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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Religious Tourism: Montecassino Abbey

English: Montecassino Abbey: First cloister wi...English: Montecassino Abbey: First cloister with San Benedetto's statue Italiano: Abbazzia di Montecassino: Primo Chiostro con la statua di San Benedetto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)With the beginning of the summer begins also the tourism machine, and the religious tourism is not an exception.

In summer, more than in other seasons, the cities famous for their places of worship and religious buildings are filled with tourists and pilgrims. In this sense, Italy has certainly a rich legacy: the destinations most appreciated by tourists are without a doubt the Vatican, Basilica of Saint Peter, Padre Pio Sanctuary in San Giovanni Rotondo and the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. Beyond these three main places of worship, in Italy you can find many other buildings and places of high cultural and historical value, and the Abbey of Montecassino is one among the most proper examples in this sense.

The city of Cassino, famous most of all for the nearness to the famous abbey, even this summer prepares to be visited by many tourists, who choose this place both for spiritual interests and for an historical and cultural interest. Montecassino Abbey, indeed, is not only a religious place, the Benedictine monastery was founded in 529 by Benedetto from Norcia, but it is also one of the symbol places of the Second World War, beyond an important cultural centre thanks to the precious codes guarded in its library. For all these reasons Cassino centre and the near abbey are among the destinations most appreciated by pilgrims and tourists in general.

Montecassino Abbey, as said, was founded in VI century a.D. by Saint Benedict from Norcia, and over its history it was destroyed an re-built many times. The first destruction dates back in 577, during Lombard invasion, and only in 717, thanks to the interest of Petronace from Montecassino- abbot who came originally from Brescia- the Abbey was built again and repopulated with monks. In the year 883 it was destroyed again, this time by Saracens, and the reconstruction happened, for want of papa Agapito II, in 949. In XI century the Abbey had a new reconstruction requested by the abbot Desiderio, probably among the most famous inhabitants of the Abbey, and by Papa Vittore II. During these interventions the abbey was enriched with precious fresco paintings and mosaics, partially lost during the centuries. Later on indeed, the abbey was seriously damaged by an earthquake and then rebuilt, in 1366, taking the features typical of the baroque Naples buildings.

From that last reconstruction, Montecassino Abbey managed to be undamaged for centuries until, during Second World War, it was completely destroyed by allies bombings, as they suspected that it was used as a refuge, by German soldiers. It was thanks to the intervention of the abbey-bishop Gregorio Diamare and of the colonel Julius Schlegel that the most important bibliographic documents kept in the Abbey were saved. The reconstruction begun after the war and lasted from 1948 to 1956. The choice, contested by someone, was to rebuild the Abbey exactly as it was before the destruction, and therefore all the tourists that today decide to visit Ciociaria region, and visit Montecassino Abbey, can still see the original structure. The entrance in Montecassino can comprehend, beyond the Abbey, also the Museum built in 1980 which is in the outside, and the Library, which guards around 25.000 ancient volumes.

Article written by Serena Rigato
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