The Herb Garden at San Salvatore Priory
At a short distance from the National Archaeological Park of Naquane, in Capo di Ponte (BS), which is part of the Rock Drawings in Valcamonica Unesco Site n. 94, the medieval complex of San Salvatore extends on a hillside in front of the Concarena Massif. The most ancient documents testify the monks presence at the end of the XI century; in 1095, a papal bull, signed by the cluniac pontiff Urban II, states the abbey as annexed to the San Paolo d'Argon's Priory. Acquired in 2002 by Fondazione Camunitas and then restored, the church is part of the European Network of Cluniac Sites.
At the entrance, an alley with a long rose garden virtually links the church of the Monastery, a magnificent example of Lombard Romanesque style, with Burgundian elements, to the Pieve of San Siro, the old parish church (XI century). Outside there are remnants of the ancient boundary wall, a roman altar and the memorial stone of a retiarius gladiator, named Rutumanna.
The Herb Garden is in the southern side of the park, looked after by Enzo Bona, the scientific curator, botanist and expert at the autochthonous plant life. The layout is reminiscent of the medieval partition in four sections, where footpaths represent the four rivers that gushed out from the Earthly Paradise (Tigris, Euphrates, Pison, Gihon); a pomegranate tree rises in the middle, as symbol of the Passion of the Christ but also of fruitfulness, considered the tree of life. The partition had also a practical purpose: for the novice monks, it was easier to remember the kind of plants to pick up.
The garden is a sacred place between micro and macrocosm, with curative or aromatic herbs, vegetables and fruit trees: "officinal" also means used by the herbalist in the convent laboratory (officina in latin) for everyday activities, such as dyeing fabrics. In the San Salvatore Herb Garden grow many species, such as thymus, sage, laurel, calendula or pot Marygold, lavender, rue, spearmint and peppermint, wormwood, monkshood, black and redcurrant, ruhbarb, artichock plants and the grapevine, set in clusters according to accurate principles for a different use.
The monastic complex of San Salvatore opens all through the summer in Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10:00 AM to 12:00; available by reservation from Tuesday to Friday and in the afternoon.