by Rachel Hiser Remmes

A shift in ecclesiastic architectural style began to emerge in Italy in the twelfth century. Aesthetically distinct from the epitomic high-vaulted cathedrals in France and Germany, Gothic architecture in Italy began with the emergence of Benedictine Cistercian buildings, changing and developing into the fourteenth century. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed a proliferation of Cistercian Abbeys, which began to be built, or renovated, from previous monastic structures across Italy. Although each abbey retains its own distinct character, the Cistercian style is characterized by its ascetic quality with a lack of figural decorations and minimal, colorless stained glass. Moreover, while these Italian Gothic abbeys did employ advanced vaulting systems to elevate their walls, they did not prioritize their extreme verticality, a trait commonly associated with transalpine Gothic basilicas. Noteworthy Cistercian Abbeys include, but are not limited to, Tre Fontane Abbey, Casamari Abbey, Santa Maria Arabona, Santa Maria Casanova, the Abbey of Santa Maria della Vittoria (now destroyed), and the Abbey of San Giusto.

Tre Fontane Abbey, given to Cistercians in 1140, Rome, Italy

Casamari Abbey, Lazio, Italy, 9th/12th centuries

Interior, Casamari Abbey, Lazio, Italy, 12th century

Santa Maria Arabona, Abruzzo, Italy, 1209

Interior, Santa Maria Arabona, Abruzzo Italy, 1209

Santa Maria Casanova, Pescara, Italy, 1191

Abbey of San Giusto, Tuscany, 1146.

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