Santa Maria de Olearia in Maiori
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A walk around the ruins of the XI Benedictine Abbey just above Maiori, is a great way to enjoy the most ancient part of town. The intricate religious site is set in between rocks and Maiori's surrounding vegetation, and it is a truly moving experience of rupestrian life.
In the Middle Ages Maiori was indeed one of the most important ecclesiastic sees of the Duchy of Amalfi.
Here there was a strong hermitage tradition, indeed Santa Maria de Olearia was initially a simple votive aedicule dedicated to the Saint founded by two hermits. Later on the area developed into a cluster of monks cenobi To reach St. Maria de Olearia there is a path down the rocks which leads to an open air squared atrium delimited by a small porch supported by two little bare columns. Here lays the first abbot's, Tauro, gravestone. From this point there is the access door to a small apse room covered by tunnel vaults and decorated with XI century frescos.
In the crypt below there are very well preserved fresco, the Virgin Mary amidst two Saints among other wall paintings.
Most fresco paintings were probably done by Leone Amalfitano, a Benedictine monk who lived here in the XI century. He is famous as the leader of the illustrious Italian tradition of eclectic artists, working many arts at the same time. The whole Santa Maria de Olearia estate is made of three small overlapped churches, each rich with decorations.
The name de Olearia derives from the numerous surrounding olive tress.
The Abbey was eventually abandonned in 1509 when the last Abbot died. In the catacombs the latest findings have discovered paintings dating back to the VII and VIII century, which have rapidly attracted much attention from the academic world, as their quality and manufacture is of very high standards.
The importance of Santa Maria de Olearia is linked to the greater Italian monastic tradition, indeed here the monk Gerardo Sasso di Scala began his proselytes to eventually create the monastic order of the Monaci Ospedalieri di S.Giovanni di Gerusalemme.
In the surroundings of Maiori there used to be an other three important cenobi and abbeys, however there are only written documents accounting for these sites as they went lost into oblivion and totally abandoned. Thus the possibility to visit Santa Maria de' Olearia is really a great privilege which will certainly enrich the stay on the Amalfi Coast.