Emmaus in Italy

In the 20th century, the Emmaus Benedictines experienced a very unfavorable period, as well as a special chapter of their existence connected with Italy.

The Nazi occupation significantly affected the state of the monastic community. In 1941, before the monastery was seized by the Gestapo, the community consisted of 45 permanent (lifetime) members, in 1948 it was barely half. Abbot Arnošt Vykoukal perished in a concentration camp. Further persecution followed the dissolution of the monastery by the communist authorities, in April 1950. The monks were interned and, after their release, forced to choose civilian employment. Some priests, such as Method Klement, managed to remain in the ministry.

A small group of monks, including the newly elected abbot Mauro Verzich, went into exile in Italy. In 1965, they managed to restore monastic life in the former Capuchin monastery near the town of Norcia, which according to tradition is the birthplace of St. Benedict. A participant in this phase, Mr. Leo Ge, recalls the beginnings of the monastery as follows: “Mr. Abbot takes care of the vegetable garden, the vineyards, and a dog which will be joined by another dog to search for truffles (truffles are found in the grove belonging to the monastery), Fr. Cyril goes to the nursing home and cooks, Fr. Vojtěch works in Edizione Emmaus, a publishing house of holy images, books, pictures and icons, founded by him, Br. Simeon takes care of the chickens, the garden, builds roads and helps wherever he can.” The monastery is visited by exiles, priests and lay people and it has become a small sanctuary for Czech spiritual and cultural life abroad. This part of the Emmaus monastery’s history is not well known and is scattered in personal memories and surviving photographs.