September 2018 – This was my surprise, after the lighthouse, which was perfect, but this was just breathtaking. San Fruttuoso Abbey, an ancient Benedictine monastery and also the Christ of the Abyss. This small fishing village located in a splendid bay at the foot of Mount Portofino, is reachable only by sea or on foot, following the trails of Mount Portofino Park. We came by boat, but the village is quite hidden, until the boat turns, and suddenly there is this little gem. I could not wait to start exploring, luckily we were early and the place was quite empty, compared to how it would be later on in the day.
We disembarked and then husband said you better be quick as you have thirty minutes until the boat goes. He did’nt want to wait for one and half hours for the next boat, as he had other things planned for me…..oh well, I’m used it. So not a lot to see on the beach unless you are into beach furniture, also I have found that most beaches are private and cost a fortune for deck chair, leaving only a small strip open to the general public. Until quite recent times, boats moored directly under the supporting arches of the monastery and could unload directly into the cellars. We walked beneath these arches and found the odd boat or two resting on the stones. We then climbed the steps up to the Abbey and found that to enter the abbey you have to pay, that was fine, but not when you only a very short time. I did find that the church was free and it was the monastery and museum that you paid for. The church would be fine, now if only some bodies would move so I could take some photos, as time was ticking on.
A little history – This extraordinary spot is dominated by the Abbey of “San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte”. This splendid monument, now part of the heritage of FAI – the Italian Environment Found – has extremely old origins, dating back to the 8th century when Prospero, Bishop of Tarragon, brought there the ashes of San Fruttuoso, a bishop martyred in the 3rd century. The church and the annexed monastery which were damaged by the Saracens gained importance when they were rebuilt by the Benedictines in the 10th century. Subsequently, in the 13th century the Abbey fell under the patronage of the powerful Genoese Doria family, who built the current structure. In 1983 FAI restored the Abbey to its ancient splendour, some arts are medieval, some Romanesque, and the burial vaults of the aristocratic Doria family of Genoa are here.
As I explored the church I found a replica of the ‘The Christ of the Abyss’ I found it very moving and have added a photo of where I think it is in the bay.
Some history……..The Christ of the Abyss (Cristo degli Abissi) is an above-life-size bronze statue a little way offshore and over fifty feet (15m) under the sea. It has only existed for a few decades, being commissioned after a drowning, but both the idea and the sculpture itself are deeply poignant. In season, and when boats are bringing visitors in, it’s possible to pay for a few minutes’ trip out from the shore and see the statue itself through a glass-bottomed contraption. Far down in the dim waters, Christ’s face and arms are raised towards the source of light. This has become something like a shrine to divers and a pilgrimage site.
Also nearby is a watch tower ‘The Andrea Doria Tower’ which was built in 1562 by Giovanni Andrea and Pagano, heirs of the famous admiral, in order to defend the Abbey from the attacks of the Moorish pirates. You can visit both the monastery and tower, but they are not always open, best check first if you want to visit both. I did not have the time or energy to climb to the tower, but I should think there would have been wonderful views. It was now time to board the little boat back to Portofino for some lunch and a visit to a castle.