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The Monastery of San Nicola from Casole

By 20 June 2018 No Comments
Abbazia di San Nicole di Casole

The Monastery of “San Nicola from Casole” is one of the most important places in Salento, on a historical, artistic and cultural level. It was founded in 1098 by Boemondo I, prince of Antioch and Taranto and son of Roberto il Guiscardo. The Norman noble donated the plot on which the monastery was built to a community of Basilian monks and gave them substantial funds. From the bricks of these walls the culture transpired in its purest form. He wasted the wisdom of the Italian-Greek Basilian monks who, holding cultural and classical linguistic heritage, composed poems in the Greek language, unaware that such works, in the future, would be considered the first examples of “vulgar literature” in Italy, the same one that with Dante Alighieri reached its maximum splendor becoming the “Italian literature” par excellence. The monastery housed a circle of poets in Greek, led by Abbot Nettario, to whom belonged, in addition to the same Neptary, Giorgio di Gallipoli, Giovanni Grasso and Nicola di Otranto. The library was created in the monastery, with numerous Greek and Latin volumes. It was at the time one of the richest libraries in Europe. The library was destroyed in 1480, following the battle of Otranto, in which the city had to succumb to the Turkish invaders. Today only ruins remain today. However, something was saved thanks to the work of Sergio Stiso, a Greek philosopher, and to Cardinal Giovanni Bessarione, former Archbishop of Nicea exiled by the Orthodox, who often “took” (or rather “raided”, as the volumes did not never return to their place of origin) various Greek-Byzantine manuscripts in the monasteries and libraries he visited.