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Cesena: the book city

Forlì-Cesena

Cesena has an ancient and important history, a dynamic present and is ready to welcome who wants to discover its secrets and beauties. Besides the outstanding historic features (with the Malatestian Library as the most stunning example) there are other monuments that are worth a visit: the Malatestian Fortress, the millenary Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria del Monte, the eighteenth-century Villa Silvia Carducci, seat of the Museum “Musicalia”. The many religious and civic buildings testify the importance that the city and the neighbouring territories had during the last centuries.

Malatestian Library

It’s the first public library in Italy and has no equals in the world. It’s exactly how it was built in 1452 and well-preserved. One of a kind and charming, the Malatestian Library is since 2005 UNESCO World Heritage. It was commissioned by the lord of the city Malatesta Novello and it’s based on the project of Matteo Nuti (1447-1452). The impressive walnut portal leads to the Aula del Nuti (Nuti Room) with a basilical plant with three naves, divided by two rows of 10 columns. The eleven spans host the 58 plutei (pine wood desks for readers) that contain 340 valuable codes, decorated with fine miniatures.

Piana Library

Opposite the Malatestian Library there is the Piana Library, owned by pope Pius VII (1800-1823). The pope left his library to the Benedictines in Santa Maria del Monte Monastery to their use but it remained property of the Chiaramonti family. It was sold in 1941 by the heirs to the Italian State and it’s now stored in the Malatestian Library. It contains more than 5000 printed books (centuries XV-XIX) and a hundred manuscripts. Some of the most valuable codes are an Evangeliary that dates back to 1104, a juridical code (XIII century) that contains the “Decretum Gratiani”, a roman missal dated back to the beginning of the XV century with a wonderful illuminated crucifixion.

Fondo Comandini

It is situated in the former refectory of the ancient San Francesco monastery inside the glamorous fifteenth-century library. Fondo Comandini was inaugurated in March 1970 and soon stood out for the collection of works from the Risorgimento. The collection began with Alfredo Comandini, who was both a journalist and a politician. His cousin Ubaldo, national manager of the republican party and member of parliament, took care of it and left it to his sons Federico and Giacomo, who decided to give it as a gift to the city of Cesena.

State archive

The sources of documentation related to the history of Cesena and its territory are kept in the state archive. It’s located in a wing of the former Conventual Franciscan Monastery, one of the most important buildings of the city, rich in history and next to the Malatestian Library. The most meaningful collections are the historic Archive of Cesena (1368-XIX century), the historic Archive of Roversano (1464-1925), the notarial Archive (1386-XIX century), the Scriptures of the suppressed religious Corporations (1060-1920) and the Land Register (1539-XX century). The State Archive has received documents from the Malatestian Library about both the city and the neighbouring territories. Chronicles, manuscripts and other documents are still kept in the library. Further documents relating to local history can be found in the Capitular Archive and in the Episcopal Archive.

Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria del Monte and book restoration laboratory

On the Spaziano hill there is the millenary Monastery of Santa Maria del Monte, famous for  its collection of votive offerings (dating back to more than five centuries ago). It’s one of the most decorated in Europe, with the impressive dome painted by Giuseppe Milani and with the book restoration laboratory (still up and running).

The laboratory was founded in 1960 by Dom Placido Zucal, who followed the proposal of the Soprintendenza ai Beni Librari (Superintendence of books). It took part in the recovery of the books threatened by the flood in Florence cooperating with other Libraries and Archives in Emilia-Romagna and other regions for the restoration of both printed and handwritten works, as for example an autograph of San Francesco d’Assisi or Mario Guidi’s atlas. The laboratory takes care of the restoration of ancient books and works on paper and parchment, and of modern documents using the most sophisticated scientific equipment. The main function of the laboratory is to advice precautionary measures and to preserve librarian and archival works. It produces materials for the conditioning of librarian and archival records too.

Not to be missed is the monastery library. It was appropriated from the State in the XIX century and enriched with rare editions from the library of pope Pius VII. It was completely bombed out during the Second World War and partially rebuilt. Now it’s composed by two big rooms connected by a gallery. It includes 55thousand volumes regarding theological and humanistic issues that anyone, both clerical and non-clerical, can read to improve their culture.

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