Subiaco, ruins an beauty
In Subiaco, the Abbey of Saint Scholastica now rises where Nero’s villa used to be.
The ruins of the ‘buen retiro’ created by the emperor who went down in history as the destroyer of Rome welcomed, in the beginning of the VI century, the man who is considered the founder of European civilization – Benedict of Nursia – when he withdrew here to solitary life. Indeed Europe took her first breath in this corner of the Aniene Valley, in the province of Rome, in the handful of abbeys – thirteen in all – that Benedict founded between 500 and 529.
The only one still standing today is the Abbey of Saint Scholastica, east of the village, with its three ancient and beautiful cloisters and its extensive library.
But the real marvel is the Sacro Speco, just a stone’s throw from Saint Scholastica: Saint Benedict’s sanctuary-abbey, built by the Benedictines starting in the XII century, which envelops the grotto where the hole man often prayed. Francesco Petrarca called it ‘limen Paradisi’, threshold of Paradise: the complex, which overlooks the river amidst a forest of holm oaks, is still home to magnificent frescoes from the XIII and XV centuries. One of them portrays Saint Francis: it is considered his first and most faithful representation, and dates back to 1223, three years before his death.
Here, amid ruins and rubble, beauty has flourished.