Subiaco (SUBLACUM, SUBLACEUM, SUBLAQUEM), a city in the Province of Rome, twenty-five miles from Tivoli, received its name from the artificial lakes of the villa of Nero and is renowned for its sacred grotto (Sagro Speco), the Abbey of St. Scholastica, and the archiepiscopal residence and Church of St. Andrew, which crowns the hill. When St. Benedict, at the age of fourteen, retired from the world he lived for three years in a cave above the River Anio, supplied with the necessaries of life by a monk, St. Roman. The grotto became the cradle of the Benedictine Order. St. Benedict was able to build twelve monasteries and to place twelve monks in each. The one at the grotto seems to have had but a short existence; in 854 we find a record of its renovation. In this year Leo IV is said to have consecrated an altar to Sts. Benedict and Scholastica and another to St. Sylvester. Another renovation took place in 1053 under Abbot Humbert of St. Scholastica. Abbot John V, created cardinal by Gregory VII, made the grotto the terminus of a yearly procession, built a new road, and had the altars reconsecrated. Shortly before 1200 there existed a community of twelve, which Innocent III made a priory; John XXII in 1312 appointed a special abbot. A new road was built by the city in 1688. The sacred grotto is still a favorite pilgrimage, and on October 27, 1909, Pius X granted a daily plenary indulgence to those who receive Holy Communion there and pray according to the intention of the Holy Father (Acta Ap. Sedis, II, 405). A short description of the grotto, the church, and chapels, is given by Chandlery, “Pilgrim Walks in Rome” (New York, 1908), p. 469. The Abbey of St. Scholastica, about a mile and a half below the grotto, was built by St. Benedict himself (about 520), and endowed by the Roman patricians, Tertullus and Aequitius. The second abbot, St. Honoratus, changed the old monastery into a chapter room and built a new one, dedicating it to Sts. Cosmas and Damian. It was destroyed by the Lombards in 601 and abandoned for a century. By order of John VII it was rebuilt by Abbot Stephen and consecrated to Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Demolished in 840 by the Saracens and again in 981 by the Hungarians, it rose from its ruins. Benedict VII consecrated the new church, and henceforth the abbey was known by the name St. Scholastica. In 1052 Leo IX came to Subiaco to settle various disputes and to correct abuses; a similar visit was made by Gregory VII. Special favor was shown by Pascal II, who took the abbey from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tivoli and made it an abbacy nullius. Its temporal welfare was also a care of the popes. Thus, among others, Innocent III, at his visit in 1203, increased the revenues of the abbey. With the decline of religious fervor, strifes and dissensions arose to such an extent that Abbot Bartholomew in 1364, by command of the pope, had to dismiss some of the incorrigible monks and fill their places with religious from other monasteries. Numbers were brought in from Germany, and for many decades Subiaco was a center of German thrift, science, and art. Still, it seems the discipline was not satisfactory, for Urban VI (1378-89) abolished the abbots for life, took away from the monks the right of election, and gave the administration and revenues to a member of the Curia. Callistus III, in 1455, gave the abbey in commendam to a cardinal. The first of these was the Spanish Cardinal Torquemada and the second Roderigo Borgia (later Alexander VI), who remodeled the Castrum Sublacence, once the summer resort of the popes, and made it the residence of the commendatory abbot.
Many of these abbots cared but little for the religious life of the monks and looked only for the revenues. As an example, Pompeo Colonna, Bishop of Rieti, commendatory abbot since 1506, squandered the goods of the abbey and gave the income to unworthy subjects. On complaint of the community, in 1510, Julius II readjusted matters and restored the monastic possessions. For spiritual benefit a union had been made between Subiaco and the Abbey of Farfa, but it lasted only a short time. In 1514 Subiaco joined the Congregation of St. Justina, whose abbot-general was titular of St. Scholastica, while a cardinal remained commendatory abbot. Even after this union there were continual quarrels between Subiaco and Farfa, Subiaco and Monte Cassino, the Germans and the Italians. After this but little is known about the abbey until the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1851 some of the monasteries of Italy, with consent of the Holy See, formed a separate province, though still belonging to the Congregation of St. Justina. Soon other monasteries in various parts of the world wished to join this union, and Pius IX, by Decree of March 9, 1872, established the Cassinese Congregation of primitive observance. This congregation, known also as the Congregatio Sublacensis, has had a marvellous growth for, according to the “Familiae Confoederatae” of 1910, it embraces 35 monasteries in 5 provinces, with a total of 1050 religious. The troubles of Subiaco did not cease for by order of June 19, 1873, the property was sequestrated by the Italian Government, the abbey declared a national monument, and the religious tolerated as custodians of the same. At first but few monks remained, but in 1897 there was again a community of 25 and the “Familiae Confoederatae” of 1910 notes 21 priests, 10 clerics, 8 lay brothers, and 3 novices. On January 7, 1909, Pius X restored to the monks the right of electing their own abbot. On the 28th they elected Lawrence Salvi. The pope conferred on him the right of wearing the cappa magna on February 17, and four days later Salvi received the abbatial benediction. In 1904 Luigi Cardinal Macchi resigned his office as commendatory abbot, and Pius X retained the position for himself, ordering the Acts of the Curia to bear the heading: “Pius X Abbas Sublacensis”. The abbacy nullius comprises 24 parishes, 91 priests (Benedictines, Franciscans, Capuchins, and secular), and 23,000 inhabitants [Annuaire Pont. Eccles. (1911), 339]. The episcopal functions are performed by Victor M. Corvaia, O.S.B., titular Bishop of Tripolis. The library and archives were once of great value. In Subiaco the German printers, Sweinheim and Pannartz, found a home and printed “Donatus pro parvulis”, “Lactantius” (1465), and “De Civitate Dei” (1467). Today the printing press is doing valuable work; in 1908 appeared “Petri Boherii in Regulam S. Benedicti Commentarium nunc primum editum cura et studio P. Allodi”.