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Camaldoli: the monks and their forest

Camaldoli

The monks and their forest

It was the year 1000, and a Benedictine monk named Romuald set out on a series of expeditions along the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines, restoring monasteries and hermitages.

Among the places he stopped was the Casentino valley, where Count Maldolo (the name from which ‘Camaldoli’ derives) gave him a small piece of land, Campo Amabile, in 1012.

There, Romuald built a small oratory with five cells and, lower down the valley, a monastery in its own right, thereby combining eastern eremitism with a shared monastic life. This gave rise to a new Benedictine order.

Today, the imposing silver fir forests that surround Camaldoli, planted by the monks over the years, and its peaceful atmosphere make for a truly captivating haven.

Entry to the hermitage is through a bronze door, the Porta Speciosa (the Specious Door), designed by the artist Claudio Parmiggiani. It is a very intense, double-entry door, full of symbolic references.

The monks’ cells are protected by a surrounding wall, but it is possible to visit Romuald’s cell and discover how a monk would live

On the opposite side of the central square stands the church, renovated extensively in the Baroque style and housing a magnificent altarpiece by Della Robbia.

Many things on the visit to the monastery further down the valley will come as a pleasant surprise, for example Vasari’s first Mannerist works on Aretine soil dating from 1538 to 1540, and two beautiful cloisters.

The old pharmacy will provide an especially interesting end to our tour. The study of herbs and herb growing was common in monastic life and crucial for the very survival of such an isolated monastery.

POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS

  •  Guided visit to Chiusi della Verna

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