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The Way of St. Benedict: From Nursia to Montecassino

St. Benedict is regarded as the father of monastic life in the West –and one of the patrons of Europe. Of Roman descent, he lived in Italy (then subjugated by barbarians) between the 5th and 6th centuries. His renowned Rule of contemplative life (the famed Rule of St Benedict) which has governed the lives of monasteries for way over a millennium, is admired not only by believers but also by those who espouse a tranquil and balanced lifestyle.

For several years, a pilgrimage route promoted by the Associazione Amici del Cammino di San Benedetto, led by Simone Frignani, has gone through the locations associated with the life of St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. The route extends 300 kilometers and comprises 16 stages, traversing the landscape from Nursia, the hometown of St. Benedict, to Montecassino, where he died. It encompasses a variety of landscapes, historic cities, and sites of major spiritual and cultural significance.

The Camino begins in Nursia (Norcia), in the Umbria region. Pilgrims may visit the Basilica of St. Benedict, built over his birthplace, which was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. From this point, the Camino proceeds towards Cascia – a location mainly known for St. Rita, another significant religious figure in Catholicism. Once in Cascia, the Camino crosses the Sentiero di Santa Rita, leading to the Sacro Scoglio and to the Basilica where St Rita’s relics are preserved.

The second day departs from Cascia, traversing picturesque valleys and rolling hills en route to Monteleone di Spoleto. This is good moment to visit the former Augustinian convent of Santa Caterina, which has been preserved as a museum. The third day crosses the border between Umbria and Lazio, reaching Leonessa, a small Renaissance town with a shrine dedicated to a local saint.

The fourth day leads to Poggio Bustone, where the Way of St Benedict meets the pilgrimage routes of another great Italian saint, Francis of Assisi. In Poggio Bustone, one can visit the Franciscan Sacro Speco. The fifth day virtually walks in St. Francis’ footsteps, through the Holy Valley, and the sanctuaries of Foresta and San Felice, until reaching Rieti.

The following four days traverse areas of remarkable natural beauty in the Matterhorn reserve. On the sixth day, the route departs from Rieti and arrives at Rocca Sinibalda. On the seventh day, the route proceeds along the spectacular Lake Turano to Castel de Tora. On the eighth day, pilgrims pass through Pozzaglia Sabina, where the sanctuary of the martyr saint Agostina Pietrantoni can be visited. Upon arrival in Orvinio, one must visit the remains of the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria del Piano.

The ninth day leads to another of the emblematic places of the life of St. Benedict: Vicovaro. There, pilgrims visit the monastic caves where tradition claims the saint was almost poisoned, were it not for the miraculous intervention of a heaven-sent raven.

The tenth day leads to the Sacro Speco of Subiaco, a monastery situated high in the rock of Mount Taleo, where St. Benedict resided and preached for thirty years. It is currently one of the most significant Benedictine abbeys in Italy.

The eleventh day leads pilgrims to the medieval village of Trevi nel Lazio, situated next to the Simbruini Mountains. Remains from Roman times are abundant in the area. In the vicinity of Trevi one finds the Sanctuary of the Trinity of Vallepietra, which is worthy of a visit.

The twelfth day of the journey follows an ancient Roman road to Guarcino, renowned for its amaretti and the numerous hermitages in the area, and Vico nel Lazio, a small fortified town where the collegiate church of St. Michael is found. It is a remarkable cultural site.

The thirteenth day of the journey takes pilgrims to one of the most beautiful monasteries in central Italy: the Carthusian monastery of Trisulti, with its remarkable medieval pharmacy. The fourteenth day leads to another beautiful abbeys: Casamari, in the Cistercian Gothic style, and San Domenico di Sora, built on the site of the ancient house of the Roman famed rhetor and philosopher, Cicero.

The fifteenth day leads pilgrims to the astonishing gorges of the Melfa River. Here, travelers find hermitages that are more than a thousand years old, such as those of the Holy Spirit and St. Angelo in Asprano. Ultimately, the journey culminates at the birthplace of another renowned Italian saint, Thomas Aquinas, in Roccasecca.

The final day of the journey, pilgrims hike up until they reach the abbey of Montecassino, founded by St. Benedict in 529. Once there, travelers get to see the important of the legacy of St. Benedict and his enduring impact on monasticism and Christian spirituality. There, the tombs of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, as well as the memorials to the Battle of Montecassino during World War II, can be visited.

The Way of St. Benedict is a religious, cultural, and historical route that connects pilgrims to the rich Benedictine heritage, and the breathtaking landscapes of Italy’s green heart at the same time.


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