Art in Maiori: the beauty of Santa Maria de' Olearia
The abbey of Santa Maria de' Olearia is one of the many treasures of art that can be seen near Maiori, especially in the district of Monte Falerzio.
This locality of the Amalfi Coast, a well known and loved tourist destination, was in the Middle Ages an important ecclesial center, a crossroads between the oriental and western cults. This abbey in particular had a very flourishing activity throughout the Middle Ages, however, in 1509, when the last abbot died, the site was almost completely abandoned. In more recent times a part of the monastic complex has been transformed into a private residence, nevertheless Santa Maria de 'Olearia is one of the most evocative monuments of the area.
The building stands right next to the state road, in a place that still remains an oasis of peace and beauty. The site was chosen by the founder, a hermit named Pietro, because of its particularly nice location. The hill, which offers a beautiful view of the sea, is full of olive trees that provide a pleasant shelter from the warm Mediterranean sun. To them the abbey owes its name (Olearia means of the oil), in fact, in the past, a very famous oil mill was not far away.
The foundation of the central core of the building dates back to 973, but over the years it has been expanded on several occasions, within a rocky cavern dug both by nature and man. Even today, in fact, the three small overlapping churches that make up the heart of the monument, are almost camouflaged among the rocks.
Precious materials, such as marble, often flanked poor materials like local stone or simple mortar.
The lower church is also the one where you can admire the best preserved paintings of the whole site. It consists of a square room with three small apses, and every wall is embellished by two cycles of frescoes. It's known as the crypt, or the chapel of the catacombs.
The second church is the main chapel, it overlooks a nice terrace and it was once full of frescoes too, both inside and outside. Many paintings have been saved in the restoration of 1988, but many others, especially the external ones, are unfortunately damaged today.
The third church is that of San Nicola. This too is entirely frescoed with episodes from the life of the saint, which are interrupted in the apse to make room for a Virgin with Child, together with San Nicola and San Paolino. On the facade there is also a round shape representing the hand of God and two angels in prayer.