The Sant’Anna’s Grangia 

The complex of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia, locally denominated u cummèntu, although in state of ruin [lately submitted to a conservative restauration], constitutes the most important and impressive evidence of the past monastic presence in the territory between Montauro and Gasperina. It is the evidence that reports the long relationship that the two places had with the Chartreuse in Calabria, initiated at the end of  XI century.

The monk Bruno or Brunone of Colony on 1084, together with few other monks, founded the first Chartreuse in the inhospitable and hardly accessible place called Casalibus, near Grenoble in France, at 1175 meters of altitude. Some years after, the Carthusian monk came in Calabria where, probably during the summer 1091, in the wood between Arena and Stilo at about one league from Spadola, always with the collaboration of other monks, founded the hermitage of Saint Maria, known as a result as hermitage of  Santa Maria della Torre.

Bruno’s aim was to build places of prayer in loneliness. Nevertheless the Calabrian hermitage assumed a connotation that not only differentiated it from the French one for the place easier to reach and less isolated, but also for the greatest donations, constituted by the territories given by Roger of Altavilla.

Among the the most significant goods the monks received there were the Greek monastery of Arsafia in the pertinences of Stilo, and the monastery of San Giacomo in Montauro; in both of them a few monks and many converged brothersthey resulted present.

The second of the two monasteries, said for long time in Carthusian circle “the house of Montauro”, took care of the houses of Gasperina and Montauro, as well as those of Aurunco and Oliviano. Its building is testified 1096. Sources of that time inform that a “cell” of uncertain location existed. Maria Letitia Buonfiglio writes:

From a parchment passed down by the Tromby (appendix a.1112) we learn that in Montauro, in this initial phase, a “cell” existed with a nearby S. Giacomo Apostolo’s Church managed by a monk with the title of procurator (Buonfiglio 2002).

From the signs we have it results difficult to establish if  the originary “cell” was located next to the current Matrix Church in Montauro, or over the site with the ruins of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia in today’s territory of the Municipality of Gasperina. Some difficulties also arise for the localization of the place where the St. Giacomo’s Monastery was erected in Montauro. The description of the Carthusian monk Tromby appears insufficient to clear the doubt:

The Count gave to our Brunone first, and to his successors to have in perpetual, without any momentary service, the St. Jacopo’s Monastery in Montauro, that as we said elsewhere, it was reduced to the point that only few PPs had already introduced, and Brothers to live in, together with a Castle of poor manufacture built more anciently, located under the previous said Monastery where today the St. Anna’s Grangia is… (Tromby 1981)

[…] the building of the monastery of Montauro would take place when on the Episcopal Chair of Squillace Theodore Mesimerio still sat on, last Greek ritual Bishop; to his death, on 1096, the successor was, indeed, Giovanni Niceforo of the Church of Mileto, of Latin ritual and throned by Roger the Norman. To the arrival of the monk Bruno, in the territory behind Squillace, the Greek rite was still practised […]

The Santo Stefano del Bosco’s Monstery [La Certosa] with the Celestino III’s bull on December 11th, 1192, up to February 27th, 1514, passed from the Carthusian rule to the Cistercian one of the Abbey of Fossanova […] The change of the denomination of St. Giacomo’s Monastery in Montauro to the Sant’Anna’s Grangia woudd be dated during the first period of the presence of the monastic Cistercian Order in the Chartreuse of Calabria.

The phenomenon of the granges had origin in the cluniacense monasticism; then it interested the Carthusian and the Cistercian one […] Buonfiglio writes:

The term Grangia or Grancia, derives from the low latin granea, and from the French grange which originally points out a place where the wheat (in Classical Latin granarum) is stored, but it assumes subsequently the widest use of agricultural firm with lands and pastures belonging to ecclesiastical istitutions or rich laymen (Buonfiglio 2002).

On the term Grangia, an interesting Marina Righetti Tosti-Croce’s observation has been reported by Emilia Zinzi:

The medieval use of the name however, was more extensive, not only pointing out the single building, but also the complex of buildings that constituted the agricultural structure and, still in a wider sense, the whole agrarian properties, that is the lands and the buildings that were located (Zinzi 1999).

The Sant’Anna’s Grangia ruled through an attorney of the Santo Stefano’s Monastery the monastic possessions of the surrounding area among which the territories of the destroyed farmhouses of Aurunco and Oliviano and of the farmhouses in Montauro and Gasperina (still inhabited) were included.

According to the Platea of the goods of the Santo Stefano del Bosco’s Monastery, in the first part of XVI century, among the possessions of the Certosa di Serra San Bruno 2358 rustic funds result for about general 1560 hectares, distributed among 21 grouped territories. Among the granges, the Sant’Anna’s (414 ms s.l.m.), a little faraway from the inhabited areas of Gasperina and Montauro, and the Santa Domenica’s Grangia or Church in territory of Mountepaone are mentioned […]

In order to look into the phenomenon of the monastic reality between Montauro and Gasperina it is useful to analyze:

…the territorial system linked to the presence of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia, with particular reference to the hydraulic aspect for its connections with the natural environment, the architectural artefacts, the road pathways, and the structures of transformation of the agrarian landscape (Mignolli, in Zinzi 1999)

The analysis imposes to keep in mind of the fact that: “Among the possessions of the Grangia numerous country houses appear, oil mills, water mills, stores, farms, low houses.” (ib.) In the context of this productive apparatus, notable importance had the Casino del Cece which, located in the sea area of Montauro, included three oil mills and other structures. Another oil mill was located in the Fondo Militi, in the sea side of Gasperina,  and another one in the inhabited area of Montauro […]

The ruins of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia currently fall on the territory of Montauro. Nevertheless, from various described elements, it appears clear that the history of the Grangia, as well as that of the previous San Giacomo’s Monastery, involves both Montauro and Gasperina. It can be pointed out, therefore, that:

  • because of the morphology of the place in which the aforesaid ruins are located, other elements to be considered integral parts of the monastic complex could arise in the Gasperina’s territory, on the upper part of the walls in which the Grangia’s portal of entrance opens ;
  • the site of an assumed church chiesetta in the nearby place called Stahanàzzu falls in the Gasperina’s territory as well as the water pipe-line toward the Grangia, that had origin in the area of the fountain of Vrisi [Brisi], and of which legible notes still result available.

A careful investigation on the ancient system of use of the water resource in the territory around the Grangia can offer:

…a real possibility of understanding the ancient organization of the area and its evolution up to our days. The persistent elements of surer identification allow to fix some aspects that seem to take us to the great organizational abilities of the territorial settlemen due to the Cistercensis, especially for the hydraulic works [….] The close connection that exists among sources, watercourses, civil constructions, pathways of connection, with the perfect integration of the single components with the surrounding nature. The most evident example is that of the Grangia, that arises in proximity of a rich source (Fountain Brisi), which, supposedly, had  been channelled for the uses of the complex (Mignolli, in Zinzi 1999).

It can be pointed out that the elements of the walls of protections in the ruins of the Grangia are of local origin.

From the geologic point of view the Gasperina’s territory is constituted by: – crystalline rocks of the Paleozoic of variable composition among quarzodioriti, granites and sieniti that are located in the hilly part that goes from Brisi and Sant’Anna, to Vasìa, to Màlia and Leùzzini; – sands of alteration and residues of pleistocenic coverages that mainly are visible in the area of Vasìa, Volo, St. Giovanni, Gunneràdi, Surverèlla; – conglomerated sandy deposits of the Pliocen-Pleistocen that are recognized in the places of Passomegàli, Nàtolo, Pilìnga, Runci; – floods of the Olocene signalled in the sea places of Fiorentìni, Labrùccio, Vicàrio. The above described geologic characters are also reported in the neighboring municipalities (cfr. Paper of Italy, IGM).

Emilia Zinzi believes that the building of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia, for its connotations, is to be consider “the only known presence of this kind in Calabria”, and that similar  installations are reported in center-Europe (Ile-de France, Piccardia, Flanders), and that, particularly, similar granges have been built in the XIII century in the various zones in France. The architectural line of the Grangia would belong to the culture of the Abbot-Architects of Citeaux, followers of Bernard of Clairvaux. The artefact would result “still purely Cistercian in the legible structural-architectural implant”, datable, therefore, between the end of the XII and the first part of the XIII century, period in which the Cistercian monks reorganized the goods possessed by the Carthusian ones (cfr. Zinzi 1999). This last Emilia Zinzi’s hypothesis has been put in discussion by other historians, above all because the angular towers of the building, (still today) have fire mouths, and so, the dating of the artefact must start from a more recent age. About such remarks, Buonfiglio points out:

… the times and ways of the fortification of the Grangia remain hypothesis at the moment. The wall can be attributed, because of the lack of deeper archaeological analysis, to a phase among the centuries XVI-XVII, probably between the second half the ‘500 and the first part of the ‘600 (Buonfiglio 2002) […]

The description of the Sant’Anna’s Grangia made by the Abbot Pacichelli during his visit in Calabria on 1693, mentioned by Buonfiglio, pointed out the amazing aspect with which the construction showed up to the external observer’s eyes:

On the other side from Gasperina and Montauro, lands under the Conte Rogerio’s domain and possessed by the Certosa, the Sant’Anna sits in that same mountainous part, the nobil dependent Grancia, enclosed by boundaries with drawbridge and iron door, like a citadel, as comfortable accomodation for the Regal Ministers during their passage; it is like gardens that spread with Farms (Buonfiglio 2002).

The Abbot Pacichelli and his “secretary and cameriero” on June 6th, 1693 they embarked from Vico Equense to Calabria. On 21th of the same month they reached Reggio Calabria and, always by sea, they continued along the coast of Scilla and Bagnara up to the Marina di Palmi, from which they continued their trip on the dry land visiting:

Palmi, Seminara, Terranova, Molochio, Jatrinoli, Mileto, Francica, Monteleone, Soriano, Potami, la Certosa di Serra, San Vito, Gasperina e Montauro, Stalettì, Squillace, la Roccelletta, Catanzaro, Maranise, Cosenza, San Lucido e infine Paola… (Principe, 1993)

The two, again embarked at Paola, took their way back home, spending the night at Scalea […]

The 1783 earthquake that devastated the Calabria put an end to centuries-old history of the Carthusian monastic entity in the area of Sant’Anna […] The ruins of the Grangia constitute one of the most considerable testimonies of fortified architecture that insist in the territory […] The perimeter dimensions vary from a minimum of 35-58 mt. to a maximum of 45-49 mt. included the towers of 8×8 mt of basis. The architectural language of these ruins is partially proposed in the walls of the bell tower of the San Pantaleone’s Church in Montauro which shows similar elements: redondonis, fire mouths and walls texture. A document could refer the tower in which certify the charge from the University of Montauro to the master artisan Leo Loise, with action on January 20th, 1569 of the Notary Giovan Battista Spadea of Gasperina, for the construction of a defensive structure behind the San Pantaleone’s Church, able to oppose the Turkish assaults (cfr. Mussari-Scamardì, in Valtieri 2002).

With regard to some examples of fortified architecture present in the aforesaid territory, Buonfiglio says:

The church of Montauro keeps on maintaining strong defensive characters following the jobs of refurbishment, like also other buildings of the Carthusian orbit such as the Casino del Cece (1662) and the Casino dei Militi […]  The last changes of the complex of the Casino Milliti, in the district Melitì, belong to the last century of life of the Grangia, a few hundred meters under Gasperina, and of the Grangia del Cece (o Casino o Torre del Cece) completed in 1662, a productive and transformation complex with oil mill, cistern and stores developed around to a tower located on a highland dominant the lowland of Sajinaro (Buonfiglio 2002).

Fonte: Mario Voci, Gasperina e dintorni. Storia – Arte – Natura, Vibo Valentia, Qualecultura, 2009

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