San Benedetto Po
MUNICIPALITY OF S. Benedetto Po
mt. 18 a.s.l.
7700 (39 in the borgo)
IAT Office Oltrepo Mantovano, Ph. 0376 623036
The borgo was one named San Benedetto in Polirone; the origin of the name is linked to the Benedictine monastery founded by Tedaldo Canossa (1007) on the island that stood between the Po river and the Lirone river; the Monastery was the centre of the borgo’s life until 1797, when Napoleon Bonaparte decreed the dissolution of the religious order.
San Benedetto Po is a place which is difficult to forget, entering the monastery, which still preserves the hinges of the ancient portal, you are in the main square of the borgo, that has preserved the same size since the Middle Ages. The abbey church welcomes visitors with its grandeur; this can be seen in the architecture by Giulio Romano and represents a compendium of the highlights of the history and civilization of Polirone. Between 1540 and 1545 Giulio Romano rebuilt without tearing down the ancient Romanesque and Gothic structures, by adopting new solutions in order to maintain different architectural styles. The ambulatory and the walled up columns are in Romanesque style, while the lantern is Gothic. Antonio Begarelli, an artist from Modena described by Vasari as “the Michelangelo of pottery”, between 1542 and 1559 created thirty-two statues of saints that adorn the aisles and decorate the entrances of the side chapels. The vestry was restored and furnished with the carved cabinets (1561 – 1563) by Giovanni Maria Piantavigna. Between the transept and the sacristy is the tomb of Matilda of Canossa, an alabaster sarcophagus supported by four red marble lions. Matilda’s body is no longer in this place from 1633, when she was transferred to San Pietro in Rome.
Inside the church there is the Oratory of Santa Maria (XI – XII century), preceding the death of the Countess Matilda, and then adapted to the main church at the time of its rebuilding (1130), according to the outline of the oratory of Santa Maria di Cluny. It is thought that here was originally buried the Countess Matilda, in an urn buried near the main altar in correspondence of a large mosaic representing the four cardinal virtues.
The visit to the buildings of the monastic complex continues in the cloister of the seculars, which was the place where pilgrims, visitors and foreigners in general who arrived at the monastery of Polirone were given hospitality. At least three different phases can be identified in the building of the cloister: the first one prior to the fifteenth century, one dating back to the 1475 and the other one that may be dated from the 1674, when the staircase was build. The ground floor of the eastern and southern sides was to lodge pilgrims and the poor, while guests were accommodated at the upper floor.
The scenic staircase by Giovan Battista Barberini (XVII century) leads to the Museum Polironiano.
The Museum of Popular Culture in San Benedetto Po, one of the largest ethnographic museums of Italy, was founded in 1977. With over 10,000 objects this museum represents an important historical document related to the most recent past, preserving a great heritage of folk tradition and cultural identity of the southern Po. The main collections concern the artisan work, with particular attention to the crafts, art, popular devotion and trades related to the river Po. A special mention deserves the precious collections of puppets and marionettes, as well as the original painted scenery of the funds Besutti and Zaffardi.
A particularly impressive place is the cloister of San Simeone in late Gothic style, that dates back to the period between 1458 and 1480; frescoes with the Stories of San Simeone, of the same age, are in the lunettes of the cloister and are attributable to the painters of the Flemish school.
The third cloister, dedicated to S. Benedetto, at the side of the basilica, was rebuilt around the 1450 during a general architectural renovation of Polirone, supported by the “commendatore” Guido Gonzaga. The south side was absorbed into the basilica by Giulio Romano for rebuilding the chapel on the left side.
The refectory of the monastery that faces Piazza Matilde di Canossa was built as a separate building in 1478: a hall with four spans covered later with cross vaults.
Gregorio Cortese (a humanist and jurist of Modena, who had professed in Polirone in 1508) decided to decorate the entire west wall (1510), and called for this two artists: Girolamo Bonsignori from Verona who painted a “Last supper” on a canvas stuck on the wall (now in the Municipal Museum of Badia Polesine – Rovigo), and the young Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, who frescoed the painted architecture in which the paintings representing the Last Supper were imagined to be placed (1513 – 1514).
Positioned perpendicularly to the Refectory is the so called “new” Infirmary, began during the XVI century and ended, building the upper floor, only during the eighteenth century: this presents a large rococo hallway with the apartments on the sides. This building was the west side of the fourth cloister (of which today lack both sides). The infirmary was in the east side of the cloister of San Simeone until the 1584, when was arranged in building with three naves.
“Lambrusco Mantovano” wine, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the products of pork butchery are gastronomic specialities of this area
The typical product of the borgo is the cake of noodles that you can buy at bakeries and pastry shops.
Ristorante Vecchio Cornione
Pizzeria, tigelleria con gnocco e pesci d’acqua dolce.
Strada Argine Nord, 75
+39 0376 612121