The Monks of Norcia, the group whose chant CDs have gained popularity in the United States, have lost everything in yesterday’s 6.6 magnitude earthquake in central Italy. Their 14th century St. Benedict Cathedral, which was constructed over the fifth century ruins of the home of St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica, has crumbled–leaving only the facade standing. (Look here to see all that remains of the ruined town.)

Back in August, the monastery and basilica, where Benedictine monks have worshipped since the tenth century, were severely damaged in a 6.2 earthquake in the region, which leveled the nearby town of Amatrice. At that time, the monks were forced to relocate their community to Rome, where they were welcomed by the international Benedictine community of St. Anselmo. Their hope, though, was that they would be able to rebuilt their historic structures.

Earlier this week, two earthquakes struck in the region, alarming residents. And the strong earthquake which struck Saturday at 7:40 a.m. was felt as far north as Salzburg, Austria, and all the way down the Italian peninsula to Puglia, the southernmost region of Italy which forms the “heel of the boot.”

It seems unlikely now that the Monks will be able to salvage their beautiful basilica. Although no lives have been lost in the Benedictine collapse, the damage is so severe that rebuilding will be next to impossible.

After the August earthquake, I published a letter from the Monks of Norcia, asking for prayers and financial assistance as they sought to rebuild their community. Their need is even greater now. Please consider making a donation at their website.

And join with them in praising God through chant, by purchasing their CD Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia. Wouldn’t it be great if we could push that CD to the top of the ratings among devotional music selections?

monks-of-norcia

Here, at a happier time, are the monks singing praise to Mary, the Mother of God.

Image:  Bell from Norcia (screenprint from YouTube video of the monks’ chant)