Wednesday, August 09, 2006

FONTE AVELLANA: A thousand years worth of visitors

BURROWED IN THE MOUNTAINS near the massive Monte Catria, the monastery of Fonte Avellana (the hazelnut fountain) has been a magnet of Catholic studies for over a thousand years.

Founded in the 900's AD, the hermitage quickly became a model of monastic life. It is mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy, it was sacked by numerous invaders over the years and it was suppressed by the newly formed Italian state in the 1860's.

Pope John Paul II visited Fonte Avellana in 1982 and elevated the church there to the status of Minor Basilica.

The facility survives today and is open to visitors. It is difficult to find, far removed from other tourist attractions and not really near any large cities. It is relatively close to the impressive hilltop town of Frontone but even that is several kilometers away on a long, winding road.

The grounds at Fonte Avellana are beautiful and there is a lot to see in the actual structure, from the large library - dedicated to Dante - to the crypts and the 12th century church of Santa Croce and Sant' Andrea.

There is also a restaurant and a gift shop on the property and an agriturismo just up the hill.

- G. Miller


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