What it is and where it is
Farfa Abbey takes its name from the river of the same name that flows beneath the valley. The salient facade anticipates the interior space divided into three naves. The wooden doorway, circumscribed by white marble, stands out against the brick wall, whose only other decorations are pilasters and three rose windows, a large one for the nave and two small ones on either side. Once through the entrance, one leaps into a different era: having abandoned the Romanesque of the exterior, it is the Baroque that welcomes us, interspersed, however, with elements of other times, such as the 13th-century icon of St. Mary, or the Last Judgment that has adorned the counter-façade since the 1500s.
Why it is special
The church, however, is only the center of a grandiose and ancient complex. The very long existence of this place has produced numerous artifacts from medieval times, which have been collected in a museum accessible from the cloister. But Farfa's treasures do not end there. Abbeys, especially Benedictine ones, were famous for their libraries. Also from the cloister it is possible to access the one at Farfa, which fortunately, despite the difficulties faced over the centuries, has not dispersed all its holdings, which now number 45,000 volumes.
Not to be missed
The structure of the grandiose abbey is not surrounded by fields, but fades into the alleys of a small village that had formed, centuries ago, around it. As well-preserved as the buildings are, village life has moved elsewhere, but all is not lost: today, several craft stores have opened here, supported by the flow of visitors attracted by the abbey. In practice, the ancient balance between religious center and inhabited area has been restored, and those who come to visit the place today have the opportunity not only to experience it on their own skin, but to actually become part of the mechanism.
A bit of history
The abbey boasts a history of thousands of years, and trying to summarize it would be a very difficult task. One of the most resounding aspects of its long existence is the importance it managed to achieve. Dear to Charlemagne, who stayed there on his way to Rome for his coronation, it managed not only to escape the control of the Holy See, but to accumulate so much wealth that it came to be said that the abbot of Farfa overshadowed the Pope. Indeed, it seems that at his peak he controlled more than 600 churches and monasteries, and more than 130 castles totaling about 300 villages.
If you look closely at the altar, you will notice that a kind of monolith emerges from underneath. This is an altar from the Carolingian period. In fact, the church we see today is a later work than the original, which it incorporated. But it is not the only element: an original floor can also be seen in the transept. Fortunately for us, something of Farfa's past resurfaces and claims its place within the treasure chest of art that the abbey has become.
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