Pavia and Europe

Imperial Abbeys in Pavia


The Italian peninsula, expanding the European continent in the Mediterranean basin, over the centuries was a crossroads of migrations of people who met and clashed, giving rise to fertile cultural exchanges.
The military, commercial, religious etc, identities of different populations grafted their own peculiarities on the cultural traditions of Greek-Latin matrix cultivated in monasteries and then in universities, and over the centuries they shaped modern Europe on the ground of the Roman Empire.

(540 – 1024)

The two towns of Mediolanum and Ticinum (ancient names of Milano and Pavia, respectively), in turn and in different ways, played the role of gravity centres of the political power, often in conflict between each other because of having been both royal and imperial capitals in same past period.


Detail showing Pavia and Milano from Segment IV of the Tabula Peuntingeriana (National Library of Vienna), medieval copy on parchment of a lost Roman original


In the late antiquity Milano, a capital of the Roman Empire, was the site of the meeting of Ambrose and Augustine, two great persons, to whom in spring 2004 Milano dedicated an important exhibition.
The former was a powerful man of action from the North, while the latter was rhetorician and a man of high culture from Africa; they both were the expression of the same cultural roots that shaped the Western European culture for ever.


Mosaic showing Ambrose, bishop (Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milano)
Copy of the fresco of the 6th c. showing probably Saint Augustin, Roma, Sancta Sanctorum.


In 387 Augustine, rhetorician and brilliant thinker born in Northern Africa, met Ambrose, born in the Gallic region, Imperial governor in Milano and acclaimed bishop in 374. The meeting shows, and at the same time symbolizes, a relation between Mediterranean and Northern cultures; certainly it must be considered in the context of the Roman empire but to some extent presages the multi-ethnic dynamics of modern Western Europe.


Formella showing Augustine listening at the sermon of Ambrose bishop in Milano. Arca in San Pietro in ciel d’oro Pavia


The life and personality of Saint Augustine is of topic interest because of his never quiet attitude for search that drove him from the African province first to Rome and later to Milano, a capital at that time, where Ambrose was a high-grade officer before being elected as the bishop by the people in a delicate moment for the imperial political power.


Formella showing Augustine, master, between the towns of Milano and Rome, Arca in San Pietro in ciel d’oro, Pavia.


The meeting with Saint Ambrose provoked a religious conversion in Augustine that led him to baptism , after his return to Africa, he became the bishop of Hippo where he died in 430 after establishing a rule (Regula) for the common life of monks ; this rule crossed centuries and boundaries in Europe and still is the reference for religious orders all over the world.


Formella showing the Baptism of Augustine in the Milano cathedral, Arca in San Pietro in ciel d’oro, Pavia


After their deaths, as the archbishop of Milano the first (+397), and as the bishop of Hippo the second (+430), a singular post-mortem destiny brought them together again


In fact, about in 725 the Lombard king Liutprand moved the body of the African bishop to Pavia (the capital of his kingdom), and here it is preserved in the basilica of St. Peter in the golden sky, while the body of Saint Ambrose is preserved in the nearby Milano, in the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.


Representation of the Translation of the body of Saint Augustine to Pavia, sculpted on the Arca in San Pietro in ciel d’oro, Pavia
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