The Benedictine Monks at San Biagio
A Baptism of Pope Gregory IV of the year 828 confirms to the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua property of certain goods, including a farm located at Maxone with the chapel of St. Gallen, and tithing rights on vast surrounding area. Confirmation of this thesis is also a donation of the Bishop of Padova Ganslino of 970, in which tithes are confirmed. With the bishop of Padua Ulderico 1064, the country is called the Mansione. The monks played a major role in the country’s life. Faithful to the “Ora et labora” slogan, they disintegrated the uncultivated lands, drained the soils and harnessed the streams, and contributed to the evangelization of rural areas. In Mason, between 1154 and 1156, they built a new church dedicated to San Biagio within their monastery which was demolished in 1450 and rebuilt with the remains of the church of St. Gall outside the walled wall. They operated a large farm, consisting of 400 fields in the property, and another 1500, on which quarrels and tithes were burdened. In the 12th century the Benedictine Priory of Mason had assumed a feudal appearance, in which the “lord” was the abbot of Santa Giustina or the Prior of San Biagio, while the vassals were the inhabitants of Mason. Relationships between the monks and the people went wrong because the peasants paid tithes badly, and at times this was the cause of violent raids. In 1271 the Abbot of Santa Giustina was murdered to Mason to abolish rebellions and there were also litigation. In 1451, tired of the situation, the monks left Mason selling all the property, including tith and quartese rights, to Angaran, Borgo and Cerato.
The Cerato Family
Vicenza’s Cerato nobles were bankers and lenders of money. Among the members of the family are: G.A. Cerato bought in 1451 the farms of San Biagio with Corradino Angaran and Pietro Borgo. The family is still quoted in a notarial document during the famine of the 1500’s, when it receives, in exchange for a biade, land from a small impotent owner to pay his debt. Among its members we still remember Domenico Cerato, born in Mason in 1720.
Son of the Fratellini factor, he was adopted by Count Francesco Cerato Loschi who educated him and gave him his name. Performed ecclesiastical studies and ordered priest, he dedicated himself to architecture by acquiring remarkable fame. He worked in Vicenza where he designed and directed some important constructions including the “Palazzo Trissino dal Vello d’Oro”. In Padua he was a teacher at the University in the Chair of Civil Architecture, instituted specially for him. He built the Astronomical Observatory, the Hospital and transformed the “lawn of the Valley” into a swamp, in one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. He published in 1784 the “New Method for Drawing Five Civil Architecture Orders Complying with the Rules of A. Palladio and V. Scamozzi.”
The Gualtiero Family
In the early 1800s, the former monastery was sold by the noble Cerato to private families until, in 1969, it was bought by the current owners Alfonso and Franca, who still today continue to valorize the whole, carefully restoring the remains of ‘ancient past. Also important is a tradition taken from the past, on February 3, the church is celebrated in honor of San Biagio Christian martyr, with the blessing of the fruit.
THE ARCHITECTURAL STRUCTURE
Going along San Biagio Street the effect is amazing because you are in front of a grand construction. The entrance, uphill, is flanked to the left by a walled brow, while on the right, a shoal retains the structures of ancient stables, colombara and oratory. The facade on the courtyard of the manor house is rimmed by three openings on the three floors and it finds its center in the entrance arc of the 400th century, close to the old monastery, surmounted by the coat of arms of Cerato Loschi with the year 1591. The attic windows are oval and overlaid with frames with shelves. To the right, a bass, along the descent of the hill, you can see also the cellar openings. The marquetry decorative frames are noted on the decorative plaster and the oval oculus of the internal spiral staircase is of interest. The turret was added in the late romantic age and tied the mansion to what is left of the ancient monastery. As soon as the iron gate is over, the ancient monastery is located, and along the cloister are the five arches of the arches, two of which are blind, with arches and brick pillars. Until recently, there were the stables and upper floors, made in the arches, the barns. Now the interiors while retaining their ancient structures are used as a restaurant. The porch is very impressive.
The convent creates a more backward body. It is a very simple but very impressive structure. There is an entrance with a hut roof and a facade facing the brow. The inner face shows three small square openings at the top and four entrances, two rectangular to the sides in gray stone and two arched medians, smaller, brick sections. The stone wall and rocks of the site have been reinforced with cement paste. The interior is curious and shows three floors that retain the original wall structures. An archway leads through a spiral staircase leading to the basement. Here small entrances, with a bow to the full, lead to the monks’ cells while a long corridor shows the premises where the monks cooked the bread, preparing the cheese and doing the laundry. There are traces of the oven and the hearth, niches on the walls, one of which is another secret passage. Frames, tiles and steps are made of stone. The cloister has olive trees and surrounded by raised walls. The front of the villa on the courtyard is rimmed by three openings on the three floors. At the center is the rectangular entrance surmounted by the coat of arms of Cerato Loschi, with the year 1591, in stone. It shows a rampant goat. Elliptical oculars give light to the attic, and a corner with dense brackets concludes the smooth wall. The interior dares interest in the atrium for the ceiling and the two full arches, featuring a marvelous helical staircase. The other rooms are in good proportions. The wineries with their large archives are suggestive. On the left, the structure of the villa continues with a lower body, added at the beginning of the 1800s. The barge to the west is lower: it has a two-column porch and a brick pier, the roof is in wooden beams. It ends with a factory-adapted factory-fitted body. In the small garden, human bones have been discovered, which makes it possible to think of a likely monastery of monks located near the ancient oratory of San Biagio. Inside the house there is a well, full of legend. If you go down there is an opening that leads to the glacier and from there, through an underground tunnel, you continue to go out on the Gasparona road in the famous “volpara buso”. People say it was a low, winding, fox-like path that widened every once in a while in caves and was inhabited by witches …
THE LEGEND OF THE WELL
Inside the house there is a well, full of legend. If you go down deep there is an opening that leads to the icebox and from there, through an underground tunnel, continues to an exit, on the Gasparona road, in the famous “buso della volpara”. People say it was a low, winding path, similar to a fox’s den, which occasionally widened into caves and it is said to have been inhabited by witches …
Legends circulate in the village about the witches of the well and about the fact that they bothered the villagers with “witch” jokes: for example a future bride had left the linen hanging on a rope for the wedding night, the witches turned it into a braid of salt so the bride was forced to postpone the wedding. It also happened that, on the day of the wedding, the mischievous witches immobilized the groom shortly after midnight, kidnapped him and brought him to their cave until dawn, so the bride was completely alone on the wedding night …
These are said to be legends but a kind of magic remains in the air ….