Fara in Sabina
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The Abbazia of Farfa (Abbey of Farfa) is one of the most famous European buildings of the Middle Ages. It had Charlemagne for a protector and at the heigt of its splendor it owned a vast part of Central Italy.
The origins of the Abbey are still uncertain, but the existence of a complex dating back to Roman times below the present abbey has been verified the most recent excavations under the guidance of Prof. David Whitehouse, Director of the British School in Rome. Lorenzo Siro has by now almost certainly been identified as the bishop of Forum Novum (Vescovio) of 554, and this makes it certain that a center of fervent faith and wealth was established there during the Sixth Century. At the time of the Longobard invasion there was already a basilica and several monastery buildings.
According to legend, Tommaso di Moriana (or Morienna) who was living in Jerusalem during the last twenty years of the Seventh Century, was exhorted by a vision of the Virgin to find the remains of a basilica dedicated to her in the Sabine region, on a hill called Acuziano. He rebuilt the edifice constructed by Bishop Siro and reestablished the community. In the first years of the Eighth Century the monastery enjoyed the protection of Faroaldo II, the Duke of Spoleto. Thanks to the contributions of the Duke, Farfa became a small autonomous state in the midst of the possessions of the Church and the Longobardian Duchy.
In 774 the Sabine Abbot Probato, the governor of the Abbey, substantially modified its political line, going over to the side of the Franks and, thus, to the Pope's side in the war between the Longobards and the Franks. In the succeeding year, Charlemagne granted autonomy to Farfa, freeing it from subordination to all powers, civil or religious.
This was the origin of its splendour and wealth. Farfa thus became an imperial abbey, free from pontifical control yet very close to the Holy See. Within a few decades it became one of the best-known and prestigious centers of medieval Europe. Charlemagne himself stopped at the Abbey a few weeks before his coronation on the Campidoglio.
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