The Abbey of San Pietro al Monte is one of the most scenic points of the Lake Como Mountains, with its unique view of the Briantei lakes and the surrounding peaks.
It is inserted in a complex of Benedictine origins, which is undoubtedly one of the most interesting of Lecco and Lombardy and represents an important destination of historical, artistic, religious, as well as naturalistic interest, thanks to the beautiful path in the woods that connects to the town of Civate.
San Pietro al Monte can be reached only by foot, in about 1 hour, starting from the town of Civate. There are several car parks available (in via Cerscera, via Abate Longoni, via Broggi, piazza Antichi Padri), while for buses there is a special car park in via Baselone. The path starts from the hamlet of Pozzo and follows the signpost number 10, on a cobbled mountain path that climbs in steps in the last part. The difference in height is about 400 and the length of the route is 2.5 km.
When we’ll arrive near the complex of San Pietro al Monte, we are immediately surprised by the beauty of the place and by the amazement of finding an extraordinary monumental complex, for its position, its grandeur and originality.
The history of this place has very distant origins, starting from Roman times, when Civate “Clavis” became an important transit hub, thanks to a bridge over the small emissary of Lake Annone. It maintained this role also in the following period, with the Goths, the Byzantines and the Lombards. At the end of the Lombard’s kingdom, in the second half of the eighth century, the first settlement of monks arose in San Pietro al Monte. The Lombards, in fact, implemented a policy of integration with the local population, converting to Christianity. In these regions, far from the big cities, it was the monks in particular who carried out this work of pacification. The Lombards therefore favored the construction of monasteries at the foot of the Alps, starting from the monastery of Non, in Trentino, up to Novalesa or the Sacra di San Michele in the west.
The Legend tells that King Desiderio built it, to fulfill a vow made by his son, Adalgiso, who was blinded during a wild boar hunt and then miraculously healed. Since then, there were various reconstructions in the 9th century and then between the 10th and 11th centuries, transforming the maonastery into the marvelous Romanesque architecture that we can still admire today. Until the tenth century there was only the basilica and a simple monastery, whose buildings were all leaning against the northern wall of the church. In the 11th century the current entrance was opened, the staircase and the semicircular pronaos were built and the Oratory of San Benedetto was built too. Subsequently, perhaps after the defeat of Barbarossa in Legnano, of which the abbot was a faithful vassal, the Municipalities headed by the archbishop of Milan destroyed all the residential parts of the monastery.
The complex of San Pietro al Monte today consists of three buildings: the Basilica of San Pietro, the Oratory dedicated to San Benedetto and what was once the Monastery, of which only ruins remain, surrounded by mighty walls. Two stone portals engraved with the motto “Ora et Labora” remind us of the past presence of the Benedictine monks. The large stone staircase accompanies the visitor towards the imposing pronaos and St. Peter’s Basilica, with its splendid cycle of frescoes, which has as its theme the Final Apotheosis of Christ and the Triumph of the Righteous along the lines of the Apocalypse of Saint John. Note the precious ciborium and the ancient crypt.
Currently the complex is no longer occupied by religious. Visits to the interior of the complex are organized by the Amici di San Pietro Association www.amicidisanpietro.it
Photos are by Maurizio Moro.