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  • Fortified entrance to the  Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore.zoom in altra finestra
  • Interior of the Library in the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore.zoom in altra finestra

Farmacia dell'Archicenobio di Monte Oliveto Maggiore [Pharmacy of the Archicoenoby of Monte Oliveto Maggiore]

The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, mother house of the Olivetan Order and follower of the Rule of St. Benedict, was founded in 1313, approved by the Bishop of Arezzo in 1319 and confirmed by Pope Clement VI in 1344.

The "spezieria", founded along with the Abbey, was located at the entrance tower defending the eastern side. It seems to have consisted of spacious rooms containing glass alembics for the distillation of aromatic waters. More certain information dates from 1564, when the Abbot General Barnaba Barsi of Perugia transformed it into a real pharmacy at the service of both the Monastery and the people of the surrounding countryside. Subsequently, it was managed by laymen pharmacists and ceased to operate in 1865, after its premises had been destroyed by an earthquake. The furniture and pharmaceutical equipment were kept in the main Refectory up to 1926, after which they were rearranged in the Monastery's Chapter House.

The rich collection of pharmaceutical jars, displayed in the upper room of the monumental library, furnished with six walnut shelves and the pharmacy's counter, is made up of various objects: albarellos, jars decorated with yellow and blue motifs, with the Monte Oliveto coat of arms (three mountains, a red cross on the highest mountain, and two olive branches), coming from the renowned kilns of San Quirico d'Orcia and dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.


Texts by Francesco Boccanera, Anna Vittoria Laghi

English translation by Catherine Frost

Last update 16/feb/2008