Monte Cassino, Italy: Abbey & Tombs of Saint Benedict & Saint Scholastica
About the Abbey of Saint Benedict:
The Abbey was founded by St. Benedict of Norcia in 529 A.D. over the ruins of a pagan temple. You will find two different spellings, since traditionally it was known by its Latin name of Nursia.
It was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the years until the Tenth century when it was re-occupied by the Monks, only to be almost completely destroyed again by an earthquake in 1349.
Two great saints are buried here: Both Saint Benedict, who founded the Abbey, and Saint Scholastica, who was his twin sister. They were born in 480 Ad into a wealthy family.
We do not know a great deal about Scholastica, except that she founded a religious community for women near Monte Cassino at Plombariola, five miles from where her brother had built the monastery.
The twins visited each other once a year in a farmhouse, because Scholastica was not permitted inside the monastery. They spent these times discussing spiritual matters. Benedict visited her just shortly before her death and she is in the tomb here that he had prepared for himself.
You can read more about Saint Scholastica here (external link, this page will stay open).
In modern times it is perhaps best known for the fierce aerial bombardment by Allied forces during February 1944 as they attempted to liberate Italy. There was much discussion as to whether the Germans were actually using Monte Cassino as an observation post or not. In addition there were refugees in the monastery as well. However the decision was made to bomb the monastery almost to the ground. About 180,000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives in this battle.
History has shown that this may have been a mistake by an allied translator, who mistook the word abbot for battalion.
It was re-built after the war to become the building that it is today. Although much of the artwork was destroyed, the bronze doors did survive. In the rebuilding, it was discovered that the main altar (the exact location of the tomb of St. Benedict himself, and his sister, St. Scholastica) was found to be miraculously un-damaged and a single, unexploded bomb was lodged underneath.
Most of the original artwork was preserved by the monks who fled prior to the attack, and in the early 1950’s Italian government ordered the monastery to be reconstructed according to the exact specifications of the original.
The Abbey is also the site of many tours of veterans of the Italian campaign, which cost thousands of lives. Nearby is a War Cemetery with over 1,000 Polish soldiers buried there. There is also a British cemetery nearby as well.
The tomb of Saint Benedict ( as well as his twin sister Saint Scholastica) is found here and groups often celebrate Mass at the tomb just as many popes, bishops and priests have done before. We celebrate the Feast of Saint Benedict on July 11 and the Feast of Saint Scholastica on February 10.
Traveling to Monte Cassino:
Monte Cassino is about 80 miles Southeast of Rome. There is train service from Rome, Naples or Bari to the town of Cassino and from there you can take a taxi up to the Abbey. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here (search for Cassino).
Address: Via Montecassino 03043 Cassino FR Italy
GPS coordinates: 41° 29′ 19.9788” N, 13° 48′ 42.6384” E
Tel: +39 0776.311529 Fax: +39 0776.312393
Click here for the official website of the Benedictine Abbey at Montecassino
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