Antica Abbazia di San Mauro (Abbey of San Mauro) - Atlas Obscura

Antica Abbazia di San Mauro (Abbey of San Mauro)

Sannicola, Italy

This 10th-century seaside abbey holds spectacular views and a window into the past.  


Local legend says the cave beside the abbey is the resting place of the martyred Saint Mauro, dating back to 286 B.C. Whatever the truth of that tale, historical records show that the small Italian-Greek abbey was built in the 10th century, and has spent centuries in disrepair. Bishop Pelegro Cibo noted that the place was disintegrating when he visited in 1567.

Still, traces of the fresco murals can be seen on the indoor church walls, through the open windows and barred doors. These traces include depictions of the prophets Jonah, Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah, and David, as well as several saints. Originally the church had three altars facing east. Low walls outside the building reveal how large the full complex used to be, with gardens and other buildings belonging to the monks who resided there.

Despite having been declared a national monument in 1968, the grounds could still use some love. In 2016, paths, benches, and other amenities were installed to make the site more readily enjoyable.

From the hilltop, you can see a spectacular view for kilometers in all directions, right down to the historical old town of Gallipoli and out to the Ionian Sea. Other small towns sculpt the horizon with their churches and houses.

Know Before You Go

While the grounds are freely accessible, the abbey itself is usually kept lock. A sign posted on the door says there are weekly guided tours of the interior by request. You can peek inside through the doors and windows.

The cave is blocked off and should not be entered, as it is unsafe. But you can get a good look inside.

There are several picnic tables and benches around, as well as exercise equipment and a play area for kids.

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