Bigorio, klooster Santa Maria dei Frati cappuccini. Foto/Photo: TES

Santa Maria dei Frati Cappuccini monastery in Bigorio

Founded in 1535, the Santa Maria dei Frati Cappuccini monastery in Bigorio (canton of Ticino/Tessin) was the first Capuchin monastery in Switzerland. Its founders were the Cappucciners Pacifico Carli from Lugano and Ludovico Filicaia from Florence.

A Romanesque chapel from the 11th century already stood on the monastery’s site.
It is no coincidence that these monks founded the monastery. For centuries, Italian-speaking Ticino was under the secular and spiritual rule of the dukes and bishops from Lombardy and their relatives in Florence.

Swiss Orte (not called cantons until the 16th century) conquered the territory of present-day Tessin (as well as Bormio, Veltlina and Chiavenna) in the 15th and early 16th centuries. A fresco in the church Maria del Sasso in Morcote commemorates the conquest of Lugano in 1513.

The Capuchins

The Capuchins were an Italian order founded in 1515 on the principles of Francis of Assisi, the founder and spiritual father of the Franciscan Order. The first monasteries were founded in Lombardy. Given the centuries-old cultural and political ties with Lugano, the foundation of a monastery in this region was prominent.

1535 was also the time of the Reformation in the cantons of Zurich, Basel, Schaffhausen and Bern. These cantons were relatively far from Tessin and had different geographical and economic orientations. The Catholic cantons of Unterwalden, Lucerne, Uri and Schwyz had been present in these areas since the 13th century (around 1230 Gotthard Pass) and the 15th century as traders and later occupiers.

Although the Reformation also appeared in these Italian areas, the Catholic Church remained the main religion. Many Protestants even fled to Zurich, where they played an essential role in the textile industry.

The path to Bigorio

The monastery

The monastery still exists after almost five centuries, although many monasteries in Ticino and other cantons were abolished in the nineteenth century.
The façade (c. 1535-1577) on the south side is reminiscent of a castle. The north side has more of the appearance of a monastery and was extensively rebuilt in the 18th century. The refectory (the dining hall), the wine cellar (the monastery was still producing wine then), and new rooms for the monks had already been completed in 1658.

The library

Museum Bigorio

The chapel and the Madonna and Child

As befits a monastery, the inner, the interior, is the most important thing. The beautiful frescoes, the statue of the Madonna and Child from 1567, the centuries-old library, the walnut altar and fences, the painted windows, the cloister leading to the village and the many centuries-old utensils in the monastery and monastery church are of exceptional quality. The monastery’s museum houses some objects in two separate rooms.

The design of the new chapel was one of the first projects of the architect Mario Botta (b. 1943) in 1970.

So much for the past. The monastery also has a presence. Although the number of monks is limited (three), the number of activities is large and not only religious. The monastery produces alcoholic drinks (cider) and honey and offers bed and breakfast, seminar rooms and spiritual courses. So the sanctuary also has a future.

Father Gianlucca Lazzaroni

Moreover, on request, one of the Capuchins is happy and proud to give a tour of the complex, which has been adapted to the requirements of the times without denying its religious and spiritual origins.

Lake Lugano’s view and the canton’s mountainous landscape are a source of inspiration. Not surprisingly, deceased monks are buried in the cemetery with this view.

(Source and further information: Klooster Bigorio).

Meeting- and seminar rooms

Bed & Breakfast

The wine cellar

The honey- and ciderproduction

The innercourt and the nails of the fire of 1987