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San Giorgio Monastery

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Vue depuis Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore 4

View of the Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore from the bell tower

The San Giorgio Monastery is a Benedictine monastery in Venice, lying on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. It stands next to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, and is now the seat of Cini Foundation.

The foundation

The monastery was founded in 982 AD following the donation from the Doge Tribuno Memmo to Giovanni Morosini, who was then the first abbot. Among the first monks grew up St Gerard Sagredo, martyr bishop; known as Gellért, he converted the Hungarians to Christianity.

The prestige

During the centuries the monastery became a theological, cultural and artistic center of primary importance in Europe. The monks had considerable autonomy and close links with Florence and Padua, and thus it became also a favoured location for foreign dignitaries to stay while in the city. In 1177 Pope Alexander III and Frederick Barbarossa met here. In 1223 a violent earthquake destroyed the monastery. In 1433 Cosimo de' Medici, exiled from Florence, came here.

Between 1560 and 1562 Andrea Palladio built the refectory and Paolo Veronese painted the massive The Wedding at Cana that was exposed inside. In 1566 began the construction of the new church by Palladio, who later designed also the Palladian cloister. Between 1641 and 1680 Baldassarre Longhena designed the new library, the grand staircase, the monastery façade, the Novitiate building , the sick-room and the guest-rooms.

After the fall of the Republic in 1797, the monastery was deprived of its most precious books and works of art; Napoleon sent The Wedding at Cana to Paris, and at present it is exposed in the Louvre museum. It is now possible to admire a copy in the refectory, in the place it was created for.

The monastery was so important that in 1800, while Rome was occupied by the French army, there was held the Papal conclave which elected Pope Pius VII. The cardinals met into the Nocturn choir (or Wintry choir), where is still exposed the remarkable canvas St George slaying the Dragon by Vittore Carpaccio.

On 29 and 30 May 1956 the Venice Conference of the Foreign Ministers of the six Member States of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was held in the San Giorgio Monastery to discuss the Spaak Report of the Spaak Committee.

The decline

Nevertheless in 1806 it was suppressed, and many of the wells remained were sold or stolen. Only a few monks obtained to remain to officiate the church, while the monastery became a weapons depot. For more than a century it continued to be a military presidium, undergoing a grave deterioration.

The recovery

In 1951 the Italian Government granted the monastery to the Cini Foundation, which restored it and revived its cultural tradition.

See also

References

External links

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