(Rome) The heavy earthquakes that shook the birthplace of Benedict of Nursia in the late summer and early autumn of 2016 also brought down the consecrated basilica in Norcia's city center. In the rubble, the oldest fresco of the ba
silica was discovered last month.
It is a representation of the saint who founded the Benedictine order in the 6th century. "Due to the collapse caused by the earthquakes, the image came to light," said the Director of the Heritage Office of Umbria, Marica Mercalli. "At present, the collapse-endangered parts of the wall are being cleared away in the transept."
"The fresco is of great importance. It was discovered last March by the prior of the Benedictine monastery of Nursia, who also bears the significant name of Benedict. Now we were able to document it in all its beauty," says Mercalli.
The Benedictines knew nothing of this fresco before the earthquake. It only shone from the rubble of the church. "The discovery is a valuable sign for us," said the Prior.
After Napoleon had expelled the Benedictines from the birthplace of their founding father, the first return of monks took place in Holy Year 2000. It is an Old Rite convent that revives the Benedictine tradition in Norcia.
The monastic community lost everything in the earthquake, the monastery and the church. The basilica had been given to them by the local bishop of Spoleto for pastoral care, but also as convent church. In recent years, the monks gradually took the necessary steps for the celebration in the traditional form of the Roman Rite of restoration, as the basilica was up to the liturgical reform of 1969.
With the reconstruction of the basilica after the earthquake, however, the church was deprived of them again by the new local bishop, because he wants to rebuild the ruined church as "modern." This would be make its further use by the monks impossible anyway. The monks accepted the decision in humility and did not say a word about it. Others speak of an "unfriendly" act of the bishop, especially since the funds for the reconstruction were promised by the Italian Prime Minister.