Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
In the Sienese territory, amidst Gregorian chants and wines made by Benedictine monks
The Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore is a monastic complex of great beauty, in the tiny hamlet of Chiusure, near Asciano. The Abbey’s history is connected with the figure of the noble Giovanni de’ Tolomei who, with Patrizio Patrizi and Ambrogio Piccolomini, retired in 1313 to a monastic life in one of the Tolomei family’s properties at Accona. In 1319 they were recognised as a congregation by the Bishop of Arezzo.
The new congregation decided to follow the rule of the Benedictine order, known as ora et labora. Today, visiting the Abbey, you will still hear the sound of the bell marking the typical round of monastic life, with its rigid timetable of opening and closing hours. The architecture of the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore follows the normal form of Benedictine abbeys: a large church, a main cloister and smaller ones, a chapter house and a refectory. The only exception is the addition of a large library. The Church is like an art gallery, almost a museum of sacred art, where you can admire splendid paintings and fine statues. From the church you go to the Great Cloister, completely frescoed by Luca Signorelli and by Antonio Bazzi, nicknamed Il Sodoma. From here you move into the refectory, finally climbing the stairs to reach the great library. During your visit, you can attend High Mass, sung by the Monks of the Mount of Olives in Gregorian Chant.