Anne's Blog

Those “Monks of Norcia” and Earthquake Restoration

Date: January 2, 2021 - categories: , , , - 4 Comments

Best known as birthplace (in the late 5th-c A.D.) of San Benedetto, founder of western monasticism, and his twin sister Scolastica, Norcia’s history weaves back through the centuries.

Most likely ancient Nursia was settled as early as the 4th-5th-c B.C. by an Italic tribal people, the Sabines. The Romans moved into the area in about 300 B.C.,  soon conquering Nursia inspite  of  the determined resistance of the Sabine tribes.

In the mid 3rd- c A.D.,  the bishop of Foligno evangelized widely in the territory with such success that Nursia became seat of a diocese in the 4th- c. A.D. The twin saints, Benedict and Scolastica, born into a Roman noble family, grew up in this town of intense spiritual fervor.

Devastated by the Goths (4th-5th c. A.D.), and later sacked by the Germanic Longobards at the end of the 6th-c. A.D.,  Nursia was invaded by the Saracens in the late 9th c.  The people abandoned the town and and Norcia slipped into a period of decadence.

Under domain of the Holy Roman Emperor in the 11th-c., Norcia became an independent comune within the Papal states, enjoying political and economical prestige and remainedpart of the Papal States until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Symbol of the Papal power of Norcia is the 16th-c Castellina built at request of Pope Giulio III who wished a military presidio in Norcia for maximum control of the Papal territories. The Castellina became residence of the Papacy’s apostolic governors – and in 1860, the seat of various offices of  local government.

Since 1967, the imposing Papal fortress houses historic and artistic treasures of Norcia in the Museo Civico e Diocesano. 

The Castellina stands stalwart, having resisted the earthquake tremors of October 30th, 2016. Devastation of Norcia over the centuries has not only been due to invaders but to earthquakes – and those of 1328, 1703, 1979 e 2016 rank as among the most serious – of many.

On October 30th, 2016 the 6.5 earthquake rocked Norcia, causing heavy damage to various buildings in the city.  Very near the more robust Castellina on  the Piazza di San Benedetto, the Basilica  di San Benedetto dedicated to the Saint was destroyed. Only the facade resisted the tremors and now scaffolded, it seems to be caged, resisting silently. The statue of San Benedetto seems to be pointing to his scaffolded Basilica, as if saying, “Guarda un po’…”  (“Just look…”).


The photos of Norcia’s Piazza di San Benedetto before (October 6, 2016) and after (October 30, 2016) the earthquake are heart-rending.

The Benedictine monastic community of Norcia – with many American monks – was left homeless, too…

But those”Monks of Norcia”  – as even the locals call them – .have a new home now:  on the site of the former  16th-c.Capuchin monastery which is now called “San Benedetto in Monte.” They camped in tents before they built temporary buildings – and are now rebuilding a permanent stone monastery there – on the hill overlooking Norcia, birthplace of founder of their order.

The Norcia Benedictine community had opened a brewery in 2012, damaged in the October 2016 earthquake. But the production of their Birra Nursia continues in borrowed facilities.


No stopping those Benedictines – for after all, the summary of the essence of the Benedictine order is  “ora et labor” (“prayer and work”).

(I’d like to thank the Monks of Norcia for the use of their photos – and share this line from the Birra Nursia website:  “Every purchase of Birra Nursia helps ensure that the monks will have a place to sing the centuries-old Latin chants, to build up their brewing industry, and to call home.”)



  • Cara says:

    Thank you for the article Anne! I was so lucky to have visited Norcia in 2011 and attended mass in the basilica. Norcia is such a beautiful place, glad to see the monks continuing their work.

  • Mikel DeAngelis says:

    I was there in Nov 20 to donate 10 pairs of work gloves to Monks, yet the Cathedral was closed so I left them at small landromat a few doors away with folks who promised to donate to those in need.
    Stayed for few hours, felt tremors and aftershocks…Purchased some famous Birra Norsia from local shop and headed back to Assisi.

    Was shocked to hear about the second quake a few weeks later. I am happy to hear about the rebuilding effort over past few years. An uplifting feel good story in these uncertain times..
    Thank you Ann

  • Cara, time to come back? Ready for another Norcia trip?

  • Cara…and on Jan 9th, do join my ZOOM presentation as Norcia will be included.
    Buon Anno Nuovo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)