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Castelseprio Archaeological Park - Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas - Santa Maria Assunta

Located between the upland and the valley of the River Olona, Castrum Sibrium was a military stronghold in Roman times and used over the following centuries by the Goths, Byzantines, Longobards and then the Visconti. Ottone Visconti, Lord of Milan, ordered the demolition of Castelseprio in 1287, with the exception of the religious buildings. One of these was the Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas (Latin for ‘outside the gates’) that was built between the fifth and ninth centuries. The now deconsecrated church is an invaluable example of Longobard-byzantine art and contains what is perhaps the oldest painting in the region - an unknown artist painted the stories about the Virgin Mary from the apocryphal Gospels in the apse. In the Fifties, several searches and excavations in the archaeological zone brought to the light the remains of the castle with its towers, part of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist with the adjoining cistern and bell tower, a small baptistery with two fonts, a church dedicated to St. Paul and the remains of a late medieval cloister.

The Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Assunta was founded in 737 by Manigunda, a Longobard noblewoman connected to the royal court of Pavia, as a way of fulfilling a vow following a healing. It is one of the first monastic settlements in the area now known as Lombardy, and is linked to the nearby Castrum in Castelseprio and Torba Abbey. The complex comprised a porticoed building with two entrances organised around the types of spaces usually found in Benedictine convents, such as the refectory, internal chapel used only by the nuns, locutories, the oven and the granaries. The church had three naves with arches that can still be seen today in the supporting walls.

From 2011 Castelseprio - Torba, the Castrum and the Church of Santa Maria are UNESCO world heritage sites. 

Castelseprio Archaeological Park
Via Castelvecchio, 58 - Castelseprio (VA)

1st December to 31st January: public holidays 9.15 a.m. - 2.45 p.m.; Weekdays 8.30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
20th December to 10th January: 9.15 a.m. - 2.45 p.m.
1st February to 30th November: Sunday and public holidays 9.45 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Saturday 8.30 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday: 8.30 a.m. - 7 p.m.; the park closes at 4 p.m. in November.

Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas
1st December to 31st January: public holidays 9.15 a.m. - 2.45 p.m.; weekdays 8.30 a.m. - 6 p.m.
20th December to 10th January: 9.15 a.m. - 2.45 p.m.
1st February to 30th November: Sunday and public holidays 9.45 a.m. - 2.30 p.m., 5.30 - 6 p.m.; Saturday 8.30 a.m. - 2.30 p.m., 5.30 - 7 p.m.; Tuesday to Friday 8.30 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Monastery of Santa Maria Assunta
Via Monastero 2 - Cairate (VA)
1st October to 1st April: Saturday 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday and public holidays 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
1st April to 1st October: Saturday 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday and public holidays 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Closed on 25th December and 1st January.

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