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Abbey of San Cristoforo

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The Abbey of San Cristoforo, also known as Badia San Cristoforo, is a Benedictine church dating back to the yet 1000, raising on a land that originally was about 100 hectares large. The year of construction could not be precisely determined, but the first document attesting its existence dates back to 997 A.D. Moreover, a portion of the wall structure was realised in ashlar masonry, a technique used during that period.

Emperor Otto III donated the Castiglione del Lago territory to Ugo di Toscana, a marquis who founded the Abbey of San Gennaro of Campoleone. The emperors who ruled over the region at the time – including Fredrick I called Barbarossa (red beard) – renewed the donation of the land on which the church was built.  The Benedictine Monks reclaimed the surrounding territories and started growing crops. The civil and religious life of the village developed around the Villa of S. Cristoforo. in 1260 the church fell under the Sovereign Reign of Malta, as evidenced in a document by Pope Alexander IV. Fire-branded coat of arms depicting the symbol of the Order were found on some of the oak planks on a frame.

In 1694 the church of San Cristoforo was closed by Cavaliere Vagnucci, who wanted a trusted priest, don Luca de Fundactis, to celebrate religious services instead of don Francesco Caroccio, a priest appointed by the Bishop Muti. Although, later that year, the church was open to the public again.

The current aspect of the church is different from the original, since it was partially demolished and rebuilt in 1858, for mostly unknown reasons.

The fact that the current church is basically the same size as the previous one, dismisses the hypothesis that it was demolished to make room for a larger structure designed to greet a larger number of believers and adds even more mystery about the reason behind such decision. The building was originally composed of three apses – as evidenced by a floor plan found in 1969 – and was modified as a single-apse structure. Also the original trusses were replaced by vaults and in 1733 it was described as a church with five altars and various pieces of sacred furniture, completely overturning its original design. From the outside, the only visible original part of the church is on the left of the apse, on both sides of the sacristy. This portion was realised using the ruins of a temple built with large ashlars. On the left side of the parsonage we find the ruins of an old press and a small arched door. The bell tower was built in 1901 – 1902 and realised Giuseppe Capecchi and Oreste Ceccarelli.

Internally the church shows a rectangular plan with a sole nave; behind the altar, the semi-circular apse that replaced the original structure can be seen.

The travertine Presbytery is placed on a platform.

A marble tablet reading “1944-1948” commemorates the period when the church suffered relevant structural damages and lost some canvases as a consequence of the Second World War.

The Abbey of San Cristoforo is located on a hill offering a beautiful view point over Castiglione del Lago and Lake Trasimeno.

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