American brew-monks hardly hit by Italian earthquake

Mostly American monks, who took over an ancient monastery in central Italy 16 years ago and opened up a brewery 4 years ago in order to raise funds and restore the historic facilities faced a severe drawback after two earthquakes totally destroyed the local Basilica.

On Sunday a 6.6-magnitude earthquake, the strongest to strike the country in 36 years, totally destroyed the Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, 170 kilometers (100 miles) north-east of Rome/Italy. The Basilica of St. Benedict was erected on the birthplace of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica and dates in its origins back to the late 14th century. Approximately 50,000 pilgrims from around the world visit the place every year.

The basilica is part of the Monastery of St. Benedict of Norcia which was active for about 800 years until the monks were forced to flee in 1810 under the new laws of the Napoleonic Code. The monastic order was re-established in 1998 and reopened two years later in the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 with the help of three American monks. Currently 12 of the 18 monks come originally from the United States.

The idea for opening a brewery on the historic site came also from an American, Brother Francis Davoren, who today is the head brew-monk.  Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, another American, who grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, is the director of the brewery. The more than 500 hectoliters (13,000 gallons), which are brewed every year on site, are sold in Italy and have been made available in the United States from this year on.

The brewhouse of Birra Nursia, which is located outside the city of Norcia in the 1000 year old monastery in a space that was used over the centuries as a barnyard, repair shop and granary. If it has been damaged in the second earthquake of Sunday, which was bigger than an Aug. 24 earthquake that killed almost 300 people, is not clear yet.

Please find a film on the brewery here and a film on the destruction of the basilica here.

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