Visit San Benedetto Po
San Benedetto Po is a town in Lombardy to the south of Mantova, that is visited for the chance to see one of the major Benedictine abbey complexes in northern Italy: the Abbey of Polirone. The abbey complex completely dominates the town centre.
Note that San Benedetto Po is also listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Visiting San Benedetto Po
The Polirone Abbey - also known as the Abbey of San Benedetto Po - is one of the most visited religious monuments in Lombardy and among the most important abbey complexes in Europe.
The Benedectine abbey here has very ancient origins, having been originally founded in 1007 AD. It reached its apogee in the 16th century before entering a long period of decline. Along with other abbeys it was finally closed when Napoleon suppressed all abbeys in his area of control in 1797.
The complex consists of a the basilica itself, three cloisters, an infirmary and a refectory. Most of the complex dates from a major restructuring that took place in the 16th century (between 1540 and 1545) under the control of Giulio Romano. This is also the time that the most important artworks and ornamentation here were created such as the grand staircase.
Although there is little trace of the very oldest buildings here you can still see a 12th century mosaic in the Church of Santa Maria and part of the original walls in the presbytery.
Another star attraction in the abbey was rediscovered even more recently: a fresco by Caravaggio in the abbey refectory that was only rediscovered in the 1980s. The fresco is very large and represents both mythological characters and also people from the Old Testament.
Other notable highlights that you will see as you explore the Polirone Abbey include the wall frescoes and a rare 11th century candelabra in the church, the 16th century carved wooden stalls and entrance door, numerous terracotta statues by Begarelli that also adorn the church, and an imposing marble and travertine sarcophagus that once held the remains of Matilda of Canossa.
There are many other items of historical and artistic interest that you will come across as you explore Polirone Abbey.
There are also two museums here in San Benedetto Po: the Museum Polironiano, a major Italian museum housed in the abbey, and the Museum of Rural Life.
Other interesting highlights in the region around San Benedetto Po include Mantova and its imposing Royal Palace to the north-west and also the castle and historic centre of Mirandola to the south-east.