Basilica of Sant'Abbondio ★★

A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy (Photo by Laurom)
A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse

A Romanesque masterpiece with great 14C frescoes

The apse end, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy. (Photo by Sailko)
The facade, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy. (Photo by Chris06)
The nave, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy. (Photo by Geobia)
The 14C apse frescoes, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy. (Photo by Geobia)
Detail of the 14C apse frescoes, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Lake Como, Italy. (Photo by Sailko)

Standing forlorn in Como's industrial suburbs, the Basilica di Sant'Abbondio is a solid Romanesque church raised by Benedictines between 1050 and 1085 on the edge of town, near the train tracks (or rather, where the train tracks are now, as the medieval Benedictines didn't have railroads).

The church retains the pair of belltowers and extended choir that architecturally link it the Westwerk style of medieval Germany (though it's the work of local masons). The columns—the whole building, really—are made of stacked black stones, about twice brick-sized, most of which had a gray patina except when wetted.

The apse inside was gorgeously frescoed in the 14C with a comic book of Biblical scenes that, thanks to a restoration, are as vividly colored as day they were painted.

The rather wide altar houses a trio of silver-faced bishops resting in peace side-by-side in their colored robes and clutching mighty shepherd's staffs. At least I think they're the bishops. They could just be giant dolls—er, cloth effigies. I base this partly on the fact that their gloved fingers look sort of squished in the way a scarecrow's can be. Also, the other bishops tipped me off.

Four smaller altars flank the apse, and in outer two are housed the remains of two more bishops-under-glass, only these two are only about 3 1/2 feet tall. Rather than assume that Como has had a history of midget bishops (it certainly has had a plethora of them, to judge by how many were hanging about this out-of-the-way church), I am assuming these bishopric effigies are truncated merely to fit in the tight space of an altar in a narrow side chapel.

Either that, or the authorities removed the middle bit of the bishops to make them fit, and I'd rather not entertain that possibility.

Photo gallery
  • A detail of the 14C frescoes in the apse, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Laurom)
  • The apse end, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The facade, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Chris06)
  • The nave, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Geobia)
  • The 14C apse frescoes, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Geobia)
  • Detail of the 14C apse frescoes, Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
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Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).