San Gemolo Abbey

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How to get

A8 Milan - "Laghi" toll motorway, Varese exit


San Gemolo was a young soldier who was beheaded in 1047 because of his faith. According to legend, he was brought, carrying his own head in his hands, to be buried in the place where, today, the abbey is found. Impressed by the solitude and the strategic positioning of the location, three canons from the Cathedral of Milan decided to establish a monastery there in the second half of the century. Its prior had full sovereignty over the valley and the abbey was described as a small monastic lordship. This feudal power was expressed well by its architecture; the abbey was fortified by a double circular surrounding wall and some towers, which have since unfortunately been destroyed.

The fortunes of San Gemolo began to decline in the 1400s and then, in 1511, the building was set on fire and sacked by Swiss troops. It was subsequently renovated and fitted with a Baroque façade towards the river but the monastic community gradually faded away and the abbey was finally sold to private owners in 1894. On the architectural plan, the complex is built around the central cloister, with a very original pentagonal design, created in the Romanic era as the fortified heart of the Abbey.

The external areas welcomed the guest quarters for housing pilgrims and merchants along the transalpine roads, of which the abbey constituted one of the most important connecting junctions, being the final transit station in the area south of the Alps. The Abbey Museum (open on Sunday afternoons from April to October) is located within the cloister, which gathers together diverse material showing the prehistory and history of the area. Sacred furniture, a collection of ancient laude (books of praise), ceramics and a small gallery are preserved there. In particular, the display cabinets containing “Le Tène” of Canton Ticino and Velate (Varese) prehistoric materials are worthy of particular note.


More details

Badia's Museum (open from March to Osctober) only on Sunday from 3.00 to 6.00 pm
Church every day  8.00 am – 7.00 pm