Montecassino Abbey (Abbazia di Montecassino)
It is said that three ravens led St. Benedict to this spot in AD 529, and the abbey that he founded here became one of the most important in the medieval world, housing an impressive library that became known as the “Lighthouse of Western Civilization”. The complex has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries, most recently after World War II, and today you can tour its quiet cloisters and Basilica, where the remains of Saint Benedict and Scholastica are housed. Highlights of the complex include the crypt, decorated with intricate golden mosaics, and the museum, home to a collection of historic paintings, manuscripts, and books.
Located south of Rome, Montecassino Abbey is a popular day trip from the capital city, or a stopover between Rome and highlights of southern Italy like Pompeii, Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and Gaeta and Terracina. Modern history enthusiasts can opt for a tour that combines a trip to the abbey and other significant WWII battle sites with a stop at the Anzio War Cemetery.
Things to know before you go
- The abbey is a solemn place of worship for pilgrims, and modest dress and suitable decorum are required.
- As the site of an important WWII battle, the abbey is a fascinating stop for those interested in 20th-century history.
- Montecassino is accessible to wheelchair users.
- With its sweeping views over the surrounding countryside, the abbey is a photographer’s paradise.
How to get there
Montecassino Abbey is located just over an hour south of Rome; though the complex can be reached by train and bus, the most convenient way to visit is via a tour that includes transportation.
When to get there
The abbey is an important religious site, and can be very crowded on Sundays and religious holidays. Visit on a weekday to enjoy the church, cloister, and museums in relative peace.
The Allied Destruction of the Abbey
Toward the end of WWII, the mountaintop complex was at the center of heavy fighting as the Germans took advantage of its tactical position to stop the Allied advance north. After almost six months of battle, the Allies bombed the abbey in May 1944, reducing it to rubble in an attempt to penetrate German defenses.
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