The Abbey  


An ancient beacon of Christianity and culture



The Abbey of San Colombano represents the most important symbol of a city, Bobbio, which boasts ancient history and cultural traditions. The monastery, founded by the Irish friar Colombano, who later became a saint, was also the first nucleus around which the urban fabric of the Borgo di Bobbio was born and progressively developed.


The Abbey was founded in 614 and, between the seventh and twelfth centuries, it became one of the most important monastic centers in Europe, so much so that it was considered the Montecassino of northern Italy. The catalog of his Scriptorium reached 982 in the year 982 and, after the dispersion of this patrimony, he continued to preserve 25 of the 150 oldest manuscripts of Latin literature in the world.


Its influence extended to Italy and Europ, thanks also to the abbeys and monasteries founded by his monastic order from the age of the Lombards. Thus the monastic feud of Bobbio was born and grew , which was later replaced by the episcopal county of Bobbio.


The story of one of the most important abbeys in Europe


The foundation of the Abbey of San Colombano dates back to the period in which the Lombards invaded the northern part of the Italian peninsula. After King Alboinus, Agilulf was initially less hostile towards the Catholic Church. His wife Teodolinda was in fact a fervent Catholic and he himself later converted thanks to Colombano's preaching. It was on the occasion of his baptism that the Lombard king gave San Colombano a ruined church that stood near Ebovium , a place now devastated and bare after the invasion, which had been part of the Patrimony of San Pietro.


Starting from that church, the walls of the future abbey were erected, and of the library that was born hosting the manuscripts that the Saint had brought with him from Ireland. The original nucleus of the monastery, therefore, was built right from the ancient Church of San Pietro, which stood on the site where the Malaspiniano Castle was built. The building was designed in the style of the Irish monasteries, consisting of wooden huts gathered around the church, all surrounded by a palisade.


After Colombano's death, the direction of the monastery passed first to the faithful Attala and then to Bertulfo , both of whom became saints in turn. King Arioaldo, who was of Aryan faith, had Bladulfo, monk of Bobbio, killed because he had not greeted him as an Aryan. According to legend, Attala brought the monk back to life and also freed Arioaldo from a diabolical possession, the result of his crime. So it was that the Lombard king also decided to convert.


In 628, Pope Honorius exempted the Abbey from episcopal jurisdiction, thus making it directly subject to the Holy See, while with the abbot Bobuleno the Benedictine Rule was introduced, which led to the entry into the Congregation of Monte Cassino . Thanks to the work of the disciples of San Colombano, an increasing number of Lombards became part of the Catholic Church, and the struggle against the Aryan heresy finally triumphed.


At the end of the ninth century, in order to accommodate the ever growing monastic community, Abbot Agilulfo made the decision to move the monastic complex further downstream, starting the construction of a new monastery, thus transferring the complex to its current position. Despite the monastery's growing power and fame, however, the monks observing the Colombanian Rule led a decidedly austere life, practiced fasting, prayed and devoted themselves daily to work.


In 1014, Emperor Henry II granted the bishopric to Bobbio, and Pietroaldo, already abbot, became the first bishop of Bobbio. Initially, therefore, the bishops had the Abbey of San Colombano as their residence. Later, thanks to the intervention of Federico Barbarossa, in 1153, the rights and goods of the Abbey were confirmed, and therefore the temporal powers of its abbots were recognized. A power that was confirmed and strengthened also by Pope Innocent, who in 1199 with two special bubbles definitively returned to the Abbey full spiritual and temporal powers.


For some time, however, the monastery had become completely self-sufficient, being equipped with guesthouses, cellars, mills, ovens, laboratories, warehouses, stables , and also an infirmary and the "Garden of the simple", a vegetable garden dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal herbs.


The community formed by the monks of the Order of San Colombano was dissolved by Pope Nicholas V in 1448 and, later, the Benedictine monks of the Congregation of Santa Giustina of Padua took over. In 1803, however, the French troops, as happened everywhere, took the Abbey and the Church of San Colombano from the monks.


Place of faith and culture: the Library


The importance of the Abbey grew, reaching also Ireland. from which came Cumiano, who was a monk in Bobblio, so that the abbot Gunebaldo managed to collect 70 precious volumes in his Library, including the Antiphonary of Bangor.


In the tenth century, the scholar Ludovico Muratori published a catalog that collected all the works in the library, demonstrating the huge cultural heritage and knowledge that the monastery had been able to create and make prosper.


In 982, Gerbert d'Aurillac, who later became Pope Sylvester II, became abbot of San Colombano, and here he composed his famous treatise on geometry.


Later, in 1616, it was the Milanese cardinal Federico Borromeo to recover 86 volumes from the Library of Bobbio: among them the Missal of Bobbio, the Antiphonary of Bangor and part of the Bible of Ulfila, dating back to around 911.


Many other volumes, however, were donated to Pope Paul V in 1618, and then flowed into the Vatican Library. A large number of books ended up in Turin, at the Royal Archives and at the University Library, until the terrible fire of the early 1900s. Currently, what remains of the entire corpus of the Bobbiense codes is therefore mainly kept in the Ambrosiana Library in Milan, the Vatican Library in Rome and the National Library of Turin


Architectural and artistic qualities of the Abbey complex of San Colombano


The abbey complex of San Colombano visible today is the one that dates back to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The renovation and expansion works, in fact, preserved only parts of the structure of the proto-Romanesque basilica, which are visible in the apse, the bell tower and the splendid mosaic floor.


The Refectory, which now houses the City Museum , has been preserved from the 11th century monastery. The complex also includes the Basilica with Piazza San Colombano, the corridor with the abbey house, the Cloister and the internal Gardens, and the Abbey Museum corresponding to the ancient Scriptorium, the arcade with the garden of Piazza Santa Fara, the ex Chiesa delle Grazie and the former Prisons with the Court.


The Renaissance Basilica , built between 1456 and 1522 on the remains of the medieval church, preserves many frescoes related to the Holy Scriptures, including a reference to Verse 6.63 of the Gospel of John. An aspect that has earned the building the definition of "Basilica of the Spirit".


The frescoes in the aisles and transept are instead the work of Bernardo Lanzani, who was inspired by Albrecht Durer, and in turn take up the central theme of the Spirit developed through quotations. The wooden choir dates back to 1488, and was built by Friar Domenico of Piacenza. Inside you can also see the Baptismal Bath, dating back to the seventh century, which legend has it as a gift from Queen Teodolinda in San Colombano, and the fifteenth-century apse, with a strange rectangular and asymmetrical shape, which is detached from the rest of the church.


The crypt houses the Cappella Maggiore with the mosaic of San Colombano, dating back to the 11th century, the sarcophagus of the saint, made by Giovanni de 'Patriarchis in 1480, the sepulcher of Sant'Attala and that of San Bertulfo, and the chapel of San Colombano, which houses the life-size statue of the saint, and a fresco of the Madonna dell'Aiuto.


Note also, above the access portal and under the Portico called "Paradise", the inscription that refers to the Order of the Templars "Terribilis est locus iste" (transl. "This place is terrible") which indicated a place whose sacredness and whose mystery was not to be desecrated, under penalty of death.


The Museum of the Abbey , founded in 1963, is set up in the premises where the Scriptorium of the Monastery and the Library once stood, and preserves finds ranging from the first centuries of the Christian era until the mid-sixteenth century.


The Mazzolini Collection Museum is instead a modern art museum and art gallery housed in the upper rooms of the Monastery Library. The Mazzolini Collection includes 899 works, including paintings and sculptures, which bear the signature of artists such as Giorgio De Chirico, Mario Sironi and Lucio Fontana.


Finally, the City Museum is located in the internal Cloister, in rooms dating back to the 9th century, and includes the ancient Refectory and the fresco of the Crucifixion attributed to Bernardino Lanzani, the Kitchens and the underground cavedium, and the large cellar with icebox. The exhibition itinerary reconstructs the history of the Abbey of San Colombano, the Scriptorium and the city of Bobbio.


The whole complex and its museum offer offer a magnificent example of attraction in which history, architecture and art coexist together in an indissoluble way, offering the opportunity for those who visit them to make a fascinating leap into the past. A prerogative of the splendid medieval village of Bobbio.



Entrance corridor d of the Abbey of San Colombano

Opening hours:
from November to March:
Saturday: 15.00 - 17.00
Sunday and holidays: 10.30 - 12.30 and 15.00 - 17.00

April, May, June, September, October:
Saturday 16.30 - 18.30
Sunday and holidays 10.30 - 12.30 and 16.30 - 18.30

July and August:
Wednesday to Saturday: 16.30 - 18.30
Sunday and holidays 10.30 - 12.30 and 16.30 - 18.30

Entrance ticket € 3.00
Reduced € 2.00 (over 65, children from 7 to 14 years, groups of at least 10 people, TCI members)

Extraordinary openings always on request, for at least 10 people, by contacting CoolTour cell. 340/5578162 - 340/5492188
website: http://www.cooltour.it


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Piazza San Francesco

29022 Bobbio


Tel.: 0523/962815

fax: 0523/936666

e-mail: iat.bobbio@sintranet.it


Orari di apertura al pubblico:



da mercoledì a domenica

9.30 - 12.30 e 15.00 - 18.00 -



tutti i giorni

9.30 - 12.30 e 15.30 - 18.30.



Venerdì, sabato, domenica, lunedì e festivi

9.30- 12.30 e 14.30 – 17.30






Bobbio Experience has been translated with Google Translate ™, sorry for any inaccuracies.

© Bobbio Experience 2020

is a Gabriele Balordi project for cococomunicazione.net