Monte Cassino: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For information about the World War II battle, see the Battle of Monte Cassino.
The restored Abbey of Monte Cassino.

Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 km (80 miles) southeast of Rome, Italy, c. 2 km to the west of the town of Cassino (the Roman Casinum having been on the hill) and 520 m (1,706.04 ft) altitude. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. It was the site of Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944. The site has been visited many times by the Popes and other senior clergy, including a visit by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2009. The monastery is one of the few remaining territorial abbeys within the Catholic Church.



The monastery was constructed on an older pagan site, a temple of Apollo that crowned the hill, enclosed by a fortifying wall above the small town of Cassino, still largely pagan at the time and recently devastated by the Goths. Benedict's first act was to smash the sculpture of Apollo and destroy the altar.[citation needed] He rededicated the site to John the Baptist. Once established there, Benedict never left. At Monte Cassino he wrote the Benedictine Rule that became the founding principle for western monasticism. There at Monte Cassino he received a visit from Totila, king of the Ostrogoths, perhaps in 543 (the only remotely secure historical date for Benedict), and there he died.

View across the valley.

Monte Cassino became a model for future developments. Unfortunately its protected site has always made it an object of strategic importance. It was sacked or destroyed a number of times. In 584, during the abbacy of Bonitus, the Lombards sacked the Abbey, and the surviving monks fled to Rome, where they remained for more than a century. During this time the body of St Benedict was transferred to Fleury, the modern Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire near Orleans, France. A flourishing period of Monte Cassino followed its re-establishment in 718 by Abbot Petronax, when among the monks were Carloman, son of Charles Martel; Ratchis, predecessor of the great Lombard Duke and King Aistulf; and Paul the Deacon, the historian of the Lombards. In 744, a donation of Gisulf II of Benevento created the Terra Sancti Benedicti, the secular lands of the abbacy, which were subject to the abbot and nobody else save the pope. Thus, the monastery became the capital of a state comprising a compact and strategic region between the Lombard principality of Benevento and the Byzantine city-states of the coast (Naples, Gaeta, and Amalfi). In 883 Saracens sacked and then burned it down, and Abbot Bertharius was killed during the attack. Among the great historians who worked at the monastery, in this period there is Erchempert, whose Historia Langobardorum Beneventanorum is a fundamental chronicle of the ninth-century Mezzogiorno.

The façade of the church.

It was rebuilt and reached the apex of its fame in the 11th century under the abbot Desiderius (abbot 1058 - 1087), who later became Pope Victor III. The number of monks rose to over two hundred, and the library, the manuscripts produced in the scriptorium and the school of manuscript illuminators became famous throughout the West. The unique Beneventan script flourished there during Desiderius' abbacy. The buildings of the monastery were reconstructed on a scale of great magnificence, artists being brought from Amalfi, Lombardy, and even Constantinople to supervise the various works. The abbey church, rebuilt and decorated with the utmost splendor, was consecrated in 1071 by Pope Alexander II. A detailed account of the abbey at this date exists in the Chronica monasterii Cassinensis by Leo of Ostia and Amatus of Monte Cassino gives us our best source on the early Normans in the south.

Abbot Desiderius sent envoys to Constantinople some time after 1066 to hire expert Byzantine mosaicists for the decoration of the rebuilt abbey church. According to chronicler Leo of Ostia the Greek artists decorated the apse, the arch and the vestibule of the basilica. Their work was admired by contemporaries but was totally destroyed in later centuries except two fragments depicting greyhounds (now in the Monte Cassino Museum). "The abbot in his wisdom decided that great number of young monks in the monastery should be thoroughly initiated in these arts" - says the chronicler about the role of the Greeks in the revival of mosaic art in medieval Italy.

An earthquake damaged the Abbey in 1349, and although the site was rebuilt it marked the beginning of a long period of decline. In 1321, Pope John XXII made the church of Monte Cassino a cathedral, and the carefully preserved independence of the monastery from episcopal interference was at an end. In 1505 the monastery was joined with that of St. Justina of Padua. The site was sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1799 and from the dissolution of the Italian monasteries in 1866, Monte Cassino became a national monument. There was a final destruction on February 15, 1944 when during the Battle of Monte Cassino (January - May 1944), the entire building was pulverized in a series of heavy Allied air-raids due to the mistaken belief it was a German stronghold. In fact the Abbey was being used as a refuge from the battle by the women and children of nearby Cassino. The Abbey was rebuilt after the war, financed by the Italian State. Pope Paul VI reconsecrated it in 1964.

The archives, besides a vast number of documents relating to the history of the abbey, contained some 1400 irreplaceable manuscript codices, chiefly patristic and historical. They also contained the collections of the Keats-Shelley House in Rome which had been sent to the Abbey for safety in December 1942. By great foresight on the part of Lt.Col. Julius Schlegel (a Roman Catholic), a Vienna-born German officer, and Captain Maximilian Becker (a Protestant), both from the Panzer-Division Hermann Göring, these were all transferred to the Vatican at the beginning of the battle.


See also


  • Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.
  • The Day of Battle: the War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6289-0 (for a tale of the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino and the destruction of the Monastery)


External links

Coordinates: 41°29′24″N 13°48′50″E / 41.49°N 13.81389°E / 41.49; 13.81389

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Italy : Central Italy : Lazio : Monte Cassino

Monte Cassino is a monastery in Lazio, Italy, 130 km southeast of Rome. It is a rocky hill overlooking the town of Cassino. St. Benedict (see Subiaco) established his first monastery here. The monastery was constructed on the site of the pagan temple of Apollo and St. Benedict's first act was to smash the sculpture of Apollo and destroy the altar.

The Abbey at Monte Cassino
The Abbey at Monte Cassino

The strategic position of the monastery has always made it a target for attack. Most recently, the Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four battles during World War II, fought by the Allies with the intention of breaking through the German lines and taking Rome. On 15 February the monastery was destroyed by 1,400 tons of bombs dropped by American bombers, in the belief that the abbey was being used as a lookout post by the Germans.This was not, in fact, the case but two days after the bombing, German paratroopers occupied the ruins. The defences were then assaulted four times by Allied troops before the Germans were driven out

Get in

Cassino is on the Rome to Naples railway line.

The town and abbey can also be reached by the A1 tollway (Autostrada) between Rome and Naples, exiting at Cassino.

Get around

There are very infrequent buses from the station to the monastery. Taxis are available.

  • Monte Cassino Abbey, (After leaving the autostrada the monastery can be clearly seen at the top of the hill. Follow the signs.), 0776.311529 (), [1]. 8.30-12.00 and 15.30-17.00 (18.00 in summer). The Abbey is very modern, having been reconstructed after the war and thus is primarily of interest to pilgrims and to students of the war who can appreciate the battles that were fought on the surrounding hills. The museum has medieval art and artifacts from the monastery and explains the history of monasticism (only open on Sundays in winter). It also has the best views of the battlefield.  edit
The Polish Cemetery
The Polish Cemetery
  • War Graves. The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery on the western outskirts of Cassino (follow signs when approaching Cassino from the Autostrada)is a beautifully maintained area with magnificent views of the monastery. The French and Italian cemeteries are on Highway 6 in the Liri Valley. There is a very striking Polish cemetery close to the battlefield and easily visible from the monastery. The German cemetery is approximately 2 miles (3 km) north of Cassino in the Rapido Valley. American casualties are not buried here but at Nettuno-Anzio.
  • Hotel La Pace, Via Abruzzi 16, 03043 Cassino (in the center of Cassino), [2]. Inexpensive 38-room hotel that caters well to students of the war. Good restaurant. Euros 65-90 double.  edit
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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Monte Cassino
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
From Birds of Passage.


Beautiful valley! through whose verdant meads
Unheard the Garigliano glides along;--
The Liris, nurse of rushes and of reeds,
The river taciturn of classic song.

The Land of Labor and the Land of Rest,
Where mediaeval towns are white on all
The hillsides, and where every mountain's crest
Is an Etrurian or a Roman wall.

There is Alagna, where Pope Boniface
Was dragged with contumely from his throne;
Sciarra Colonna, was that day's disgrace
The Pontiff's only, or in part thine own?

There is Ceprano, where a renegade
Was each Apulian, as great Dante saith,
When Manfred by his men-at-arms betrayed
Spurred on to Benevento and to death.

There is Aquinum, the old Volscian town,
Where Juvenal was born, whose lurid light
Still hovers o'er his birthplace like the crown
Of splendor seen o'er cities in the night.

Doubled the splendor is, that in its streets
The Angelic Doctor as a school-boy played,
And dreamed perhaps the dreams, that he repeats
In ponderous folios for scholastics made.

And there, uplifted, like a passing cloud
That pauses on a mountain summit high,
Monte Cassino's convent rears its proud
And venerable walls against the sky.

Well I remember how on foot I climbed
The stony pathway leading to its gate;
Above, the convent bells for vespers chimed,
Below, the darkening town grew desolate.

Well I remember the low arch and dark,
The court-yard with its well, the terrace wide,
From which, far down, the valley like a park
Veiled in the evening mists, was dim descried.

The day was dying, and with feeble hands
Caressed the mountain-tops; the vales between
Darkened; the river in the meadowlands
Sheathed itself as a sword, and was not seen.

The silence of the place was like a sleep,
So full of rest it seemed; each passing tread
Was a reverberation from the deep
Recesses of the ages that are dead.

For, more than thirteen centuries ago,
Benedict fleeing from the gates of Rome,
A youth disgusted with its vice and woe,
Sought in these mountain solitudes a home.

He founded here his Convent and his Rule
Of prayer and work, and counted work as prayer;
The pen became a clarion, and his school
Flamed like a beacon in the midnight air.

What though Boccaccio, in his reckless way,
Mocking the lazy brotherhood, deplores
The illuminated manuscripts, that lay
Torn and neglected on the dusty floors?

Boccaccio was a novelist, a child
Of fancy and of fiction at the best!
This the urbane librarian said, and smiled
Incredulous, as at some idle jest.

Upon such themes as these, with one young friar
I sat conversing late into the night,
Till in its cavernous chimney the woodfire
Had burnt its heart out like an anchorite.

And then translated, in my convent cell,
Myself yet not myself, in dreams I lay,
And, as a monk who hears the matin bell,
Started from sleep; already it was day.

From the high window I beheld the scene
On which Saint Benedict so oft had gazed,--
The mountains and the valley in the sheen
Of the bright sun,--and stood as one amazed.

Gray mists were rolling, rising, vanishing;
The woodlands glistened with their jewelled crowns;
Far off the mellow bells began to ring
For matins in the half-awakened towns.

The conflict of the Present and the Past,
The ideal and the actual in our life,
As on a field of battle held me fast,
Where this world and the next world were at strife.

For, as the valley from its sleep awoke,
I saw the iron horses of the steam
Toss to the morning air their plumes of smoke,
And woke, as one awaketh from a dream.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MONTE CASSINO, an isolated hill overhanging the town of Cassinum, about midway between Rome and Naples. Hither St Benedict migrated from Subiaco in the early years of the 6th century, and established the monastery that became the metropolis of Western monachism. About 580-590 it was sacked by the Lombards, and the monks fled to Rome, where they were established at the Lateran basilica. The monastery was rebuilt in 720, again destroyed by the Saracens in 884, and restored seventy years later. It reached its highest point of prosperity and influence from 1059 to 1105, under Desiderius (who became Pope Victor III. in 1087) and Oderisius. The abbot became overlord of an extensive territory and bishop of several dioceses: now, though not a bishop, he is ordinary of seven dioceses. At the dissolution of monasteries in 1866 Monte Cassino was spared, owing mainly to a remonstrance by English well-wishers of United Italy. The monastery became a national monument and the monks were recognized as custodians. There is a large secondary school with 250 boys, and rich archives.

See L. Tosti, Storia della badia di M.C. (1841; 2nd ed., 1888); Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchenlexicon (2nd ed.) and Herzog, Realencyklopadie (3rd ed.). (E. C. B.)

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