History & Legends

Portofino, a World apart
February 2009

The foundation of San Fruttuoso

Portofino San Fruttuoso

From the foundation of the first church of San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte to the apogee of the Abbey. When one speaks of San Fruttuoso with someone who knows this splendid locality on the promontory of Portofino, few are aware that the complete name of the nuclear abbey of this little village is San Fruttuoso di Capodimonte. Capodimonte explains the name; San Fruttuoso explains the legend which we will briefly relate.

Arriving from Spain, the priests Giustino and Procopio of Terragona wanted to reach the coast of Liguria and bring the bones of San Fruttuoso, the archbishop of Braga and founder of monasteries in Spain and Portugal. He would later be mart yered in 262. A strong tempest surprised them in the area of Portofino and it was here that an angel of the Lord appeared to Giustino and promised to bring him to safety in a narrow’avine in the cliffs and from which he would chase away a pestiferous dragon. The priests would then have to construct a church there among the rocks by a gushing spring. It was thus that the locality where the church was constructed and later the monastery, first of thefollowers of Saint Colombano and then of the Benedictines, came to be called San Fruttuoso. Here the Abbey that was to have such great importance for the Tigullian Gulf until the twelfth century developed.

The Abbey exercised rights over hunting and fishing on the entire promontory and in addition fostered agriculture, mostly on the eastern slope of the promontory of Portofino which was more suitable for cultivation. The submissionof many coastal and inland parishes reaching as far as the dio- ceses of Tortona, Bobbio, and Brugnato, were the consequences of many donations. Anticipating the fatal year 1000 that was supposed to represent the end of the uorld, many feudal lords and even emperors deprived themselves of land to be given to the church.

In particular the empressAdelaide or Adalgisa of Bourgogne must be remembered for having donated the land of the “oltregiogo”(1) for her spiritual salvation and that of the emperor Otto I and in appreciation for the physical salvation of her son Otto II’s escape from a grave danger. Even the island of Sestri Levante belonged to the Abbey and so we can confidently talk about its supremacy over the lands of Tigullio. Since San Fruttuoso belonged to the “marca januensis“(2) constituted by Berengario II in 950 and entrusted to the Obertenghi family, the relationship between the Abbey and the aristocracy was such that the existence of numerous feudal landlords such as the Fieschi, the Este and the Malaspina did not pose a serious danger to the Abbey. The Fieschi were established in eastern Tigullio while the other two were dominant in the Appenine mountains and in the Po valley and plain.

The year 1133 is a very important date in the history not only of the Genoese church but for the abbey at San Fruttuosoas well. Since Pope Innocent Il separated the diocese of Genoa from the seat of Milan, establishing it as an archdiocese with Siro II, it became necessary to reorganize the territory. The monasteries no longer had the certainty of being able to protect the borders of their property from the incroachments of lay forces and even other organs of the diocese and thus be- gan to look to Genoa for support. Genoa, looking to expand in the riviera levante, was interested in cultivating good relations with the abbey and thus eager to protect its interests on the promontory of Portofino.

In 1162 Pope Alexander III, in order that he might enjoy the support of the still wealthy and powerful Abbot of San Fruttuoso, reconfirmed the privileges of the abbey over the territories subjected to it. It was the time when he was fighting with Federico Barbarossa who had opposed him with the anti-pope Victor V.

(1) The “oltregiogo” is a term used to describe an imaginary line formed by inland points. On one side streams flow south towards the ligurian coast, and on the other they flow north towards the Po valley.

(2) “Marca januensis” is simply the roman demarcation of what would roughly be today the province of Genoa.

Portofino,a World apart.