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Lenta (Vercelli, Italy): Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro

Foto Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Foto Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Foto Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Foto Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Foto Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
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Places  of historical value  of artistic value around Milan (Italy): Castle Benedictine Monastery of San PietroThe Castle Benedictine monastery of St. Peter in Lenta represents a rare case of a fortified structure that was the seat of a monastery for a long time, in this case a female Benedictine monastery.

The reconstruction of its history is unfortunately very incomplete, because the documents of the monastery were lost after its suppression in 1802.
It is not known when the castle was built, when the monastery was founded. What seems certain is that the monastery was founded before the fortification and that this was built around it. The nuns were the ladies of the place and there was only a moat around the monastery.

Almost nothing is known about the construction of the castle. As for the ricetto, ie the fortified area of the town associated with the castle-monastery, it seems that it was built only later, illegally, by the villagers who occupied the land around the monastery, which caused constant quarrels between nuns and residents.

There is also much uncertainty about the foundation of the monastery. Some documents would suggest that it was founded in 1127. However, other documents contain references to it already a century and a half earlier, which would mean that the monastery was in fact founded already in the tenth century. It is possible that in 1127 the monastery was not founded, but re-founded after the earthquake of 1117 which brought great upheavals throughout the Po valley.
Over time, through the accumulation of bequests and donations, it became very powerful, becoming the owner of almost the entire territory of Lenta, of lands in the adjacent comunities and also holder of rights over water channels, mills, tolls.
In 1572 Cardinal Giulio Ferrari, in agreement with the then Pope Pio V, ordered that the nuns of the convent of Lenta move to the convent of Saint Peter Martyr in Vercelli. Their transfer then took place under the following pope Gregory XIII.
Thus began the decline of the castle convent, which accelerated after the Benedictine convent of Lenta was definitively suppressed in 1802 and the convent castle of Lenta was purchased in part by Lenta private individuals and in part by the Municipality, which moved the town hall offices there until around 1840.
The "Castle" is currently entirely municipal property.

The structure of the castle-monastery does not appear well defined, since, over the centuries, other structures have been added attached to what was originally the castle, in particular the two churches of St, Peter and of St. Marta and various residential buildings. It is by looking at it from the north (Fig. 1) or from the east that the typical characteristics of the castle are best recognized. On the east side there are in fact still two towers with a rectangular plan which, despite having been raised and closed, still allow us to guess their original defensive function. In the upper part of the north wing the dovetail merlons of the guard path are still recognizable. They were integrated into the wall when the wing was raised to gain one floor. The walkways are however still present, although transformed into corridors open on one side to the outside.
The complex is built in brick and river pebbles, with the ratio between the two materials highly variable. In many places the bricks are arranged in a herringbone pattern, which testifies to the medieval origins of the structure.
In the center is what was originally the courtyard of the castle and which later became the cloister of the monastery. In it various structural elements such as arches, windows and doors are underlined by terracotta frames. Of particular value are two doors inside the portico, each topped by a frescoed lunette and surrounded by a frame of terracotta tiles decorated with plant-themed relief motifs. In one of the two lunettes a Pieta is depicted, while in the other a Nursing Virgin. The latter is located above the door through which you reach the circular staircase leading to the first floor.
The interiors of the complex are unfortunately in a poor state of conservation, at least in some parts, although restorations have already been carried out and others are planned.
On the ground floor there are interesting rooms with vaulted or wooden ceilings, with original terracotta floors and possibly a fireplace. Almost nothing remains of the original furnishings, especially since these rooms were part private homes until a few decades ago.
There is also a room, currently totally unusable, characterized by the fact that the beams of the beautiful wooden ceiling rest on hexagonal brick columns (Fig. 5).
Upstairs there are various large halls.

  • The largest is represented by a very high approximately square hall of whose ceiling only the supporting beams remain and which therefore has the roof of the building itself as a cover (Fig. 3). The floor is wooden. In the hall there are still various medieval frescoes. In particular a St. Benedict with an offering Nun (by a fourteenth-century Lombard painter) in correspondence with the fireplace and an Annunciation with St. Catherine of Alexandria (Fig. 4 , also here by a Lombard painter of the fourteenth century).

  • Rectangular hall with original wooden ceiling and terracotta floor (Fig. 2). There is a fireplace on the wall and various medieval frescoes, in particular a Crucifixion and saints (perhaps master of Oldenico, fifteenth century) and what remains of a curious crucifixion made in a rather rudimentary way, in which Christ looks almost like a skeleton.

  • Hall/loggia: it is a rectangular hall covered by the roof of the building itself, with terracotta floor and on one side open to the outside. There are the remains of a fireplace and a fresco depicting a Madonna Enthroned.

  • Rectangular hall with floor currently in concrete and coverage given by the roof of the building itself. On two sides the walls are made up of beautiful herringbone walls, with rows of cobblestones in a herringbone pattern interspersed with two linearly arranged brick lines.

Overall the Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro in Lenta is an absolutely particular and suggestive structure, which deserves to be properly restored in order to be promoted and valorised.

Categories: Places of historical value of artistic value


Via S. Marta 5, 13035 Lenta VC
Further pictures of Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro in the section Photography
Lenta (Vercelli, Italy): Helical staircase in the Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Lenta (Vercelli, Italy): Crucifixion and female saints in the Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Lenta (Vercelli, Italy): East side of the Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro
Lenta (Vercelli, Italy): Fresco of the Annunciation in the Castle Benedictine Monastery of San Pietro