The abbey is 6 km far from the town centre of Amandola, in the Sibillini mountains, and it’s located along the magnificent and fertile Tenna valley.
In the earliest documents the abbey was called San Vitale; at some later date it was called San Ruffino and Vitale. It was built by the Bishop of Fermo and the noble families from Smerillo and Monte Passillo in order to put into practice the monastic reform conceived by San Romualdo, the founder of the Camaldulese order and Holy Pier Damiani, theolog and Italian bishop.
The Benedictine abbey was very prestigious and it was often a resting place for the members of the ruling Da Varano family. Until 1274 it governed several churches in the surrounding area, then in 1495 a commendatory abbot who didn’t belong to the Benedictine Order held it.
The abbey was built over earlier Roman constructions; the structure and the crypt can be dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries. In the southern side is located a two storey convent with a central court and a large bell tower built in the 13th century which binds the convent to the religious buiding.
The church is built on a basilica plan with a presbytery over the crypt; three naves are divided by pillars and covered in trusses. The presbytery walls are decorated with two 14th and 15th century frescoes. The crypt is divided into five naves by short columns with simple leaf capitals; the remains of Saint Rufino are under the main altar.