An early afternoon flight from Bristol to Rome and so we arrive in time for an early Evening Mass before Supper.
So here we are at Venerable English College’s Villa Palazzola. In a stunning lakeside location just outside Rome, Villa Palazzola is a 13th century Cistercian monastery, fully refurbished and modernised with a large swimming pool and breathtaking garden terrace.
The site of Palazzola has a very long history going back to the Bronze Age.Legend has it that Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were suckled by a she-wolf here.
The Romans abandoned their villa on the site around the 4th century and by the 10th century Christian hermits were living in caves on the slopes of the lake. The remains of this early hermitage are still visible. In time the hermits moved into the ruins of Palatiolus and became Augustinians.
Cistercians from Tre Fontane Abbey near Rome took over the building in 1244 when it was known as Santa Maria in Palatiolis. There are clear similarities between the Villa church, Our Lady of the Snows, and that of Tre Fontane, especially the roof design and the small rose window. Carthusians replaced the Cistercians who were in turn replaced by Franciscans in the fifteenth century. Some of the very elegant columns from the early cloister can be seen in the windows on the upper corridors of the Old Wing.
A Portuguese Franciscan, Jose Maria Fonseca, rebuilt the friary and the church in the 1700s and laid out the garden. For many years the main entrance to Palazzola was through the large gates now leading to the swimming pool. Two tablets in the cloister record his efforts. Apart from a gap of 20 years the Franciscans remained at Palazzola until the early 20th century.