Situated along the main road which has the same name, near Modena, Nonantola was inhabited since the Bronze Age, when the civilization of Terramare developed. In 182 B.C. the Romans settled here and founded a colony consisting of 92 farms with centuriation divisions (from which, according to some historians, the origin of its name derives). The colony, however, was abandoned in conjunction with the Barbarian invasions, but also to the floods of the nearby rivers that caused the creation of large marshlands. Only several centuries later, the Benedictines started to reclaim what had been invaded by water. Here Saint Anselmo founded a church and a monastery that became, in short, an important center of religious and cultural life. The large estates and the growing power of the abbey made the area become an aim of the expansionist ambitions of the town of Modena on the one side, and of the Bishops of Bologna, on the other. Between the XV and XVI centuries the Abbey submitted a period of decline and so it passed to the Cistercian monks at first, and finally the Bishop of Modena, which is, still today, known as the Abbot of Nonantola. The city and its citizens, also distinguished themselves during World War II for the decisive help given during the Partisan struggle and for hiding about 100 Jewish victims of persecution from the fascists, helping them to escape to Switzerland.
Sites of Interest:
- the Abbey of San Silvestro, which was founded in 742 by St. Anselm at the behest of the Lombard king Astolfo and quickly became one of the largest and most powerful abbeys in Northern Italy. Despite the several alterations submitted over the centuries, traits of Romanesque architecture are still clearly visible, in particular the use of brick and the beautiful portal embellished by the artists from the school Wiligelmo. The interior is divided by square based pillars into three nave. The most attractive part of the building is definitely the crypt, marked by a subtle play of light that penetrates barely between the 64 columns surmounted by capitals dating from the IX and the XIII centuries;
- the Nonantola and Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, which consists of two sections: the Abbey Treasury (with the relic of the Holy Cross, and various other valuable masterpieces) and a section dedicated to the history of Nonantola (with many scrolls of the Archives, altarpieces and sacred vestments);
- the XIV century Church of Santa Filomena, that features a porch with three arches in the Renaissance style and a pentagonal apse;
- the Tower of Modena (famous for its clock), built by the craftsmen of Modena in 1261, with a square Guelph battlement;
- the Tower of Bologna (or fortress), built by the inhabitants of Bologna in 1306, with a square Guelph battlement;
- the Palazzo of the Partecipanza, seat of the Town Historical Archives;
- the City Hall (formerly known as Palazzo Salimbeni), which in the past was part of the complex of an ancient monastery. Today seat of municipal offices, including the city archives and the Antiquarium;
- Palazzo Previdi, that features a XIX century lunette depicting Dante Alighieri and Cacciaguida.