Monte Oliveto Maggiore abbey
Monte Oliveto Maggiore is a Congregation, found in a marvellous spot just south of Siena, in what is characteristic of this countryside, the crete senesi.
Mother House of the Olivetan Congregation, found in a marvellous spot just south of Siena (c.f. Map), in what is characteristic of this countryside, the "crete senesi" (clay which has a specific colouring, typical to Siena).
The Congregation was founded in 1313 by John Tolomei - who took the religious name of Bernard - along with two of his friends, from the noble families of Siena: Patrick Patrizi and Ambrose Piccoomini. They lived as hermits in a place called the "Accona desert". After the arrival of a number of new followers the nascent community accepted the Rule of St.Benedict and was recognised by Pope Clement VI in 1344.
The building of the monastery began with the approbation of the "Charta fundationis" by Guido Tarlati, bishop of Arezzo (26 March 1319), and the monastery took the name of Monte Oliveto «Maggiore» (Major) so as to distinguuish it from successive foundations (Florence, S.Giminiano, Naples, etc.).
A tower with drawbridge stands at the entrance to the monastery, the road leading to it is surrounded by cypress trees and small chapels: St.Frances of Rome (1644), the cave of Bl.Bernard, St.Scholastica. The tower, transformed into a restaurant (tel. 0577 707022), is decorated by a terracotta (early 16th Cent.) representing the Madonna and Child flanked by two angels.
The interior of the Church, which is in the shape of a Latin Cross, was redesigned at the end of the 18th Cent. There are a number of works of art to take note of, among which: the Crucifix made of wood, brought by Bl:Bernard in 1313; the choir stalls inlaid by Fra Giovanni da Verona and the lectern by Fra Raffaele da Brescia (1518).
The marvel of the monastery is the Great Cloister with its 36 frescoes (Luca Signorelli, 1497 and Antonio Bazzi - called "Sodoma", 1505) which reount the life of St.Benedict, according to the Book of Dialogues by St.Gregory.
It is also possible to visit the Refectory, with its frescoes dating back to the 17th Cent., the Library (stripped unfortunately of its more precious books), the Pharmacy with its terracotta vases/ampules and a small art gallery in the Chapter Room.
The Abbey is open to visitors each day from: 09.15 - 12.00 and from15.15 - 17.00 (18.00 in summer).
Groups are welcome to visit the Abbey, and to be shown around by one of our english speaking tourist guides.
To make a booking, please telephone: 0577 71 85 67 (meals time)