Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare – San Nicola di Tremiti, Italy - Atlas Obscura
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Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare

San Nicola di Tremiti, Italy

An abandoned monastery sits on a far-off island in the Adriatic Sea. 

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The Tremiti Islands are a small archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, located off the coast of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula. Sparsely populated and far from land, the islands have always been a place of confinement.

One of the islands, San Nicola di Tremiti, was said to be home to a hermit during the fourth century. According to the legend, the Virgin Mary appeared to the hermit allowing him to find the legendary tomb of Diomedes, a hero in Greek mythology. With the treasure found in the tomb, the hermit built a church on the island.

During the Middle Ages the Benedectine monks settled on the islands. The current monastery was built in the first half of the 11th century and it became an important place of worship. In 1237, the monastery was granted to Cistercian Order and started a period of decline and in 1334 it was raided by pirates. In the following centuries the monastery was renovated and fell again into decline multiple times, before being closed down in 1783. The monastery was occupied during the Napoleonic Wars and a fierce battle with the English fleet ensued. The building was heavily damaged and now is in ruins.