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Abbey of San Rabano

Majestic ruins inhabited by memories and ghosts

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Where is

Toscana

Parco Regionale della Maremma, Via del Bersagliere, 7/9, 58100 Alberese GR, Italia (23m s.l.m.)

Directions
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What it is and where it is

An imposing ruin surrounded by centuries-old woods in the Uccellina hills is what remains of one of the most important Romanesque structures in southern Tuscany: once a powerful center of ecclesiastical power and now a mysterious ruin. Accessible from one of the most scenic routes in the Maremma Park, it enchants by the difficult reading of its remains: many construction and reconstruction interventions, combined with the inclemency of the centuries, have reduced to ruins what studies describe as a structure of at least two stories, with terracotta floors and stone roofing.

Why it is special

Wandering through the ruins, one can recognize a central courtyard with a cistern, remains of gutters for collecting rainwater, a driveway entrance and a smaller one, a room equipped with an oven near the Uccellina tower, and a circular structure, a pre-existing watchtower, believed to be the oldest core of the complex. Rooms for use as a washhouse, perhaps a scriptorium, are then identified. Traces of the life of yesteryear that seem to whisper in a faint, distant voice. Listening to them one is reminded of the ghosts of the legend of the golden hen, who are said to have roamed these very lands.

Not to be missed

Don't miss the guided "event" tours at sunset and at night that make for a unique and fascinating visit. Imagine standing under the remains of the ribbed vaults of the church, or between the central apse and the smaller side ones with hanging arch workings in the attic, struck by the last rays of the day. Or again, intent on admiring the polychrome marbles of the floors, resplendent in the moonlight. And have you ever wondered what emotions the only surviving flight of stairs in the bell tower might awaken in you, emerging from the shadows of night only to dissolve back into them?

A bit of history

The complex, which arose in the 11th century as a Benedictine Cassinese settlement, reached full development over the next century, so much so that Pope Innocent II transferred control of all reformed monasteries to the abbot as far as the Latium border. After a probable decline in the 12th century, in 1303, Pope Boniface VIII charged the Pisan priory of the Knights of Jerusalem to "watch over, guard, defend, and administer the lands and monastery of Alberese." It was perhaps for this reason that the term "Fortilizio" related to S. Rabano appeared for the first time in a document of 1336. In the 14th century the dominion of the monastery was the cause of discord between Pisa and Siena, and in 1438 it was the latter that had the Abbey dismantled.

Trivia

The abbey complex of San Rabano, is referred to in early documents as Monasterium Arborense or Monasterium de Arboresio or Alberese. The most probable etymology seems inherent to albarium, white, referring to the whitish stone of the Uccellina mountains. However, the origin related to arbor, tree, remains uncertain and partly overlapping. It is currently known as San Rabano, derived, according to some theories, from the improper and arbitrary use of the citation Sancti Rafani Praeceptor, builder of San Rabano, a church completed in 1587 in Alberese.

Abbazia di San RabanoAdmiring the ancient structures

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Simone Fiderigo Franci

A splendid example of Romanesque architecture in one of Italy's most fascinating natural parks.

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