Santa Maria de Olearia in Maiori: hidden Gems on the Amalfi Coast

Nestled along the Amalfi Coast’s scenic stretch, precisely on the road connecting Capo di Orso to Maiori, lies the Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia. Located 3.5 km from Maiori’s center and 11.5 km from Vietri sul Mare, this abbey holds secrets dating back to medieval times when the area around Maiori was deeply influenced by religious presence.

In this historical backdrop, monks from various backgrounds and beliefs, including Eastern and Western religious cultures, coexisted. Santa Maria de Olearia stands as a testament to this unique blend of ancient and reformed monasticism. The region hosted Basilian, Benedictine, Florentine, and Camaldolese monks around Mount Falerzio.

Historical records place the first monks in the area around the tenth century, with the establishment of hermitages. Elia the Younger, around 902, is said to have settled in this serene environment for contemplation and isolation. This tradition attracted other monks, such as Sant’Alferio, founder of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity of Cava. Many monks found solace in the caves near the current Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia.

Santa Maria de Olearia: A Masterpiece a Stone’s Throw from Maiori

Now, let’s delve into the details of the Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia. Built from 987 onwards by Pietro and his nephew Giovanni, the complex comprises three small churches. The term “de Olearia” was added due to the presence of productive olive trees, which supported a crucial olive oil mill in the area, vital for both economic life and survival.

For approximately 500 years, intense monastic life flourished in the area. However, in 1509, with the death of the last abbot, religious life in the region practically ceased. The abbey’s ancient splendor lives on through stunning murals dating from the eleventh to twelfth centuries. These works are now visible in the protected “catacombs,” preserving their beauty.

But what does Santa Maria de Olearia offer its numerous visitors today?

The abbey isn’t immediately noticeable, seamlessly integrated into the surroundings—a small center built within the rock, gradually expanding into a distinctive monastery in both form and location. The lower chapel, known as the crypt or catacomb chapel, houses the best-preserved frescoes, such as “The Virgin with the Saints.” A bearded saint stands nearby, while removed images likely depicted Jesus, John the Baptist, and John the Evangelist. In the central part of the crypt, a Christ with a golden mantle and two Byzantine archangels can be found.

The second spacious level hosts the main chapel, featuring a vaulted space with a prominently displayed cross. The central vault once protected and framed Christ, surrounded by depictions of the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, and other scenes from Jesus Christ’s life until his Crucifixion.

Above the main chapel is the Chapel of San Nicola, overlooking the main courtyard. A medallion on its facade depicts “The Hand of God” on one side and two Hosanna Angels on the other. The “Virgin Mary with Child” is in the apse of the chapel, surrounded by Saints Paolino and Nicola, both depicted in episcopal attire while reading a book.

The same area also features effigies of John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, along with various scenes from the life of Saint Nicola. Visitors, even those not well-versed in art, will find Santa Maria de Olearia worth exploring. Its picturesque and panoramic setting makes it a marvelous place, capable of conveying emotions and splendor to those who appreciate the essence of things and the feelings they directly evoke, with or without delving into the history or religious aspects.

How to Reach Santa Maria de Olearia

The Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia is located 4 kilometers from the center of Maiori. You can easily reach it on foot with a pleasant 40-minute stroll along the Amalfi Coast’s State Road 163. If you prefer a leisurely walk, consider checking traffic conditions, especially during spring weekends and, more significantly, in the summer months. Even if you’re on foot, the narrow road can be a bit daunting during peak traffic. Exercise caution, preferably choosing times of reduced traffic.

If you opt to drive, it takes about ten minutes from Maiori, but parking in the vicinity can be challenging due to the lack of immediate parking facilities. You can park near the Maiori Cemetery, 900 meters beyond the abbey’s entrance on the left when coming from Maiori.

Alternatively, you can reach the Abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia by taking SITA SUD buses from Amalfi, stopping at all towns along the Amalfi Coast. Get off at the Maiori cemetery and walk 900 meters to reach your destination.

Note that buses depart approximately every hour from Amalfi and Salerno.

For more travel information in the Amalfi Coast, download our free guide “Getting Around the Amalfi Coast“, where we’ve gathered numerous tips to make your vacation exploring these towns easier.

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