At the edge of the San Martino Valley, on the left bank of the river Adda, stands the Monastery of Lavello. Here the rapid current slowed down its course, allowing it to go from one bank to the other. In defense of that passage, around the year one thousand, a castle had been placed.
A small settlement of peasants and fishermen stood between the wide tree-lined bank and generous fields. Inland the road that connected Bergamo to Como and the Alpine passes ran.
Next to the castle stood the church of Saint Simpliciano which later took the name of Saint Mary. Small and modest, it had a single nave of eight meters for four and a half with the painted altar. That castle and that church were almost certainly protagonists of the struggles that in the twelfth century saw the involvement of the Lombard Municipalities and the Empire, and therefore of the clashes for the supremacy between the major cities of the Po valley. We know that, in the first half of the 1300s, the Lavello was certainly attributed to the power of the Municipality of Bergamo.
At the end of the century the battles that devastated the plain of the Lavello and which saw the protagonist Bernabò Visconti, led to the destruction of the castle, while the town was reduced to a very poor community. With the peace of Lodi of 1454, the two banks of the Adda became the definitive border between the Milanese Duchy and the Republic of Venice.
Among the remains of the ancient buildings, next to the rustic chapel, still existing in 1438, some hermits found refuge in search of secluded places, far from the screeching of continual contests. It is said that one of these, named Jacopino, following a divine order, he began to build a larger church.
It was during those works that, in April 1480, a source suddenly emerged from beneath an ancient burial. The voice soon spread and some time later a mother came to the sink with her son completely paralyzed. Washed in the source these began to walk amid the amazement of those present. The place immediately became a destination for pilgrimages, so that around 1486 from Bergamo came some Servants of Mary who contributed to the construction of the new church.
In 1510 the friars began the construction of today’s convent; in time religious were given various lands. The good income allowed the start of new jobs with the construction of two dormitories, the refectory, new porches and portions of the cloister. Meanwhile, the news of miraculous events spread more and more. And the people flowed numerous. The new church soon became insufficient to accommodate the faithful. Thus, at the end of the sixteenth century, the nave was enlarged by creating two twin priests, with a double altar. The church thus reached its current size.
In 1629 the descent of the Lanzichenecchi with their trail of devastation put an end to a long period of prosperity. The plague that ruined the two banks of the Adda hit the small community hard: the convent was transformed into a hospital and the friars died one after the other in their work of assistance to the sick.
After the great scourge, other religious had to restore the church and the convent, bringing to light the frescoes covered by whitewashing and fumes and by putting hand to works of extension of the structure. The recovery was slow and tiring. Subsequent refurbishment works and some renovations signaled the beginning of a new period of prosperity throughout the 18th century. At the fairs that took place at the Sink during the year, a large number of people began to arrive, the properties guaranteed good income.
The convent had two gardens that produced fruit and vegetables, as well as a garden. The kitchen was always stocked and did not lack anything for the friars who lived in the complex. But in 1772 a decree of the Venetian Senate ordered the suppression of the convent and the Servites definitively abandoned it. It became the object of contention between parish priests and estates who boasted rights over the complex, but the church had lost much of its ability to attract the faithful, the source of miracles was hardly spoken.
The last offense to the convent was inflicted by the armies in war in the second world war. Only in September 1948 was the reopening of the church possible, the first step in a slow recovery work concluded in our days.
The restoration of the Saint Mary of Lavello complex was carried out as part of the European project “Network Culture Economy” which enabled the simultaneous recovery of the Buch monasteries in Saxony (Germany) and Güssing in Burgenland (Austria). The project, promoted by the Province of Lecco, saw the adhesion of the Chamber of Commerce of Lecco, together with the Lombardy Region, the Municipality of Calolziocorte, the Mountain Community of San Martino Valley and the Parish of Foppenico.
The historic complex today is entrusted to the Monastery of Saint Mary of Lavello established between the Lombardy Region and local authorities, which has among the statutory purposes the protection and enhancement of the compendium, the promotion of culture and tourism and that, thanks to its evocative exhibition spaces, lends itself to being a unique place that invites a stop to refresh the body, the spirit and the mind.