• 891


Information on the date of foundation of the abbey is discordant; Pietro Aretino, in his biography of San Zanobi, recounts that the archbishop of Florence founded the monastery of Passignano in 395, even though the abbey’s archives carry, as a date, only the year 891.


In 1049, the abbey passed under the control of the Vallombrosian order of monks, a reformed branch of the Benedictines which specialized in viticulture and forestry, founded by Saint Giovanni Gualberto, whose remains were conserved in the monastery after his death in 1073. Ever since then, the pastoral staff, symbol of the order, is present everywhere in the abbey. With the passage of time, the order became so powerful as to possess a fourth of the territory of Tuscany; between 1196 and 1255, the monastery was attacked, was burned, and then razed to the ground by the Florentines.


In 1266, reconstruction began under Ruggero Buondelmonti; a further enlargement took place in the 15th century, when Ghirlandaio decorated the refectory of the monks with one of his three versions of the Last Supper.


After the Council of Trent in 1545, the Badia became an important center of theological, literary, and scientific studies. It hosted approximately 100 monks and six thousand documents, many written in Hebrew and Greek; the chronicles of the monastery recount that Galileo Galilei resided in the monastery and taught mathematics there in 1587-1588.


This order and this monastery are particularly famous for the conservation of important libraries of classic and musical texts during the Middle Ages, for the promotion of scientific research, and for cultivating large tracts of land, in particular vineyards and newly planted forests.


Unfortunately, in 1810, during the Napoleonic epoch, monastic life was suspended and many of the abbey’s treasures were lost. The Vallombrosian monks returned to the abbey in 1818, but remained there only until 1866 when, following the unification of Italy, the Italian government expropriated the monastery which, at the time, consisted of 1264 hectares (over 3000 acres) of land and 39 separate farms.

Over the course of the centuries, the monastery was often subjected to restoration work which changed, in differing occasions, its aspect; among these,  the realization, in the 17th century, of Baroque decorative details and, in the 19th century, of a fortified tower, stand out.