The Abbey of Sant'Antimo in the hills below Montalcino in Tuscany is a wonder. I had it on my list of "must see" for a long time before finally making it happen this past year. I don't know why I waited so long.
We had spent most of the day in Montalcino (see 'A Day in Montalcino') and decided it wasn't too late to go a little further. The day was kind of overcast and moody, perfect for the visit. The Abbey itself is a former Benedictine monastery and was commissioned by the Lombards to be built in 770. It was to be a stop over for pilgrims on the way to Rome. Now it is inhabited by Canons Regular. You can visit at certain times of the day to hear prayer and Gregorian chanting.
We were too late for the chanting, but they do pipe in recorded sound, and it was so hauntingly beautiful, I can only imagine the real thing. Driving down into the valley from above, I loved the first views of the Abbey....
|From the road leading down into the valley|
The large Italian Cypress tree did not disappoint. I had seen photos, and read about it, but it still kind of took my breathe away. Plus, the area around was full of tiny white daisy flowers in the ultra green grass. It was a lovely, soft contrast to the stark architecture. And the color combo of the stone against the green...well, beauty.
|Walking up to the Abbey as the sun was getting low.|
On the inside, I really did think we were hearing the true chanting going on, not just a recording. The acoustics are divine. The light is unreal, too. The walls are mostly travertine and alabaster, so the sunlight is magical coming through. The feeling inside is meant for contemplation.
|Getting all Holy, and that's just fine.|
|Amazing stone work. And light.|
|I really love this woodwork in the ceiling.|
There are lots of sweet details, with columns, friezes, and lots of carved stone flora and fauna. I really like the playfulness of the stone carvings, especially the small animals. The more we looked, the more we saw. From what I've read, it's mostly alabaster and travertine. Golden glow throughout, that's for sure.
I always feel funny taking pictures in these hallowed spaces, but everyone else seems to be going for it. We always obey the signs that say no photos, and I guess it's ok to take advantage when there are no restrictions.
|Follow the leader on a Roman column....I'm gonna getcha...|
|I would love this in my garden.|
Color that has seen centuries go by. I can only imagine. It's so beautiful, all that gorgeous patina.
After we spent a good amount of time being awed on the inside of the Abbey, we took a little time to walk around outside. There is a small community of monks still living on the property, with gardens, olive trees, and lovely stone out buildings. It was nice just walking around.
We saw that there were more carvings all around the outside...
|Whaaaah! I like this very much. The stone is just so cool.|
|Beautiful shot of an outside wall, with all it's color and carvings.|
|This photo knocks me out. It really lets you know where you are. I would|
love to see all that lavender blooming.....
I'm so glad we bucked up and pushed ourselves further that day. It would have been a shame to be so close to this wonderful scene, and not visit. But honestly, I really want to go back at the crack of dawn to hear the chanting.....
|Just like that.... (only way better).|