Just over 40 km from Rome, in the Municipality of Fara Sabina (Rieti), there is an important monastery in which a monastic community of hermit Poor Clare nuns dedicated to contemplation, work and prayer have been living for a long time, following in the footsteps of San Francis of Assisi and Santa Chiara.
The structure represents an important example of monastic architecture, with a simple and austere style (photo 1).
Yet, the monastery was originally a castle, built in the early Middle Ages (probably around the year 600), destroyed by the Saracens and then rebuilt several times. The castle passed to the monks in the first half of the twelfth century undergoing continuous destruction and reconstruction over time. The current configuration of the monastery dates back to 1673, the year in which it began to be populated by the Poor Clares. The monastery was surrounded by mighty walls (photo 2), necessary to guarantee protection and adequate isolation of the cloistered nuns.
Today the structure, a few kilometers from the most famous Abbey of Farfa, represents an oasis of peace, surrounded by greenery, of great historical interest.
Finding myself in this place I accomplished one thing. Despite the current technology allows the use of very advanced tools (phone, camera, video camera) and high resolution (HD, Full Hd, 4K, …), however hard you try, it will never be possible to capture silence , the feeling of peace and tranquility that this magical place manages to emanate.
The visit of the monastery, which must be booked in advance, involves a short excursion to the external part which presents itself with extremely composed forms, with the usual austere style that characterizes the monastic constructions (photos 3 and 4).
Here you can enjoy a magnificent panorama and truly suggestive glimpses, in a context of great silence and respect for the environment.
The guided tour of the interior part is very interesting . The ancient kitchen (photo 5), still perfectly preserved (although, obviously, no longer used), with a large fireplace and the many ancient kitchen tools (photo 6), arouses great curiosity.
To follow, there is a visit to the refectory (photo 7), the place where the nuns gather for meals, and the pretty chapel with beautiful frescoes (photo 8), unfortunately partially ruined.
An incredible story
The visit of the room that houses the relics of some nuns who lived here in the past is very impressive.
At this point a premise is needed.
The first community that lived in this monastery in the 17th century was made up of 17 nuns. Over the years, the nuns who lived in this place, at the time of their death, were buried in the external places of the convent. Over the centuries there have also been periods of great persecution and this has led to the need to hide the burial places to protect them from possible vandalism.
At the end of the 19th century, many of these tombs were found during some renovation works. Well, 17 of these kept totally uncorrupted mortal remains.
Even if there is no scientific evidence in this sense, faith suggests that the 17 bodies found are precisely those of the nuns who constituted the first settlement of the monastery. Studies have shown that these bodies have not been treated with particular materials or preservatives. Yet they are still perfectly preserved and date back to more than three centuries ago.
Now these bodies are kept in a dedicated room of the monastery (I do not publish photos for obvious reasons of respect). They are protected by a display case, held upright by wall supports and dressed in cassocks. This is the stop that probably represents the most relevant and moving moment of the whole visit.
Museum of silence
Set up inside the monastery, the Museum tells, in an original way, the life and spirituality of the cloistered nuns. You enter in a completely dark environment where the display cases of objects light up in small groups following the themes that tell the founding moments of the life of the nuns: prayer, silence, discipline, cooking.
And here, from the dark, appear objects of common use in the daily life of the nuns (photo 9), at least those of the past: the sackcloth, the sprinkler, some sacred readings, the “traccola” (acoustic instrument used in Holy Week to replace the bells of which use is inhibited).
The town of Fara Sabina
After visiting the monastery, it is possible to walk the narrow alleys of the adjoining village (photo 10).
In the town it is possible to admire the Duomo (photo 11), dedicated to Saint Anthony martyr, whose first nucleus dates back to the first half of the 11th century, which presents paintings of fine workmanship inside. Next to the Duomo, the bell tower and the elegant aedicule Cistern (photo 12). The latter was built by the Farnese family around the mid-16th century to supply water to the local population.
The visit of the monastery must be booked by contacting the contact details available on the official website of the monastery reachable here (only in italian).
The visits are guided and managed by the same sisters who are kind and very prepared.
The monastery also provides for the sale of typical products and also offers hospitality with a welcoming guesthouse service.
The guided visits, the sale of the products, the guesthouse are the only source of livelihood for the nuns. I suggest everyone to visit her at least once; we will give them a precious hand!