Saturday, August 10, 2013

Unexpected Encounters: John Henry Newman and Beniamino Gigli in Vetralla

what the monastery looked like in  1744
On these hot August  days  one of the best places  to  find a cool breeze is  in the wooded hills of  Monte Fogliano   overlooking Vetralla.   The road winds up through the  shadowy  woods where mushrooms and wild boar  can be sighted. 

Along the roadside a series white ceramic stations of the cross  mark the way before the road turns in   narrow cypress lined drive . Here is the majestic   Passionist monastery  founded  by  St. Paul of the Cross in  1744. 

The Passionists'  priorities   included  good   views and prime real estate  for an almost identical Passionist monastery can be found  on an almost identical  hill on the  Monte Argentario  peninsula, less than  100 kilometres away in Tuscany.  

sculpture of Newman's conversion by  Barbieri 
In  this lush  Italian  landscape and this historic  Italian monastery  visitors are  quite    surprised  to find connections with   England ..and the  opera world.

the sculpture   of Newman and Barbieri 
On the left hand side of the monastery chapel is a double  statue  honoring  Blessed Domenico Barbieri (1792-1849  and Cardinal John Henry Newman. Father  Barbieri    was a missionary in England  where  he  founded  four Passionist houses and  was responsible for the conversion of  John Henry Newman.  When  Newman became a Cardinal he was dedicated to  Catholic  education, as the many  university  Newman Clubs  attest.

In the early years of the 1900s, a brother of popular Italian tenor, Beniamino Gigli, was a priest here. Thanks to this connection electricity was brought up the mountain for the monastery,   as the   plaque  located just above  the “cabina elettrica”  reminds visitors.

 the monastery  today is a place for retreats 

altar of  St. Paul of the Cross 

Read about the  Wedding of the Trees which takes place each year  on May 8th  in a clearing nearby.  Have you been to this festival? 


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  2. Vi ricordate di Fra.. Simone, frate cercatore del convento di S. Angelo? , che tra l' altro era lo zio di Beniamino Gigli che porto' l'energia elettrica , sostenendone il costo, al convento.

  3. Grazie Rolando per averci spiegato come l'energia elettrica è arrivato al convento.
    Correction: it was the uncle of Gigli -Fra Simone- who was a monk at the convent...thanks to Rolando Palmieri of Vetralla for the correct information.