Art and culture - Villas and castles

Island of San Paolo

The convent of S. Paolo was born and developed, over many years, on an islet that was initially considered a deserted and abandoned rock. The denomination S. Paolo is given by the reason that the apostle Paul was a navigator who many times faced and overcame the storms of the Mediterranean Sea: thus it seems a beneficial identification of the function of refuge that this rock had. In the 11th century, the islet became the property of the Mozzi family, who had probably taken possession of it illegally. In 1091 the Mozzi family returned it or donated it to the Cluniac monks, who established a priory there, dependent on the Bergamo monastery of S. Paolo D’Aragon in Val Cavallina.
The “monasterium exemptum S.t. Pauli in insula Lacus” then passed into the ownership (by purchase or by usurpation?) of the noble Fenaroli family of Pilzone, who, in order to respect the ancient traditions of the place, sacred to contemplation, prayer and hospitality, ceded it to the Minor Friars of the Observance, but keeping the noble burial confidential. Alessandro Fenaroli was the founder of the Observant monastery. He died in 1525 and was buried in the church of S. Paolo, in front of the chapel of the Immaculate Conception, which he had built at his own expense. On the sepulchral inscription by Rinaldi it is stated that he was a devoted builder of this convent and the date 1490 is reported, which Franciscan historians give as the probable year of erection.

Fenaroli’s successors had their coat of arms painted in the cloister to confirm their noble patronage of the convent, from which they had continuous benefit until its suppression which took place in January 1783. Thus the 14 friars were transferred to the convent of S. Francesco in Iseo and the island became privately owned. Now it has become a house for summer holidays and nothing remains of the church or of the ancient cloister.

Photos by:, Oscar Colosio