There was a man of venerable life, blessed by grace, and blessed in name, for he was called 'Benedictus'...who from his younger years, carried always the mind of an old man; for his age was inferior to his virtue.
- Life of St. Benedict by Gregory the Great
The entire inside of the church is covered in stunning 12th century frescos in vibrant reds, blues, and golds. Because the frescoes are pre-renaissance, the figures are not particularly life-like, but I thought it was absolutely beautiful. They don't allow pictures in the church, but you can browse their website, and see all the frescoes for yourself. The upper church was probably my favorite because it depicted scenes from Christ's life and passion. Even the most illiterate person could have easily understood the Life of Christ just by looking at these frescoes.
When you first walk into the upper church your eye is immediately drawn to a huge painting showing Christ's crucifixion. Although the picture here isn't very good, you can see how busy the fresco is. Of course Christ is the focal point of the work, but he is surrounded by a mass of humanity. I don't know if you can see it, but the soldiers who are throwing dice for Christ's clothes look like Genghis Kahn, which is interesting.
The lower church is a little bit less busy than the upper, but is still very beautiful. The frescoes here show scenes from the life of St. Benedict, especially the many attempts made on his life, which makes for some pretty dramatic frescoes. The ceiling was decorated with Benedict surrounded by the Evangelists and other important figures, which shows his important place in church history.
Another really cool fresco is a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, which was actually painted during his lifetime! St. Francis actually visited Subiaco, and, as far as I can tell, really admired Benedict's monastic life. In fact, Francis grafted his own rose bush to those at Subiaco as a sign of his unity or continuation of Benedict's example. I can't find a photo of it at the moment, but it's really cool, considering that it is the first known image of the Saint.
But my favorite fresco of all is in the Our Lady's Chapel. I think this is a really sweet image, showing Mary after her ascension into Heaven. I also like how the artist used a lot of white because, although it's less vibrant than some of the paintings, it has a real sense of tranquility to it.
We also got to see Benedict's Grotto, which was super cool. I loved the cave, but I thought that the marble statue was absolutely hideous and out of place (so what if it was made by one of Bernini's students?). I kind of wish they'd just left the cave empty because the statue really detracted from the natural beauty and simplicity of the place.
|A view, I believe, over the town of Subiaco, but I could be wrong.|