Every year on May 25 and July 19 at 7.45 a beam of light falls precisely at 2 special places in the abbey of Saint Urbano; more specifically on 2 circles marked inside the Abbey. One circle is on a wall on the ground floor and one on the bottom in the crypt. 25th May exactly coincides with the day of Saint Urbano, while July 19th is the corrispondent day during the summer period.
This event is quite magic and unique, but if you can’t make it for the exact dates, we would recommend a visit to the Abbey, anyway! We received an interesting tour from Elisa who was working in the information center.
The history of this Romanesque abbey goes way back in time, in the 11th century to be precise. Already in 1033 a parchment document mentioned the existence of this building. At that time the Abbey owned 15 other Churches, meaning that it was very powerful around the area. Part of the abbey was destroyed in the 13th century, but was rebuilt in the same century. The Camaldolese monks would stay here until 1810 until the French rule sold the ecclesiastical building. The abbey ended up in private hands and from that time served as a farm. In 1978 the municipality of Apiro inherited the whole to have it restored in 1992 in an abbey, restaurant and overnight stay.
The entrepreneur Loccioni, whose grandparents once lived here and who was born and raised in the neighborhood, is now investing in a large-scale ecological project in which the old school opposite the abbey plays an important role. Here he installed indeed a field with solar panels.
What makes this abbey so special? As soon as you approach it, the building already stands out due to its special construction. Once inside, you will be struck by the silence and mythical atmosphere. Sober but full of symbolism and a fresco here and there. The large empty space at the entrance marked the place for the believers, followed by the presbytery accessible only to the monks. A staircase eventually led to the crypt.
The capitals (top of the columns) all contain various decorations, ranging from warriors to animals and plants.
As for the frescoes, the crucifixion at the entrance to the right probably dates from the 14th century. The depiction of Saint Urbano, it is suspected, dates from the 15th century. Above the entrance to the crypt we see a fresco of the seated Madonna. The legend says that the columns inside the crypt, if embraced backwards, would relieve the back pain. Here too, all different decorated capitals, and an altar from 1140 with an inscription about a possible grace that was pronounced here.
Elisa also showed us where the stables were when the abbey served as a farm. They had a view of the inside of the church from the stable. During the last works on the abbey, remains of the original church were probably uncovered. This part of the old abbey could have served as a room for the non baptised people, that could nevertheless follow the Mass.
The priest celebrates mass here every Saturday evening. You can get married, but only for the residents of Apiro. The restaurant offers traditional dishes in the rooms where monks and abbots once slept.