One of these surely is the Cistercian Monastery of Sanit Bernard, better known as the Abbey of Fontevivo, which, accordingly to the sources, was founded in 1142 by twelve monks coming from the Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba.
The land where the building rose was given them as a gift by the bishop of Parma and the marquises Pallavicino, but it was mostly marshy. It was cleared and it became fertile thank to the zeal of the monks who, led by the abbot Viviano, carried on the construction of a building that included, beyond the church, a library, a kitchen, a refectory, a storeroom and many dormitories created around a squared cloister.
In 1546, the abbey was transferred to the ownership of the Benedectine monks, who kept its jurisdictions until the 1892.
In the beginning of the 1600s the Duke of Parma Ranuccio I Farnese decided to open an alley in front of the church, connecting it with another chuch, the Capuchins’ one, no longer existing today. Nearly one century after, in 1733, the Duke Carlo of Borbone decided to restore completely the monastery with a neoclassic style, to turn it into the summerhouse of the Nobles’ College of Parma. Therefore, it became the place where to welcome young students belonging to the most important European Families.
The institute was closed in 1806, but I decided to open it again about ten years later. Despite my efforts, in 1890 it was closed for good.
In 1987 the ex-monastery, used as popular recidences and shops, was bought by the municipality of Fontevivo that decided to rescue it. Therefore, it started a restoration cycle that took to the creation of a hotel, a restaurant and, since 2012, a Museum of Accordions, which has models of the 1800s and 1900s coming from all over the world.
In the entire abbey complex, just the church still showing the original Romanic aspect, except the façade, renovated in the 1400s. Inside you can still see the “Virgin with baby Jesus”, a sculpture in painted stone dating back to the 12th century and attributed to Benedetto Antelami.
In the church there are also two important memorial works.
The first is a burial plate in red marble from Verona, of the marques Guidone Pallavicino; he was a Templar knight belonging to the benefactor family of the abbey, died in 1301. The headstone has a relief representing the marques with the armour and a sword, and on the side, there is an inscription. This is kind of a rare monument, considering the fact that the Church had always had a problematic relation with the Templars. Although, it seems like there were different connections between the abbey and this religious order of chivalry. They say that it was linked to mathematicians, astronomers and architects: a proof could be the fact that every year on the 15 of August the light coming from the rose window seems like hit the key of the nook of the Virgin, and this does not look accidental. The church was dedicated to that Virgin and the Templars were devoted to her. Moreover, this order of chivalry created also a monastic rule, supported by Bernardo of Chiaravalle, who founded the Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, which the Abbey of Fontevivo depended on.
Isn’t it very fascinating?
The other memorial work is the tomb of the Duke of Parma Ferdinando of Borbone, who died in Fontevivo in 1802. The mausoleum, in white marble of Carrara, is in neoclassic style and was designed by Fancesco Lopez: the monument is in between two column, supporting an architrave (garnished with metope and triglyphs, showing the Duke’s virtues) and a pediment. The sudden death of Ferdinando raised suspects of poisoning, because the Duke tried to push back the Napoleon’s occupation of the land of Parma for more than one year.