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Pomposa Abbey

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Pomposa Abbey

Pomposa Abbey

Pomposa Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in the comune of Codigoro near Ferrara, Italy.[1] It was one of the most important in northern Italy, famous for the Carolingian manuscripts preserved in its rich library, one of the wealthiest of Carolingian repositories,[2] and for the Romanesque buildings.

The earliest report of a Juvenal, Persius, Quintilian, Terence's Andria, Jerome's preface to the history of Eusebius, Cicero's De officiis and De oratore, the abridgement of Livy called Periochae[5] and the Mathematica of Julius Firmicus Maternus.[6]

Until the 14th century the abbey had possessions in the whole of Italy, making its cartulary of more than local importance,[7] but later declined due to impoverishment of the neighbouring area owing to the retreat of the sea front and the increasing presence of malaria of the lower Po valley. It played an important role in the culture of Italy thanks to the work of its scribe monks and in part to the sojourn at Pomposa of Peter Damian.[8] In this abbey Guido d'Arezzo invented the modern musical notation in the early 11th century.[9]

The monks of Pomposa migrated to San Benedetto, Ferrara, 1650, leaving the abbey unoccupied. In the 19th century the abbey was acquired by the Italian government.

Frescoed nave of the abbey church

The church, dedicated to Saint Mary, is an example of a triple-nave Ravennan basilica with arcaded aisles and carpentry rafters, originating in the 7th-9th century, and sequentially enlarged as the abbey grew in power and prestige, attaining its present aspect, with a segmental apse, in the 11th century. The interior contains a good Cosmatesque and mosaic inlaid stone pavement, and interesting frescoes in the apse by Vitale da Bologna and his assistants;[10] and there are also paintings in the refectory by a Riminese master. The chapter hall has early 14th-century frescoes by a pupil of Giotto.[11]

The free-standing campanile (begun in 1063 and completed within several decades), standing at 48 m, is one of the finest surviving belltowers from the Romanesque period, together with the campanile of Abbey of San Mercuriale (75 m), in Forlì.

Notable also is the mid-11th century Palazzo della Ragione facing the abbey church in the forecourt or atrium that was built before the abbey church was consecrated in 1026, by an architect trained at Ravenna, Mazulo.


  1. ^ Mario Salmi, L'abbazia di Pomposa, 1938 remains the standard monograph; L. Caselli, L'Abbazia di Pomposa: guida storica e artistica, 1996.
  2. ^ G. Mercati, Il Catalogo della biblioteca di Pomposa, 1896; M. Inguanez, "Inventario di Pomposa del 1459", Bollettino del bibliofilo (the 1459 inventory in the archives of Monte Cassino); Guido Billanovich, "'Veterum Vestigia Vatum' nei carmi dei preumanisti padovani", Italia medioevale e umanistica, I (1958:161-64); Billanovich, La biblioteca di Pomposa: Pomposia monasterium modo in Italia primum, 1994.
  3. ^ As fragments of fresco from the apsidal face of a subsidiary arch that was eliminated in the 13th century attest: Giovanna Valenzano, "Affreschi del IX secolo nell'abbazia di Pomposa: una testimonianza della pittura carolingia nel territorio ravennate", Hortus Artium Medievalium 3 (1997:117-124).
  4. ^ This is the narrowest date range that Salvi 1938 permits; Salvi claims to recognize spoils from Ravenna in the form of frieze segments and carved capitals.
  5. ^ the recovery of Livy through manuscripts at Pomposa is the subject of Giuseppe<--not Guido--> Billanovich, "Il Livio di pomposa e li primi umanisti padovani", in Luigi Balsamo, ed. Libri manoscritti e a stampa da Pomposa all'umanesimo (Florence: Olschki) 1985.
  6. ^ Guido Billanovich, "La lettera di Enrico a Stefano: altri classici a Pomposa (ca. 1093)", Miscellanea Augusto Campana" Medioevo e Umanesimo Padova 44 (1981:141-165). I.
  7. ^ C. Mezzetti, Studio ed edizione critica delle carte dell'archivio dell'abbazia di Santa Maria di Pomposa (X-prima metà XI sec.) (Università di Firenze) 2004.
  8. ^ D. Balboni, "San Pier Damiano, maestro e discepolo in Pomposa" Benedictina, 1975.
  9. ^ A. Samaritani, "Contributi alla biografia di Guido a Pomposa e Arezzo", Atti dei Convegni di studio, Arezzo 1997.
  10. ^ C. Gnudi and P. Casadio, Itinerari di Vitale da Bologna: affreschi a Udine e a Pomposa, 1990
  11. ^ They were long attributed to Giotto himself. Hermann Beenken, "The chapter house frescoes at Pomposa" The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 62 (June 1933:253-55, 258-61).

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