Montecassino Abbey

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Montecassino Abbey
Basic data
Country Italy
Ecclesiastical province Immediate
Dept Donato Ogliari OSB
Dept. Emeritus Pietro Vittorelli OSB
founding 0530
surface 5 km²
Parishes 1 (2016 / AP 2017 )
Residents 13 (2016 / AP 2017 )
Catholics 13 (2016 / AP 2017 )
proportion of 100%
Religious priest 8 (2016 / AP 2017 )
Catholics per priest 2
Permanent deacons 2 (2016 / AP 2017 )
Friars 15 (2016 / AP 2017 )
rite Roman rite
Liturgical language Italian / Latin
cathedral Maria Santissima Assunta e San Benedetto Abate
address Piazza Corte
03043 Montecassino [Frosinone], Italia
Montecassino Monastery

The Montecassino Abbey (also Monte Cassino ; Latin Abbatia Territorialis Montis Cassini ) is the mother monastery ( Latin Archicoenobium Montis Casini ; monte casino is the "mountain (above) of Casino") of the Benedictines in the province of Frosinone in Italy . It was built by Benedict of Nursia in 529 on the site of an old Temple of Apollo and has the rank of an archabbey . In addition, as a territorial abbey, it is assigned an ecclesiastical territory, which, however, was limited to the area of ​​the abbey in 2014. The monastery complex is located on a 516 m high rocky hill in the urban area of Cassino (the Roman Casinum , later San Germano ) between Rome and Naples . Montecassino is considered to be one of the most important spiritual centers of the Middle Ages and achieved special scientific importance thanks to great theologians ( Petrus Diaconus ), historians, physicians, exegetes and mathematicians (Pandulf). The monastery was completely destroyed by an air raid by the US Air Forces in February 1944 in the Battle of Monte Cassino . Many art treasures had previously been saved to the Vatican State by the Wehrmacht. After the war, the monastery was rebuilt in ten years on the basis of the old building plans.


Foundation phase and first destruction

The Montecassino crypt with the tomb of Benedict of Nursia

Benedict of Nursia founded According later tradition in the year 529 at the site of the former Roman fortification Casinum a monastery and wrote for the community, a monastic rule , which later became the basis for the eponymous Benedictine Order.

In 577 the monastery was destroyed by the Lombards .

Carolingian period

Abbot Petronax of Brescia settled it in 717 on behalf of Pope Gregory II and supported by Willibald von Eichstätt .

As a result, the monastery quickly gained in importance. The Franconian caretaker Karlmann spent his twilight years in Monte Cassino. His nephew Charlemagne visited the monastery in 787, granted it extensive privileges and had an authentic copy of the Rule of Benedict given to him. The Fulda monastery was built and regulated under Abbot Sturmius based on the model of Montecassino. Paulus Diaconus , a Lombard nobleman, wrote his Historia Langobardorum here as a monk . At the Aachen Council (816–819) , the Benedictine Rule was established as the only binding rule for monks, which increased the importance of the monastery as the founding monastery of Latin monastic life. At the same time, under Abbot Gisulf, a three-aisled church was built.

The monastery was plundered and destroyed by the Saracens in 883 . Abbot Bertharius was killed in the attack. The monks withdrew to Teano and later to Capua .

Middle Ages and Early Modern Times

The Cluniac reform of religious life could not really gain a foothold due to the Norman presence , even if Abbot Aligernus, as a pupil of Odos von Cluny, attempted it.

The abbots and later popes Frederick of Lorraine and Desiderius had the monastery expanded, and the nearby school of Salerno achieved an excellent reputation as a medical training center under the auspices of the Benedictines. During Desiderius' term of office, the library of the monastery was also filled with manuscripts - including writings by the monks Amatus and Petrus Diaconus - which were decorated with miniatures, with mosaics, enamel paintings and goldwork with an oriental style. On October 1, 1071, Pope Alexander II inaugurated a newly built basilica.

With Paschal II , another monk from Montecassino was elected Pope in 1118. At least two abbots were also made cardinal . In 1230 Emperor Friedrich II. , Also King of Sicily, occupied the monastery and drove out the monks. In 1294, under Pope Celestine V , the abbey was incorporated into the Congregation of the Celestines . In 1321 Pope John XXII. the monastery and its territory became a diocese . This privilege was abolished in 1367.

In the meantime, in 1349, the monastery was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake for the third time. During the subsequent reconstruction, various additions and embellishments were made in the Renaissance and Baroque styles , which gave the monastery its stately appearance, which it retained until February 15, 1944.

Since the second destruction

At the end of the Second World War , Montecassino was a refuge for civilians. Since January 1944, the Montecassino mountain has been an important base for the German Gustav Line, which ran across Italy . The hill offered a wide field of vision and fire and was at the center of the bloody battle for Monte Cassino from January to May 1944. As the front approached, the Wehrmacht Lieutenant Colonel Julius Schlegel had the art treasures of the Montecassino monastery loaded onto 100 army trucks in the Castel Sant'Angelo evacuated to Rome. The reconstruction of the monastery was not least possible because Julius Schlegel also saved all the building plans.

Because of its special historical importance, the German commander-in-chief in Italy, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring , forbade the monastery to be included in the German positions. The German troops adhered to this order and passed it on to the Allies. Nevertheless, at the request of the New Zealand General Bernard Freyberg, US planes supported by artillery bombed the monastery on February 15, 1944 with 435 (according to other sources 567) tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs. With the exception of the crypt, the monastery was destroyed to the ground in three hours . Of the approximately 800 people in the monastery, the majority of whom were monks and refugees seeking protection, 250 died (according to other sources: 427). After the bombing, the Wehrmacht moved into the ruins and occupied them for three months until the end of the battle.

The destruction of the monastery caused considerable diplomatic resentment between the Holy See and the Western Allies. The Holy See publicly confirmed that there were neither German soldiers nor military equipment in the monastery before the bombing. To justify the bombing, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt untruthfully announced that the abbey was an artillery base for the Germans and that its destruction was therefore militarily necessary; Henry H. Arnold , Commander in Chief of the US Army Air Forces, called the bombing a "symbol of the destructive power of the Air Force".

After 1945, with the help of the Italian state, the abbey was rebuilt in ten years according to the original building plans, following the motto of Abbot Ildefonso Rea , "Where it was and how it was".

On October 23, 2014, Pope Francis incorporated the 53 parishes previously belonging to the Montecassino Abbey, the secular clergy and the seminarians into the diocese of Sora-Cassino-Aquino-Pontecorvo, which was renamed at the same time, with the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Catholica . On November 22nd, 2014, Archabbot Donato Ogliari was introduced to the Abbey Cathedral by Marc Cardinal Ouellet as the new Territorial Abbot of Montecassino.


Cloister at the entrance

You enter the monastery via the " cloister at the entrance". At this point stood a temple dedicated to Apollo , which Benedict converted into a chapel for the common prayer of the monks and which was dedicated to St. Martin , the Bishop of Tours . In 1953, the remains of the original foundations of this chapel were found during construction work.

Here St. Benedict, taking the posture described by Pope Gregory I the Great : "upright, supported by a few monks after receiving the Eucharist". A group of bronze figures in the middle of the cloister, a gift from Konrad Adenauer , commemorates this episode .

Cloister of the Bramante
Brunnenhof behind the Bramante cloister

From here one arrives at another cloister, which is attributed to the Renaissance artist Bramante and is also named after him. In the middle there is an octagonal cistern , on the sides of which Corinthian columns support a coronation beam. From the balconies of this cloister you can see the cemetery where more than 1000 Polish soldiers are buried who lost their lives in the fighting in 1944.

At the foot of the stairs are two statues: on the left, that of St. Benedict, which remained almost intact during the war and dates from 1736. The inscription Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (“Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”) can be read at his feet . On the right is the statue of St. Scholastica , which is a replica of the destroyed original statue. The inscription Veni columba mea, veni, coronaberis ( "Come, my dove, come, you'll be crowned") refers to the Song of Songs .

At the end of the stairs you get to the upper cloister. In the two niches made of gray marble are the statues of Urban V (of the Benedictine Pope who campaigned for the reconstruction of the monastery after the earthquake of 1349), a work from the 18th century, and Clement XI. who had generously supported the abbey.

The cloister in front of the church in pure renaissance style (1513) is called "cloister of benefactors" because of the statues of popes and rulers who had shown themselves generously towards the monastery over the centuries.

Abbey Cathedral

The facade of the cathedral harmonizes with the architectural structure of the cloister. In the arched area is the coat of arms of Montecassino and his abbots: a lion standing on its hind legs and a tower erected between two cypresses rising into the sky .

The church building was built according to the original plans of the 17th / 18th centuries. Rebuilt in the 19th century. Much of the previous building material, such as marble, has been reused to re-lay the floors, to panel the walls or to add inlay work. On the other hand, the original decoration by paintings, be it frescoes or canvas paintings that were on the vaults or walls, has been lost forever.

At the back of the altar is the grave of St. Benedict.


There are three organs in the abbey church . The main organ in the historic organ prospectus was built in 1953 by the organ builder Vincenzo Mascioni (Cuvio). The instrument has 88 registers on four manuals and a pedal .

I Positivo Espressivo C – c 4
Bordone 16 ′
Principals 8th'
Flauto Aperto 8th'
Bordone 8th'
viola 8th'
Dolce 8th'
Ottava 4 ′
Flauto a Camino 4 ′
Nazardo 2 23
Flagioletto 2 ′
Decimino 1 35
Decimaquinta 2 ′
Ripieno VI
Fagotto 8th'
Clarinetto 8th'
Sesquialtera Combinata
Cornetto Combinato
Ripieno Combinato
II Grand'Organo C – c 4
Principals 16 ′
Principals I 8th'
Principals II 8th'
Flauto Traverso 8th'
Corno Dolce 8th'
Dulciana 8th'
Ottava I 4 ′
Ottava II 4 ′
Flauto Dolce 4 ′
Duodecima 2 23
Decimaquinta 2 ′
Ripieno Grave III
Ripieno Acuto IV
Tromba 16 ′
Tromba 8th'
Voce Umana 8th'
III Recitativo Espressivo C – c 4
Bordone 16 ′
Principale Forte 8th'
Principals 8th'
Flutta 8th'
Bordone Dolce 8th'
Viola di gamba 8th'
Salicionale 8th'
Ottava 4 ′
Flauto in XII 2 23
Silvestre 2 ′
Flauto in XIX 1 13
Cornetto III
Decimaquinta 2 ′
Ripieno VI
Fagotto 16 ′
Tromba Armonica 8th'
oboe 8th'
Cromorno 8th'
Chiarina 4 ′
Celeste 8th'
Coro Viole 8th'
Voce Corale 8th'
IV Organo Corale C – c 4
Principals 8th'
Corno di Camoscio 8th'
Ottava 4 ′
Unda Maris 8th'
Bordone 16 ′
Pedal C – g 1
Basso Acustico 32 ′
Contrabbasso 16 ′
Principale Violone 16 ′
Subbasso 16 ′
Bordone 16 ′
Quinta 10 23
Basso 8th'
Principals 8th'
Corno di Camoscio 8th'
Bordone 8th'
violoncello 8th'
Quinta 5 13
Ottava 4 ′
Flauto 4 ′
Ottavino 2 ′
Ripieno VI
Bombarda 16 ′
Tromba 8th'
Clarone 4 ′

Other places with the same name

Monte Cassino is also the name of a mountain near Ciechanow in Poland on which a transmission tower is located.

See also


  • Korbinian Birnbacher : Montecassino . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 7 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1998, Sp. 438-439 .
  • Michela Cigola: L'abbazia benedettina di Montecassino. La storia attraverso le testimonianze grafiche di rilievo e di progetto . Ciolfi Editore, Cassino 2005, ISBN 88-86810-28-8 .
  • Mariano Dell'Omo : Montecassino. Un'abbazia nella storia. Montecassino 1999.
  • Mariano Dell'Omo: Storia del monachesimo occidentale dal medioevo all'età contemporanea. Il carisma di san Benedetto tra VI e XX secolo. Jaka Book, Milano 2011, passim .
  • Gilbert Huddleston:  Abbey of Monte Cassino . In: Catholic Encyclopedia , Volume 10, Robert Appleton Company, New York 1911.
  • Janusz Piekałkiewicz : The Battle of Monte Cassino. Twenty peoples are fighting over a mountain. Bechtermünz Verlag, ISBN 3-86047-909-1 .
  • WS: Land and people of Abruzzo I. (on the author's visit to the Monte Cassino Abbey) In: Supplement to Allgemeine Zeitung No. 214 of August 3, 1888, pp. 3137-3138.

Web links

Commons : Montecassino Abbey  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Ronald Schaffer: Wings of judgment - American Bombing in World War II. Oxford 1985, ISBN 0-19-505640-X , p. 51 ff.
  2. ^ Nomina dell'Abate Ordinario dell'Abbazia Territoriale di Montecassino (Italia) , in: Press Office of the Holy See, Daily Bulletin of 23 October 2014.
  3. More information (in Italian) about the organs .
  4. Niekomercyjny serwis poświęcony radiofonii i telewizji w Polsce ( Polish ) Retrieved December 24, 2011.

Coordinates: 41 ° 29 ′ 24 ″  N , 13 ° 48 ′ 50 ″  E