The abbey of Santa Maria di Vezzolano is the most famous Romanesque monument in Asti, located in the municipality of Albugnano. The name "abbey" has always been used improperly even by the State Bodies in charge of management, as the church has never been such. The correct name is Canonica di Santa Maria di Vezzolano, as can be seen from the attached bibliography.
Abbazia di Vezzolano History
The legend traces the foundation of the church to Charlemagne; according to the most widespread version, in the year 773 the emperor was hunting in the Vezzolano forest, when suddenly three skeletons emerged from a tomb, which caused him a considerable fright. Aided by a hermit and invited to pray to the Virgin Mary, he wanted to build an abbey church in the place of the apparition.
The oldest known document dates back to 1095, where two ecclesiastics are mentioned, Theodulus and Egidius, who receive as a gift from some nobles a church dedicated to Santa Maria, plus other related goods, with the commitment to found a religious community. No trace remains of this pre-existing building.
The construction of the church as we see it today begins in the second half of 1100, probably thanks to the commitment of the same Guidone mentioned on the pier inside the building; at the beginning of the thirteenth century the church was completed, while the rest of the complex will be completed in the following centuries.
Stylistically, the whole is placed between the Romanesque and the Gothic. Sandstone and brick characterize the abbey's architectural style, based on two-color alternating bands, common to other Italian architectural schools, in particular the Ligurian and Tuscan ones
The "abbey" was inhabited by religious until the early 19th century when, during the Napoleonic domination, the ecclesiastical institution was suppressed.