San Martino delle Scale (PA)
p. Vittorio Rizzone
Piazza Platani, 11
90046 San Martino delle Scale (PA)
Abbot f. Vittorio Rizzone
The Abbey of San Martino delle Scale is located about 10 km from Palermo, surrounded by a wide and green valley of woods, about 550 meters above sea level. It is a grandiose architectural complex dating back to the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, with many rearrangements and later alterations that partly deface the ancient beauty. It consists of the monumental Basilica, consecrated in 1602, and of the monastery proper, which – despite following the steep slope of the ground – has a structure that recalls a quadrilateral cut orthogonally from a cross, which divides it into four quadrants.
Very little remains of the structures built in the 14th century, largely destroyed before the 16th-century reconstruction. Among the preserved works of art are the wooden choir of the Basilica (1591-1597), numerous paintings by important Sicilian painters of the 17th-18th century, the organ (Mascioni 2003), the Cloister of Saint Benedict (designed by Giulio Lasso in 1612), the monumental refectory, the chapter house and the new dormitory (built by Venanzio Marvuglia at the end of the 18th century).
Founded, according to an unreliable tradition, by Gregory the Great and later destroyed by the Saracens in the ninth century, the Abbey was certainly re-founded on 13.01.1347 by a group of six monks from the monastery of St. Nicholas, located on the slopes of Etna, which gave life to a monastery in the fief called San Martino, belonging to the Archbishop of Monreale. Among them, stands out the name of the founder, the blessed Angelo Sinisio, who in 1352 became its first abbot and died on 27.11.1386.
Upon joining the Cassinese Congregation in 1506, the Abbey was affected by a profound reworking of the ancient complex that lasted until the end of the eighteenth century. These three centuries represent the period of maximum splendor of the monastery, with important personalities in the field of humanistic, theological, philosophical, collecting and art studies.
Despite the decline of the 19th century, culminating with the suppression of the monastery, there were still some prominent figures, such as Blessed G.B. Dusmet. The slow recovery takes place at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to D. Ercole Tedeschi, who fulfilled his monastic and pastoral commitment in the midst many difficulties, and to the small community he formed.
Nowadays, the community of San Martino, united from 2016 to the community of the Blessed G.B. Dusmet of Nicolosi, consists of about 13 monks in San Martino delle Scale and 6 in Nicolosi. Its members are committed to keep alive the Benedictine charism of Ora et labora. The monks annually offer, especially during the summer, courses of spiritual exercises and lectio divina, lectures of theological and biblical study; they also administer the parish of “San Martino vescovo” annexed to the monastery, founded an Academy of Fine Arts for the training of young people both for artistic production and for the protection of cultural heritage and restoration, and organize concerts of organ, classical music and Gregorian chant, exhibitions and conferences. A few years ago, a craft beer production activity was commenced (thanks to the collaboration of the Hora Benedicta Association) and a store selling typical products from different monasteries was inaugurated.