Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Abbey of Grottaferrata

Today is the feast of St Nilus, who founded the important Byzantine Rite monastery of Grottaferrata, about 13 miles to the southeast of Rome, fairly close to the famous Papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. He was originally from a town called Rossano in the southern Italian region of Calabria, and lived an ordinary life until he was about 30 years old, when his wife and daughter both died within a short time of each other, and then he fell serious ill. These events set him on the path to a religious conversion, and the embracing of monastic life in one of the many Byzantine communities in southern Italy, in which state he earned a great reputation for sanctity and learning. The political vicissitudes of the era brought him north to Rome; in 1004, while passing through the Alban hills, he had a vision of Our Lady, from which it was made known to him that he was to found a community in that place. Nilus is reckoned the first abbot and founder of the monastery because he obtained from a local nobleman the grant of land in Grottaferrata on which it was built, and established the community, but he did not live to the see building of it even begun. This was accomplished by his successor Bartholomew, who is also a Saint. I recently stumbled across the following documentary about the abbey, which tells some of its history and shows many of the church’s interesting artistic and architectural features. (It was posted only a year and a half ago by the Italian Basilian monks, but it seems to have been made some time ago, and is rather grainy.)

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