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Montecassino Abbey

Reminders of St. Benedict

The Abbey Museum

Scenes from the Monastery

The Abbey Church

Stairway to The Crypt

 




 

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The  Abbey of Montecassino

     About 50 km south of Rome is the city of Cassino.  On the mountain overlooking the city stands the Abbey of Montecassino which symbolizes the endurance and resilience of the Christian faith.  This abbey is of special importance because it has been destroyed and rebuilt on four separate occasions, the most recent was in 1944 near the end of W.W.II.

    The view from the top of the mountain is spectacular.  Unfortunately, on the day of our visit the weather was not cooperative, so there are no pictures of the beautiful view.  However, you will see some great pictures of the monastery and some of its treasures. 

-DP

 

One side of the abbey of Montecassino, Italy - 22k
 Historical Outline

     The Montecassino Monastery was founded by St. Benedict about 529 A.D. on the remnants of a pre-existing Roman fortification of the Municipum Casinum.  The heathen cult was still practiced on this mountain site in the temple of Apollo and in a nearby holy grove to which a sacrifice area was adjoining.

    Montecassino became famous for the prodigious life and the Sepulcher of its founder.  Through the ages, the abbey was looked upon as a place of holiness, culture and art for which it became renowned on a world-wide level.

     Around 577, the monastery was destroyed by the Longobards of Zotone, Duke of Beneventum, but early in the eighth century Pope Gregory II commissioned the Brescian Petronace to rebuild the monastery.

    In 883, the Saracens invaded and sacked the Monastery and burnt it down, causing the death of Bertarius its saint Abbot, Founder of medieval Cassino.  The surviving monks first fled to Teano and later to Capua.  Monastic life was only fully resumed towards the middle of the tenth century, thanks to Abbot Aligerno.

    The third destruction, caused by an earthquake, occurred in 1349.  Nothing but a few walls remained of Abbot Desiderius' splendid building.

     Many new additions and embellishments were made during reconstruction so that the Abbey acquired the greatness and the imposing appearance it conserved until February 15, 1944, during the final stage of world war II when Montecassino happened to be on the firing line.  This place of prayer and study which had become in these exceptional circumstances a peaceful shelter for hundreds of defenseless civilians, in only three hours was reduced to a heap of debris under which many of the refugees met their death.

     Reconstruction and decoration works took more than a decade and were exclusively financed by the Italian State.

 

An early sketch of the monastery - 18k

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     This sketch of the monastery was most likely done in the 18th century.  There are several prints of sketches like this one in the museum.  They depict different views of the monastery as  it was before its latest destruction.

 

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    More than 1000 Polish soldiers are buried in the War Cemetery located on mount Cairo across from the abbey.  The men buried here lost their lives in the battle preceding the liberation of the Montecassino Abbey, which took place on May 18, 1944. (shortly after the most recent destruction of the abbey) A white marble obelisk was raised in their remembrance.  It bears an inscription which reads: "We, Polish soldiers have given our bodies to Italy, our hearts to Poland and our souls to God for our own freedom and for the freedom of others."

 

The jewish graveyard that comemorates the wwII victems - 9k

Christ on the cross, from the Museum - 8k

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     The museum houses many splendid treasures and artifacts.  Fortunately, Many of the priceless items were relocated prior to the W.W.II bombings.  Because of this they have been preserved for us today.

 

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Credit for the text in this tour:
The Abbey of Montecassino. Pubblicazioni Cassinesi / B.N. Marconi., Genova, 1998
 
 

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