77 years after the first bombing and destruction of the Abbey of Monte Cassino, the Abbey is there again. The bright white building has been totally rebuilt, following the two rules Abbot Rea imposed during the rebuilding: ‘where it was and how it was’. Many of the stones are original and they can be easily recognised, because they are chipped. The other stones, the perfect one, are naturally new, because during the bombing, many of them were transformed in dust. Some corners of the Abbey are totally original and it is very simple to recognise them. Some munitions are still embedded in the stones, and the statues are crashed in pieces. You see that the columns have locks made by shells, the statues are dark white with holes, and also the main door of the basilica has been damaged by munitions and bombs.
The inside decorations of the church are a copy of the original one, the paintings aren’t those of Luca Giordano and the Neapolitan school, but had been painted about 5 years ago, by Pietro Annigoni and other painters. The choir is still original but had been restored a lot in Florence. The organ is new with more than 5ooo pipes. BIn the library of the Monastery, the monks have 200.000 books again, and we have again researchers visiting this library to study the old hand shrift. The cell of Saint Benedict is still there. The little room was the Saint passed all his life, was not destroyed by the bombs, but the decorations are modern. The old decorations made by the Beuron School were lost in 1944. Under the main altar, it is still possible to see some on the walls Saint Benedict saw when he first arrived at the top of the hill. These are the walls of the temple dedicated to Apollo, that Benedict used to build his first church dedicated to Saint Martin. Because the church was in the higher point of the hill, the bombs destroyed it more easily than other part of the old monastery. Even if it looks like the monastery being a new copy of the old one, the atmosphere is the same as in the past, and it helps people to understand the uselessness of the war.
All Monte Cassino Battlefield tours I hold, offer a ww2 visit to the Abbey of Monte Cassino
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Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide