It was a Savoia count, pious
Umberto III, who the church would later beatify, to found in
1188, one year before his death, a sacred building destined to
welcome tired and sick wayfarers: the Ranverso Abbey,
dedicated to Sant’Antonio. Umberto, who according to
tradition had chosen Ransverso or Inverso because it
was close to Avigliana – where he was born and where
still today is shown in Borgo Vecchio his presumed home
– he called the monks Antoniani di Francia, who
dedicated themselves to the cure of the illnesses that were rampant
during Medieval times, among which the so-called "fuoco di
san'Antonio" or herpes zoster.
The Ranverso Abbey, depended of the mother home in Vienna, grew and prospered for centuries, hosting pilgrims and taking care of the sick without asking for any compensation. But for recognition, as remind even the church’s frescoes, nearby farmers often donated to the monks/patients the fruit of their farming labours, and in particular pigs, animals who besides traditionally accompanying them to St. Antonio abbot, in sacred iconography were essential to its monks, because with their fat, the suffering of herpes was soothed. The hospital Antonian order died out in 1790 with the death of its last monk, after having been united in 1774 with the Malta Order. Of the grand Raverso Abbey remains only the church and the hospital, today belonging to the Mauritian Order, to whom are due the restorations and that saved these buildings from ruin, masterpieces of gothic graceful Piedmont.
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