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  7. Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli

Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli

A short distance from the Tuscan-Romagna Apennine ridge and included in the municipal territory of Poppi, Camaldoli is an example of how nature and man can live in symbiosis to create unique places, in the heart of the Casentino National Forests.

According to tradition, in 1012 the Benedictine monk Romuald of Ravenna, encouraged by the bishop of Arezzo Teodaldo, founded a new hermit community with cells and an oratory.

In 1113 the Camaldolese Congregation of the Order of Saint Benedict, which followed the Benedictine rule with the addition of its own principles and norms, had the approval of Pope Paschal II and the institute spread to many places in Italy, but Camaldoli always remained its principal place and the point of reference.

Camaldoli Monastery

A little more than 800 metres high is the Camaldoli Monastery, inaugurated in the eleventh century along with a hospital and changed over time. The current appearance is the result of an intervention carried out between the second half of the 16th and the first half of the 17th century, which led to the expansion of the cloister.
The complex also includes the Refectory with the coffered ceiling completed in 1609 and the Foresteria, founded together with the coenobium to accommodate those who wanted to dedicate themselves to monastic life and transformed during the fifteenth century. In the second half of that century hosted Lorenzo il Magnifico and his court of writers composed by Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Leon Battista Alberti and others, arrived in Camaldoli to start a discussion with the monks on the questions that the new Renaissance culture posed.  The Pharmacy was born as a laboratory for the monks to prepare medicines for the patients in their old hospital, which remained active until 1810. There are books and handbooks, as well as instruments such as stills, mortars and stoves.
In the basement of the monastery, the Modern Library was inaugurated in 2021, featuring public rooms for consultation and reading.
The church of st. Donato and Ilariano is in an area of the monastery where from the 11th century four places of worship have overlapped. In 1203 a fire destroyed the first church and in its place another was built during the 13th century, completely rebuilt at the beginning of the 16th century taking as a model that of the monastery of San Michele in Venice. In the 18th century it was decided to modify the building again, shortening it and transforming it completely inside. This work was completed in 1775.

The church houses important panels by Giorgio Vasari made between 1537 and 1540, depicting the “Deposition from the Cross”, “San Donato and San Ilariano”, “San Pier Damiani and San Romualdo”, the “Nativity” and the “Virgin enthroned with the Child between Saint John the Baptist and Saint Jerome”. The first three originally formed a triptych, of which some of the accompanying predella panels are present in the church but detached.

Camaldoli Hermitage

Going up from the monastery for about three kilometres, at 1,100 metres of altitude is the Camaldoli Hermitage, surrounded by a biogenetic reserve managed by the State Forestry Corps. The Cella di San Romualdo, where the monk lived for two years, is the only one that can be visited. The visitors, however, can admire the Sacristy of the sixteenth century and the Refectory of 1679. Of the ancient library of the hermitage, already active since the 11th century, unfortunately remains a small part because of the Napoleonic and Savoy suppressions of religious orders of the 19th century, which dismembered it. Today, much of that immense heritage, which made it one of the most important libraries in Italy, is divided between the State Archives of Florence and the libraries of Florence, Arezzo and Poppi.

The Church of San Salvatore Transfigurato is located in the centre of the hermitage. It was inaugurated by the bishop of Arezzo Teodaldo in 1027, but the current appearance derives from subsequent alterations and transformations. The intervention of the second half of the 17th century gave it the current Baroque style inside, the one carried out between 1713 and 1714 gave the facade framed by two symmetrical bell towers. Among the preserved artworks, the “Madonna Enthroned with Child between Saints Romualdo, Mary Magdalene, Saint John the Baptist, and Anthony the Abbot” by Andrea della Robbia (late 15th century) is worth mentioning. At the end of the central avenue of the cells is the Pope’s Chapel, a small church in Romanesque style built in 1220 by the future Pope Gregory IX. Even today Camaldoli is a reference place for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, but in summer it becomes one of the favourite places for all those who go in search of refreshment from the summer heat, thanks to the magnificent forests maintained for centuries by monks.

The Camaldoli Monastery nestled in the greenery of the Casentino Forests

The entrance to the Camaldoli Monastery. Its current appearance is the result of renovations carried out between the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Camaldoli Monastery with the Church and the Guesthouse

A glimpse of the magnificent forests of Camaldoli, lovingly cared for by Benedictine monks for centuries

The Church of st. Donato and Ilariano was rebuilt several times. The construction of the current building was completed in 1775

The Church of st. Donato and Ilariano houses important panels by Giorgio Vasari executed between 1537 and 1540

The “Deposizione dalla Croce” by Giorgio Vasari in the main altar of the Camaldolese church (1539/40)

The “Natività” by Giorgio Vasari was executed in 1538. The divine light of the Child illuminates the nighttime scene

La “Vergine in trono con il Bambino tra San Giovanni Battista e San Girolamo di Giorgio Vasari del 1537

The predella panels by Giorgio Vasari featuring “Cena degli ebrei”, “Caduta della manna”, “Sacrificio di Isacco” and “Creazione di Adamo”

The predella panels by Giorgio Vasari featuring “Ultima cena”, “Abramo incontra Melchisedec”, “Elia e l’angelo” e “Abele offre un sacrificio”

The wooden choir of the Church of SS. Donato and Ilariano. At the top is “San Romualdo insegna ai discepoli la visione della Scala” by Santi Pacini (1774)

Part of the Guesthouse of the Camaldoli Monastery, the space for welcoming the guests of the cenobium

Detail of the Modern Library of Camaldoli, designed by the Menichetti + Caldarelli studio

The Modern Library of Camaldoli, inaugurated in 2021, is located in the basement of the monastery

The Modern Library of Camaldoli is equipped with spaces for consultation and reading open to the public

The Pharmacy was born as a galenic laboratory for the use of the monks. Ancient instruments are still preserved there

The Camaldoli Hermitage enveloped by the biogenetic reserve managed by the State Forestry Corps

The Camaldoli Hermitage, situated at approximately 1,100 meters in altitude, was founded in 1012 by the Benedictine monk Romualdo.

The façade of the Church of San Salvatore Trasfigurato, located in the center of the Hermitage of Camaldoli, dates back to 1713/14

The baroque interior of the church at the Hermitage of Camaldoli, inaugurated in 1027 but transformed in the mid-17th century

Madonna con il Bambino tra i santi Romualdo, Maria Maddalena, San Giovanni Battista e Antonio Abate by Andrea della Robbia (late 15th century)

Exterior of the Cell of San Romualdo, the only one open to visitors among those present in the Hermitage of Camaldoli

Interior of the Cell of San Romualdo, where the Ravennate monk, founder of the hermitage, lived for two years

The Ancient Library of the Camaldoli Hermitage. The first documented evidence of a book collection dates back to the 13th century

In the cells of the Camaldoli Hermitage, the monks still live today in silence, prayer, and meditation

The Pope’s Chapel of the Camaldoli Hermitage was built in 1220 by the future Pope Gregory IX

The Pope’s Chapel with its semicircular apse. The little church is a gem in Romanesque style

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