Friday, 7 October 2011

Frescoes at Piona Abbey, Lake Como

We saw lots of frescoes on our Como art history tour.  I was not able to photograph all places because of issues such as 'no photographs allowed', poor light etc. but I was really pleased with those places where it was possible.  One of these was Piona Abbey which is situated at the head of the lake on the Lecco, i.e. eastern, side.  We went up the lake by boat.  There are wonderful views across the lake at this point, even when as on this occasion, there is a lot of mist around.

The monastery was originally a Cluniac foundation but it now belongs to the Cistercians who were given it by the former owners, the Rocca family, in 1938.  There is a complex of buildings and lovely gardens that stretch down to the lake's edge.

It was Sunday and Mass was about to begin so we could only have a quick look at the frescoes in the church itself.  However, the adjoining cloister is wonderful and has a whole wall of medieval scenes.

The individual panels represent saints and peasants.  These include George and the Dragon,

St Catherine on her wheel,

and I think this one is St John the Baptist minus his head.

The peasants give a real flavour of everyday medieval life:

Most of them are involved in field tasks:

but there are also one or two of people having fun such as this musician:

The abstract patterns that make up the dividing portions are also interesting to textile artists.  We saw patterns similar to these in other places.  Lozenges appear to have been a popular shape for tiles on both walls and floors.  The abbey lay on the pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Rome.  A very narrow road winds along the edge of the lake and later we visited a church which had a shrine to St Thomas a Beckett.

The monks today make money by selling a particularly fiery liqueur known as St Bernards Elixir.  We were cautioned against adding it to our coffee!

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