San Fruttuoso Abbey

San Fruttuoso Abbey - Photo © Enrico Massetti
San Fruttuoso Abbey – Photo © Enrico Massetti

Between Camogli and Portofino, a deep inlet along the indented coastline of the Promontory of Portofino is home to the famous abbey of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte in the intact fishing village of the same name.

After its initial monastic use, the complex at San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte was a humble home for fishermen, often a den of pirates and later the property for centuries of the Doria Princes: an absolutely unique place where the work of men integrates perfectly with Nature.

The monastic complex of the X-XI century with the cloisters, the Chapter House and the church can all be visited; as well as the Doria tombs and the XIII-century Gothic section by the sea.

Most of the current San Fruttuoso abbey dates back to the X-XI centuries, while the body facing the sea, with its fine “loggiato” with two orders of mullioned windows, was built in the XIII century thanks to the donations of the Doria family.

The belfry is one of the most ancient architectural elements of the abbey and of Liguria.

The slightly oval spherical dome was surmounted in the X century in accordance with the Byzantine style by an octagonal tower with open-face strips in keeping with the Ottonian tradition.

The San Fruttuoso Abbey can be reached only by foot on an arduous mountain trail, or by boat. There is a regular boat service from Camogli and Portofino.

Upper Cloister
Upper Cloister – Photo © Carlo Natale

The San Fruttuoso upper cloister

The San Fruttuoso upper cloister, built in the XII century, was almost entirely rebuilt in the 1500s by admiral Andrea Doria, adding a cross vault to the upper level using capitals and columns of various origin.

The capital in the foreground, for example, is Roman (end II century A.D.), others are Romanesque.

The attractive Romanesque “loggia” at the rear (X century) was closed during restoration work in 1933 and has now been re-opened and looks inside the Museum.

Doria's Tumbs
Doria’s Tumbs – Photo © Roberto Marinoni

The San Fruttuoso Doria Tombs

The San Fruttuoso lower level of the cloister gives access to the deep vaulted chamber granted to the Doria by the monks as a burial place.

The tombs in white marble and grey stone alternate in a typical two-color scheme arranged in rows on three sides of the chamber; they comprise single or paired masonry arches, most of which with epigraphs, surmounted by small pointed arches supported by small marble columns, with a saddleback roof.

Here rest seven members of the Doria family, while the identity is not known of personages buried in the two other tombs and a Roman sarcophagus.

The Abbey and the Tower
The Abbey and the Tower – Photo

The San Fruttuoso Doria tower

Along the road that links the San Fruttuoso abbey and the fishing village, dating to the XVI century, there is a steep staircase leading to the tower of Andrea Doria, built in 1562 by the heirs of the admiral, Giovanni Andrea and Pagano, to defend the hamlet and its providential source of fresh-water from Barbar pirate raids.

The two facades of the tower overlooking the sea have the shield of the Doria Family, the imperial eagle, while other decorations can be seen on the cornices and the trusses.

Concerts in San Fruttuoso Abbey

At various dates in July and August, a season of concerts, that is much appreciated by public and critics alike, is held in the cloisters of the San Fruttuoso Abbey.

Courtesy in part of FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano