Torniamo alle Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Yesterday after class, Sandra, Kurt, and I drove back to Monte Oliveto Maggiore, where the monk ringing the bell made us leave too early two years ago. This time, except for a summer camp group, we practically had the frescoes to ourselves. The frescoes are from the late 15th/early 16th centuries by Sodoma and Signorelli. Although similar in style, we prefer Sodoma’s because of his attention to daily life details, including animals: a monkey on a leash, tame badgers, deer leaping through the woods, etc. Here are a few of my favorite closeups:

Here St. Benedict performs the miracle of the flour: love the cat and dog fighting over a fish head.

Notice the swimmers! Verb to swim in Italian: nuotare

Another St. Benedict miracle where he produces a spring

The monastery was founded in 1313, and the name is a reference to Jesus’s Passion on the Mount of Olives. Signorelli’s frescoes were painted between 1497-98, while Sodoma’s were completed after 1505. These frescoes are considered masterworks of the Italian Renaissance. It’s amazing to us that these masterworks are in situ in such a remote place. It’s one of the gifts of spending more time in Tuscany. Here are a few larger views:

St. Benedict sharing a meal. Love food/wine details

This is a beautiful portion of a Signorelli fresco

Intense war scene. It looks as if the warrior is reaching his arm into the horse!

Amazing action shots

Self-portrait (autoritratto) di Sodoma: The self-portraits always look out at you.

After taking our leisure viewing the courtyard of frescoes, Kurt and I went to la biblioteca, of course, and the farmacia. The man in the library told us that the books weren’t just religious because the monks were interested in all knowledge. There were books on science, nature, philosophy, etc. And we saw the refectory where the tables were set for the monks approaching dinner. The monastery is very remote in a beautiful location and still in operation. In the hallway before the rectory is a gorgeous marble sink for washing their hands. 


About ssteven2

I'm a reader, writer, swimmer, and school librarian. I love my summers so I can travel.
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3 Responses to Torniamo alle Monte Oliveto Maggiore

  1. Lucian Childs says:


  2. Jana Kennon says:

    Questi fresci sono incredible! Hanno ristorati?

  3. sandra062013 says:

    Love your close-ups of the frescoes, and the photos from the library and refectory, since I didn’t get to see them – grazie!

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