Ancient abbey with annexed Cistercian monastery still in use, in the seats of the choir next to the main altar, I could see an old monk sleeping or in prayer with his eyes closed .... he looked like a statue.
Beautiful church which represents one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in Italy. It was consecrated way back in 1221.
Immediately noteworthy as soon as you arrive in the vicinity of the Abbey is the beautiful tower, called Ciribiciaccola.
The nolar tower rises starting from the tiburium, to a height of 9 meters, with two octagonal sections, the first 4.14 meters and the second 12.19, to then become conical for 11.97 metres. From here to the end of the cross, placed on a globe, the height of 56.26 meters is reached.
Each of the zones is in turn divided into two parts which are characterized by the abundance of hanging arches of various shapes, with worked frames and accompanied by white conical pinnacles which delimit the zones. The mullioned, three and four-mullioned windows are made of Candoglia marble (the same as that of the Milan Cathedral), while the single-lancet windows are in terracotta.
The exact date of construction is not known, but it has been dated 1329-1340 and attributed to Francesco Pecorari of Cremona due to the similarity of this work with the other better known ones: the Torrazzo of Cremona and the bell tower of San Gottardo in Milan.
Even the tower was remodeled over the years like the rest of the abbey, and only in 1905 were the eighteenth-century additions removed.
The nolar tower houses the oldest bell mounted in the Ambrosian system, cast by master Glaudio da San Martino in 1453  and still today operated manually by the Cistercian monks, via a rope that hangs in the middle of the intersection between the transept and the nave center of the church. The bell rings to summon the chapter of monks for the liturgy of the hours and during the sanctus of the conventual masses. In honor of San Bernardo di Chiaravalle, the bell is called Bernarda
A plaque in the cloister mentions: «In the year of grace 1135 on 22.1, this monastery was built by the blessed Bernardo, abbot of Chiaravalle: in 1221 this Church was consecrated by Signor Enrico Archbishop of Milan, on 2 May, in honor of S. Maria di Clairvaux."
Over the centuries the church grew, especially the monastery, which saw the birth of two cloisters and several cells for the monks.
In the fifteenth century thanks to the powerful Sforza Visconti family, with artists such as Bramante and Amadeo they built the Chapter and the Great Cloister.
During the Renaissance many painters wanted to leave their traces on these walls, frescoing various works of art. In that period Bernardino Luini also tried his hand,
In the early seventeenth century the Fiammenghini executed other important frescoes.
In 1861, to make room for the railway, the cloister of Bramante was destroyed......
Access to the complex is through a sixteenth-century tower, built at the behest of Louis XII of France, next to which stands the oratory dedicated to San Bernardo where you can admire the fresco of Christ before Pilate, once attributed to Flemish Hieronymus Bosch and today assigned to the Swiss Hans Witz, who was court painter in the years of Galeazzo Maria Sforza.
The square in front of the church gradually widens as one approaches it, while it is narrow immediately after the entrance. Note, on the left, a small church dedicated to San Bernardo, dating back to 1412 and later adapted to an apothecary following the construction in 1762 of another church, also dedicated to the saint, on the opposite side attached to the old guesthouse.
The facade of the church is the one prior to the seventeenth-century renovation, in fact restored in 1926 to bring to light the original project. In the current structure and in particular in the two side entrances, the signs of the renovation and some architectural elements that are not well integrated with the rest of the structure can still be seen. The seventeenth-century entrance narthex is still preserved. It replaces the thirteenth-century original, of which the side walls are preserved.
It has the traditional hut shape, with the frame supported by small terracotta arches; the white stone of the seventeenth-century facade still remains, clearly out of tune with the rest of the project. The three arches are aligned with the entrances.
After passing the thirteenth-century door, you immediately notice the Latin cross plan, arranged on three naves with a cross vault, supported by small terracotta pillars on the sides, and with a flat apse. The main body is made up of four bays, while a smaller fifth forms the presbytery. The arms of the transept are formed by two rectangular bays, while the crossing is deformed by the dome of the tower. Once you reach the fourth span, you can see the rectangular pillars connected to a wall that supports the choir.
The choir is a wonderful example of wooden art
He enters it