St Bernard Tolomei - abbey

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St Bernard Tolomei

August 20  occurs the liturgical Feast of St. Bernard Tolomei
Bernardo Tolomei (Siena, 1272 - Siena, 20 August 1348) is the founder of the Benedictine congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto  (Olivetans Monks), canonized on April 26, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
With the baptismal name of Giovanni, at a young age, he studied law.
Later he joined the Disciplined of Saint Mary, a fellowship of lay people dedicated to prayer and charity.
In 1313 he decided to retire with three friends on his property in the Accona Desert to lead a hermit's life, living in natural caves and building a small church. Giovanni decided to change his name to Bernard, in honor of the great Cistercian abbot Bernard of Chiaravalle.
He continued his solitary life until 1319 when he and his friends founded the Benedictine Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto. The monks of this Congregation  received from Pope Sixtus IV (Bolla of 21 September 1478) the task of founding the monastery of Finalpia.
He died in Siena in 1348, assisting the sick with plague, infected by the disease.

The abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, the Mother House of the Benedictine Congregation of Saint Mary of Monte Oliveto, rises in the place where St. Bernard Tolomei had retired to a hermit's life.

The painting of the vault of the refectory of Finalpia 1668/82 (Pietro Antonio Cabuto attr.) illustrates the vision in which Saint B. Tolomei received indications from the Madonna about the habit of the Olivetan monks.

According to the hagiographic tradition Bernardo had the vision of a multitude of monks in white robes who climbed a silver ladder to the top of which were Jesus and Mary. This scene is represented in a large canvas (more than 3 m high) preserved in Finalpia.This painting was part of a 17th-18th century Altar Machine, which was probably placed in the third chapel on the right, now of St. Benedict.
The Altar Machines were classically designed theatrical scenes including a religious subject, which stood out against the whitewashed walls of the chapel. We have another painting of this kind, representing Saint Lucia, which would have been placed in the chapel of the same name (the second on the right).
These 2 large canvases have aroused considerable interest during the restoration and studies carried out from 1995 to 2008 in our Abbey.
The project of finally restoring them to make an in-depth study was therefore suggested.

An Olivetan monk of the sixteenth century (Battista Franco attr.), The period in which the Olivetans were grappling with the construction of two wings of the Monastery of Finalpia.
In fact in the period from 1519 to 1534 the EST WING of our monastery was built.
On the ground floor of this wing there is (still running today) the refectory, which shows the date of 7 September 1519 on the entrance portal: this year (2019) we are therefore exactly five centuries from its inauguration.
While on the 1st floor there is the long dormitory whose coverage dates back to 26 December 1534. The environment consisted of individual rooms, located on both sides of the long central corridor.

The SOUTH WING, which runs along the north side of the church (with the current library conservatory on the 1st floor), required more elaboration: the corner pilaster south-west of the 1st cloister is engraved 1564  high on the inner side, the one facing the church.

Postal Address:
Abbazia S. Maria di Finalpia
17024 Finale Ligure Pia (SV) Italy
Telephone +39 019 602 301  Fax: +39 019 604 9940
updated 10 February 2024
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