The Polirone’s Abbey was founded in 1007 from Tedaldo of Canossa, grandfather of Matilde and the little church had the name of Saint Mary.
Saint Mary’s church is still visible inside the Polirone’s Abbey.
The monastery takes this name Polirone from the two rivers which surrounded the isle, the Po and Lirone rivers. The Benedictine monks worked the land until the Lirone river disappeared because they lived in the island. They moved the Po 3 km away to preserve their territory from continuous floods.
Count Tedaldo donated half of this land to the 7 monks who lived here because this area was an important site to control the river’s navigation.
The cloisters were four. In San Simeone’s cloister one could find the village’s life with the shops and the pharmacy.
The Secular’s cloister was the one of the hospitality. The monks hosted all travelers rich and poor, Rich people were hosted upstair in rich level and the poor on the ground floor.
In 1077 Matilde met Henry the IV and Pope Gregory the VII in Canossa, she succeeded her father Bonifacio , and donated the monastery to the Pope.
The Pope entrusted the management to abbot Ugo of the Cluny.
The monastery restructured and agreed to the Cluny’s lifestyle as well as the french liturgy and architecture.
The Abbey was rebuilt in 1130 as the Cluny’s regulations as side chapels, apsis transept.
The Polirone’s monastery was very powerful as in ecclesiastical environment as culturally. The Monastic complex had a very illustrious Scriptorium where the monks wrote the manuscripts for study and for the church.
This period was very important especially for investiture’s struggles. In effect this abbey was one of the most important centers of the gregorian reforms.
(Miniatura che rappresenta Ugo di Cluny
con Matilde di Canossa e l'imperatore Enrico IV)
Between 1115 and 1632 the place within the transept and the vestry you can find Matilde’s crypt. Her alabaster’s sarcophagus is sustained by four lion cubs made of red marble.
Matilde’s body is not anymore in the abbey, the San Benedetto Po abbot sold her body to Rome in 1633 and you could find it in San Pietro Cathedral.
San Benedetto Po had a big decay after the Gregorian’s reforms, and this period went on for approximately 2 centuries XIII and XIV.
There were many spiritual and economics problems, farmers were bad paid for their heavy work or even not paid for it by the monks.
Meanwhile the rich families in the territory occupied the lands and took the monks’ properties.
In 1419 the Lords of Mantua, the Gonzaga Family, became abbots and administrators of Polirone’s Monastery.
they got interested in the spiritual life in the monastery and they tied it down to the community of Santa Giustina of Padua in 1420, this community became a congregation of Cassino.
The congregation of Santa Giustina from Padua, with a renewed spirituality, started even literary studies.
The monastery made an important come back lodging important people of “devotio moderna”, a school of thought tied to Padua and Venice, premonition of protestant evangelism.
The Abbey was so famous that even Martin Luther was lodged in San Benedetto Po in 1510.
The last monastery’s renovation was done by Giulio Romano
Between 1500 and 1600 the Monastery of Polirone went back to be an important rendez-vous place through the writing culture for philosofers and humanist people.
The Abbot Cortese who was a jurist and humanist infact he designated Giulio Romano to rebuild the entire Monastic Complex in 1540 and Romano asked other famous artists to help him with this work. They were working at courts as Mantova and Verona, the famous artists were Correggio and Bonsignori and the sculptur Begarelli.
The historic period between 1600 and 1700 was black for San Benedetto Po. There were floods, wars, robberies on the Monastic complex. The monastery could no longer support the expenses and grown worse the abbot sold the Maltilde’ body to Pope Urbano VIII in 1633.