The Morimondo Abbey

Cistercian Abbey founded in 1134

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The Morimondo Monastery, whose name means “to die to the world” and live resurrected, was founded in 1134 in Coronate, a location still existing at approximately one kilometer from the abbey, by monks from the Cistercian monastery of Morimond in France. Together with Abbot Gualchezio (Gualguerius), came Gualtiero, Ottone, Algisio, Guarnerio, Arnoldo, Enrico, Frogerio, Pietro, Bertramo, Petrus Niger, and other monks whose names are unknown.

In 1136, they moved to “Campo Falcherio,” the current location.

In a short time, the monastery gained importance and welcomed numerous vocations from all social classes. Even before the construction of the church, the Morimondese monks founded two other communities: in 1143 Acquafredda (Como) and in 1169 Casalvolone (Novara).

A remarkable and eloquent sign of the wealth of vocations is attested to by the flourishing activity of the scriptorium. Even from an agricultural standpoint, there was significant expansion, with a large number of farms, oratories, and mills located on a territory of approximately 3,200 hectares in the thirteenth century, of which two-thirds were cultivated fields and one-third forests.

Unfortunately, the laboriousness and monastic peace were disturbed by the military events of the time. The abbey was founded on the border between Pavia and Milan, cities that continuously disputed political and military dominance with raids and crossings over the Ticino River. With the arrival of Frederick Barbarossa in Italy, Morimondo was devastated with a first raid by German troops in 1161.

The construction of the abbey church, hindered also by a dispute over ecclesiastical jurisdiction with the nearby pieve of Casorate Primo, could only begin in 1182. In 1237, the works were interrupted by a terrible raid on the night of December 3rd by the Pavia troops, who devastated the monastery and killed many monks. The monastery counted 50 chorist monks (priest monks working in the scriptorium) and 200 lay brothers dedicated to managing the productive activities of the monastery and its external relations. From that time, the community never fully recovered, and the completion of the abbey works only occurred in 1296.

The thirteenth century, with the rise of new mendicant orders, brought a decline in monastic vocations to Morimondo, as in the entire Cistercian order.

In 1450, Morimondo became a commander and its first commendaries were Cardinal Giovanni Visconti, Archbishop of Milan, followed by Cardinal Branda Castiglioni, a well-known humanist. But providentially, Morimondo had its spiritual rebirth thanks to Lorenzo the Magnificent’s son, Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici (commendatory from 1487 to 1501), the future Pope Leo X (1513-1521). He worked to send six Cistercian monks from the abbey of Settimo Fiorentino to Morimondo to restore the regularity of monastic life.

A sign of this recovery is the artwork and devotion commissioned by the monks of Settimo Fiorentino, such as the reconstruction of the cloister around 1480, the refurbishment of the sacristy portal, the fresco of the “Madonna and Child” attributed to Luini in 1515, and finally, the wooden choir of 1522.

In 1564, to help the Greater Hospital of Milan economically, Saint Charles Borromeo stripped Morimondo Abbey of its lands, simultaneously establishing it as a parish, giving it the title of Santa Maria Nascente.

The seventeenth century saw in Abbot Antonio Libanorio (1648-1652) the apex of a new recovery of the monastic community.

In the eighteenth century, palaces were built that rose above the west and north sides of the cloister.

On May 31st, 1798, following the French Revolution, the suppression of all monastic orders was decreed, including the Cistercian community of Morimondo.

The monastery, sold at auction on September 28th, 1805, was subdivided into real estate units for the rural population.

From 1805 to 1950, religious life was animated by Ambrosian priests. In 1941, Cardinal Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, during a pastoral visit to the abbey, saw its abandoned state and wanted to restore religious life to the monastery. First, he contacted the Trappists of Tre Fontane in Rome, and later, in 1950, the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate settled in the monastery.

In the history of Morimondo Abbey, Angelo Comolli had the merit of buying the cloister and the surrounding rooms in 1917, unifying their property, personally providing significant maintenance work to avoid total decay, and adapting many of the previously poorly used rooms to his study, rescuing them from a state of total abandonment.

On December 30th, 1982, the municipality of Morimondo acquired the monastic cenoby from the heirs of Angelo Comolli. The architects of this initiative, which allowed the subsequent enhancement of the monastic complex, were the then-mayor, Maurizio Spelta, and the successive municipal administrations, which oversaw the restoration work of the cenoby conducted by Alessandro Rondena and Giovanni Carminati and concluded in 2008.

In 1991, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini entrusted the pastoral care of the parish to the Congregation of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with a new invitation to revive Morimondo Abbey as a center of spirituality and pastoral initiatives.

With the establishment of the Abbatia Sancte Marie de Morimundo Foundation in 1993, Morimondo experienced a revival with the enhancement of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the abbey and Cîteaux monasticism in general.