Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata - Basilian Monks

Corso del Popolo, 128 - 00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) ITALY - Phone 0039.06.9459309 - Fax 0039.06.9456734

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  • A Panoramic View
  • The Entrance Portal
  • A Section of the Roverian Walls
  • The Basilica of St. Mary
  • The Byzantine Mosaic
  • The Triumphal Arch
  • The Cryptoporticus
  • The Fortress at Night
A Panoramic View1 The Entrance Portal2 A Section of the Roverian Walls3 The Basilica of St. Mary4 The Byzantine mosaic5 The Triumphal Arch6 The Cryptoporticus7 The Fortress at Night8

Some miles from Rome stands an abbey that has a far greater significance than as a sight for admiring tourists or a treasure for antiquarians. The Exarchic Greek Abbey of Grottaferrata, with its Basilian monks, is the center of an important revival of studies of Byzantine Catholicism and of the Oriental apostolate.

St. Nilus from RossanoThe abbey owes its origin to Saint Nilus. He was born circa 910 in Rossano, to one of the foremost Greek families of Calabria, a southern province of Italy. This area was in ancient times founded as a Greek colony and was afterwards part of the Byzantine Empire until 1059.

The child was baptized Nicholas, was given a good education, and grew up a fervent young man. The monastic life had some attraction for him, but he married and it was only after afterwards he seriously turned to God, in the year 940. It was a somber age, disturbed by internal war between Byzantines and Lombards, and suffering frequent Saracen raids on the coasts. After fleeing his own town of Rossano he became a monk and settled at a monastery near Palma on the Tyrrhenian Sea. A Moslem attack caused the community to flee, but Nilus became a hermit in a nearby forest. Later, at Rossano, he ruled a convent and gained fame for his wisdom and prudence. Here, he interceded with the authorities for mutineers condemned to death and with the Jewish community for a young man who had killed a Jew, and once he succeeded in ransoming a number of enslaved Christians. The position of archbishop was offered him but Nilus refused.

When a Byzantine prince asked the Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino to give Nilus and his fellow monks a monastery, the abbot sent them an invitation to come to Monte Cassino. Their Eastern liturgy were a strange sight to the Benedictines, but they provided a monastery at Valleluce, where the community remained for fifteen years and then moved to Serperi, near Gaeta. Emperor Otto III offered him a monastery richly endowed, but Nilus asked the emperor only for his promise of repentance and a good life, saying "You are a good emperor, you are mortal, and must die. You must render an account of your deeds, good or evil." Otto bent his crowned head for the old man's blessing.

Sometime in 1004 Nilus set out on a visit to a monastery and fell ill near Tusculum. A vision of the Mother of God showed him that this was to be the permanent home of his Basilian monks. This promise was fulfilled when the count of Tusculum offered land on the slopes of Mount Cavo and the community – of about 60 monks - was sent for. But Nilus died before the monastic buildings could be begun. The Grottaferrata Abbey with its Basilian monks today is a shining symbol of the Byzantine Catholics who never separated themselves from the unity of the Church under the Holy See.

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Corso del Popolo, 128 - 00046 Grottaferrata (Rome) ITALY - Phone 0039.06.9459309 - Fax 0039.06.9456734