It was God and beer sales that helped sustain the Benedictine monks of Norcia, and it is God and beer sales that will help them rebuild.
Last year, in August and again in October, strong earthquakes rocked the town of Norcia, Italy, killing hundreds of people and destroying the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict, where the monks of Norcia dwelt.
Miraculously, their brewery, where they produce Birra Nursia, was mostly left intact.
The monks were forced to dwell in tents and cabins through a particularly cold Italian winter while they began rebuilding a new, earthquake-proof monastery in San Benedetto in Monte, just outside the walls of Norcia.
Now, the monks have announced a special project that will help them rebuild: Leffe, a Belgian brewery, has agreed to partner with the monks for a special edition brew, the proceeds of which will go directly to the monks’ new monastery.
“Leffe beer, one of the most highly prized beers of Belgium and brewed in the monastic tradition, launched a special limited-edition brew with Birra Nursia, our own beer, as a joint label with Leffe Blonde,” the monks announced online.
“While the two beers, Leffe and Birra Nursia, remain distinct, the Nursia name on the Leffe Blonde bottle signifies the shared commitment of the two breweries: to rebuild Norcia and bring hope to the tragedy-stricken region.”
The 100,000 bottles of the special edition brew will only be available for distribution in Italy, and will directly fund the new wooden chapel, “which is not just for the monks, but is open to all those thirsting after God,” the monks noted.
Leffe beer itself has monastic roots. Norbertine canons of the Leffe abbey had been brewing beer in the town for centuries, until the French revolution resulted in the abandonment and destruction of the brewery. In the 1950s, determined not to let the brewing tradition die, the abbey’s Father Abbot Nys met master brewer Albert Lootvoet, and an agreement was struck.
Shortly after, the Leffe brewery was back in full effect, today under the ownership of Anheuser-Busch InBev. Some of the proceeds of the beer still support the Leffe monastery.
For the Norcia monks, the wooden chapel is the first phase of a full reconstruction for the abbey. While it will be officially inaugurated in September, the monks already held a Mass of thanksgiving in the chapel on Pentecost, despite an unfinished roof.
“In this way, we remember: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eum,” the monks said: “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the laborers build it.”
The monks said the whole experience has been a reminder that “in moments of tragedy when all seems lost, God calls us to trust that somewhere, somehow, good can come from it.
By Mary Rezac