The Benedictine Abbey of Pomposa

Written by  Carla di Francesco
A centre of culture and religion for eight centuries, Pomposa is now one of Italy's principal tourist attractions.
"Monasterium IN Italia princeps": this is the definition of Pomposa left us by Guido Musico, the inventor of musical notation, who was a monk in the abbey when it was at the apogee of its glory under the rule of Guido of Ravenna.

The monks of Pomposa revered the sainted Guido, who was reputed to have transformed water into wine before an astonished Bishop of Ravenna and his retinue. Considered by his monks to be the witness and successor to Christ, Guido inspired the religious renewal of the monastery as well as ordering major architectural restorations and additions.

Among other things, he had the atrium added to the VII-VIIIth century basilica: small but exquisitely and enigmatically decorated, with the warm colours of stone and terra-cotta contrasted by multicoloured fonts, the atrium possesses a peerless sense of artistic equilibrium and charm.
Pomposa's importance as a monument is obvious upon entering the Church, which is a sublime combination of many different artistic schools, from the layout of the basilica, the columns, and the mosaic floor (all Byzantine by way of Ravenna) to the frescoes (XlVth century Italian) whose biblical scenes and explanatory captions combine to create an authentic Biblia Pauperum. The archaism of the form is perhaps due to the monks' realization that the order as a whole was in decline and reflects their nostalgic longing for the Abbey's golden age.

In 1553, decimated by malaria, the monks abandoned Pomposa for Ferrara. A good part of the major structures collapsed and were lost and little was done for the decaying monastery until the State finally ordered a restoration campaign in 1920.
Pomposa's position between Ravenna and Venice and its majestic Romanesque bell tower - a prominent landmark amid the surrounding plain - have made it one of Italy's main tourist attractions.