The Monumental Growth of the Monastery
The architectural complex of the monastery is a most important record of the urban history of Cividale, from the Longobard period up to the present day, and it has undergone numerous transformations over the centuries. After a moment of crisis due to the destruction caused by the earthquake in 1222, which also affected the Temple and the church of San Giovanni, from the mid 13th century the Monastery knew a moment of particular splendour. The income from its various estates and from donations, as well as the income from the granting of indulgences to visitors to the Temple, after some relics had been found, enabled the nuns to renovate the buildings and to extend their activities in the life of the town thanks to the financial support of their various undertakings, including the renovation of the boundary walls. The sources reveal that under the abbess Gisla de Pertica (1242-1251) there was various reconstruction work carried out in the monastery, involving the creation of a new dormitory and some work in the Temple and in the Basilica of San Giovanni, which also underwent important renovation at a later date. In the 15th century various work was carried out on the convent with the reconstruction (in 1413) of the cloister (defined as “a fundamenta dirutum”) and with the erection (in 1497) of a “fabrica cum culumnis qui videtur erecta Porticis”, which may perhaps refer to the east side of the present cloister. In the 16th century other parts of the monastery were renovated and enlarged, in particular after the earthquake of 1511. Work was carried out in the south-west area and along the side looking onto via Monastero Maggiore, leading to the definition of the present monumental complex which also included, towards the Natisone, the remains of the synagogue; it was given a new entrance, facing San Giovanni though slightly out of alignment, built in 1522 by order of the abbess Relinta Formentini Cusano. Between the Renaissance and the 18th century, the continuous development of the monastery structures, especially towards the east, led it to occupy the whole area lying on what is now via Monastero Maggiore, along the banks of the Natisone, from Piazza San Biagio and Porta Brossana, extending to the west as far as the Cathedral. The transformation phase in the eighteenth century is very significant, involving the first twenty years of the century when, under the direction of the master builder Luca Andrioli, many parts of the monastery underwent reconstruction, enlarging and raising; these included the dormitory, the refectory and the church of San Giovanni. The dormitory, which we can identify as the “fabrica” mentioned in the site documents, would be the present structure to the east which separates the cloister from the garden. In its present configuration, the refectory is the result of the great phase of reform of the Monastery in the eighteenth century. The ceiling is particularly interesting, decorated with stucco and frescoes depicting an Annunciation and Stories of Saint Scholastica and Saint Benedict.In the last two centuries, after a phase of great expansion, also the monastery of Cividale declined like the other religious institutions. However, it did not lost its monumental importance and its role as an urban centre.