Farfa, Abbey of
FARFA, ABBEY OF
Former Benedictine abbey about 25 miles north of Rome in central Italy. Since 1919 it has been united to st. paul-outside-the-walls, which has a group of monks in Farfa to care for the parish and a nearby college. Restoration of the abbey, a national monument since 1929, has brought to light Roman and medieval sections (frescoes of c. 700).
Founded on pagan buildings and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin by a bishop of Spoleto, Gregory the Syrian (4th or 6th century) or Lawrence (552–563), Farfa was destroyed by barbarians and restored (690) by St. thomas of farfa (of Maurienne). Under Frankish abbots it was fortified; and, endowed by popes, dukes, kings, and emperors, its domain extended from Latium to the Marches. Charlemagne made it an imperial abbey, and its abbots frequented papal and royal courts. After nonantola it was the richest abbey in Italy, with 683 churches and cloisters, 132 castles, two cities, 16 fortified towns, seven ports, and 315 villages. Saracens occupied it (891) and raided Sabina. Abbot Ratfred, who restored the community to the ruined abbey from their refuge in the Marches (940), was poisoned by monks impatient to enjoy the great riches. Hugh (997–1038) introduced the Cluniac reform and made the abbey a spiritual, intellectual, and economic center; his valuable writings generally illustrate a beneficial understanding between Church and State. Berard I completed the basilica, consecrated by Nicholas II (1060). The historian Gregory of Catina revived studies and developed the scriptorium.
Farfa lost importance with the decline of the Empire, with which it had sided in the investiture struggle. Eugene III was consecrated there (1145), Abbot Adinulfus somewhat restored its fortunes and Urban IV made it a diocesis nullius (1264); but the abbey's day had passed, and commendation (1400–1841) only hastened its ruin. Union with the Congregation of monte cassino (1567) revived it to a degree until it was suppressed by France (1798) and Italy (1862). Bl. Placido riccardi was rector of the basilica (1895–1912).
Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 1:1107–09. i. schuster, L'imperiale abbazia di Farfa (Rome 1921). p. markthaler, "Sulle recenti scoperte nell'abbazia imperiale di Farfa," Revista di archeologia cristiana 5 (1928) 37–88. g. penco, Storia del monachesimo in Italia (Rome 1961). j. roux, Catholicisme. Hier, aujourd'hui et demain, ed. g. jacquemet (Paris 1947–) 4:1098–1100. p. volk, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:25–26.