During the summer of 2023, from 2-16 August, students and professors of the Architecture Program of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, U.S.A., resided at Sant’Anselmo. Led by Assistant Professor of Architecture John Haigh, the students spent their days in intensive on-site study of ancient Roman structures. They returned in the evening for supper and rest.
Below, Professor Haigh recounts their experience of Sant’Anselmo.
Prior to our Architecture Program’s travel to Rome, a fellow professor said it best: “you’re going to stay at Sant’Anselmo? How lucky for all of you — how did you get that reservation!”
Study in Rome is incomparable for us as architects and students of architecture, however, from the moment we stepped onto the grounds of the monastery at Sant’Anselmo our already-heightened delight in Rome increased exponentially. The Aventine Hill breezes, the cloistered shade-drenched gardens, the visual and acoustic beauty of the church, the peacefulness of the chanted offices and liturgies, the varied groves of trees — all of it conspired to provide us an immediate sense of respite from our travels and the bustle of the city, in other words, a beautiful home away from home. In the evenings, after full days of touring and sketching in the city, students sit out on the decks in the evening and snack and talk — not too loudly! Views of the city of Rome are magical from the upper floors of the monastery and after long days of walking and touring there was always a pleasant and cool location to be found on the grounds of the monastery to wind down and put up the feet.
Our rooms were spacious and commodious — very quiet — with perfectly comfortable beds and plenty of available towels and drinking water. Laundry machines were easily accessible and simple to use, with complimentary detergent. The students loved every bit of the living experience. If there is one in your group who likes to complain, Sant’Anselmo provides the balm and soften even the tougher hearts.
The meals deserve their own paragraph. While breakfast was light and simple fare as expected in Italy, the lunches and dinners were always wonderful and plentiful with a wide array of pasta, vegetable, meat, salad, and fruit options. Meals, drinks and desserts increased both in quantity and in extravagance on liturgical feast days, which became happy reminders for us that in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our lives abroad, we indeed stopped to celebrate the true Feasts. Though we enjoyed the regular companionship of our own company during meals, an unexpected bonus at mealtime was the opportunity to break bread with religious brothers and priests from all of the world—each one seemingly more kindly and more fascinating in character.
We would return again and stay at Sant’Anselmo at a moment’s notice. After only a two weeks’ stay, the monastery lives in our hearts and minds, and we now feel like we have a second, more glorious, home that awaits us in Italy. Sant’Anselmo will remain in our hearts until we might one day, God willing, find the opportunity to be called back to the Eternal City.