Casalattico, Monastery of S. Nazario

Foundation of Monasteries in the Valle di Comino (9th-11th century)

A series of monasteries were founded in the Valle di Comino following the penetration of the Benedictines from Montecassino into the territory, between the 9th and 11th centuries.

The Monastery of S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino and S. Maria della Limata

In the territory of Casalattico, in addition to the monastery of S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino (11th century), associated with the nearby church of S. Maria della Limata (contrada Plauto di Casalvieri), there already existed, on the left bank of the Melfa, the ancient cenobium of San Nazario in the locality of S. Andrea.

Its origin probably dates back to the 9th century, at the beginning of the Benedictine monks’ penetration into the valley. As numerous vestiges and various architectural fragments incorporated into the masonry attest, the monastery was built on the remains of an ancient Roman temple along the Melfa River.

The Monastery of S. Nazario was also a prepositura: there was no abbot, but, as in S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino, a preposito from Montecassino took care of the religious life and administration.

Destruction and Reconstruction of S. Nazario (9th-11th century)

The original monastery of S. Nazario was destroyed by the Saracens: this event occurred between 881, the year in which the abbey of S. Vincenzo al Volturno was destroyed, 883, the year of the destruction of Montecassino Abbey, and 915, the year of the Battle of Garigliano, when the Saracens were definitively defeated and driven away from our territories.

The church and monastery of S. Nazario were rebuilt by a monk from Montecassino, Fra Adamo, on the express order of the Cassinese abbot Atenolfo, between 1011 and 1022.

Agricultural Development and Economic Growth (11th-14th century)

Around the mid-11th century, after the reconstruction of the cenobium, the princes of Capua, to whom the county of Comino belonged, authorized the construction along the Melfa, as dependencies of the monastery, of embankments, canals, and a mill (still existing though transformed): works aimed at the agricultural management of the monastery’s lands.

Information about the monastery of S. Nazario, located near the locality of S. Andrea di Casale, dates back to 1050 when the deacon of the monastic community acquired adjacent land from some inhabitants of Atina to increase its land holdings for economic autonomy, a goal of all Benedictine communities.

Further information about the monastery is available in the 13th century when a certain Fra Giovanni is mentioned as the preposito of S. Nazario (1245). This was during the Swabian domination of Frederick II, and, as was happening in the nearby monastery of S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino, just a few kilometers downstream, it was a period of decline due to the difficult relationship between the Emperor and the Church.

More historical information is available in 1310, when monastic life experienced a certain revival. In fact, towards the end of the 14th century, the prepositura of S. Nazario reached the height of prosperity, as indirectly evidenced by its extensive land holdings and the numerous surrounding churches under its jurisdiction: it is worth noting that a Benedictine monastery was considered by the “Rule” itself as a center of spiritual life but also a real “enterprise” in which the agricultural and artisanal work of the monks aimed to make the monastery self-sufficient and to support the mother abbey of Montecassino and the order itself through the payment of an annual “tithe.”

In 1398, S. Nazario had under its jurisdiction the monastery of S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino and the church of S. Maria della Limata in Plauto, which had depended on it since its origins. Other possessions were in Vicalvi (S. Salvatore), Posta (S. Benedetto), Gallinaro (S. Maria dei Gennari), and Arpino (S. Silvestro, S. Marco, S. Martino, and S. Lucia). No other monastery in the valley and in Sora had under its jurisdiction so many churches and such extensive properties.

Decline and Transition to Secular Priests (15th-16th century)

On March 25, 1465, the abbot of Montecassino appointed a monk from Casalvieri, Fra Silvestro, as the preposito of S. Nazario and S. Martino di Alvito. He was the last Benedictine preposito of S. Nazario to reside in the monastery since, by 1483, the monastery and its assets were already administered by Fra Amico, a monk from Montecassino. After him, from 1486, the monastery was entrusted by the abbots of Montecassino to secular priests.

Survival and Transformations (16th-17th century)

From the beginning of the 16th century, the Benedictine phenomenon in our valley was, in fact, on the verge of extinction. However, unlike S. Angelo di Pesco Mascolino, which also physically declined along with the church of Limata, especially since it was transformed into a “grancia” (agricultural annex) of S. Nazario from around 1413, the monastery of S. Nazario and its church still survived, albeit modified over time and belonging to the secular clergy.

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