Monday, November 14, 2011

Montecassino Abbey

For my parents' last day in the Naples area we took a tour of Montecassino Abbey. We couldn't let them leave without squeezing in some World War II history for dad :) This abbey was destroyed and rebuilt four times in its long history. It was founded by St. Benedict of Nursia around the year 529. One of the most devastating events that it endured was the battle of Cassino on February 15, 1944 in a series of heavy Allied air raids. Montecassino Abbey was left in ruins and was rebuilt according to the original plan following the war.

This site is about an hour and a half from where we picked up the bus so our tour guide gave us a lot of information about the Abbey and the Cassino area. One tip that he mentioned was to make sure you pronounce both "s"es in the word Cassino. The word casino with one "s" means "brothel" so if you told locals that you went to casino then they might look at you a little strangely! We drove up the steep mountain towards the abbey which is situated on the highest point in the area. High in the clouds, our twisting, turning road was reminiscent of our time in Capri and Amalfi.

There are 19 monks living at Montecassino Abbey at the present time. At one time it was home to over 200 monks. It's such a big establishment that 19 is a very small number for such a large space. The basilica, below, is adorned in marble and gold. 

Fragments of tiles and walls were available for us to see, but for the most part everything was destroyed in 1944 and later rebuilt. We were able to go to an underground area that is not open to the public. Here we saw the original walls that were not destroyed. We learned about one of St. Benedict's miracles while we were underground. Basically when he fell onto a large rock it softened and absorbed his fall. The imprint of his arm was left in the stone and it is known as the Miracle Stone.

Dad testing out the miracle stone.

The lower level of the Bramante cloister holds an octagonal well supported by columns. The balcony offers a beautiful view of Liri Valley. The garden displays a statue of St. Benedict surrounded by monks.

The garden.
Lower level of the Bramante Cloister.

View over Liri Valley  

The abbey houses many mosaics and stained glass. The mosaic on the left was untouched during the bombings, as was the statue in the middle which was made in 1736. 

All in all, this was a very informative and engaging day. With a history as rich as this abbey, it's no wonder people are intrigued by it.

1 comment:

  1. At first when Cheryl said that we were going here, I thought we were going to a place called Mount Casino where we would be gambling! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we were going to see a Monastery which houses 19 Benedictine Monks! The Monastery was absolutely beautiful, especially driving up to it on the winding and very curvy roads! It was a great day! (even though we didn't gamble!!)