An Irish man in Piacenza

In the footsteps of Saint Colombanus

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A journey of faith in the footsteps of the Irish founder of the Abbey of Bobbio: Saint Colombanus. 

The trip starts from the church of Saint Brigid in Piacenza, passes through the medieval village of Bobbio and continues in the Apennines of Piacenza, where in addition to the monastery, now a museum, there are other places related to the life and death of Colombanus.

  • Length
    48 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - Church of St. Brigid of Kildare Piacenza

    In Piazza Borgo, which in Roman times was the western entrance to the city of Piacenza, there is a church dedicated to St. Brigid of Kildare, the Irish nun who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries whose cult in Ireland is second only to St. Patrick.

    Next to the church, founded in the 9th century, stood a xenodochium for pilgrims called "per nationes", where people spoke Irish in order to help those who passed through the city to reach the abbey of Bobbio, founded by the Irish St. Colombanus in the 7th century. The pilgrims from the Saint's land of origin found in this place a linguistic comfort in a foreign land.

  • Second stop - Saint Colombano Abbey Bobbio

    At 45 minutes by car from Piacenza, along the SS45, you will find Bobbio. Since the 7th century, this small town in the Trebbia Valley has been an important center and a place of passage for pilgrims on their way to Rome.

    This was the territory that the Lombard king Agilulfo and his consort Teodolinda donated in 613 to the Irishman Colombanus in exchange for help with the Christian world.

    Colombanus, who had almost reached the end of his life, established a monastery here, from which his successors developed the monastic center that can still be admired.

    Not to be missed is the crypt with the floor mosaic of the 12th Century which narrates the struggle between good and evil and a representation of the cycle of the months.

    To be seen is also the area with the sepulcher of San Colombano and the tombs of his successors, Attala and Bertulfo.

  • Third stop - Ponte Gobbo (Devil's Bridge) Bobbio

    The profile of Ponte Gobbo in Bobbio is said to be present in Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but its fame is mainly linked to the legend that surrounds its construction. 

    It is said that Saint Colombanus wanted to reach the opposite bank of the river Trebbia to bring the Christian word to everyone. However, the force of the waters made a resistant construction impossible. The devil proposed to the saint to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the “first one” who crossed it.

    After much thought, Colombanus accepted and the bridge was built in only one night: each span was different in height and width, as were the devils who had erected it. 

    At the moment of crossing the bridge, Colombanus tricked the devil and sent a dog (in some versions of the legend, it was a bear) which, belonging to the animal world, was believed to have no soul.

  • Fourth stop - St. Michele hermitage Coli

    At about 5 km from Bobbio there is the small village of Coli (reachable by foot through the path that runs along the Abbots Way or by car), from which it is possible to reach the “Spelonca” (caves) where, according to tradition, San Colombanus died.

    From the square of Coli head towards the sports center following the CAI 141 trail sign (red and white); the path becomes a cart track and, with narrow bends, it goes down to cross the Rio Curiasca on a small bridge that flows into the Trebbia river in San Salvatore, a couple of kilometers below. Then go up the wooded slope of Rio Curiasca, called of San Michele, on a nice mule-track partly paved. Here a sign indicates the deviation to the Caves of San Michele, in which, according to legend, Colombanus died in 615.

  • Fifth stop - Piazza Duomo Bobbio

    Back from this immersion in nature, it's time for a good meal. 

    In the Easter period a slice of Colomba in honor of the saint cannot be missed. One of the many legends related to Colombanus tells that, invited to a banquet on Good Friday (fasting day), the saint transformed a spit of birds into a dove-shaped cake. 

  • Sixth stop - Sanctuary of Santa Maria Bobbio

    To conclude the itinerary dedicated to Saint Colombanus it's time to move towards Mount Penice, where it is believed that the monk used to go during his periods of solitude from the community and rigid abstention from the world. 

    From Bobbio there's a panoramic winding road that leads to high altitudes. 

    At the top of the mountain, between earth and sky, there is a place that still attracts the cult of the faithful: the Sanctuary at the top of Mount Penice, founded in the early Middle Ages. 

    It seems that the building was built on a Celtic-Ligurian pagan temple. This is evidenced by a bronze statue representing a pagan priest, dating back to the 1st-2nd century, today preserved in Genoa inside the Montegalletto Castle.

Last update 28/03/2024

Information offices

IAT R Piacenza
Piazza Cavalli, 7 - Piacenza (PC)
+ 39 0523 492001 Opening: all year round
IAT Bobbio
Piazza San Francesco - Bobbio (PC)
+ 39 0523 962815 Opening: all year round

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