The Chiaravalle abbey is Cistercian monastery of significant spiritual, historical and artistic importance.
Located within the Parco Agricolo Sud Milano (Agricultural Park South of Milan), the Chiaravalle abbey serves as a hinge and a connection between the urban inhabited area and the countryside of Milan's lowland.
The abbey was founded in 1135 by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who led a group of monks from the Burgundy abbey of Clairvaux, in north-eastern France.
Historically, the Chiaravalle abbey is the place where the Cistercian monks found the way to preserve milk by using it, adding rennet, leaving it in brine and then ageing it for several months to create a hard cheese, now known as Grana Padano.
It is in the cauldrons of monasteries that the first cheese factories were created, from which a new professional figure emerged: the "casaro" - cheesemaker, an expert in the art of cheese production.
The Chiaravalle abbey and its mill
Abbey life todayThe monastic life that the Cistercian community still experiences today is marked by a regular schedule that follows the basic approach of the Rule of Saint Benedict and responds to the needs and customs of the individual community.
Time is predominantly devoted to prayer and work, according to Benedictine inspiration and in the spirit of sharing fraternal life.
Humility, obedience, silence, listening, liturgical prayer, simplicity, poverty, manual labour and genuine fraternal charity -- these are a few of the traces that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and all Cistercian saints, have left and that are followed by the monks to this day.
The industriousness of the Chiaravalle monks, historically shown in medieval and modern times in the work they reclaimed the land, drained and cultivated previously unhealthy, marshy lands and setting up a system of irrigated meadows, is unfailingly still seen today in the production of honey, jams, sauces and salts and in the direct management of the livestock in their farmstead.
The Chiaravalle MillLocated within the monastic complex, the lovely medieval structure of the Chiaravalle Mill is an ancient grain mill which has now become a multi-use centre for sustainability education.
The Chiaravalle Mill was constructed in the 12th century and has continued to have extraordinary historical and cultural importance.
Today the Mill overlooks a vast walled garden that contains a herb garden. Inside the rooms within are made from different periods, grouped around the original building, where a variety of educational activities take place, such as conferences, workshops, medicinal herb laboratories, fun activities for children in summer and for schools during the school year.