Sacro Speco di San Benedetto – Subiaco, Italy - Atlas Obscura

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Sacro Speco di San Benedetto

Subiaco, Italy

This monastery set over a holy cave contains the oldest known painting of Saint Francis of Assisi. 


This fresco-adorned medieval monastery outside of Subiaco dedicated to Saint Benedict of Norcia is built right into the rock face of Mount Taleo. From its high vantage point, the monastery overlooks ancient ruins. Aside from beautiful views, it contains 13th- and 14th-century art, including what historians believe is the oldest surviving portrait of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Monks constructed the entire complex around the Sacro Speco, or “holy cave,” of Saint Benedict, where the revered figure supposedly once lived. The tunnels contain a mix of decorated vaulted arches and bare, chiseled rock, along with original works of art dating back to the 8th century. After wandering around the monastery, take a moment to admire the panorama from the overlook of the Aniene River Valley and the nearby Abbey of Saint Scholastica. Save a little time to stop by the gift shop, which offers a range of medals honoring the saint, as well as handmade soaps and fragrances made with local lavender and rosemary.

Know Before You Go

This monastery is reachable by a moderate hike or by car. Wheelchair accessibility is limited inside. Photographs are not allowed inside. Appropriate dress and silence inside the chapels are mandatory.

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January 24, 2023

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