Villa Conventino, Gradara, its ochre yellow form standing out against the deep blue of the sky and sea, is protected by the imposing bulk of the Fifteenth Century fortress to the West and screened by rows of tall cypress trees.
Standing in the centre of the ancient ditch which once girded the village, the small friary, probably originally linked to the Franciscan Friars at Pesaro, is first mentioned in the history of Gradara in 1564, when the local Community decided to build a Capuchin friary on the site.
The project, actively promoted by Duchess Vittoria Farnese, Regent of the Castle at the time, was supported by many private donors, who ensured that the construction work soon began, partly using material salvaged from the Roman ruins - partially conserved - of the now lost Basilica of San Cristoforo Ad Aquilam, on the Via Flaminia.
The history of the Villa Conventino, Gradara, closely interwoven with that of its surrounding territory, is told by its stones steeped in the memory of the silent presence of the monks who lived in the building for so many centuries.
The friary thrived, housing a numerous body of monks, throughout the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, a fact reflected by its large size and the fine architecture of the complex, which was restored and modified several times over the centuries.
The perfectly conserved old cloisters were once the centre of the community’s daily life: the attractive, sheltered spaces created by their arcades gave access to the friary’s various indoor areas, some of them for communal use, such as the kitchens, the vast refectory, the pantries and the church, and others for private occupation, such as the sleeping cells.
The friary’s dissolution in 1789 by the Republicans marked the start of a short interruption in the lengthy history of the Capuchins of Gradara, who were not able to regain possession of their property until 1822; the complex was actually reconsecrated by the Bishop of Pesaro, Monsignor Clemente Fares, in 1859.
In the early years of the Twentieth Century the ancient site was converted into a summer residence for seminary students, before eventually passing into private hands for transformation into a residential villa in 1925.
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