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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE MONASTERY: A JOURNEY BETWEEN HISTORY AND PICTURES TO CELEBRATE THE 445TH ANNIVERSARY OF ITS SUPPRESSION

Villa Monastero was born from the transformation of an ancient Cistercian women’s monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary which closed in 1567.

This year it is the 445th anniversary of the suppression and, for the occasion, the Provincia di Lecco has drawn up a reinterpretation journey along the historical events related to the Cistercian monastery.

The history of Villa Monastero in Varenna takes place over quite a long period of time: its current appearance as a late nineteenth-century eclectic residence is the result of various interventions over a period of nine centuries.

The building work on the residence was carried out by the Mornico family from Valsassina, who owned the property for more than three centuries and made it known on the Lario as “Villa Leliana“, named after the man who transformed the monastery into a residence between 1609 and 1645. It still retains its original seventeenth-century overall layout, as evidenced by the airy loggia overlooking the lake, although it underwent many transformations during the nineteenth century. In 1869 the new buyer was a prominent Milanese, Carolina Maumari, widow of Seufferheld (1811-1894).

Despite the changes recorded during the early twentieth century by the De Marchi family, today the features that you can read are due to the German Walter Kess from Leipzig who renovated it between 1897 and 1909 and enlarged the garden to its current size with a two-kilometer lake front. 

The Cistercian monastery remained alive for almost four centuries.

The first documentation which refers to the monastery is a parchment dating back to 1204, recently donated to the museum and kept in the archive. In the following centuries the convent grew in prosperity thanks to bequests and donations.

In 1313 the altar of the church was consecrated. Here a statue of Our Lady (considered miraculous) was placed, now located in the Church of Grace in Varenna within the 17th-century altarpiece.

In the mid-sixteenth century, the monastery lost importance and the number of nuns was much reduced, so that at the behest of Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, the closure was decreed.

However, the Church remained alive and was linked to the parish church of Varenna: in 1898 it closed to worship. The furnishings and the altarpieces were transferred to the Prepositurale and to the Church of Grace, where you can still admire them.

In Cortenova (Valsassina) is located the private oratory of San Fermo, built in 1591 by the Monico family, which preserves beautiful 17th-century works and a statue of San Carlo (please note that a member of the Mornico family witnessed the assassination attempt on the Archbishop, as reproduced in a beautiful painting here placed, together with another that represents the family). During this summer, it will open to visitors thanks to the Parish collaboration.

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