Today is the feast day of St. Benedict! Subiaco is where the Sacro Speco or Holy Grotto is located where he lived for three years until fame of his sanctity brought people that persuaded him to become abbot of a local monastery,
The small town of Subiaco is located about 45 miles east of Rome. The ancient name of this town recalls its position below three small lakes where Emperor Nero built a villa. An inundation destroyed the lakes in 1305 and only traces remain of the villa.
In 494 A.D., St. Benedict, a young man in his early 20s, retired as a hermit in a cave (the Sacro Speco or Holy Grotto-photo, left) located above the lakes.
His years in prayer and contemplation allowed him time to develop the foundation for what would become the Rule of St. Benedict, the basis of western monasticism. Even though he began his monastic life as a hermit, he realized the difficulties and spiritual dangers of solitary life, even though he continued to regard it as the crown of monastic life for a mature and experienced spirit. His Rule, however, is concerned with a life spent wholly in community.
During the 12th century, the abbots of St. Scolastica (twin sister of St. Benedict) decided to build a detached section of their monastery around the Sacro Speco. The new monastery (photo, left) was built at various stages along a steep ravine; it seems to hang on the rock, and it was compared to a swallow’s nest by Pope Pius II.
According to tradition, instead of roses in the garden, there were thorn bushes upon which Benedict threw himself as a form of punishment for having had some unchaste thoughts. St. Francis of Assisi, who visited the monastery in 1223, turned the thorns into roses.
During our “Celebrating 25 years of Inside the Vatican magazine” pilgrimage through Italy exploring the Greatest Holy Presences, we visit Subiaco accompanied by Father Cassian Folsom, a Benedictine monk from Norcia, who will celebrate Mass and deliver a spiritual reflection on early monasticism.
Click HERE for more details about this pilgrimage. Complete your registration for this pilgrimage by July 31, 2019 and receive a $300 discount!
(Photo, above) Inside view of the sanctuary of the monastery at Subiaco.