The small medieval town of Bobbio in Val Trebbia, Province of Piacenza, can be defined, without doubt, as one of the cradles of Western Christianity. Most of the merit goes to San Colombano, who came to this remote part of the Piacenza hills from Ireland. In 614 he founded the monestary that bears his name and order and was destined to attain great fortune.
The “colombaniana order” included work and prayer but also great dedication to teaching and assimilation of knowledge. In the Scriptorium near the Abbazia and library, as early as 982, over seven hundred codes were conserved making the monestary the most important center of book production in central and northItaly.
There are several churches in Bobbio starting with the Church of San Colombano which dates to the XV Century. Roman-gothic style, tripartite façade and narthex at the base, referred to as paradise portico, with XIV Century archs and columns.
There are numerous legends and mysteries tied to Bobbio, starting with the symbol of the town: the famous Ponte Gobbo or Ponte del Diavolo. An important stone construction appearing undulated and contorted, it is sustained by eleven arcades in irregular stone. Probably of Roman origin, it is first mentioned in 1196. Legend claims it was built in a single night by the Devil. Saint Colombano offered the devil the soul of the first to cross the bridge. At sunrise, the Saint made an old decrepit dog cross the bridge so that the soul of a human was salvaged. Enraged for having been mocked, Lucifer kicked the bridge which from that moment on took on its hunched appearance.
In later era, Bobbio was most probably the seat of Templar dwellings. In the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral there is a curious painting of the Last Supper of an unknown artist who represents Giovanni sleeping and quite effeminated, almost a confirmation of the theory that it is actually Maria Maddalena as Dan Brown affirms in his bestseller Il Codice Da Vinci which refers to the more famous affresco in Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan.
But links to Leonardo do not finish here. According to research by Carla Glori, an art historian, the woman of the most famous Da Vinci painting , La Gioconda, is actually Maria Bianca Sforza and the landscape is the countryside surrounding Bobbio with the Ponte Gobbo well in sight. According to the histrorian, Leonardo painted the panorama he saw from the windows of the Malaspina Dal Verme Castle of Bobbio which still today dominates the valley.
The Castle of Bobbio is precisely the cite of other ferocious disquieting events. Legend claims that in the Castle which dates to the beginning of the 1300, a bladed pit was built. The condemned to death were thrown in the pit and died torn to pieces by the blades. Various witnesses claim to have seen the ghosts of these poor souls at night along the walls of the castle in search of peace.
Gerberto was nominated abbot of the San Colombano Monestary and of the Bobbio countship in 982 by the Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire Ottone II. At that time, the Monestary was highly esteemed as a prestigious cultural and spiritual center and its library a mine of knowledge. Gerberto consulted numerous rare antique scriptures such as Codex Arcerianus (VI-VII Century) which contained fragments in Latin by roman authors and greek that he used along with De arte aritmetica of Boezio, for the draft of his treaty De Geometria. Gerberto was a man of great culture and gave an important contribution to the introduction of the Arab knowledge of arithmetic and astronomy in Europe. He invented complicated musical instruments and a talking head able to answer yes or no when interrogated.
Emperor Ottone III nominated Gerberto Pope on April 2, 999. He had previously been the Emperor’s tutor. The knowledge and culture of Pope Silvestro II were so vast that legends started about him and he was attributed with magical powers and relationship with the devil. The talking head he had built was considered a Golem which emprisoned the devil. Three centuries later during the trial against the Templars, a Golem similar to the head created by Silvesto II was mentioned. According to other stories, Silvestro possessed a book of black magic. The height of his fame as a magician came on the night of the 31st of December, 999. According to the superstion of the time, it was believed that the end of the century would coincide with the end of the world. Just before midnight, Silvestro pushed the calendar ahead and cancelled the year 1000. With a simple mathematical trick, he saved the world from destruction.
Bobbio is an hour by car from Podere Casale. A fascinating mysterious place that must be visited.