The Abbey of San Nilo in Grottaferrata: the Orient in Rome
The Abbey of Santa Maria in Grottaferrata, only a few kilometers from Rome, was built half a century after the East-West Schism (1054) from which the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church would emerge. It is also known as the Greek Abbey of San Nilo.
Indeed, Saint Nilus founded it in 1004 over the ruins of an ancient Roman villa. Born in 910 in then-Byzantine Calabria, Nilus came from a Greek family and followed the Greek rite; he is now the saint patron of Grottaferrata, and in the Museum of the Abbey his portrait is frescoed on one of the doors that protected the image of the Blessed Virgin, which dates back to the 10th-11th century and is now kept in the church.
The Abbey has always been run by the Basilian Monks, who belong to the Eastern Catholic Church and follow the rule of Saint Basil the Great, a theologian who lived in the 4th century and was bishop of Caesarea, in Cappadocia.
The Paleochristian-Romanesque outer structure of the Abbey was restored in 1930 and still maintains its original profile, while the massive fortifications around it were built in the 15th century by will of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of pope Sixtus IV.
In the Abbey’s medieval scriptorium, monks copied ancient manuscripts in an original shorthand known as Nilian or Grottaferrata syllabic Greek tachygraphy: thanks to their work, today San Nilo is considered an important center for the promotion of oriental culture, with its typography and its library, where rare codes and books are treasured to this day.