Abbazia di Farfa

In the heart of the exquisite countryside of the Sabine Hills, just a short distance from the village of Fara Sabina, lies the historic Farfa Abbey which is chosen every year by numerous couples who are looking for an especially romantic location amidst the most important religious monuments in the Lazio region. Legend has it that the church was founded between the 7th and 8th centuries, upon the ruins of a basilica, by St. Thomas of Maurienne, following his visions of the Madonna.

The Abbey, thanks to its prominence and its strategic location, enjoyed tremendous power and prestige, so much so, that it obtained the protection of Charlemagne and his successors. With the fall of the Carolingian Empire, the Abbey of Farfa suffered difficult times right through to the end of the 15th century when it benefitted from extensive rebuilding and something of an artistic renaissance. Today, the Abbey represents one of the most important medieval monuments in Europe and since 1928, has been designated as a national monument. A Romanesque doorway leads to a courtyard facing the church which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is distinguished by the original Romanesque exterior which is still visible in the façade and the bell tower. The doorway, which shows the Orsini coat of arms, has a beautiful gothic rose window in the centre. Fragments of Roman sarcophagi adorn the tripartite facade which is made out of local Sabine stone.

The interior of the basilica has three naves which are divided by two rows of Ionic columns 16th and 17th century frescoes tell Stories about the Virgin, the Saints and Biblical figures and decorate the apse and the smaller aisles. An important feature of the church is its 12th century icon of the Madonna of Farfa along with the 15th century “Final Judgement” from the Flemish school on the opposite facade and the masterpieces which are contained in the apse: the frescoes by Orazio Gentileschi (16th -17th century), the grotesques by Zuccari (16th century) and the elegant 17th century wooden choir stalls. The central nave is finished off with a hexagonal chancel that is illuminated by fine gothic windows whilst the main altar is embellished by a cusped canopy. Supporting a bride on her path to the altar to exchange her wedding vows are colourful inlaid paving stones dating from the 11th century in the Cosmati style. The wooden coffered ceiling from 1494 in blue and gold overhangs the bridal couple, again with the Orsini coat of arms in evidence.

Today the Abbey of Farfa is home to the Benedictine Cassinese order which lives according to the rule of St. Benedict, the Patron Saint of Europe, Ora et Labora , Cultis et Incultis. The monastery is surrounded by an aura of spirituality, peace and calm which are all in perfect harmony with the Benedictine architecture that is nestled amidst the greenery of the olive groves and ancient oaks.