The Monastery village (Munistîr in Friulian) is one of the oldest of Aquileia. Its name refers to the ancient Benedictine female monastery of Santa Maria, which for centuries was the centre of the urban structure and the social life of the village.
It was one of the richest monasteries of the Holy Roman Empire: thanks to various donations of the Patriarchs, beginning with John IV (948-1019), it had accumulated financial wealth and vast territories that from Friuli arrived to Istria. A population of more than 5,000 people depended on it: mostly families of farmers who worked its land and guaranteed food resources, annuities and various services. After 1420, when the Republic of Venice occupied most of Friuli determining the end of the temporal power of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, the monastery of Santa Maria found itself administering territories in two different states: many of its properties ended in fact under Venetian jurisdiction while Aquileia, and then the abbey itself, were in the imperial domains. In 1782, Emperor Joseph II finally decreed the closure of the convent, as part of a broad reform process inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment, which hit heavily all contemplative orders.
The monastery was located between two resurgence rivers: the Pantanosa (or Roggia del Mulino del Monastero) in the East, and the Natissa (or Roggia del Mulino di Aquileia) in the West. It stood outside the medieval city walls and therefore was often indicated in the documents as extra muros. The monastery was connected to Aquileia through the Contrata Sancti Alexandri road, continuing as Levata. This was the name that in Lower Friuli was given to roads that had to be set on banks to defend them from flooding and swamping.
The countryside of Aquileia, in fact, because of the hydrogeological disarray that followed the crisis of the Roman Empire and other natural factors, was surrounded by unhealthy marshes and infested by malaria. The nuns themselves had been able, for health reasons, to get derogation from the strict Benedictine cloister code and move to Cividale during the summer, to the monastery of Santa Chiara, which had been united with that of Santa Maria in 1429. Reclamations in this area began in the eighteenth century, thanks in part to government intervention, like in the case of Teresian reclamations decided by Empress Maria Theresa, and in part to the intervention of private landlords.
The oldest part of the abbey complex consists of an early Christian basilica from the fourth century, burned and damaged by Attila in 452, subsequently renovated to become the church of the Benedictine abbey and the local community. Over time, the buildings necessary to house the nuns, visitors and pilgrims and those used for agricultural purposes were built next to the church. A major renovation was carried out at the end of the seventeenth century: we can still see some of lintel stones bearing this date. After the suppression of the monastery, in 1782, the entire complex was sold to private owners, who, over time, completely altered its original structure with various interventions. The first buyer was the count of Torre Hoffer, Lord of Duino. Three years later it became the residence and administrative centre of farm owner Antonio Cassis Faraone. The side cloister buildings were demolished, the northern part became the main villa and the southern part, which originally housed the convent church, was converted into a wine cellar (the foladôr). Major works transformed the surroundings land and also led to the deforestation of the Grant Bosc (the Great Wood) just north of Monastero. In the mid-nineteenth century land and buildings were sold to the Ritter de Zahony family, who still lives here. In 1960 the State bought the foladôr, corresponding to the church, and made it the seat of the Early Christian Museum