Village of Brugnato
Comune di Brugnato: Piazza Martiri 1 - Brugnato (SP)
Telefono: 0187 89 41 10
Fax: 0187 89 70 98
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The name of Brugnato has always been associated with the cathedral and its tradition as an important religious centre of Vara Valley, indeed its story begins from its monastic origins under the hands of the San Colombano di Bobbio monks. Visit this village with its historical centre that has a special oval shape and, thanks to the Liguria Heritage audio-guides, you will enjoy its story step by step.

The origins of Brugnato and a great abbey

The name of Brugnato village, an important centre in the Vara Valley, does not say much about its origins; it probably derives from the dialect word brigne or brignun, which means plum tree, present also on the coat of arms of the small town.

As far as the birth of the Brugnato nucleus is concerned, it was the San Colombano di Bobbio monks who built a monastery between the 7th and 8th centuries, during the Lombard occupation of Liguria, and who turned it into an important religious centre around which the surrounding territory improved.
The area in olden times was inhabited by people from Liguria, indeed there are different signs of the tribe of Briniates, the presence of which remains in the place names that end in the typical Ligurian manner of –asca, -asco.

It was a reference point for the middle and low valley from a monumental, religious and historical viewpoint, and during the Byzantine era it seems that the territory contained the limes (or border) road on the Varese–Cento Croci track, handy for the naval base of Chiavari and the ridge between mount Zatta and Cento Croci, a fundamental area for the supply of wood.
As already anticipated, the origin of Brugnato is attributed to the San Colombano monks who frequented the area and who established their religious centre in the valley.

In the high Middle Ages

From a territorial management viewpoint, in the 9th century A.C. all the land on the left bank of the river Vara belonged to the Brugnato diocese, while from an administrative point of view the land changed from Lombard to Frankish dominion, as is shown by a sales document in which the Lombard princess Andrevenga, wife of Boniprando, receives from a certain Ghiello, a Frank, 100 coins as compensation for the sale of the territories between Cassego and Castiglione Chiavarese, where there are two important entry points to the valley, Velva and Zatta: it is wonderful and important proof of the change, even non-violent, from manager to owner.

During the late Middle Ages the power of Brugnato increased in the territory of the abbots and bishops of the city, also thanks to the concession of princes and emperors, an element that had as a consequence the rivalry of the other potentate, the Malaspina family, the bishops of Luni and when they make their entry into the Levantine question, even the Fieschi family, creating tension that gradually worsened during the 11th and 13th centuries; the attempt of Corrado Malaspina to occupy the forts belonging to Brugna dates back to 1215, but thanks to the intervention of Genoa the Malaspina family were kept at a distance, allowing the Fieschi family to become the vice controllers of Brugnato. Involved in the fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines which devastated the region, causing continuous changes in power, clashes and continuous demands by both sides, Brugnato saw its bishop flee to seek refuge in Pontremoli, leaving the city in the hands of the Malaspinas and then the Fregosos, until a popular insurgency caused annexation with the Republic of Genoa.

Walking along the streets of the historical centre of Brugnato you can breathe the air of that era which saw greatness as a cornerstone of the territory, a civil and religious reference point. Listen to the audioguide 1 and live this story with us!

Brugnato village

The Medieval village lives on, not just in its monuments but also in the names of the roads of the square, such as Piazza Ildebrando, where interventions for bringing to light the remains of the antique Medieval walls of the city, together with the circular tower that were protectively filled in after the archaeological excavations, were carried out.
The historical centre is ring-shaped like pincers, lengthening slightly on one side almost to identify the main axis; the houses are not particularly high, and have the Cathedral as their monumental reference point.

This building was created as a cemetery church, and it rises on an early Christian necropolis which in turn occupied the space of an even older cemetery. It is historically documented as being under the reign of Liutprand as a Benedictine abbey, even if recent digs have brought to light the remains of the apse and foundations of the primitive abbey church. Various subsequent epochal papers witness the importance of the monastery that the Lombards contrasted with the strong dominion of the Luni bishops. With subsequent enlargements and exchanges, the diocese extended its boundaries to Sestri Levante and Pontremoli, occupying also a part of Val Graveglia.

The contrast between the two religious institutions continued over various centuries, during which the abbey fought to maintain its independence until 1133, the year in which it became a bishopric. The bishop of Brugnato took on the role of great feudatory with a dominion that for centuries represented a religious and cultural reference point for a vast region ranging from the sea to the Tuscan Apennines, and for this reason the main character of an extremely tormented history.

The exterior aspect of the Cathedral is that of a solid building, with the bulk of the bell tower leaning against it. The large square stones used to build the cathedral cannot be seen at first glance, but a closer look brings them out, giving the building its humble character that is also found inside, where austerity and simplicity are the elements that create its timeless fascination and highlight its sacral aura.
The remains of the previous buildings are to be admired in the church, the scan of the nave separated by pillars imitating the shape of columns, the fragments of floor tiles that bring to mind the different historical phases of the church and the only decorative element, the fresco with the image of San Colombano on a column on the right side of the central nave, the only touch of colour in a place where stone is the true queen.

Here there is no castle or military base to be restored, the intervention of Priority axis IV aims at returning the most antique part of the small town, the part that was buried after the archaeological surveys as protection, while decisions were made about the best way to value it and make it accessible and visible to all citizens and tourists who deserve to admire this village and everything it can offer, from the archaeology that will be revealed in Piazza Ildebrando to its suggestive Roman cathedral, witness of the glorious past of this village. If you want to hear more, listen to audioguide 2!

The intervention

Part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), this project aims to uncover the archaeological remains in Piazza Ildebrando, providing an extra tourist attraction and focus for the town of Brugnato.
The project also envisages the renovation of the entire town square in order to make it more useable.

The monument in question consists of two concentric, circular curtain walls, one on the inside and one on the outside.
A semi-circular structure with a diameter of five metres, made of cobblestones and mortar, leans against the external curtain wall. The monument is in a fairly good state and appears, thanks to its position and technical features, to be a small tower, built during a phase of improvements made to the town’s defences. The fact that it is located in a stretch of curtain wall without entrances – and therefore located in a section that does not defend a gate – would suggest the existence of other towers located at regular distances along the wall.

The deterioration of these fortifications is undoubtedly mainly due to the number of years spent underground in a constantly damp environment, and particularly due to damage done following construction work carried out over the years in their vicinity, particularly the laying of a large cast iron pipe that damaged their original structure.

This conservation project will uncover the archaeological features previously covered over in order to preserve them, it will carry out a conservative restoration and repair any gaps and carry out any other work necessary to make the site’s layout and purpose clear.
The work will also involve the installation of a drainage system to remove ground water from the site and, finally, a series of improvements that aim to make this monument – and the town square itself – useable (paving, information placards, street furniture and lighting).

Nota: Liguria Heritage freely offers services and technological tools but accepts no responsibility for entrance fees to the sites nor their direct management. Please refer to the individuals owners and managers regarding the implementation or changes to entry times, conditions of use and accessibility of the various sites.