The Cistercian Monastery of Santa Susanna:
The Cistercian Order to which the Community of Santa Susanna belongs, was founded in the year 1098 in France. There was great variation in religious life at the time and Saint Robert, Abbot of Molesme, together with twenty monks left the monastery and founded a new community in the woods near Dijon, in a place called Citeaux. The latin word for this monastery is called Cistercium from which the order derives its name. The was a reform of the Benedictine Rule and an attempt to return to poverty, simplicity and solitude. The movement grew and when a new monastery was built at Clairvaux in 1115, a young twenty five year old monk named Bernard became Abbott. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is considered the principal guiding spirit of the Cistercian way.
The Community of Santa Susanna was canonically erected on February 9, 1586 as part of the Roman confraternity of Saint Bernard. On October 7, 1587, Pope Sixtus V granted them the Church of Santa Susanna and the adjoining properties that had formally belonged to the Hermits of Saint Augustine. Due to the generosity of Camilla Peretti, the sister of Pope Sixtus, quarters were provided for the nuns and a school for girls was established. By the year 1607, the community consisted of 67 professed nuns, one novice, nine lay sisters, two postulants and seventeen school girls.
Cardinal Bernard Law with
the Cistercian Sisters of Santa Susanna
During the occupation of Rome by Napoleon, many of the sisters were forced to leave the monastery and were not allowed to return until 1814. In 1870 Garibaldi marched by the church and monastery on his way to the Quirinale Palace and Papal Rome fell. In 1873, the new Italian government confiscated much of the Cisterican property including the church. The community was left only a part of the larger monastic complex that had extended into what is now the Piazza Barbarini. A part of the monastery was converted into the barracks and stable of the Royal Horse Guard or Corazzieri.
In 1922 Cardinal Giorgi became Cardinal Titular and succeeded in having title to the monastery and church transferred from the state to the titular cardinal. After the passage of Italys Anti-Semetic law in 1943, the sisters quietly and quite heroically housed some 22 young Jewish women and children on the monastery grounds until Rome was liberated in 1944. In 1958,
Cardinal Richard Cushing turned over title to the monastery and surrounding properties to the Cistercian sisters. Today the community consists of some 20 professed sisters and novices under the leadership of Reverend Mother Abbess Roberta Cappiotti.
The sisters live a monastic life in common, within the walls of the monastery as decreed by the Second Vatican Council. The monastery follows the Rule of Saint Benedict which consists of silence, prayer and listeing to the Word of God. Their day begins at 5 AM and ends at 9 PM and is divided into three parts:
- Community and Personal Prayer: which helps the sisters to penetrate the mystery of God and
conform their life to that of Jesus who obeys the will of the Father in humility, poverty and virginity in the service of others.
- Manual labor: through which the sisters share in the suffering, the hope and the weariness of the human race, and collaborate in building up the beauty of the universe.
- Lectio divina: which consists in attentive reading, prayer and meditating on the Holy Scriptures and on their daily life in all its complexity in which God manifess himself to them moment by moment, and is their food for the journey.
If you are interested in learning more about the life of the sisters you can contact them at:
Via XX Settembre, 14
00187, Roma, Italia
Telephone: (01139) 06.4201.3734.
Attending a Cistercian Liturgy:
The Cistercian Community of Santa Susanna celebrates Mass daily in the Church of Santa Susanna at 7 AM and on Sundays have Mass in the Church sung in Gregorian chant at 5 PM and Vespers and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 6 PM. All are welcome to attend!
The Cistercian Store:
The Cistercian Sisters are happy not only to welcome you to Santa Susanna, but to help you in acquiring many of their hand made items and religious objects associated with Santa Susanna. The shopkeeper Sister Katerina speaks excellent English and will be more than happy to assist you.
At the shop you can find:
- Agnus Dei: A sacred wax object blessed with a prayer of exorcism. Wear it in faith to protect yourself from evil. It comes in three sizes: a small pin size, a pocket size and one large enough to hang over a wall (such as over a childs bed).
- Santa Susanna Medals and Medallions: These come in various sizes. They are available in silver and in two tone metal. They are also available in key chain form as well as full size medallions and a desk medallion.
- Saint Benedict Medals: These also come in various sizesl. They also have Saint Benedict in a key chain and in the form of a cross both in large and small sizes.
- Santa Susanna Artistic and Historic Guide: An excellent one hundred page book on the history and the art and architecture of this great church and monastery. Available in soft cover both in English and in Italian.
- Rosaries: In various sizes and types. Choose between a Saint Benedict Rosary, a Petal of Roses Rosary and one in wood. These are hand made by the sisters.
- Special Hand Made Goods: The sisters are always working on art and needlecraft. Ask about their present inventory of hand made goods.
To Inquire about specific items and their prices, as well as shipping and handling, send your request to: