The first abbey was built in Chiaravalle as early as 7th century in the shape of a simple Benedictine monastery raised in a land given as a gift to the pope by Teodolinda, a Lombard queen. It was then destroyed in 1126 by the Saracens and rebuilt by Cistercian monks, who named it S. Maria in Castagnola. This is one of the three abbeys, built by the Cistercian monks from Clairvoux in Italy. The second one is in the Marche, in the Fiastra nature reserve.
The earliest two documents referring to the abbey date back to the year 1000. At that time the old structure was founded in Romanesque style. The modern structure was built , according to tradition, in 1172 by Cistercian monks, using the remains of the previous building.
In 1248 about 40 monks lived in the abbey. The monastery complex was so large and important that the free municipality of Jesi and later on of Ancona tried to conquer it. The cloister and the other rooms of the abbey have been renovated in the late 16th century.
The church of the abbey, in particular, is a remarkable example of Cistercian architecture: a nave and two aisles, a transept and a square apse. The Romanesque façade has a gable roof and a large rose window with a single lancet window above and a pinnacled gable end, above which there’s a stripe of small arches.
With respect of Cistercian rules, the monastery was located to the south of the church and in this area you could also find common rooms, whereas to the east there were the choir and to the west the storage rooms.
Inside the abbey a precious sculpture in polychrome stone dating back to the 12th century represents the Madonna with Child.
You may expect to find such a place in a isolated and lonely place, instead it’s right in the middle of the little town, with a green area in front of it.
Chiaravalle was named after this abbey which promoted its birth and expansion in the last centuries, so it’s its historical memory and central core.