It is a large complex, with many rooms located around three cloisters.
The history of the abbey
The history of this monastic complex began in 1313 when Bernardo Tolomei, member of one of the most importante families of Siena, decided to retire in this place. In 1319, Bernardo created the congregazione benedettina di Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto (Benedictine Congregation of Santa Maria di Monte Oliveto) and, in 1320, the construction of the abbey began.
The visit to the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
La cattedrale della Natività di Maria di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (Cathedral of the Nativity of Mary) was built in the early 15th century. It is a large red brick building with a Latin cross plan. The exterior is in gothic style, while the Interior is baroque.
The large cloister and the frescoes
The chiostro grande (large cloister), built between 1426 and 1443,constitutes the most important element of the entire complex. The lowest part of the cloister consists of a gallery adorned with frescoes representing episodes from the life of Saint Benedict. An impressive fresco cycle consisting of 36 scenes painted by Luca Signorelli (autor of 9 scenes dipicted between 1497 and 1498) and by Antonio Bazzi known as the Sodoma (autor of the remaining scenes from 1505).
The library of the Abbey
The library can be accessed from the second of the threecloisters of the Abbey, the chiostro di mezzo (middle cloister). Within the monastic library are kept 40,000 works between codes, pamphlets and incunabula.
How to get to the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
The abbey is located not far from the small village of Chiusure (near Asciano) in the heart of Crete Senesi. Coming from Siena the fastest way to get to Monte Oliveto is the via Cassia (SR2) up to Buonconvento then divert on strada provinciale 451. The distance between Siena and Monte Oliveto is about 37 kilometers.
Timetables of the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
Standard time: 09.15-
Daylight saving time: 09.00-
Admission is free.
Schedule of masses:
Weekdays: 06.45 (except Saturday) and 07.30 Conventual mass (gregorian chant)
Holidays: 11.00 Conventual mass (gregorian chant) and 17.30 (saturday and sunday)
Typical products of the abbey
Within the Abbey there is a shop where you can buy souvenirs and typical products of the monks. They range from herbal extracts, ointments and creams, till the farm products of Monte Oliveto as the herbal liqueur and wine.