Fire at Sacra di San Michele, abbey that inspired The Name of the Rose

Fire at Sacra di San Michele, abbey that inspired The Name of the Rose
The Sacra di San Michele, the abbey that inspired The Name of the Rose. Photo: Cristian Buda, CC-BY-SA 4.0
Life imitated art when a fire broke out at the northern Italian abbey that inspired Umberto Eco’s classic The Name of the Rose.

Part of the Sacra di San Michele’s roof was damaged in the blaze, which started at around 9pm on Wednesday night. Firefighters finished putting out the flames on Thursday morning, they said.

Video from the scene shows some of the abbey’s upper floor open to the elements after the roof burned through or collapsed.

The rooms affected are offices and bedrooms of the Rosminian fathers who occupy the abbey, according to La Repubblica. None of the artefacts or precious religious objects stored at the abbey are believed to have been damaged.

The cause of the fire is not yet clear, though firefighters suspect it may have been an electrical short circuit, Ansa reported. An investigation is ongoing.

The flames above the stone abbey could be seen from far away, La Repubblica said, conjuring evocative images for anyone who has read Eco’s bestselling novel. Without giving away too much, a fire features dramatically in his medieval murder mystery set within the walls of a Benedictine monastery.

Photo: Maurizio Beatrice, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Eco drew the inspiration for his setting from the 10th-century Sacra di San Michele, dedicated to the Archangel Michael and perched on Mount Pirchiriano in the Val di Susa in Piedmont, some 40km from Turin.

Some 100,000 people visit the site each year to admire its spectacular views, Gothic and Romanesque architecture, religious sculptures and 10,000-volume library – another detail that Eco memorably drew upon.

On Tuesday, just hours before the fire broke out, it was announced that The Name of Rose would be adapted for TV for the first time. John Turturro and Rupert Everett will star in the eight-part, English-language production.