The monastery of San Paolo was built and developed, over the years, on an islet which was originally considered to be a desert and abandoned rock. Its name derives from Saint Paul, a sailor who many times faced and overcame the storms of the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore symbolizes the rock’s function as shelter. During the 11th cent. the Mozzi family took possession, probably illegally, of the islet. In 1091 they gave it back to the Cluniacs, who founded a priory subordinate to the Monastery of S. Paolo d’Argon, in the Cavallina Valley (Bergamo).
The property of
the “monasterium exemptum S.t. Pauli in insula Lacus” was then transferred (legally or not?) to the noble Fenaroli family from Pilzone who, respecting the ancient traditions of the islet, place of contemplation, prayer and hospitality, gave it to the Friars Minor of the Observance, but kept the family vault on the island. Alessandro Fenaroli, founder of the Monastery of the Observants, died in 1525 and was buried in the church of S. Paolo, in front of the chapel of the Immaculate, which had been built at his expense. Rinaldi’s headstone inscription reads that he was the devout builder of the monastery and the date reported is 1490, which the Franciscan historians consider as the date of erection.
Fenaroli’s successors painted their coat of arms in the cloister to confirm their patronage of the monastery, which lasted until January 1783. The friars were then transferred to the
Monastery of S. Francesco of Iseo and the islet became private. It is now a holiday home and nothing remains of the
church or the ancient cloister.