The monastery of San Nicolò la Rena, (or Cassinese abbey of San Niccolò la Rena where rena means the red sand, dialectal term that indicates the volcanic sand present in the territory) is an ecclesiastical complex located in Piazza Dante in the historic center of Catania, consisting of an important Benedictine monastic building and a monumental eighteenth-century church.
It was founded by monks from the monastery of the same name located near Nicolosi which in the mid-sixteenth century asked the city senate for permission to build within the walls, since threatened by the eruptions of Etna and by the presence of brigands.
For its purely urban allocation it should be considered as a convent, but also recently resists the name of “Monastero dei Benedettini”.
Given the occupied area, about 210 x 130 m., is considered by extension the second largest Benedictine monastery in Europe (second only to the Monastery of Mafra in Portugal). nastero was declared a national monument by royal decree of August 15, 1869. In 2002 it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a “jewel of the late Sicilian Baroque” belonging to the itinerary of the “late Sicilian Baroque of the Val di Noto “and in 2008 the Sicilian Region declares of” important artistic interest “the guiding project concerning the restructuring of the Benedictine complex in Catania signed by Giancarlo De Carlo.
Today is home to the DISUM – Dipartimento di Scienze Umanistiche dell’Università degli Studi di Catania.