San Fruttuoso Abbey has an interesting and rich history from being a monastery to a pirate’s den to a humble fishermen home and then the residence of Princess of Doria.
The Abbey and Doria Tower
It all started in 711 when Prosper, bishop of Tarragona established a small church and abbey to protect the sacred remains of the Christian martyr Saint Fruttuoso and his deacons, Augurio and Eulogio, which Prosper had saved from the fury of the Saracens in Spain.
At the docking bay you are greeted by...
... the dedication image of martyr San Fruttuoso
The first official mention of the monastery dates back to 984 when bishop John II reconstructed the building following damage caused by assaults from Saracen pirates as well as built the adjoining church and its octagonal Bell Tower.
In 1275, the whole complex passed into the hands of the Doria family. The family funded an expansion of the San Fruttuoso Abbey where a new, two-level building with triple-mullioned windows was constructed facing out to sea . It was also agreed that in exchange for their funding of the expansion of the Abbey, the family will be granted the right to bury their dead in the crypt next to the Lower Cloister. They buried seven members of the family between 1275 and 1305 and their tombs can be seen to this day.
The recognisable façade of the San Fruttuoso Abbey
with its with triple-mullioned windows
In 1562, Andrea Doria obtained the right of patronage of the Abbey and its fishing hamlet from Pope Julian III and in order to protect the village and its prized source of fresh water, built a quadrangular fortress tower as protection against possible pirate assaults. Today the tower carries his name – the Andrea Doria Tower - and can be reached by following the steep staircase that links the Abbey and the small fishing village. You will notice that the two sides facing out to sea bear the seal of the house of Doria, the imperial eagle.
In 1912, a terrible storm destroyed the façade and bell tower of the church, as well as some of the fishermen’s homes. But the whole complex was not restored until 1930s.
The Abbey in early 1900s
Image courtesy of FAI
One way of accessing the ticket office and the entrance of the museum is through the pebbly beach. You will find indications leading the way to the San Fruttuoso Abbey under the three arches of the Abbey structure.
The sea-facing front of the Abbey and its supporting arches
The arches are used to store boats even today
In the old time, the monastery was directly lapping the sea and these arches were used by the fisherman to shelter their boats. There is a steep staircase carved in stone leading the way which makes for an exciting approach to the entrance...
The steep stone stairs leading from the beach to the Abbey's entrance
Your tour is meant to start from the upper level of the San Fruttuoso Abbey and
precede downward the three levels leading you down from its most recent to the oldest history of the monument. There are seven sections of the museum with frequent signposts around guiding your way along and giving additional information for each section.
From the ticker office you enter the Upper Cloister. It was built in the 12th century but the only original portion still visible is the multi-mullioned window (5.25 meters wide) originally facing out onto the sea, before the main body of the Abbey was built in the 13th century.
The multi-mullioned window in the Upper Cloister
The Abbey’ second floor facing the sea was built in the 13th century with funds donated by the Doria family. Here you cannot miss the charm of the twin rows of Gothic triple mullioned windows which perfectly frame the beauty of the sea view.
View from the second floor hall
The space is occupied with exhibition tables displaying the unearthed artefacts
during the FAI restoration in 1983.
The exhit hall on the second floor of the Abbey facing the sea
The door at the back of the hall leads to the garden of the present rectory. In the past though it represented the entrance to an original building dated back to 10th century which today has completely disappeared but is believed to have been used as a dormitory for the monks. The demolition of this dormitory building is linked to the complete restructuring of the Cloister in the 16th century at the request of Admiral Andrea Doria.
The east side door leads to the small garden...
...which also affords a great view over the small beach
in front of the San Fruttuoso Abbey and the sea
The garden also leads the way to the first floor of the Abbey. The lower ground of the Abbey consists of a large space divided into three rooms. Here you can admire different marble objects especially the head of Emperor Hadrian ( 2nd century AD) probably purchased by the Dorias.
The Lower Cloister has lots of character and is part of the oldest part of the monastery dating back to the 10th century. The corner plasters are in ‘pietra del monte’ and the little green and white marble columns are topped by capitals depicting animals and plants.
The room on the right (east side) of the cloister was part of the original monastery and initially used as a place dedicated to prayers similar to a little rectory. During 13th century though the room was used as a cemetery dedicated to the monks and during 14th and 15th centuries it was further used as the burial place for some secular personalities too.
The room opens into the Medieval Church or also known as the ‘monastic’ church which consists of a room with an apse, used as a chapel and in the background you can see a crypt dating from the 13th century built to shelter the remains of an Abbot or nobleman of the Doria family.
Walking around the Lower Cloister to the west side, you come across the room sheltering the tombs of the famous House of the Doria since the 13th century. The tombs are in white marble and grey stone, alternated in typical contrasting style and are arranged in rows on the three walls of the room, framed by single or double arches.
Going back to the second floor you will see the entrance to the ‘public’ Church which was built by raising the roof of the Medieval Church, after the monks had gone and the San Fruttuoso Abbey had passed into the hands of the Doria family.
The main altar contains the silver reliquary that protects the remains of the martyrs Fruttuoso, Augurio and Eulogio. Very interesting is also the apse which is carved in stone, the middle Byzantine cupola trimmed with 17 small arches in ‘pietra del monte’ , the imposing octagonal Bell Tower and the roof shingles in slate.
Christ of the Abyss replica on display in the Public Church
You cannot fail to also see the replica of the Christ of the Abyss (Cristo degli Abissi) statue which is immersed at a depth of 18th metres , little off the San Fruttuoso shore and is a popular diving spot.
The entrance of the Public Church from the main courtyard
The exiting the Church from its main entrancing leads you back to the courtyard in front of the ticket office of the Abbey where you began your tour...
Winter (January, February - November ,
Every day except Monday: 10a.m - 15.45p.m
Spring / Autumn (March and October)
Every day: 10a.m - 15.45p.m
April, May and second half of September Every day: 10a.m - 16.45p.m
Summer (June to mid-September)
Every day: 10a.m - 17.45p.m
For more information:
Telephone: +39 0185 772703
Fax: +39 0185 775883
Adults - € 5
Children (4-12 years) - €
Schools - € 3
FAI members and Camogli Residents - Free
Prices may vary if special activities or events are held.
Thank you for visiting our guide… we look forward to welcoming you to Liguria and hope you will love it as much as we do !
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