Abbazia di Santa Maria delle Carceri


The abbey at Carceri was founded before the year 1000 and for some centuries it had a fundamental role in the history and culture of Northern Italy. The present abbey is the result of numerous ups and downs in its long history, of alternate periods of great splendour and periods of decadence. Today it is a wide complex of great architectonical and artistic interest, a milestone in the history and culture of Padua. The first monastic order to arrive in this quite inhospitable part of the territory was represented by a small group of Augustinians. In 1107 Henry, called the Black, Duke of Bavaria, donated them some fields, called “le Carcere”. In 1189 the friars built a larger church, the beautiful baptistery, which can still be admired, and a cloister (one side is still extant). They also reclaimed the land, built streets and bridges. The abbey became a landmark of the whole area and already in the 12th century it could host those pilgrims who crossed this part of Italy during their pilgrimage to Rome. However in 1407, after a long period of famine and plagues, the Augustians abandoned Carceri Abbey. Pope Gregory XII gave the complex to the Camaldolites. With them the abbey thrived and reached the apex of its splendour. The Camaldolites enlarged the abbey, built four cloisters, a wide library and guest quarters for pilgrims, they also enlarged the church. With the cooperation of Padua University they built a real and true Academy and an education centre for vocation purposes. They worked ceramics, had a farm with hundreds of animals, and their pharmacy was the first chemist’s shop to appear in the Veneto region. From the 14th to the 16th century Carceri Abbey was one of the richest abbeys of the Veneto region. Towards the mid-17th c. the abbey was inhabited by more than 60 monks and a great number of laic brothers who followed the monastic rules. They possessed more than 3600 Paduan reclaimed and cultivated fields. Of this period of great splendour one can still see the main cloister, the church, the entrance gate to the whole complex, the guest quarters for the pilgrims, the library room decorated by frescoes. In 1690 Pope Alexander VII suppressed the Carceri Abbey and its farmland was sold by auction in order to get money to support the war of the Venetian Republic against the Turks. The whole complex passed to the Carminati family, rich merchants who lived in Venice. The whole abbey was transformed into a farm and its various parts were adapted to the new owners’needs. The Carminatis built their villa on one side of the monastery. They lived there until the year 1951, when after having sold all the fields they gave the abbey complex to the Carceri Parish. In the year 1994 the parish bought the guest quarters for pilgrims, which were in very bad conditions. The Monuments and Fine Arts Office of the Veneto Region is supporting its restoration, after the roof and the façade fell down in 1995.


On the first floor the abbey hosts the Museum of Rural Life. It houses rich collections of regional importance that span the full range of objects, tools, archives, utensils, furniture, farming equipment, and photographs. The museum preserves and interprets an important part of the region's rural heritage.


How to get there:

To reach , by car , the Abbey of Carceri ( PD ) – 4, Camaldoli Street Motorway A13 Padova - Bologna exit Monselice , then follow the SR10, direction Este - Legnago Passed Este, follow the road signs for Carceri

Guided visit times: