Nilus of Rossano, St.
NILUS OF ROSSANO, ST.
Abbot, propagator of Greek monasticism in Italy, also known as Nilus the Younger; b. Rossano, Calabria, Italy, c. 905; d. Abbey of Santa Agata, near Frascati, Italy, Dec. 29, 1005. After the sudden death of his wife and daughter and his own recovery from a serious illness, Nilus underwent a profound religious conversion and joined a community of Basilian monks near Mercurion, where the traditions of basilian monasticism in Italy had been kept alive in spite of the declining power of the Eastern Empire on the peninsula. He soon left the cloister and led a rigorously ascetic life in a secluded cave, in imitation of the fathers of the desert. But the Saracen invasions forced him c. 950 to found and settle down in the monastery of San Adriano near Rossano, and while abbot there he was offered, but refused, the archbishopric of his native city. Continued Muslim incursions forced his group of Basilian monks to take refuge for a while at monte cassino, the motherhouse of Benedictine monasticism. Nilus's community next settled nearby at Valleluce and fifteen years later established its laura at Serperi near Gaeta. It was here, c. 1000, that Nilus received Emperor otto iii, who was highly impressed by the abbot's work. Although Nilus had supported Pope gregory v against the antipope John XVI, who was supported by the crescentii, he pleaded in vain with both pope and emperor to show mercy to the usurper when he fell into their hands. Nilus also found time to write a few pieces of liturgical poetry and some letters. In 1004 he received from Gregory, count of Tusculum, a grant of land on the lower slopes of Monte Cavo, where he made a foundation that remains today the center of Greek monasticism in Italy. Although he died before work was well under way, he is still listed as the first abbot of grottaferrata. One of his successors, Bartholomew the Younger (d. c. 1065), wrote a Greek life of Nilus.
Feast: Sept. 26.
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum 7:259–320. Patrologia Graeca, ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 120:15–165. Analecta Bollandiana 61 (1943) 204–206. Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca, ed. f. halkin, 3 v. (Brussels 1957) 1370. g. minasi, San Nilo di Calabria (Naples 1892). a. rocchi, Vita di San Nilo abate (Rome 1904). j. gay, L'Italie méridionale et l'Empire byzantin (Paris 1904). s. gassisi ieromonaco, "I Manoscritti autografti di San Nilo Juniore … ," Oriens Christianus 4 (1904) 308–370; Poesie di San Nilo Juniore e di Paolo Monaco abati di Grottaferrata, in Oriens Christianus 5 (1905) 26–81. a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Benedictinum: Die Heilegen und Seligen des Benediktinerorderns und seiner Zweige, 4 v. (Metten 1933–38) 3:107–108. t. minisci, Santa Maria di Grottaferrata … (Grottaferrata 1955). h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959) 607–608. g. penco, Storia del monachesimo in Italia (Rome 1961), passim. b. cappelli, Il monachesimo basiliano ai confini calabro-lucania; studi e ricerche (Naples 1963). g. passarelli, Nilo di Rossano: fiore di melograno (Reggio Calabria 1990).
[b. j. comaskey]