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Area:
  • 40,53 sq. km
Altitude:
  • 13 m a.s.l.
Population:
  • 5,308
Town Hall:
  • Piazza Castello, 1
  • 33079 - Aiello del Friuli (PN)
Neighbourhoods:
  • Bagnarola, Marignana, Ramuscello, Banduzzo, Borgo della Siega, Borgo di Sotto, Borgo Magredo, Borgo Sacile, Braida, Braidacurti, Casette, Fratticelle, Melmosa, Mure, Venchieredo, Versiola, Vissignano
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Sesto al Reghena “is” the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria in Sylvis, which is believed to have been founded by the Lombard brothers Erfo, Anto and Marco in the mid-8th century sheltered in the meanders of River Reghena (a single-nave church with three apses facing east must already have existed for a few decades, whose perimeter still survives south of the present-day abbey). Protective walls were certainly added during the Hungarian invasions in the 10th century, though the present-day keep is the result of later restorations (end of 15th-early 16th cent.) by Commendatory Abbots G. Michiel and D. Grimani. Walking through the keep gate, visitors enter the wide court where the tower bell (33.6 m tall, 11th-12th cent.) shows three high relief arches on each side of the brickwork façade, corresponding to the three arches in the belfry. Two other buildings front on the court, erected in the 12th-13th centuries: the Chancery to the west and the Abbots’ Residence to the east (today the Town Hall), the latter showing traces of 16th-17th-century renovations in the Venetian villa style. As for the Abbey, the multiple transformations it has undergone in time is immediately visible, starting from the entrance to the vestibule, which has a small loggia on the left (with profane paintings inspired to the Chanson de Otinel, end of 13th century) and a staircase on the right (with scenes from a chivalric fight at the top- mid 14th cent.- of probable miniature origin) leading to the Abbey salon: on the end wall are fragments of St. Michael Archangel (mid-12th cent.). Gabriel Archangel is instead portrayed in the lunette of the portal giving access to the vestibule together with St. Benedict and the dragon (mid-13th cent.). Inside the vestibule, worshippers are presented with a map of the afterworld: on the controfacciata St. Michael Archangel crushes the devil and weights the souls, while an Angel accompanies a blessed soul to the gates of heaven; on the side walls Heaven and Hell are developed, the former around the Coronation of the Virgin- with symmetrical hosts of Saints- , the latter in the dramatic narration of events. These frescoes are attributed to Antonio da Firenze (1503-1506 ca.) who infuses in them echoes of mid-15th century Tuscan painting. The south end of the vestibule gives access to the ‘audience room’, graced with a Virgin with Child and nobleman Pietro Grimani (early 16th cent.), while the Lapidary is housed in the hall, showing Roman and medieval findings, though unfortunately it has recently been plundered. Fragments of 13thcentury frescoes decorate the pilasters and the small aisle on the right shows a remarkable Triumph of Death (mid-14th century), in which three lidless sepulchres appear to three young knights as the symbols of the transience of human life. The abbey itself (11th-12th centuries) has a nave, aisles and transept, with semi-circular apses, crypt and raised presbytery, all of them typical Romanesque features though reflecting the early 20thcentury restorations. The controfacciata offers a fresco of Virgin with Child and Erfo saying farewell to his mother Piltrude (14th cent.), while the left aisle shows a double fresco of St. Valentine, by Bellunello’s followers, and the Procession of St. Sebastian’s Confraternity by Pietro Gorizio (early 16th century). However, the most remarkable frescoes are those in the apse, transept and tiburio: the Stories of the Virgin, St. John the Evangelist, St. Peter, St. Benedict and Lignum Vitae, executed between the second and third decades of the 14th century by artists close to Giotto’s studio at Padua, show a strong sense of plasticity, volume and space which translates to emotional intensity. The most outstanding scenes include St. Benedict’s funerals- framed within threedimensional architectures- and Monk Romano taking food to the Saint, as well as the monumental Lignum Vitae: Christ’s Cross has turned into a tree (a pomegranate, whose fruits are symbols of rebirth and alternate with the Prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah. St. Bonaventura and St. Benedict pray at the foot of the tree and a pelican nested at its top is portrayed in the act of tearing its body to pieces to feed its offspring with its blood. The crypt houses the marble urn of Sta. Anastasia (mid-8th century), which was originally a cathedra or ambo in the early medieval church, decorated with stylised vegetation, a marble Annunciation Diptych (end of 13th cent.) and an early 15th-century sandstone Pietà (Vesperbild). At Bagnarola, in the church of All Saints, P. Amalteo frescoed a Mourning of Christ removed from the Cross (1536-1546 ca.) reflecting Pordenone’s emotional trait. A simpler popular devotion transpires in the frescoes at Mure, in the Crucifix and St. Marks’s chapels (early 17th century). As far as villas are concerned, apart from villa Zanardini- Fabris at Sesto (end of 18th cent.), also villa Attimis-Freschi at Ramuscello (17th cent.) is remarkable, with its large garden reflecting the 19th-century landscaping standards.

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