There’s a hill in Rome, still green and peaceful, populated by some of the most ancient churches in the city. It’s the Aventine. Standing right in front of the famous little church built by Piranesi for the Order of Malta and protected by high walls is the lesser known church of Sant’Anselmo all’Aventino.
Not many know that today, this church is the seat of the Monastic Order of St. Benedict, residence of the Abbot Primate and seat of the Faculty of Theology of the International Monastic Institute. Dozens of Benedictine monks from all over the world live here, almost invisibly.
Every day at 7:15 pm the monks gather for Vespers, the sunset prayer accompanied by psalms sung in Gregorian chant. This spectacle is as unique as it is little known and poorly attended, although it’s open to anyone who wants to hear it.
It was Theaster Gates and his Black Monks who introduced me to the Vespers when on a recent visit they asked me to give them an extraordinary musical experience in Rome.