The Abbey of the Most Holy Trinity
The Badia Benedettina della SS. Trinità di Cava sits against the lush backdrop of the Selano river valley, atop one of the main peaks of Monti Lattari, overlooking the breathtaking panorama of the Amalfi Coast.
Alferio, a Benedictine monk, retired to the Arsicia Cave to live a life of prayer and contemplation. Here, he saw a vision of the Most Holy Trinity, in the form of three rays of light emanating from the rock. Soon thereafter, he established one of the leading Benedictine communities in the Western Christian world on the site. According to the 19th century historian Paul Guillame, “[…]Ugo da Venosa claims that Alferio was the first Benedictine monk to turn the Metelliana cave into a stable religious residence. Though the hermit monk turned his back on worldly glory, people in the nearby cities sang his praises, and many high-ranking individuals begged him to provide them with spiritual guidance”.
Badia di Cava became an extraordinary medieval religious and cultural centre, where princes, gentlemen and pontiffs travelled to offer gifts, precious donations and benefits.
A brief wander along the streets around the city walls brings visitors face-to-face with Badia di Cava’s harmonious 8th century facade. The august complex is grandiose and replete with history, art and faith. Its austere exterior quickly gives way to the richness and splendour of its majestic interior. By 1025, St. Alferius had built a modest, cosy church with a single room; in 1092, St. Peter the abbot extended the building, adding multiple aisles. The current imposing basilica, commissioned by abbot Giulio De Palma, dates back to 1761.
The basilica’s interior is bright and harmonious, thanks to the modern internal walls and the polychrome marble flooring. Visitors’ attention is drawn to the imposing ambon, featuring 12th century mosaics. This was most likely a gift from King Roger II of Sicily, who wanted his wife, Queen Sybil, to be laid to rest beneath the splendid twinkle of the mosaics. Certain elements of the original basilica remain, including the SS. Padri Chapel, St. Alferius’ cave dwelling with the urn containing his relics, and the remains of 14th century frescoes.
The abbey has been home to many works of art throughout its centuries-long history: Achille
Guerra’s Deposizione dalla croce [Deposition from the cross], located at the altar of the left transept, and the painting of St. Mauro at the first altar to the right of the entranceway; Tino da Camaino’s 4th century relief of the Madonna and Child between St. Benedict and St. Alferius; the door to the baptistery on the left and the marble archway with the beautiful 6th century door to the sacristy.
Below the basilica’s 12 altars lie the relics of 12 of the abbey’s saintly or holy abbots. All of which combine to pay homage to the grandeur of a thriving abbey that has welcomed the faithful for centuries.