Great and historical Benedictine abbey, the birthplace of the rule of “Ora et Labora”. This abbey, surely the most majestic of Italy and perhaps in Europe, is situated 516 m. above sea level, on a promontory of the Mainarde, looking out over the town of Cassino; it dominates (the magnificent panorama) the valley in which flowed in ancient times Via Latina. It was founded by St. Benedict in 529 and became, during the Middle Ages, an important center for the diffusion of the monastic way in Europe. The white walls of the abbey dominate the town of Cassino and a great part of the “land of Sancti Benedicti”. The abbey suffered devastation and destruction during its 1.400 year history: by the Lombards in the 6th century; by the Saracens in 883; by a violent earthquake in 1349; and finally, was destroyed in the bombing on February 15th, 1944. The reconstruction started at the end of the war, has restored an exact replica of the original architecture. The basilica, which was rebuilt with materials recovered from the rubble, has retained its original 17th century design. The remains of St. Benedict are contained in the crypt of the church. During the Middle Ages, the abbey was a lively center of culture through its abbots, its libraries, its archives, its writing and miniature schools, throughout this period the monks transcribed and preserved many ancient works: from the first precious manuscripts in vulgar Italian to the precious and rare incunabula. Of great interest the library (national monument), founded at the same time the abbey. There are over 100,000 documents including 1,000 codes, 40,000 scrolls and 250 incunabula, among this heritage there is the famous ‘Bill of Capua’ or ‘Placito Cassinese’. It is a document drawn up in March 960 which is probably the first text in vulgar Italian: it was discovered and published in 1734 by abbot Erasmus Gattola, who immediately understood its extraordinary importance. Since then, other contributions of the abbey of Monte Cassino in the Italian language are attested by scholars such as the  ‘Rhythm Cassinese’ of 11th century; The verses of the Passion Cassinese of 12th century, to name a few. At the beginning the library contained mostly papyrus volumes, then afterwards on parchment and paper. The library was saved from the terrible earthquake of 1349, but not against pillages and dispersions of the 14th century, which continued during the following century. A revival occurred in the 16th century, when lost manuscripts were recovered, new books purchased and built a new bigger library. In the 18th century the collection was further increased and the library was expanded. In 1866 the library became part of public body. When, the 15th of February, 1944, the abbey was razed to the ground by the bombing raid, the archive and the library were rescued a few months before: they return during the reconstruction of the abbey in 1955. Pope Benedict XVI visited Monte Cassino on the 24th May, 2009, the 65th anniversary of the destruction of the abbey. The pope (who at the time of his election to the throne of Peter chose his name also inspired by the figure of St. Benedict) prayed at the tomb of the saint, recalling His importance in the European culture.

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