On October 30, 2016 a 6.6 magnitude earth quake destroyed the historic town of Norcia in central Italy. Besides many century old houses the 13th century basilica, birthplace of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica, and the nearby Monastero di San Benedetto, a monastery which included a brewery, was destroyed and left the 18 monks, 12 of them born in the United States, homeless. (inside.beer, 1.11.2016)
While the European Union and the Italian state have pledged to restore the basilica and monastery in the town, the archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which owns the buildings, has decided that the spaces will have to be used by the diocese since all the other churches in town were also destroyed.
After the quake the monks sought shelter at their dilapidated grange on the mountainside high above the town and lived in tents while they built new houses on the mountainside. The monks decided to concentrate their efforts on their 16th century church and rural property outside the walls of town. As outlined on the internet site “there, a new magnificent church and monastery will rise up to complement the old one, encompassing all that the monks hold dear: the restoration of man through the worship of God, so that men might become monks, that monks might become saints, and Norcia, Europe and the world might be brought closer to God.”
Part of the money will come through the own brewery, which was inaugurated in 2012 and remarkably hardly damaged by the earthquake. “The fermenters were loosed, but they’re tall and heavy, and so they didn’t fall,” as Rev. Benedict Nivakoff, new prior of Monastero di San Benedetto and a monk from Connecticut, explained.
Before the natural disaster, the monks were producing up to 30,000 bottles of beer a month. Lately they have been selling beer that was not destroyed in the quake. To mark the special brew, the bottles show the damaged rose window of the basilica on the label (see a video here).
The proceeds will help to rebuild the new church and monastery as well as the brewery at the new location on the mountainside. The cornerstone of the new mountainside brewery has already been laid and production is expected to start in due time. Still, 15% of all proceeds form the beer will be given to charitable causes especially to the people of Norcia as a material means of lessening their hardships.
The monks set up a website for their fund-raising efforts but also for people willing to help in buying their beer.