The building that for many is the Charterhouse of Parma will reopen to the public in just over a month, on May 23rd.
It is, indeed, a Cistercian Abbey, the one of Valserena or San Martino de’ Bocci. Both toponyms are symptomatic of the history of these lands, that before the arrival of the Cistercians where covered with marshes and hawthorns, the “bocci”, in our dialect. At first the monks continued to use the Church of San Martino, and only built the monastery. The construction began on May 15th 1298, and it was started by the Monk Zenone from Ulmeta and by the laic Uberto, that came from the Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba.
In the 14th century they started to build the Church, and the main altar was consecrated in 1385. The original building was certainly very different from the present one, which is the result of many changes that occurred between the 16th and the 18th century. The striking façade, for example has been for sure influenced by the Bibienas, and dates back to the 18th Century; the most part of the frescos that have been recently restored inside the church, instead, date back to the 16th century.
The fate of the Abbey of Valeserena, from the Napoleonic invasion onwards, has been very troubled. Between 1805 and 1810 various French decrees led to its suppression, later on the whole complex was sold to privates and used as a canning factory first, and as a farm later. Because of these improper uses, various parts of the more external buildings were damaged or demolished.
Between 1964 and 67 the church became part of the State Patrimony, and it has been recently restored thanks to the University of Parma, that has turned it to the headquarters of the CSAC, the Centre for Communication Studies and Archives.
Professor Arturo Carlo Quintavalle has strongly wanted this centre. He wanted to create a public collection of contemporary art, on the model of the American ones, where also activities of didactics and research are possible.
The Centre will open to the public on May 23rd, and this will be an occasion for the visitors sto enjoy several of the works of contemporary art that are part of the collection of the University of Parma. The Centre, however, owns over 12 million works, between photos, architectural projects, paintings, sculptures and more. Some of the paper works, for example, will be visible by the visitors thanks to a special file system. Scholars will be allowed to consult the files by appointment.
If you are interested in visiting the museum, contact me. I can also submit you a customized itinerary with other museums or points of interest related to the Abbey or to contemporary art.