Elena Franco | On the threshold of lost worlds

Mondi Perduti © Elena Franco
Mondi Perduti © Elena Franco

Location: Ex Monastero Vicopelago
Hours: Monday to Friday 3 – 7:30 pm / Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 7:30 pm


A story in pictures of the former monastery of Sant’Agostino in Lucca
curated by Luigi Bartolomei
produced at the initiative of the Augustinian Monastic Community of the Corpus Domini Monastery of Cento and of the Cherubino Ghirardacci Study Center
with the cooperation of CONVICTUS, Studentato in Lucca

The spaces, the bricks and the stones know how to absorb the uses that passed through them, the purposes to which they served. Interpreting the spirit of the places is what Elena Franco does through photography, thanks to her preparation as an architect.

To stimulate reflection on the fate of disused ecclesiastical heritages – and, in particular, of monasteries – she was asked to work on the former Monastery of Sant’Agostino, near Vicopelago, a place outside Porta San Pietro, in Lucca. Closed in 1999 and built in the 16th century as a country residence, it became a cloistered monastery and was home to Giacomo Puccini’s sister who was abbess of the Augustinian Community. The story that emerged is a reinterpretation that wants to restore the genius loci, trying not to fall into the voyeuristic taste for the contemplation of ruins or a secluded life, but, rather, to evoke history and bring out the aesthetic power and the spiritual and community dimension still present in the complex, which is the basis for any future project of valorisation.

The Renaissance villa constitutes the core of the complex, its relationship with the garden and the landscape represents the main part of the investigation. To this we need to add the layers of the various uses, which led to adjustments connected to the monastic functions, as the addition of service buildings along the road, including a nursery, evidence of the ties that even a cloistered monastery used to weave with the civil community around it, welcoming families in difficulty, encouraging relations between orphans and children of the neighbourhood, sharing spaces for education.

Above all remains the theme of the community life of the nuns and the relationship with the spaces – work, prayer, function – together with the constant tension between the inside and the outside, which can be sensed walking the halls and the now empty corridors. The choice of some significant images, therefore, tells a story of a usage that, hopefully, will find a renewed continuity in the years to come.

The hope, in fact, is that the reflection on this site, together with the artistic work of interpretation of the place, can contribute to give new meanings to a complex space that, not only deserves attention, but which is, undoubtedly, the heritage of a community, even before than a place of devotion. The case of Lucca is, unfortunately, not isolated in the contemporary panorama and constitutes one of the first opportunities of in-depth analysis that Elena Franco is carrying out throughout the national territory, contributing to the debate on the fate of the monastic sites, in the face of present or future dismissals.

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