Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

This a short post about a abbey we visited early in the morning during our drive to Siena. The Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, located about 5 miles northeast of Buonconvento, dates back to the 13th century. From their website:

The Archabbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore was born on the initiative of Bernardo Tolomei of Siena (1272-1348), and it is the spiritual centre of the Olivetan Family. Even today it is the monastery that is referred to and that heads the Benedictine Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto.

Bernardo, a man of God, chose the Rule of St. Benedict as a model for daily life, and he was pationately devoted to Mary from his youth.

In fact, the Congregation that he founded has as special devotion to Our Lady, unique amongst the various monastic congregations of the Benedictine Order, and this is evidenced by the white colour of the monks’ habit in honour of the purity of Our Lady.

Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Tuscany, Italy | Reid Burchell Photography

We parked in a lot up the hill from the abbey and walked down a long cobblestone path through the forest. It was extremely serene with almost no sound present to invade the peaceful grounds. At the bottom of the hill was a quaint little garden with benches for reflection and meditation. A small statue of Saint Catherine of Siena watched over the space, her white marble in stark contrast to the surrounding evergreens. Turn your gaze to the left, and the main bell tower of the abbey is in clear view, with another, much larger statue of the founder, Bernardo Tolomei, presiding.

We took a quick stroll through abbey, whose corridors contained many impressive murals covering almost every visible wall. The main chapel and alter were ornate, but with a subdued restraint compared to many of the other much larger cathedrals we visited during our trip.

On the way out we stopped briefly in the gift shop, where goods produced by the monks were available for sale. I purchased a small bottle of aged ale, which was quite refreshing alongside dinner on one of the following nights.

For other posts in my Italy series, see below: