The earthquake that rocked central Italy in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 was centered near Norcia, the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica. Nearly 300 people died (as of this writing) and hundreds more were injured. The nearby villages in the mountainous area were hit hard, some being nearly totally destroyed. Strong aftershocks continue to threaten further damage and injury.
Norcia’s mayor, Nicola Alemanno, said “The anti-seismic structures of the town have held. There is damage to the historic heritage and buildings, but we do not have any serious injuries.”
The Monks of Norcia and their guests were not injured in the quake. In fact, they were at early prayer for the Feast of St. Bartholomew. However, the basilica, monastery and guest areas suffered significant damage. These are places close to the heart of Benedictines around the world. The Monastery of St. Benedict “is physically located above the 5th century ruins of the house of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica, and has been the location of monastic communities since the tenth century AD.”
While devastation in Norcia seems to be less than in nearby towns like Amatrice, the instability in the massive structures makes them unsafe for use. People are huddled in the city’s central square. (Picture: EPA from Metro )
Most of the monks of Norcia, having assessed the situation, decided to temporarily transfer to Sant’Anselmo, Rome.
“The monks’ primary role in the life of the Church,” wrote subprior Fr. Benedict who remained in Norcia, “is one of praying quietly and silently, often unnoticed and even forgotten. Thus, we continue to strive to support the local parish clergy, who are charged with the particular sacramental needs of the townspeople, with our spiritual intercession, and collaborate with them when they request need. We know by faith our prayers help sustain their work and all those suffering and assist in healing the sufferings of many all over our region in these difficult times. Your continued support has inspired us in our prayer and mission.”
The Monks of Norcia have set up a dedicated Earthquake Blog where you can follow news of their historic site and their community.