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The Monastery of St. Benedict encourages visitors to pray at Benedict's cave

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 27th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Surrounded by bountiful natural beauty, the Monastery of St. Benedict in Subiaco in Italy enshrines the cave in which St. Benedict lived as a hermit before he organized his first monastic community. Subiaco is located southeast of Rome. The monastery, while still active welcomes visitors to pray at Benedict's cave and explore the church, which is covered in beautiful medieval frescoes. A portrait of St. Francis of Assisi, painted during his lifetime is just of many several artistic treasures to be found there.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - St. Benedict was born and raised in Norcia in 480 AD. So horrified by the immorality of big city life, he dropped out of his university studies. Benedict sought solitude on the forested slopes of Mount Taleo near Subiaco.

Benedict chose to live alone in a cave for three years, sustained only by scraps of food lowered in a basket by Romanus. Fighting temptation, he famously cast his naked body into thorn bushes in order to combat lust.

Benedict was eventually discovered in his cave and invited to become the superior of the nearby monastery of Vicovaro. The monks quickly found his rule so unpleasantly strict that they tried to poison him. Benedict returned to his cave, but by then had attracted so many followers that he could no longer pursue the solitary life.

St. Benedict organized his first monastic community at Subiaco, dedicated to St. Clement of Rome and housed in part of Nero's old imperial villa. Benedict lived there for 20 years, during which time he founded 12 daughter monasteries and wrote his famous Rule that would become the standard guideline for western monasticism.

Starkly constructed of brown-hued stone, the Monastery of St. Benedict clings to a mountain cliff. In front of the entrance is a graveled platform with fine views of the monastery, its garden, and the valley below.

The entrance door, decorated with a 13th-century mosaic cross, leads into a passageway formed by the cliff on one side and a stone wall with large windows on the other.

At the end of the passageway is another door, which has a Latin inscription on the architrave: "Sit pax intranti, sit gratia digna precanti. Laurentius cum Jacobo filio suo fecit hoc opus." Above the door is a 15th-century painting of the Madonna and Child by the Umbrian school; paintings on the vault are of the same date and school.

Visitors who continue straight on reach an even smaller stone passageway, where they must duck under a low vault. Look for a small fresco of a devil on the left wall that can be viewed through a small window in the Upper Church.
Upper Church

A flight of stairs leads from Our Lady's Chapel to the Grotto of the Shepherds, where tradition says St. Benedict converted and instructed local shepherds in the Christian faith. A smear of plaster on the rock wall bears the remnants of a precious 9th-century Byzantine fresco depicting the Virgin and Child with two saints. The saints are labeled S. LV... and S. SIL....

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