San Benedetto di Polirone, Abbey of
SAN BENEDETTO DI POLIRONE, ABBEY OF
Benedictine monastery, Diocese of Mantua in Lombardy, northern Italy. It was founded in 1003 by Theobald of Canossa at the junction of the Po and Lirone Rivers, whence its name, and it soon numbered two saints among its monks: Simeon (d. 1016) and anselm of lucca, who in 1077 put the house under cluny. It developed rapidly under matilda of tuscany, who founded the library, donating a famous gospel book; at her death she was buried in the monastery, where her body remained until 1633, when it was transferred to Rome. Because of the monastery's devotion to the cause of the papacy, it was sacked for the first time by the Emperor henry iv. The abbey's flourishing economy coincided with imposing schemes of reclamation and farm organization that made the monastery a center of agriculture and communal collectivism. Already in decline by 1419, the abbey was given in commendam (commendation) to the Gonzagas of Mantua, who the next year affiliated it with the Congregation of St. Justina of Padua. The next century saw an increase in internal strife, clashes with dependent farmers, and struggles with the lords of Mantua, all of which undermined the material and spiritual foundations of the abbey. Frequent floodings of the Po, epidemics, depredations, and molestations on the part of French, Spanish, and German armies—all combined to hasten the end. When the monastery was suppressed in 1797, parts of the library were transferred to Mantua and Milan. Of the buildings, only the church remains. It was first built about 1070, restored and further adorned by Giulio Romano in the 16th century and restored recently, and it contains fragments of mosaics from the 12th century.
Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:2314–15. a. van dijk, "The Customary of St. Benedict at Polirone," in Miscellanea liturgica in honorem L. Cuniberti Mohlberg, 2 v. (Rome 1948–49) 2:451–465. t. leccisotti, "Un esempio di gestione agricola monastica nel secolo XVII: S. Benedetto di Polirone," Benedictina 13 (1959) 215–234.
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