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The Abbey of Santa Maria di Pattano
The Abbey of St. Mary of Pattano is one of the best preserved Italo-Greek (Byzantine) monasteries in Southern Italy. It is just one km from the town of Vallo della Lucania in the hills of the Vallo di Diano and Cilento National Park, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Paestum just off the SS18, the road that leads south from Paestum through the western portion of that park.The Abbey is on the site of an earlier Roman site, itself possibly inhabited by earlier Greek settlers from nearby Velia.
The abbey looks like somewhat of a fortified medieval farmhouse (called a "masseria" in Italian), surrounded by a solid wall and hidden away among olive groves. On the grounds, you can visit the restored Chapel of San Filadelfo (St. Philadelphus) of Pattano (the first hegumen--head--of the monastery) with its Byzantine frescoes and wooden statue of the saint in Byzantine garb. The frescoes, the statue, and indeed the abbey itself are from the tenth century. (The wooden statue is temporarily housed in the Dioclesian Museum in nearby Vallo della Lucania.) On the grounds of the Abbey, the church of Santa Maria may be visited; although the original building is from the tenth century, it shows much later Angevin reconstruction. Of extreme interest is the bell tower, the ornamentation on which is evidence of its Byzantine origins.
General Byzantine religious presence in southern Italy is discussed at:
Cilento, National Park; monasteries
Capitanata la Cattolica in Stilo
The Mystery of the Laurito Frescoes
It bears repeating that, historically, the Eastern Greek churches that were part and parcel of most of the extreme southern coastal areas in Italy did fine for a few centuries following the break-up of the Roman Empire. Then they started to be pushed into areas inland and father north. That pressure started in the 700s from Arab incursions along southern coasts. Most important, however, were certainly political events in Greece, itself, which affected the nature of religious worship; to wit, Byzantine emperor, Leo III (called "the Isaurian") unleashed the iconoclast persecutions in 726. This caused great conflict with Rome and caused the "icon-breaking" Greek government to expand its ecclesiastical demands along those parts of the southern Italian coasts still under Greek control. At the point, the "icon-worshippers" fled from the "icon-breakers" and moved north and inland. The influence of Byzantine Christianity is evident in many churches in the south, even in those cases--by now, all of them--where the Eastern rites have been replaced by the Western rites of Rome.
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