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The minor cloister

The minor cloister is bordered by 18 Corinthian columns in pink Zandobbio marble connected by round arches and brick frames. The minor cloister of the Abbey of San Paolo d'Argon dates back to 1512 on a project by the architect Pietro Cleri, known as Isabello. It measures 11 meters by 17meters: in the center there was a source in white Carrara marble of excellent and exquisite workmanship, now transferred to the internal courtyard of a seventeenth-century villa in the Upper Town Bergamo.

The main cloister

Built around 1536, again on a design by Isabello, it measures 24 meters by 30 meters. The 32 columns in white Zandobbio marble are surmounted by Corinthian capitals in different ways. The arches are lowered and there are four masks to collect water. In the center you can admire the wonderful well, also in Zandobbio marble.

The refectory

To characterize this environment, dating back to 1570, is the stupendous vault frescoed in 1624 by the Veronese Gianbattista Lorenzetti: the narrative opulence with which the artist illustrates the biblical character of Esther, clearly expresses the client's objective, celebrating the rites of court life more than the deep religious significance. The side paintings are, instead, the work of Ottavio di Val di Sole. In the small room in front of it you can admire a splendid marble sink.

The Chapter Hall

Originally embellished with highly evocative evangelical scenes, such as the painting by Enea Salmeggia (called the Talpino) depicting Christ and the adulteress, now at the Carrara Academy in Bergamo, the Chapter Hall was irremediably damaged by neglect and devastation following the forced suppression in the Napoleonic era, and subsequently used as a chapel for religious functions. In 1946, the hall was frescoed by the painter Ferdinando Monzio Compagnoni.

The basement

If the upper part of the monastery is extraordinary, no less noteworthy is the underground one where a series of galleries wind, most of them underground, with stone walls and brick barrel vaults.

The church

Defined by many as the most beautiful example of Baroque in the Bergamo area, it was built on the foundations of an ancient Romanesque church consecrated in 1198 by the bishop of Bergamo, Lanfranco. The construction works of the new church began, based on a project by the Lugano architect Domenico Messi, in 1684 and continued quickly so much so that already in 1690 the church was consecrated.

The facade, in white marble from Trescore and Zandobbio, is divided into three orders, the height of which decreases progressively as it rises towards the other, and is marked in three sectors by double pilasters slightly offset from each other. In the lower order there is a single large gabled portal flanked by columns with capitals decorated with cherubs and other motifs. In the central part of the two upper orders, a window opens with the coat of arms of the monastery: the sword of St. Paul. In the four niches there are the statues of Saints Peter, Paul, Benedict and Scholastica. On the left side, the lower part of a sandstone bell tower built in 1675 close to the presbytery is visible. The current bell tower, on the other hand, was built between 1737 and 1739 by the architect Candido Micheli of Albegno. To the north of the church, in a small garden, is the monumental head of the statue of St. Paul. Originally atop the bell tower, it collapsed in 1823 due to lightning.

The interior of the parish church consists of a single large nave in the shape of an irregular octagon and is surmounted by a large barrel vault with inclined arches connecting the ends. The frescoes on the vault, dedicated to Saints Paul and Benedict, were made by the artist Giulio Quaglio, from Como, who worked there between 1712 and 1713 describing the history of the Benedictine order, of the apostles and of Saint Paul, to whose conversion the church. At the end there is a presbytery of limited width which leads to a slightly trefoil apse. On each of the sides of the nave there are three rectangular chapels surmounted by elliptical domes illuminated by small lanterns. In the corner of the nave it is possible to see carved wooden doors that give access to the sacristies, the Baptistery and other small rooms. The baptismal font is preserved in the Baptistery with its wooden covering (1705) with corners inlaid with angel heads and bas-reliefs. Above the entrance compass is the largest canvas in the church: St. Paul explaining who the unknown God is in the Areopagus of Athens. The work was commissioned in 1685 to the painter Pompeo Ghitti, a native of Lake Iseo.