Founded by St Benedict, the monastery of monte cassino formed part of the German Gustav Line and in February 1944 it was destroyed by Allied bombing. It was one of the war’s worst blunders.
An Allied junior officer misinterpreted a radio intercept and thought that German soldiers were hiding out in the monastery. The decision to bombard the abbey was made.
From its humble beginnings as a Benedictine monastery in the 7th century, Monte Cassino became one of the most famous cultural, educational and medical centers of Europe. In the 10th and 11th centuries monks produced fine manuscripts and created a unique writing style, the Beneventan script. They also developed a reputation for medicine and education, studying the human body and ways to treat sickness. The abbey’s hospital was known throughout the world and many physicians came to learn more about anatomy and cures.
In the 12th century, the abbey reached its golden age. It acquired a large secular territory, called Terra Sancti Benedicti (“Land of Saint Benedict”) and heavily fortified it with castles. It maintained good relations with the Eastern Church and even received patronage from Byzantine emperors. Its monks were known for their learning and wisdom, and they also excelled in fine arts. The abbacy produced three popes.
During the Battle of Monte Cassino from January 17 to May 18 of 1944, Allied progress up the “boot” of Italy ground to a halt as they struggled with the German Gustav Line. The Abbey was the linchpin of the line, and in order to destroy it, Allied forces bombarded it for months.
The Allied Forces assumed that the monastery was being used by the Wehrmacht as a defensive position and observation post due to its high vantage point. However, Martino Matronola, the last surviving monk of the monastery, repeatedly asserted that the Germans were not using it. Nevertheless, the Allied commander ordered that the monastery be bombed.
In what has been described as one of the biggest blunders of World War II, the monastery was completely destroyed by Allied bombing. It was a huge blow to the Allies, and it took months for the battle to finally be won.
Steven Nestor, who bought two old copies of the Illustrated London News from 1944 in an antique shop, has been fascinated by the story ever since. He has visited the site and was shocked by how well it has been rebuilt in the postwar years.
Since Saint Benedict established the first monastery of his Order on this site in 529 AD, Monte Cassino has possessed a special historic importance. It was also the first place where Benedictine monks established hospitals in Europe, following his strict rules of charity for the sick and poor. It also became one of the most important centers for academic scholarship in the 10 and 11th centuries, with an excellent library of medical texts.
The Abbey itself has been sacked and destroyed a number of times, but it was always rebuilt. The last time was in 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino between Allied and German forces. At that time the Abbey was in the path of a line of defense fortifications known as the Gustav Line, built by General Kesselring to prevent Allied advance into Italy. The abbey was not used by the Germans as a defensive position because of its historical significance, but it did become the center of an air bombardment that destroyed it.
It was later restored to its former glory and now houses a museum, which includes medieval capitals from the cloister, remains of Roman columns, and 17th century fresco sketches and prints. There is also a library of ancient and medieval books with manuscripts of great historic value. Among these is the oldest printed book in the world, the Gutenberg Bible.
In addition to the museum, the monastery offers a number of guided tours. The highlight of these is a visit to the Basilica of Saint Benedict, which contains a relic of his bones and an impressive golden crucifix. There are also a number of cloisters, including one that is believed to have been designed by Bramante. In the summer you can go to the top of the apse of the church for incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
The Abbey of Saint Benedict is currently inhabited by 13 monks. The monks work to preserve the historic heritage of the monastery, and are active in a number of charitable projects. They also have a number of small businesses that help to support the community and are working hard to revitalize the economy of the area.
One of the great pleasures of visiting Monte Cassino today is to see that this is a vibrant town as well as an impressive monastery. Young people are building their own lives here – not simply taking up the mantle of the monks that once ruled the area, but developing innovative businesses that can make a difference to the community and its residents. The ‘Monastery Industry’ is starting to grow again here as tourists begin to discover this remarkable place once more.
As a consequence, the town is now a center of life that is also alive with music and art. Judi bola terpercaya is a great pleasure to visit the small shops and cafes that line the main streets. There are a number of excellent restaurants that serve everything from simple pasta dishes to haute cuisine.
The town is surrounded by mountains and has beautiful views of the valleys below. One of the best views is from the church, which offers a view down to the town and mountains below. It is also possible to walk to a peak that provides an even better view.
Founded by St Benedict of Nursia in 529, the abbey was built on a former pagan site occupied by a temple to Apollo. As Benedictine monasticism spread, the Abbey became renowned throughout Europe for its strict rules of monastic discipline and its work to preserve ancient and contemporary texts.
In the Middle Ages, it was a place of pilgrimage, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a center of education. But when Napoleon’s troops sacked the monastery in 1799, it fell into disrepair. In 1866 it was dissolved as part of the general dissolution of Italian monasteries, but in the 1960s it was rebuilt and re-consecrated by Pope Paul VI.
During World War II, the abbey was bombed by Allied forces as they pushed forward on what became known as the ‘Gustav Line’. While some of the soldiers on the frontline cheered when it was bombed, others were horrified and a senior diplomat to the Vatican described it as a colossal blunder and a piece of gross stupidity.
St Benedict moved his monks to Monte Cassino in 529 to escape the unruly life of the towns and monasteries of Lombard Italy. The mountain overlooking the ruined town of Cassinum (Cassino) provided ideal natural protection for the monastery. However it also offered commanding views across the Latin Valley and the magnificent snow-capped Abruzzo mountains.
The abbey gained a reputation for its scholarship and library. It was here that the basic instructions for monks’ lives were compiled in the form of the Rule of Saint Benedict, now considered one of the most important texts of Western culture and religion. The Rule provided organizing principles and regulations for obedience, work and prayer and influenced the formation of monastic communities throughout Europe.
In modern times the monastery has been rebuilt and is now a popular pilgrimage site. The site is protected and managed by a Catholic religious order, the Benedictine Congregation of Subiaco-Cassino. In addition to the abbey, there is a small museum and gift shop.
During World War II the abbey was the focal point of one of the bloodiest and most destructive battles in history. It was during the bombardment of Monte Cassino that some 1,400 irreplaceable manuscript codices were destroyed. The destruction was a colossal blunder. However, at the beginning of the destruction German officers transferred the manuscripts to the Vatican, thus sparing them from being hit by the American bombs.
The ruins of the Abbey were restored after the war and it now serves as a museum and a place of pilgrimage. It is best to visit Monte Cassino early in the day before large groups of coach trippers arrive in the late morning. This will allow you to enjoy the abbey’s impressive architecture and mystical surroundings without the distraction of too many tourists.
Monte Cassino is a must see for anyone visiting Rome or the Abruzzo region. The imposing medieval structure is well worth the effort of climbing the stairs to enter. It is easy to spend several hours at the monastery, so bring a packed lunch or buy one at the monastery restaurant.