One of the four National High Schools with annexed boarding houses, intended for the education of the new ruling class, was built in Napoleonic Novara, which was then the capital of the Department of Agogna.
The Sant’Agostino monastery building was used as the boarding house of the high school, which was established in the nearby monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena and connected to it by two walkways above the road.
The origins of the Sant’Agostino complex date back to 1480, when it was built by the Umiliate di Sant’Agnese, who needed a safe home inside the city walls. In 1562, they were joined by the Augustinian nuns and those of Sant’Antonio, who observed the Cistercian rule.
The monastery was known for its unique “apothecary”: the nuns extracted medicines from herbs grown in their garden, which they then packaged and sold to the public.
In the southwest corner of the complex stands the original church of the Augustinian nuns, divided into inner and outer sections and featuring works of great value, including paintings by Giuseppe Nuvolone (1619-1703), part of a cycle of works portraying St. Augustine, and the painting of St. Thomas of Villanova by Filippo Abbiati (1643-1715), now preserved in the bishop’s residence.