Its long history has been marked by prosperous periods interspersed with periods of serious decline, plunder and destruction, yet each time it recovered.
Today it is a large complex full of important architectural and artistic artefacts built up over time, an important reference point for the history and culture of the Padua region.
The first period, up until 1407, was linked to the life and history of the Augustinian monks who reclaimed this land by constructing embankments to hold back the waters, building roads and making the countryside fertile and habitable. In 1407, the Augustinian monks left Carceri having been decimated by the frequent famines which ravaged their crops, caused by disease and plagues of locusts.
It was Pope Gregory XII who brought the abbey back to life, transferring the ownership and responsibility for the upkeep of the monastery to the Camaldolese monks; under the Camaldolese, the Abbey experienced a period of remarkable glory.
The monks continued the work to drain the land, enlarging the abbey with the four cloisters and building a large library, as well as the guest quarters for pilgrims and, after a terrible fire, they rebuilt and extended the church which, in 1686, was dedicated to Saint Gregorio Barbarigo.
In 1690, Pope Alexander VIII abolished Carceri Abbey and its land was put up for auction to finance the Venetian Republic in its war against the Turks. The whole monastery complex, with its works of art, books, ceramics and acres of agricultural land was purchased by the Conti Carminati family who turned it into a farm. Major works from the library, along with the most precious objects and artefacts, were sold, stolen or left to ruin.
In 1950, after periods of decline and squander that ruined the Carminati family, what remained of the abbey was donated to the parish of Carceri, which now runs the abbey.
There is still much evidence on display of the complex’s long and turbulent history: from the Middle Ages, there is a cloister from 1150, the presbytery of the church with the bell tower from 1300, and the beautiful baptistery, parts of which go back to before the year 1,000, decorated with frescoes from 1350. From the Camaldolese period, the great 1500 cloister remains, as does the nave of the church and the choir, the guest quarters and part of the library. From the time when the Carminati family owned the property, the beautiful villa (now the presbytery) still stands, the main floor of which is decorated with inlaid frescoes. Part of the ancient monastery hosts the museum of rural life.