After the bombing, the monks of Monte Cassino tried to find a place where to live together, but at the end they divided the group in three. The main part of the monks was sent to the Monastery of Farfa, norther than Rome, some were sent to Rome to organise the return to Cassino, but the Abbot and few monks, who didn’t want to abandon the Abbey were transferred in Sant’Elia Fiumerapido, where Father Gennaro Iucci hosted the little group.
The rubbles were so many, but the locals already a few weeks after the 18th May joined the Abbey and dug between the rubbles to save as much as possible. The Abbot Diamare was very surprised when he saw that the grave of St Benedict and St Scholastica was untouched under the ruins. People built a little chapel exactly where the main altar and the relics of the two saints were. Some months later, the Abbot of Monte Cassino and the Minister of the Public Meucci Ruini, planed the new abbey.
On 15th March 1945, first anniversary of the complete destruction of Monte Cassino, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. Some days after the oratory of St Joseph was opened for the group of monks that were still living between the ruins to guard this holy place. After 36 years of preyers, the Abbot Gregorio Diamare died. His heart could not stand the bombing of his Abbey and his health was going every day worst. The funeral took place on 7th September and the Monks buried him inside the holy walls of the Abbey between the ruins still existing. On 21st November 1945 Dom Ildefonso Rea, former secretary of the Abbot, was nominated for a new Abbot of Monte Cassino. He put extra energy on the rebuilding of the Abbey. He put extra energy on the rebuilding of the Abbey. He thought the abbey had to be rebuilt where it was, and how it was, a perfect copy of the original one. The Italian Army gave to the Monks about 100 German prisoners that helped from the 1st March to the 15th September to move the rubbles from the main courtyard and the library. During this period the Genio Civile rebuilt the big cistern in the main courtyard and preparing everything to rebuild the pax stairs, it could find the skulls of 148 people dead during the bombing. The bodies were buried in the local cemetery of Cassino. The rebuilding started massively on 1st April 1949, after that the abbot and the monks had found a big documentation about the building destroyed. To help the monks to rebuild the abbey, the Abbot followed the studies of Dom Angelo Pantoni, one monk that was also an engineer who had drawn the planimetry of the abbey some years before the bombing. The library was rebuilt, and the shelves were donated by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Education. The books transported away by the Germans come back, but they lost many. So the Accademia dei Lincei, the Dean of Winchester and other Anglican organizations collected books all around the world to create a new fantastic library. On 24th October 1964, Pope Paul VI consecrated the church again. The abbey was finally back.
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Dr. Anna Maria Priora Ph.D
WW2 Monte Cassino Battlefield expert, researcher and tour guide