.C.) with Coleen McLoughlin June 12, 2008; Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) and Alice Bregoli July 5, 2009 with invited artists such as president Andrea Della Valle, fellow players Gianluca Comotto, Marco Donadel, Sebastien Frey, Dario Dainelli, Daniele Bonera , the phenomenon Antonio Cassano (at the time Sampdoria) and Carolina Marcialis (water polo Diavolina Nervi) June 19, 2010 with notable guests such as President Riccardo Garrone, coach Luigi Del Neri and his deputy Francesco Conti, the former coach Eugenio Fascetti, mates Nicola Pozzi, Pietro Accardi, and the singer Gigi D'Alessio friend of the bridegroom, who sang for guests.
The abbey's altarpiece, painted by Gerard David in 1506, was commissioned by Vincenzo Sauli, a Genoese official and banker. The original work, now dismantled, is likely to have been a three-tier polyptych including depictions of the Virgin and Child, two patron saints, the crucifixion of Jesus with the Angel Gabriel and Annunciate Virgin to either side, and God the Father.