Referring to the abbey as 'Gangivecchio' is an easy mistake to make. The enormous structure anchors the estate and is certainly its heart and soul. What today is considered Gangivecchio, however, actually includes many still-intact elements of Greek and Roman buildings.
The abbey is Benedictine and dates to 1363, when monks were granted permission to build a priory around the Church of St. Mary of the Annunciation. The Benedictine monks constructed a three-story square monastery with four wings surrounding a central courtyard. Following the Benedictine code, the church was in the north wing to ensure the sun's shadow never fell upon the holy place. The priory was a thriving and self-sustaining community with olive oil and wine production rooms, sleeping and eating quarters, and reading rooms. It was elevated to the high rank of "abbey" in 1413.
Faded frescoes signed by Pietro Billio and dated 1577 remain in the refectory's dining room. Billio was the teacher of the important 17th Century painter 'Lo Zoppo di Gangi.'
The abbey was home to monks for more than two hundred years, but was abandoned in 1653. Only a single monk continued to live here as guardian and revenue collector. After his death, the abbey stood completely empty and crumbling for almost 100 years.
In 1770, a wealthy squire from Gangi, Francesco Bongiorno, discovered the ruins of Gangivecchio and obtained a lease from the church for its use as a summer residence. The renovation was extensive and expensive. Family living quarters were created in the second story of the east wing, and a columned entranceway and freestanding exterior wall and fountain were added. The church sold Gangivecchio to Bongiorno in 1778, and it was declared a barony by King Ferdinand IV in 1783. Ownership of the abbey reverted back to the church upon the death of Bongiorno's only heir in 1828, and Gangivecchio sat empty again.
Our Gangivecchio story began in 1856 with the purchase of the former abbey by Vincenzo Tornabene.
Preservation of the abbey is a monumental task, but we are dedicated to stabilizing this fragile historic building for the next 700 years. If you are interested in working with us on the restoration and preservation of the abbey and represent a university or institution with expertise in historic preservation, please email Giovanna Tornebene directly at:
Copyright Gangivecchio 2012-2013. All rights reserved.