1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Subiaco
SUBIACO (anc. Sublaqueum), a town of Italy, in the province of Rome, from which it is 47 m. E. by rail, picturesquely situated on the right bank of the Anio, 1339 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1901), 7076 (town), 8003 (commune). It has ironworks and paper-mills. Sublaqueum was so called from its position under the three artificial lakes constructed in the gorge of the Anio in connexion with the aqueduct of the Anio Novus, which had its intake at the lower end of the lowest of them (the Simbruina stagna of Tacitus). On the banks of this lake Nero constructed a villa, in the remains of which was found the beautiful headless statue of a youth kneeling, now in the Museo delle Terme at Rome. There is no mention of the villa after Nero's time. The lakes gradually ceased to exist owing to the action of the Anio, the last dam being washed away in 1305. In 494 St Benedict retired to this spot, then already deserted, and took up his abode as a hermit in a cave (Sacro Speco) above the lakes of the Anio. In 505, probably, he founded the first of his twelve monasteries, completing their number between 510 and 529, when he went to Cassino. The chronicles state that the principal monastery was devastated by the Lombards in 601, and rebuilt in 705; but there is little foundation for these statements. The first authentic document that we have is the mention in the Liber pontificalis of the gift of vestments by Leo IV. (847–855) to the monastery of S. Silvester, S. Benedict and S. Scholastica, and to the church of SS. Cosmas and Damian. The former is probably that at the Sacro Speco. The monastery was confirmed in its possessions by Pope Gregory I. and his successors, and had by the 10th century very considerable landed properties with feudal jurisdiction enumerated in several documents, the first dating from 926, and an inscription of 1052 (cf. Regesto sublacense, Rome, 1891). The church dedicated to S. Scholastica, S. Benedict's sister, was erected in 981, according to an inscription belonging to a later date, but carved upon a slab decorated with reliefs of the end of the 8th, or the beginning of the 9th, century.
In 1053 the church was restored and a campanile built, which still exists; and in the middle of the 13th century the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style. Other buildings grew up round it; the cloister on the right is a fine Romanesque arcaded court with twisted columns and mosaics, the south side of which was constructed by Lorenzo, the first of the family of the Cosmati, early in the 13th century, while the other three sides are due to his son Jacopo and to Jacopo's sons Luca and Jacopo, who worked here in the time of the abbot Lando (1227–1243). The irregular atrium in front of the church is probably contemporary with its reconstruction in the Gothic style about 1274, while the outer court dates from the end of the 16th century. The church, with the exception of the campanile, was modernized in 1771–1777. The right of the monks to elect their own abbot, who had by that time obtained a position of great importance, was cancelled in 1388, and in 1455 the abbot was suspended, and the administration handed over to the Spanish cardinal, Giovanni Torquemada. For the whole of the 16th century it was in the hands of the Colonna family, who were commendatories of it. During the 17th century, the Barberini held it, but in 1753 Benedict XIV. separated the spiritual and temporal dominions, placing the latter under officials directly dependent on the papacy. The commendatories were as a rule cardinals. As regards monastic discipline, the abbey had since 1514 been subject to the rule of Monte Cassino, and it was only in 1872 that it regained from Pius IX. its independence and became an autonomous congregation. Arnold Pannartz and Conrad Schweinheim, two German ecclesiastics, set up here the first printing press in Italy, issuing an edition of Donatus (1465), followed by one of Cicero (1465) and of Lactantius (1465). Copies of the Lactantius, of the Augustine of 1467, which was probably printed not here but in Rome, whither the printers migrated in that year, and of other rare incunabula are still preserved here. Still more interesting is the monastery of the Sacro Speco, higher up the hill, dating, it would seem, from the 9th century, though little earlier than the 13th remains. The Grotta dei Pastori contains some frescoes of the 9th century, while the Sacro Speco, or cave of St Benedict, contains frescoes of the 13th, and so does the lower church, the latter having been decorated in the first twenty years of the 13th century, and in part repainted in the latter half of the same century by an otherwise unknown master Conxolus. The upper church contains scenes from the life of Christ by an unknown Sienese master of the end of the 14th century, to whom is also attributable a remarkable fresco of the triumph of death, on the stairs from the tower church to the Cappella dei Pastori, and some 15th-century work, and in the chapel of S. Gregory a remarkable portrait of St Francis of Assisi (who was perhaps here in 1218), probably painted before 1228, as it lacks the halo and the stigmata. The whole group of buildings is constructed against the rocky sides of the gorge, part of it on massive substructions. The town contains various buildings constructed by Pius VI., who as cardinal was commendatory abbot of Subiaco. It is crowned by a medieval castle constructed originally by Gregory VII.
See P. Egidi, G. Giovannoni, F. Hermanin, V. Federici, I Monasteri di Subiaco (Rome, 1904); A. Colasanti, L’Aniene (Bergamo, 1906). (T. As.)
- The bull of 596 attributed to him is, however, now recognized as apocryphal.