The St. Andrew Cloister was dismantled in 1905, at the conclusion of the demolition of the monastery of St. Andrew Della Porta where it had been built in the 12th century. It was the only architectural structure to be saved during the demolition. The monastery was located a short distance from the current location of the cloister, next to the Porta Soprana. It was accessed through a small lane starting from the gate. The decision to demolish the monastery was part of a plan to renovate the entire urban area. The whole neighbourhood of St. Andrew was thus destroyed, which had originated in the Middle Ages around the monastery and was still densely populated and urbanised in the early 20th century.
The present location of the St. Andrew Cloister, near the Porta Soprana City Gate and the Columbus' House, dates back to 1922.
The monastery of St. Andrew, to which the cloister belonged, had probably been founded in the early 11th century. It was a Benedictine monastery inhabited by nuns who belonged to the most illustrious families of the city. They lived in seclusion, yet administered substantial assets consisting of land and real estate. The church was the parish for the people who lived on the hill, within the city walls. The cloister was mentioned for the first time in a document dating back to 1158. All around the cloister were located the rooms for community life, such as the refectory, the chapter house, the parlour, and the fireplace. Above the porch was the second floor with the dormitories.
The cloister enclosed a small garden.
The capitals of the cloister, on the south and west sides, are both figured and leafy and they probably date shortly before the document. The figured capitals are carved with different scenes, including themes of the Old and New Testaments, such as Adam and Eve, the Flight into Egypt, Daniel in the lions’ den, and the Journey of the Magi. There are also agricultural and pastoral scenes, with scenes of grazing, ploughing, and oxen transport.
Further, chivalric scenes allude to the mysterious story of a knight and a lady. Other capitals depict more general scenes of animals and monstrous creatures. The authors of this series of capitals probably had a Lombard-Emilian background.
The capitals of the north and east sides are much more recent. The Gothic style, as seen in the smooth or ribbed leaves with bold proportions, is typical of the late 13th century. The first medieval architectural structure of the monastery underwent numerous renovations and extensions over the centuries. A bell tower was erected next to the church in 1647. The last significant expansion took place after the damage caused by the French bombardment in 1684. The history of the monastery was completed under Napoleon, when in 1799 the Italian Republic abolished the religious community.
The monastery became a college, then a prison, until the decision to demolish the entire complex in the 19th century.