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Pauline

Tuscany Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey

Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey (Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore) is a Benedictine monastery built in the 14th century in the Crete Senesi. Over the entrance arch there is a terracotta Madonna with Child and Two Angels by Della Robbia. Lining the walls of the Great Cloister is a magnficent 15th century fresco series, depicting the life of Saint Benedict, painted by Luca Signorelli and Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (Sodoma). The abbey is still in use and monks do regular Gregorian chants. There is an interesting shop that sells tinctures made by the monks.

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Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey

Practical Information
Arrival
: It is a 10 minute downhill walk from the parking area to the abbey. There is a restaurant on-site. The shop sells herbal tinctures and liqueurs made by the monks. The shop and the abbey close mid-day.
Rules: Dress and act respectfully. No shorts, no sleeveless tops.
Visiting Hours: 9:15 - 12:00 and 15:15 - 18:00 (17:00 in winter)
Masses: Daily - 7:00 and 18:15 with Gregorian Chants (except Saturday and holidays)
Saturday - 17:30, Religious holidays - 11:00 with Gregorian Chants and 17:30
Chanting Schedule
8:00 Lodi e Terza (8:15 on holidays)
12:30 Sesta (not on holidays)
15:30 Nona (not on holidays)
18:15 Vespri (18:30 on holidays)
21:00 Compieta
Website: Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey

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Abbey rules and hours

More Information
The Great Cloister, built in the 15th century, is the setting for the St Benedict fresco series by artists Luca Signorelli and Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (Sodoma). Signorelli started the series in 1495, Sodoma followed in 1505. The frescoes portray significant events in the life of St Benedict based on the book "Dialogues" by St. Gregory the Great. Signorelli started with events from St Benedict's adult life. Sodoma completed the series adding earlier and later events. The frescoes are in chronological order.

The artist Giovanni Antonio Bazzi was known as Sodoma "because he always surrounded himself with boys and beardless youths whom he loved beyond measure" wrote Giorgio Vasari, in his 16th century book "The Lives of the Artists". Sodoma portrayed himself and his pet badgers in one of the frescoes.

Each fresco depicts an event in St Benedict's life and has a title painted below the fresco. This photo gallery shows each fresco. The translated title is shown in the photo description.

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Frescoes in Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Fresco Titles
Click here to see a photo album showing the frescoes in order with the titles.

1. St. Benedict confers the rule on the Olivetan Monks - Benedict in a white robe sitting and handing open books to a group of monks also in white robes (the first 21 frescoes are by Sodoma)
2. How Benedict leaves home and goes to study in Rome
3. How Benedict leaves the school in Rome
4. How Benedict mends the cribble that was broken - self portrait of Sodoma and his pet badgers and goose
5. How the monk Romanus gives Benedict the hermit's habit - excellent hill town in background
6. How the devil breaks the bell
7. How a Priest, inspired by God, brings Benedict food on Easter day
8. How Benedict instructs visiting peasants in sacred doctrine
9. How Benedict, tempted to impurity, overcomes the temptation
10. How Benedict at prayers with the hermits agrees to be leader of their abbey
11. How Benedict, with the sign of the cross, breaks a glass of poisoned wine
12. How Benedict completes the construction of twelve monasteries
13. How Benedict receives the two boys from Rome, Maurus and Placid
14. How Benedict delivers a possessed Monk by scourging him
15. How Benedict, entreated by the monks, produces water from the top of the mountain
16. How Benedict causes a hedging bill that has fallen to the bottom of the lake to return to its handle
17. How Maurus, sent to save Placid, walks on the water
18. How Benedict changes into a serpent the flask of wine hidden from him by an errand-boy
19. How Florentius tries to poison Benedict
20. How Florentius sends evil women to the monastery
21. How Benedict sends Maurus to France and Placid to Sicily
22. How God punishes Florentius (this is the start of the Signorelli frescoes)
23. How Benedict evangelizes the inhabitants of Monte Cassino (Signorelli)
24. How Benedict drives the enemy from the stone (Signorelli)
25. How Benedict revives a young monk on whom a wall had fallen (Signorelli)
26. How Benedict tells the monks where and when they had eaten outside the monastery (Signorelli)
27. How Benedict reproves the brother of the monk Valerian for having violated his fast (Signorelli)
28. How Benedict exposes Totila's sham (Come Benedetto discopre la finzione di Totila) (Signorelli)
29. How Benedict recognizes and receives Totila (Signorelli)
30. How Benedict foretells the destruction of Monte Cassino (the rest of the frescoes are by Sodoma)
31. How Benedict obtains flour in abundance and with it restores the monks
32. How Benedict appears to two far-off monks and shows them the design for the construction of the monastery
33. How Benedict excommunicates two religious women and absolves them after they were dead
34. How Benedict has the body of Christ placed on the body of a monk whom the earth would not receive
35. How Benedict pardons the monk who, wishing to flee from the monastery, encounters a serpent along the road
36. How Benedict releases a peasant who was bound, by only looking at him

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4. How Benedict mends the cribble that was broken (self portrait of Sodoma with his pet badgers and goose)

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