Nilus the Younger

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Our Venerable and God-bearing Father Nilus the Younger, also Nilus of Rossano ((Greek)

Όσιος Νείλος ο εκ Καλαβρίας, or Νεῖλος ὁ Νέος;[1] (Italian)
San Nilo di Rossano), (910 – ca.1005), was the founder in 1004 and the first Abbot of the famous Greek monastery of Grottaferrata, in Italy,[note 1]  which today is the last of the many Byzantine-Greek monasteries that had dotted Sicily, southern Italy and Rome itself in the Middle Ages.[2] He was a charismatic leader and an important figure of his time,[2] and is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. His feast day is celebrated on September 26.[note 2]


Saint Nilus was born circa 910 AD in Rossano, to one of the foremost Greek families of Calabria, a southern province of Italy. This area had been founded as a Greek colony in ancient times, and was afterwards part of the Byzantine Empire until 1059.[3]

The child was baptized Nicholas, was given a good education, and grew up a fervent young man. The monastic life had some attraction for him, but he married, and it was only afterwards that he seriously turned to God, in the year 940.[3]

It was a somber age, disturbed by internal war between Byzantines and Lombards, and suffering frequent Saracen raids on the coasts. After fleeing his own town of Rossano he became a monk and settled at a monastery near Palma on the Tyrrhenian Sea. A Moslem attack caused the community to flee, but Nilus became a hermit in a nearby forest.[3]

Later, at Rossano, he ruled a convent and gained fame for his wisdom and prudence. Here, he interceded with the authorities for mutineers condemned to death, and with the Jewish community for a young man who had killed a Jew, and once he succeeded in ransoming a number of enslaved Christians. The position of Archbishop was offered to him, but Nilus refused.[3]

When a Byzantine prince asked the Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino to give Nilus and his fellow monks a monastery, the Abbot sent them an invitation to come to Monte Cassino. Their Eastern liturgy was a strange sight to the Benedictines, but they provided a monastery at Valleluce, where the community remained for fifteen years and then moved to Serperi, near Gaeta.[3]

When Pope Gregory V (996–999) was driven out of Rome, Nilus opposed the usurpation of Philogatos of Piacenza as Antipope John XVI.[4]

Foundation of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata

Nilus' chief work was the foundation in 1004 of the famous Greek monastery of Grottaferrata, near Frascati, of which he is counted the first Abbot.[4] It was sometime that year that Nilus had set out on a visit to a monastery and fell ill near Tusculum. A vision of the Mother of God showed him that this was to be the permanent home of his Basilian monks. This promise was fulfilled when Gregory, the Count of Tusculum offered land on the slopes of Mount Cavo, and the community of about 60 monks was sent for. However Nilus died before the monastic buildings could be begun.[3][note 3]


He spent the end of his life partly at Grottaferrata, and partly in a hermitage at Valleluce near Gaeta.[4] His feast is celebrated on September 26, in both the Byzantine Calendar and the Roman Martyrology.[4]

Further reading


  1. i.e. Abbey of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata / Greek Abbey of Saint Nilus / (Greek) Mονῆς Κρυπτοφέρρης.
  2. "After a carefree youth in the south of Italy, he became a monk at the monastery of St. Adrian in Calabria, where he later became Abbot. In 981 the invading Saracens drove the monks to Vellelucio, where they lived on land given to them by the monastery of Montecassino. Shortly before his repose, Nilus designated that as the place where his monastery was to be definitively established. This monastery, of Grottaferrata, was for long faithful to Orthodoxy."
    • September 26. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
  3. The Abbey continues in the Byzantine Rite today, under the Roman Catholic Church. According to the monastery's website: "The Exarchic Greek Abbey of Grottaferrata, with its Basilian monks, is the center of an important revival of studies of Byzantine Catholicism and of the Oriental apostolate."


  1. (Greek) ΟΣΙΟΣ ΝΕΙΛΟΣ, Ο ΕΚ ΚΑΛΑΒΡΙΑΣ. Αποστολική Διακονία της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Exarchic Monastery of Santa Maria in Grottaferrata. Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata - Basilian Monks.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Saint Nilus. Exarchic Greek Abbey of St. Mary of Grottaferrata - Basilian Monks.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Fortescue, Adrian. "Nilus the Younger." The Catholic Encyclopedia (New Advent). Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.


Other Languages

  • (Greek)
ΟΣΙΟΣ ΝΕΙΛΟΣ, Ο ΕΚ ΚΑΛΑΒΡΙΑΣ. Αποστολική Διακονία της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος.