In my previous post, I described the first day of the two-day trip Father Stephen Otvos and I made to Trevi nel Lazio, the site of my titular diocese. The adventure continued the next day, albeit not in Trevi but in the surrounding region.
Father Stephen and I had a quick breakfast in the morning and then headed out around 10am. Our destination was the Shrine of the Holy Trinity in Vallepietra. This is quite an amazing little shrine, founded well over 1000 years ago as a monastery of Byzantine monks who were probably refugees from some persecution in the Eastern Roman Empire (some say as much as 1500 years ago). They basically set themselves up in a cave high up on the cliffs. One of the remaining frescos from the era of these monks is this one of the Holy Trinity:
Western depictions of the Trinity from this era usually represented the Father as an older man, and the Son as a younger man (the Holy Spirit was usually another image, like a dove). Easterners, on the other hand, tended to depict the Trinity as 3 similar beings, which is one reason why it is believed this is a Byzantine-inspired icon.
Now when I say those monks set themselves up in the cliffs, I wasn’t kidding. Here is the cliff, with a view of the valley below:
We were supposed to meet Father Alberto (the parish priest of Trevi and rector of this shrine) but we underestimated the time it would take to get there. End result: instead of celebrating mass with him at 11am, I got the job for the noon mass! Here is the altar where it took place:
All these photos don’t really do the site justice, mind you, so here is a small video I did to put it all in perspective:
After a delicious lunch with the priests ministering at the shrine, we headed on our way. Next stop: Subiaco, resting place of Saint Benedict, founder of one of the most important monastic traditions and arguably one of the key figures of Western civilization.
The is the monastery built over the grotto where Saint Benedict lived for a time:
This is the grotto itself:
After visiting the first monastery, we headed down to the monastery of Saint Scholastica (named after Saint Benedict’s sister), which is actually the older of the two.
We took a guided tour of the monastery, although it was interrupted when the Abbot showed up. He had heard there was a visiting bishop, so he took some time to visit with us.
And that was it! We were all pretty beat by that point, so the car ride home was fairly quiet. Still, there was one surprise left for us. When we got back to Rome, Father Stephen and I wanted to offer Marco some money for the gas and accommodation expenses that would have been incurred (and gas, I might add, is pretty expensive in Italy). But he refused, explaining that a collection had actually up among some of the townsfolk of Trevi, to split the costs between them. We were their guests, all the way.
As Marco drove off, Father Stephen and I were left exhausted but awestruck. What an incredible weekend, marked first and foremost by a sense of hospitality that people rarely if ever get a chance to experience. There was no doubt about it — we had been blessed, pure and simple.