Along these roads walked Saint Benedict from Norcia to visit Saint Eutizio to pray long into the winter evenings to Saint Spes, his spiritual role model. One time even Saint Francis climbed up this hill en route to Ascoli to visit the abbey, intrigued by the reputation of the medical “school” here. Today, these ancient paths remain intact and open to interested visitors.
The Abbey of Saint Eutizio, founded in 470 by Saint Spes, Saint Eutizio, and Saint Fiorenzo, became home to one of the most important Benedictine communities. It is situated on a hilltop above caves where Syrian monks lived in the early decades of the fifth century. The current structure is organized around two courtyards, the first of which is accessible from three exits of the neighbouring medieval church.
The monks here were the first to study medicine and experiment with medicinal plants to alleviate suffering and cure sickness. It was here that the famous Preci school of medicine was born. And even though they were forbidden by higher clerics from dedicating themselves to the study of medicine, these monks played a critical role in passing down their skills and knowledge to their neighbours in the nearby villages, thus creating an environment favourable to the advancement of empirical medical studies.
Photo below — In the abbey complex of Saint Eutizio, one can still visit the caves where Saint Benedict of Norcia prayed (above is a portrait of Fra Angelico).