The stunning position of the Eremo of Santa Caterina makes the relatively complicated the trip to reach it, extremely worthwhile.
This monastic complex of three buildings dating back to the XIII-XIV, seems suspended between heaven and lake and set on a rocky outcrop 76 mts above the waterlevel.
Legend narrates that a rich merchant, Alberto dei Besozzi, after having escaped from drowning whilst crossing the Lake, passed the rest of his life as a hermit , and in the early 13th had the monastery built and dedicated to Santa Caterina of Alessandria.
In the 14th century the Hermitage was home to a community of Augustinian monks, followed in 1379 by the Ambrosian Hermits and in 1649 by the Carmelites. Today the monastery is run by a community of Oblate Benedictines.
The Hermitage comprises three buildings datable to the late 13th-early 14th centuries: the southern convent, the small convent, and the church.
The southern convent was built in the 15th century and later altered, in 1624, by Father Giulio Martignoni, after the old wooden structure collapsed into the lake. Access is through a round-arched portico with granite columns.
The small convent, located opposite the winepress courtyard, is built on 13th century walls and embellished by a pointed-arch portico. The refectory is on the ground floor, the monks’ cells on the first floor; above the windows of the cells there are traces of the 16th century fresco depicting the “Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria”.
The inner courtyard of the complex opens onto the church, whose portico is formed of four rounded arches in Renaissance style. The bell tower with its sheer drop to the lake was built in the 14th century; it has an open belfry with double lancet windows, made of Angera stone.
Recently restored, visits, normally possible only by boat or from a steep staircase from above, will be considerably easier as access by lift has been inaugurated last year. www.provincia.va.it/santacaterina