Abbazia di Nonantola

Nel 752 l'abate Anselmo, già duca del Friuli, riceve in dono dal cognato, il re longobardo Astolfo, le terre di Nonantola. Lasciando Fanano, sua prima fondazione sull’Appennino Tosco-Emiliano, subito edifica nei nuovi possessi una chiesa, che nel 756 accoglie le spoglie del Papa S. Silvestro I. Da allora in poi la chiesa abbaziale ha questo titolo. Il monastero diventa presto molto potente con il favore dei sovrani longobardi e franchi, in particolare durante l’impero di Carlo Magno e dei suoi successori. L'abate Pietro, successo ad Anselmo nell'804, è ambasciatore a Costantinopoli con il vescovo Amalario di Treviri per l'imperatore Carlo Magno. Similmente il suo successore, l'abate Ansfrido. Nell'837 il monastero ospitò l'imperatore Lotario, e nell'883 l'incontro tra l'imperatore Carlo il Grosso e Papa Marino. Nell'885 muore improvvisamente nei pressi di Spilamberto Papa Adriano III diretto in Germania. Il corpo è sepolto solennemente a Nonantola e diventa oggetto di culto. Durante l'abbaziato di Leopardo, nell'889, la distruzione e la ricostruzione: gli Ungari riducono alla rovina chiesa e monastero, uccidendo i monaci che non avevano  voluto abbandonare il monastero. L'abate promuove la riedificazione del complesso abbaziale, facendovi traslare le reliquie dei Santi martiri Senesio e Teopompo, fino ad allora conservate dalla santa donna Anseride in una chiesa di Treviso. Nel 1058 l'abate Gotescalco concede ai cittadini di Nonantola una grande estensione di beni del monastero in cambio dell'edificazione di tre quarti delle mura castellane e della custodia armata di esse in caso di attacco. Da questa concessione trae la sua prima origine la Partecipanza Agraria, tuttora esistente e vitale.

La chiesa diventa sempre più frequentemente meta di pellegrinaggi, ospitando le reliquie dei papi Silvestro I e Adriano III, dei martiri Senesio e Teopompo, come si è detto, cui vanno aggiunte quelle del fondatore S. Anselmo abate e delle vergini S. Anseride e S. Fosca. Durante la lotta per le investiture il monastero ospita Papa Gregorio VII nei giorni della Pasqua del1077, dopo l'episodio di Canossa. Entrato il monastero nell'orbita papale, nel 1111 il priore Placido scrive il Liber de honore Ecclesiae contro le pretese imperiali. Nel XII secolo lavori importanti alla basilica e forse all'intero monastero portano la chiesa ad un aspetto molto vicino a quello che possiamo vedere oggi. E' il periodo di maggiore potenza dell'abbazia: i vasti possedimenti terrieri le assicurano la piena tranquillità economica, mentre l'abate esercita i poteri signorili su di essi. Comincia però la crescita del Comune di Modena. I continui scontri con esso si concludono nel 1261, quando l'abate rinuncia al potere temporale in favore di quel comune. All'abbazia resta la gestione spirituale della sua ancor vasta giurisdizione. Incomincia una rapida decadenza economica, che pone fine al prestigio del cenobio. Nel 1449 il monastero diviene commenda. I più celebri abati commendatari sono i cardinali Giuliano Della Rovere, poi Papa Giulio II, e S. Carlo Borromeo. Quest'ultimo abate lascia a Nonantola un ricordo positivo duraturo, avendo fondato qui il Seminario.

Nel 1514 i monaci Cistercensi subentrano a quelli benedettini. Nel XVIII secolo il cardinal Tanara amplia il seminario per la diocesi nonantolana e il cardinal Albani modifica sostanzialmente la basilica e la pieve. Nel 1783 i monaci sono definitivamente allontanati dal duca Francesco III e sostituiti con un collegio di canonici, durante l'abbaziato di Francesco Maria d'Este. Il medesimo abate fa scrivere la Storia dell'Augusta Badia di S. Silvestro di Nonantola a Girolamo Tiraboschi. Dopo la Restaurazione, la diocesi di Nonantola è sempre assegnata ai vescovi e poi arcivescovi di Modena, fino alla piena unificazione del 1986, da cui nasce l'Arcidiocesi di Modena-Nonantola.

 

L’Abbazia nella storia dell’arte e dell’architettura

 

La Basilica abbaziale costituisce – insieme al Duomo di Modena –  uno dei più significativi esempi di arte romanica del nord Italia. Costruita nel XII secolo sui resti di una chiesa precedente attribuibile all’VIII secolo, la struttura si presenta suddivisa in tre navate, come evidenziato dalla facciata a salienti.  La facciata è dominata dal protiro, retto da due colonne su leoni stilofori, e fa da cornice allo splendido portale. Realizzato da Wiligelmo e dalle sue maestranze, riporta nello stipite sinistro sei formelle relative alla fondazione dell'Abbazia ad alla traslazione delle reliquie dei Santi nel monastero, in quello destro storie della natività ed infanzia di Cristo, prima testimonianza nella storia della Chiesa dell’ordine cronologico di questi episodi; nell'interno, fregio a tralcio abitato. Sopra l'architrave, la splendida lunetta – attribuibile senza dubbi allo stesso Wiligelmo – con le sculture del Cristo in trono affiancato da due angeli e circondato dai simboli degli Evangelisti. Varcato il portale, l’occhio rimane colpito dall’interno, solenne ed austero nella sua semplicità, ritmato dai possenti pilastri che convergono verso l’altare. Il soffitto è a capriate. Nel presbiterio soprelevato  troviamo l’altare maggiore, cuore della Divina Liturgia, che custodisce le reliquie di S. Silvestro I Papa all’interno di una teca in cristallo e bronzo. E’ ornato  dalle preziosissime formelle di Jacopo Silla de' Longhi illustranti episodi della vita del Santo, datate 1568. Opere d’arte degne di nota nell’interno della Basilica: statua in terracotta di S. Bernardo di Chiaravalle (sec. XVII), organo di Domenico Traeri (1743). Lungo la navata di destra, entro un arco gotico, il pregevolissimo affresco della scuola degli Erri, su tre fasce: in alto, la Crocifissione; al centro, l'Annunciazione; in basso teoria di santi. L’imponente Crocifisso sulla parete sud è del XIV secolo.

Scendendo dal presbiterio maggiore si può accedere al gioiello architettonico della struttura: la cripta, una delle più estese nelle chiese romaniche europee. Di singolare suggestione per il gioco della tenue luce tra la selva delle 64 colonnine, custodisce all'interno dell'altare le reliquie del fondatore dell'Abbazia, l'abate Sant’Anselmo, insieme a quelle di altri cinque Santi: le vergini Fosca e Anseride, i martiri Senesio e Teopompo, il Papa Adriano III. Degni di nota sono i capitelli della zona absidale, classificati dagli storici dell’arte capitelli longobardi nonantolani, unici nel loro stile, datati VIII secolo. Dal giardino abbaziale è possibile ammirare le imponenti absidi, reputate tra le più significative dell’età romanica, scandite da lesene ed archetti pensili.

 
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