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It was founded in 1011 by Alferius of Pappacarbona, a noble of Salerno who became a Cluniac monk and had lived as a hermit in the vicinity since 1011. Pope Urban II endowed this monastery with many privileges, making it immediately subject to the Holy See, with jurisdiction over the surrounding territory.
In 1394 Pope Boniface IX elevated it to a diocese, with the abbot functioning as bishops. In 1513 Pope Leo X separated the two offices, detaching the city of Cava from the abbot's jurisdiction. About the same time the Cluniacs were replaced by Cassinese monks.
The monastery was closed under Napoleon but the community remained relatively unscathed, thanks to abbot Carlo Mazzacane, and was restored after his fall. The abbey still provides the surrounding parishes with clergy.
The church and the greater part of the buildings were entirely modernized in 1796. The old Gothic cloisters are preserved.The church contains a fine organ and several ancient sarcophagi.
The monastery contains rich archives of public and private documents, which date back to the 8th century, e.g. the Codex Legum Longobardorum of 1004, and the La Cava Bible) and fine incunabula. The monastery later became the seat of a national educational establishment, under the care of the Benedictines.