Saint Fructuosus… a gem of the Ligurian seacoast

San Fruttuoso

Hi, today we are sailing to the locality with only 36 inhabitants! It is situated on the Ligurian sea coast! Of course, you will ask me why sailing? Can we go by car there? The answer is “absolutely not”!

If you suffer from seasickness, the only alternative you have is two hours and a half of trekking. Maybe a little bit more because, no doubt, you will take a lot of breaks to capture some panoramic pictures or videos!

Considering high summer temperatures and my great passion both for sailing and for dolphin watching, I decided to sail with my great friend Beppe Veirana on board of his Hansa 470e named “Ladies First”.

Ok, have you already guessed the locality? Yes or no, don’t worry, now I’ll reveal everything! The name of this village is Saint Fructuosus and it belongs to the municipality of Camogli, in the province of Genoa.

The origin of the name

Saint Fructuosus was a Christian bishop in Tarragona, Spain. In 259 A.C., during the persecutions of Christians under the Roman Emperor Valerian, Saint Fructuosus and his two deacons, St. Augurius and St. Eulogius, were arrested and then burnt.

Why did the Romans persecute Christians? The exclusive sovereignty of Christ couldn’t get along with the sovereignty of the Roman Empire which demanded loyalty to the state, not to the god. The religion could exist only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state.

Few bones remained of the martyrs were collected and preserved with great veneration by devout Christians. But why is Saint Fructuous so worshipped in this Ligurian locality?

In 711 A.C. the Arabs invaded Spain and as a consequence, the local population had to escape. The bishop Prosper took the reliques of the Saint Fructuosus. After having navigated for a long time first in Sardinia and then in Liguria, brought the reliques on the coast where now you can see the present Abbey! The legend says that while Prosper was sleeping, Saint Fructuous loomed ahead Prosper to suggest him this coast for placing the reliques.

Martyrdom and translation of Saint Fructuosus, Huesca, Spain*
Martyrdom and translation of Saint Fructuosus, Huesca, Spain*

Saint Fructuosus Abbey

The isolated position, the protected bay, and numerous perennial springs made the place perfect for the foundation of the monastery in the 8th century.

At the end of the 10th century Adelaide di Borgogna, the widow of Emperor Otto I, made some donations to the monastery. Of course, they were not very substantial financially, but important as a sign of protection by the dynasty of Saxony.

The most part of the buildings dated to the 10th and 11th centuries were founded by the Order of Saint Benedict. However, in the 15th century, the monks left the monastery because of religious conflicts and Turkish barbary incursions.

In 1551 the family of Admiral Andrea Doria got the patronage of Saint Fructuous Abbey and kept it until 1983 when Orietta and Frank Doria Pamphilj took a decision to donate the Abbey with thirty-three hectares surrounding land to FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano).

On the path which connects the Abbey to the fishermen village, you can see the stairs leading to the Tower Doria. It was built in the 16th century and served to protect the village from barbary incursions. On both facades towards the sea, you can admire the emblem of the family Doria featuring an eagle with outspread wings.

Give a look inside the Abbey…

While visiting the Abbey, please keep in mind to give a look at the precious collection of pottery dated the 13th – 15th centuries, the details of some chapiters and decorative stuccos.

In the most ancient part of the Abbey you can visit the tombs of some family members Doria made in white and grey marble typical for many Genoese churches. Tombs of family members Doria, but not only theirs! I’ll tell you more a little bit later – in the next paragraph!

Tombs of Doria, Saint Fructuous Abbey
Tombs of Doria, Saint Fructuous Abbey

Shipwreck of the English steamship Croesus and Maria Avegno’s feat

In 1855 the English steamship Croesus burst into flames near the bay of Saint Fructuous. Despite the fact that the inhabitants of the village did their best to save the sailors from the shipwreck, 24 sailors died. Unfortunately, during the rescue operations, one inhabitant of Saint Fructuous also lost his life. Maria Avegno was a young woman and mother of 8 children.

Croesus, Francesco Dal Pozzo, private collection
Croesus, Francesco Dal Pozzo, private collection, actually exposed at the restaurant Da Giovanni

The Kingdom of Sardinia granted her a posthumous gold medal and life annuity to her 8 orphans. She was the first Italian woman who received the highest accolade. The Queen Victory conferred her the highest Brittish accolade, too! Moreover, in the gold book of Notre Dame Cathedral, you can find her name on the list of dead people who lost their lives to save others. Although she is not a member of the family Doria, her tomb is situated near Doria’s tombs.

Alluvion

In 1915 due to Alluvion, one part of the parish church collapsed. Both the collapse and the detritus contributed to forming the beach you can enjoy now! Yes, yes, you’ve understood right, it didn’t exist before the alluvion!

Christ of the Abyss

Of course, some words about the submerged bronze statue of Jesus Christ by Guido Galletti…
The statue was placed in 1954, at approximately 17 meters depth, exactly at the point of the bay where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian diver to use SCUBA (self-contained breathing apparatus), died in 1947. Christ offers a benediction of peace, with his head and hands raised skyward.

Christ of the Abyss
Christ of the Abyss**

 

Ok, it seems that my article is over. Now it’s time for us to leave the buoy and to raise the sails! Bye-bye!
Enjoy your staying at Saint Fructuous Abbey…. and don’t forget to take a mask and fins for snorkeling in this wonderful bay!

 

*the foto was taken from the guide “Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, FAI, 2013

**the foto was taken from Genova Today

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