The monastery complex of Saint Michael Archangel Abbey in Passignano, better known with the name of the hamlet Badia a Passignano, represents one of the most interesting places of the entire Chianti region for its history and landscapes.
At the centre of a protected area established in 2008 by the Municipality of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Badia in Passignano is famous for the beauty of its monastery and other important sacred structures, apart from the charm of the typical Tuscan landscape surrounding it.
The structure of the Badia (Abbey)
The imposing abbey is surrounded by cypress trees on a hill from which it dominates the entire area. The main courtyard, on which all the buildings open, can be reached through an avenue of cypress trees, while the entire complex develops on a quadrangular plan with towers at the corners.
The monastery is located right beside the church and, while externally it resembles a military fortress, its internal boasts the typical features of Benedictine abbeys. Noteworthy is the refectory where the Last Supper by Ghirlandaio and the cloister, whose walls are decorated with frescoes representing the Life of Saint Benedict, can be admired.
The church of Saint Michael with Latin cross plan and single nave is decorated with numerous frescoes dating back to the XII century and represents another distinctive element of the abbey.
The first undoubtable evidence of its existence dates back to the IX century, when it was mentioned in one of the parchments kept in the archive of the abbey, but the fact that it is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, and the particular worship of the saint, traces back its foundation to the Longobard era (II-VI century).
After centuries of decay the abbey, in 1049, passed under the control of the Vallombrosian Benedictine monks that restored and enlarged it over the years. Giovanni Guadalberto the founder of the order sent the abbot Leto to Passignano, so that he could take care of restoring the run-down monastery and build the church of San Biagio for the faithful of the place.
In summer 1050, Pope Leo IX arrived for a visit. It was very clear that the Vallombrosian order was becoming more and more powerful thanks to the vast properties in Tuscany. Their power was strongly opposed by the city of Florence, which almost completely destroyed the hamlet around the mid XIII century after numerous attacks.
Yet once again, restoration works and the construction of solid fortifications were carried out. However, they could not protect the village from both the occupation by the troops of Henry VII of Luxembourg, and then from Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The abbey was returned to the monks only at the end of the XV century. After the last enlargement works, which gave it the current aspect, Badia a Passignano had a period of stability becoming an important centre of theological, scientific, and literary studies. At that time, about one hundred monks lived in the abbey, while its archives contained more than six thousand documents. During this period many important personalities left there their mark. One of them was Galileo Galilei who stayed at the monastery for a short time during which he taught mathematics.
The suppression of the monastic orders by Napoleon Bonaparte first, and the unification of Italy after, put an end to centuries of prosperity until the expropriation in 1866. The abbey was returned to the Vallombrosian monks only in 1986.
The hamlet of Badia in Passignano can be visited anytime, while the monastery (council rooms, refectory, and kitchen) have different times according to the various periods of the year.
The community of the Benedictine monks can be visited only on booking on Sundays, in the afternoon.
For the visits we recommend to contact the Ufficio informazioni Turistiche (Tourism Information Office) – Pro Loco of Tavarnelle:
Piazza Matteotti 4/A – 50028 Tavarnelle Val Di Pesa (FI)
Tel. +39 055 807 7832 – firstname.lastname@example.org