Abbey of Montecassino, Italy
The Abbey of Montecassino is the most beautiful monastery I have ever visited, and for me it is steeped in recognisable, recent history, through stories I read when I was a 9 year old boy! As most boys did during the early 60s, we played at being soldiers in battle and we read ‘Commando’ comics, which were single story comic books about Second World War incidents and fictitious commando heroes. One of the stories I remember particularly, involved the Battle of Montecassino, and Penny and I were lucky enough to visit there in 2007. The famous monastery lies on top of a rocky hilltop above the town of Cassino, which lies between Rome to the north and Naples to the south.
During World War II, the allied troops, who were made up of Americans, British, French from North Africa, Indians and Gurkhas, New Zealanders, Canadians and Poles, were fighting their way north from Southern Italy towards Rome, and the Abbey of Monte Cassino just happened to lie within what was a powerful German defensive line, the Gustav Line. The allies mistakenly thought that the Abbey itself was a German stronghold. What took place there was what is seen as the largest, bloodiest land battle in Europe, taking four months, and an estimated quarter of a million dead or wounded! It was one of the toughest battles fought in Western Europe and still is one of the most controversial. During the battle, the Abbey of Montecassino, and the town of Cassino, were bombed to destruction by allied forces!
At the beginning of the war in 1939, many historical documents and art treasures were stored in the Abbey along with the original detailed plans of the building. Before the Battle of Montecassino began in 1944, two German officers of the ‘Panzer Division Herman Goering’; Lt. Colonel Julius Schlegel and Captain Maximilion Becker, had the forethought to have 1400 irreplaceable documents and other treasures sent to the Vatican. Included were the plans of the original monastery. Their foresight meant that the Abbey could be rebuilt exactly as it had been originally, which is why we can all visit it today, exactly as it was before its destruction! A quite remarkable story of human suffering, death, destruction and rebirth!
Something inside me is telling me that this should be my only post on this location! I don’t know why, and there is no logical reason behind that decision. I don’t know whether it is the story, or an emotional connection with the place. That is just the way it is! I have added no text to the photographs and I make no further comment on them either! I dedicate this post to all the soldiers and civilians who died in the battle and the bombings, and to the two German officers, who didn’t plunder the Abbey’s treasures and plans for Hitler, but made sure they were safely located in the Vatican for posterity! I hope you can see a small piece of the beauty of the Abbey of Montecassino from these 15 photographs:
There we are – all done and never to be repeated! Hopefully you will agree with me that it is a beautiful place! Being high up above the hustle and bustle of Cassino town also means that it not only beautiful, but quiet and serene. Quite appropriate because of the war memorials and graves adjacent to the monastery!
Thank you for visiting my blog and this post!