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Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora

Foto Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Foto Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Foto Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Foto Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Foto Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Former Benedictine Monastery of BrugoraThe former Monastery of Brugora, now home to the G. Scola Foundation, in charge of assisting the elderly, is an ancient female Benedictine monastery located on the edge of the Regional Park of the Lambro Valley founded by the Casati family, an important local family, in 1102, at the behest of the priest Eriberto Casati.
The monastery had the function of welcoming the daughters of the noble families of the territory and is joined to an ancient church dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul.
The structure of both the monastery and the church are Romanesque, although many changes were made in the Baroque period, so that now there are also numerous baroque elements.
The church is divided into two parts, a public one (the one accessed through the main entrance) and one originally accessible only to the nuns and known as the Chorus Room.

Public Church
It was built in Romanesque style in place of a previous early Christian church and was the subject of profound changes in the Baroque period.
The façade (Fig. 1) is still the original Romanesque one, gabled and built with blocks of serizzo stone alternating with granite stone. Devoid of any decoration, the only elements present are a large triangular tympanum, delimited at the base by a cantilever and on the slopes by thin shelves, and a large circular window.
The entrance door is made of wood and has two leaves, each divided into six rectangles decorated with a rhombus and a round relief. The portal has a double frame. To the outer one corresponds an arch decorated with real and mythological animals in relief, to the inner one an arch decorated with vine shoots. Arches and frames are joined by white marble capitals engraved with the symbols of the four evangelists.

The bell tower is still largely Romanesque, with a square base and grafted onto the ancient southern side nave of the church. It features sturdy, angular buttresses in stone ashlars similar to those on the facade. The brick belfry is more recent.

The interior has a single nave surmounted by cross vaults that covered the original trusses. Originally there were three naves, but the two aisles were demolished.
All the decorations present inside the public church are from the Baroque period. The only element still recognizable of the original structure is given by a herringbone counter-façade wall, made up of exposed alluvial pebbles. Next to this is a capital with the back in the shape of an animal.
The apse (Fig. 3) is rectangular. A baroque altar in polychrome marble is placed against the back wall, corresponding to the separation wall between the public space and that once reserved for the nuns. Beside the altar, on the wall, there are two oval baroque stucco cornices, with the Virgin and St. Joseph inside them, and overlapping remains of frescoes from various periods. In particular, it is possible to recognize putti holding a curtain in the lower part and fragments of sixteenth-century figures in the upper part.
Also the frescoes inside stucco frames on the counter-façade (St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Benedict), the altarpieces and the paintings above the doors are by the same author.
The absence of the altarpiece inside the retable makes the fresco at the center of the rear wall visible. It consists of a Last Supper of an unknown Lombard school artist painted towards the end of the sixteenth century. It presents various curious elements: on the one hand it does not follow the local setting (which finds its maximum expression in Leonardo's Last Supper), but copies the engraving Small Passion by Dürer, on the other it presents an iconographic anomaly, consisting of the presence of God the Father, normally never depicted at the Last Supper.
The fresco was therefore hidden at the end of the seventeenth century, placing in front of it an altarpiece by Daniele Crespi depicting a more orthodox Last Supper. In the Napoleonic era this was then transferred to Brera in Milan and replaced with a Crucifixion by Morazzone. The original fresco was rediscovered only recently, in 1999, following the removal of the Crucifixion to restore it. The fact that it has remained hidden for a long time is the reason why its colors are still so intense.

Choir Hall
It corresponds to the part of the church originally in exclusive use to the nuns of the convent.
Although there are still many frescoes (dating from the period between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), many others have been lost because the church was left for a long time in total abandonment and even used as a warehouse. For this reason, also all the remaining frescoes are more or less damaged.
Smaller than the public church, it has cross vaults with ribs highlighted by decorative bands and sails decorated with stylized rays.
The wall that separates the two parts of the church (Fig. 2) is largely occupied by a trompe l'oeil depiction of a large Baroque altar decorated with plants and flowers and placed in front of an architectural structure.
In some places the remains of an older fresco emerge.
On the upper part of the left wall (looking at the wall that divides the two parts of the church) there is a large fresco divided into three panels depicting three episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary: The Nativity, The Assumption (below the empty coffin surrounded by the apostles and above the Virgin, surrounded by angels) and The Coronation (with the Virgin inside a large almond supported by angels).
All the three scenes, attributed to the so-called Brugora master, are illustrated with great attention to detail, but also somewhat naively.
On the right wall there is a Deposition (unfortunately very ruined), with some figures in the foreground who pity the dead Christ (between them, all on the right, maybe also the patron) and on the background the nuns, recognizable by their brown robes, descending from Mount Calvary on top of which are the empty crosses, and a Madonna with Child between Saints Catherine and Apollonia. These last three figures are represented on an elegant architectural background in perspective with typically Renaissance decorations.
Above there there is a thick band decorated with grotesques.
The frescoes on this wall seem to be attributable to a hand different from that of the Master of Brugola.
On the outside wall, finally, on the sides of the central oculus, two groups of praying Benedictine nuns are attributed to the Master of
Brugora. The nuns are portrayed while they are praying and singing, in accordance with the fact that the hall was used by the nuns for prayer and choral singing (and for this reason there were originally the stalls of a choir on the walls).
Finally, under the oculus, three Benedictine saints, St. Benedict between St.
Placidus Martyr and St. Placidus Abbot. The author of the fresco is unknown, but the style makes one think of an artist different from the Master of Brugora, perhaps an artist close to Bergognone.

The cloisters
The complex includes two cloisters.
The first is said of the guesthouse (Fig. 5), as the nuns did not access in this space and a priest took care of selling the products of the monastery obtained from the lands in its property. Although the cloister is from the eighteenth century, the columns in local gray stone are in Renaissance style.
Through a portico, it is possible to reach the second cloister, which is larger and known as the cloister of the well (Fig. 4). The arches of the ground floor are lowered, the upper ones are of full center, with the characteristic that to an arch of the ground floor there are two or three on the first floor. On a lunette remains of a fresco depicting St. Peter and St. Paul.

From the cloister of the well, on the opposite side to the one where the Choir Hall is located, you can reach the former refectory. One of its walls is occupied by a large crucifixion (6.6 x 3.3m, large figure). It is not known if the opposite wall was, as usual in refectories, occupied by a Last Supper. Surely the room was originally longer.
The fresco was made in 1512 and is attributed to the Master of Brugora and his workshop. The Master of Brugora was probably one of the wandering artists who at that time were entrusted with the decoration of country churches, corresponding to communities that were not economically capable of engaging the more prestigious city artists.
Like the frescoes by the same author in the Choir Hall, also in this case there is a good care for details united to a certain ingenuity and theatricality.
In the case of the figure of Christ, for example, the blood comes out of the rib in such a copious way as to flow along the whole cross.
In general all the facial expressions are very marked, so as to make their interpretations absolutely unambiguous.
To the right of Christ, the Good Robber: we note that the expression of the face is repentant and serene; on the left the Bad Robber is represented in agony, to show that he who repents will have eternal life, while for the others there is only death.
Beneath the cross there are twenty-four figures.
Below, on the right, the three Marys, Maria supported by the sorrowful women: the expressiveness of these figures suggests that it was taken from a single model.
At the feet of Christ, St. John weeping, while the kneeling figure is Mary Magdalene.
The centurion on horseback to the right of the crucifix wears a Renaissance armor. His solemn attitude leads us to hypothesize that it could be a representation of the commissioner of the fresco.
On the left, with a book and the sword, the apostle Paul, on the right Peter with the gold and silver keys; at his feet a small demonic figure whose meaning is not well known.
A group of religious men and women, in a dark suit and with a halo, represents a sacred conversation between five members of the Benedictine Order. The figure with the palm is a Benedictine martyr.
In general, all the characters depicted are historical figures, portrayed respecting their traditional symbolism.
Note that the background landscape is a typical Lombard landscape. In the center, behind the cross, there is a faded fortress, perhaps the Casati castle, or the representation of Jerusalem.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value

Via Camillo Benso Cavour, 27, 20842 Besana In Brianza MB, Italia
Further pictures of Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora in the section Photography
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Last supper in the public Church of Sts. Peter and Paul of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Nativity in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Crucifixion in the refectory of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Interior of the public Church of Sts. Peter and Paul of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Counterfacade of the public Church of Sts. Peter and Paul of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Christ nailed to the cross in the public Church of Sts. Peter and Paul of the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora
Besana in Brianza (Monza e Brianza, Italy): Assumption in the Former Benedictine Monastery of Brugora