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The first one which Benedict built in the temple itself was only twelve meters long and eight wide. From this, we can infer a fairly small community.
The second oratory, on the mountain-top, where the pagan altar had stood in the open air, was of the same width but somewhat longer Monte Cassino became a model for future developments.
Its prominent site has always made it an object of strategic importance. It was sacked or destroyed a number of times.
A flourishing period of Monte Cassino followed its re-establishment in by Abbot Petronax , when among the monks were Carloman , son of Charles Martel ; Ratchis , predecessor of the great Lombard Duke and King Aistulf ; and Paul the Deacon , the historian of the Lombards.
In , a donation of Gisulf II of Benevento created the Terra Sancti Benedicti , the secular lands of the abbacy, which were subject to the abbot and nobody else save the Pope.
Thus, the monastery became the capital of a state comprising a compact and strategic region between the Lombard principality of Benevento and the Byzantine city-states of the coast Naples , Gaeta , and Amalfi.
In Saracens sacked and then burned it down,  and Abbot Bertharius was killed during the attack. Among the great historians who worked at the monastery, in this period there is Erchempert , whose Historia Langobardorum Beneventanorum is a fundamental chronicle of the ninth-century Mezzogiorno.
Monte Cassino was rebuilt and reached the apex of its fame in the 11th century under the abbot Desiderius abbot — , who later became Pope Victor III.
Monks caring for the patients in Monte Cassino constantly needed new medical knowledge. As Naples is situated on the crossroad of many seaways of Europe, Middle East and Asia, soon the monastery library was one of the richest in Europe.
All the knowledge of the civilizations of all the times and nations was accumulated in the Abbey of that time. The Benedictines translated into Latin and transcribed precious manuscripts.
The number of monks rose to over two hundred, and the library, the manuscripts produced in the scriptorium and the school of manuscript illuminators became famous throughout the West.
Monks reading and copying the medical texts learnt a lot about human anatomy and methods of treatment, and then put their theoretic skills into practice at monastery hospital.
By the th centuries Monte Cassino became the most famous cultural, educational, and medical center of Europe with great library in Medicine and other sciences.
Many physicians came there for medical and other knowledge. That is why the first High Medical School in the world was soon opened in nearby Salerno which is considered today the first Institution of Higher Education in the world.
This school found its original base in the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino still in the 9th century and later settled down in Salerno.
So, Montecassino and Benedictines played a great role in the progress of medicine and science in the Middle Ages, and with his life and work St.
Benedict himself exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture and helped Europe to emerge from the "dark night of history" that followed the fall of the Roman empire.
The buildings of the monastery were reconstructed in the 11th century on a scale of great magnificence, artists being brought from Amalfi, Lombardy, and even Constantinople to supervise the various works.
The abbey church, rebuilt and decorated with the utmost splendor, was consecrated in by Pope Alexander II.
A detailed account of the abbey at this date exists in the Chronica monasterii Cassinensis by Leo of Ostia and Amatus of Monte Cassino gives us our best source on the early Normans in the south.
Abbot Desiderius sent envoys to Constantinople some time after to hire expert Byzantine mosaicists for the decoration of the rebuilt abbey church.
According to chronicler Leo of Ostia the Greek artists decorated the apse, the arch and the vestibule of the basilica.
Their work was admired by contemporaries but was totally destroyed in later centuries except two fragments depicting greyhounds now in the Monte Cassino Museum.
Abbot Hugh of Cluny visited Monte Cassino in , and five years later he began to build the third church at Cluny Abbey , which then included pointed arches and became a major turning point in medieval architecture.
An earthquake damaged the Abbey in , and although the site was rebuilt it marked the beginning of a long period of decline.
In , Pope John XXII made the church of Monte Cassino a cathedral, and the carefully preserved independence of the monastery from episcopal interference was at an end.
That situation was reversed by Pope Urban V , a Benedictine, in From the dissolution of the Italian monasteries in , Monte Cassino became a national monument.
The German military forces had established the kilometre mile Gustav Line , in order to prevent Allied troops from advancing northwards. The Gustav Line stretched from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic coast in the east, with Monte Cassino itself overlooking Highway 6 and blocking the path to Rome.
On 15 February the abbey was almost completely destroyed in a series of heavy American-led air raids. The bombing was conducted because many reports from the British commanders of the Indian troops on the ground suggested that Germans were occupying the monastery, and it was considered a key observational post by all those who were fighting in the field.
Subsequent investigations found that the only people killed in the monastery by the bombing were Italian civilians seeking refuge there.
The Abbey was rebuilt after the war. During reconstruction, the abbey library was housed at the Pontifical Abbey of St Jerome-in-the-City.
In December , some 1, irreplaceable manuscript codices , chiefly patristic and historical, in addition to a vast number of documents relating to the history of the abbey and the collections of the Keats-Shelley Memorial House in Rome, had been sent to the abbey archives for safekeeping.
Julius Schlegel a Roman Catholic and Capt. Soldiers of the Reichsmarschall" , notes that trucks were loaded with monastic assets and art which had been stored there for safekeeping.
The trucks were loaded and left in October , and only "strenuous" protests resulted in their delivery to the Vatican, minus the 15 cases which contained the property of the Capodimonte Museum in Naples.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Salkin; Sharon La Boda, eds. International Dictionary of Historic Places: Volume 3 Southern Europe.
The Life of Saint Benedict. The Life of St. Translated by Hilary Costello and Eoin de Bhaldraithe. The Age of Faith. The Age of Faith: Bullarum, diplomatum et privilegiorum sanctorum romanorum pontificum Taurinensis editio in Latin Tomus IV ed.
Franco et Henrico Dalmazzo editoribus. Monte Cassino in the Middle Ages. Retrieved 22 May Frosinone Latina Rieti Rome Viterbo.
Elections in Lazio List of Presidents of Lazio. Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Rome. Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history.
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However, attempts to take Monte Cassino were broken by overwhelming machine gun fire from the slopes below the monastery.
Despite their fierce fighting, the 34th Division never managed to take the final redoubts on Hill known to the Germans as Calvary Mount , held by the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Parachute Regiment , part of the 1st Parachute Division , the dominating point of the ridge to the monastery.
On 11 February, after a final unsuccessful 3-day assault on Monastery Hill and Cassino town, the Americans were withdrawn.
II Corps, after two and a half weeks of torrid battle, was fought out. The performance of the 34th Division in the mountains is considered to rank as one of the finest feats of arms carried out by any soldiers during the war.
At the height of the battle in the first days of February von Senger und Etterlin had moved the 90th Division from the Garigliano front to north of Cassino and had been so alarmed at the rate of attrition, he had " At the crucial moment von Senger was able to throw in the 71st Infantry Division whilst leaving the 15th Panzergrenadier Division whom they had been due to relieve in place.
During the battle there had been occasions when, with more astute use of reserves, promising positions might have been turned into decisive moves.
Some historians [ who? However, it is more likely that he just had too much to do, being responsible for both the Cassino and Anzio offensives.
VI Corps under heavy threat at Anzio, Freyberg was under equal pressure to launch a relieving action at Cassino.
Once again, therefore, the battle commenced without the attackers being fully prepared. This was evidenced in the writing of Maj.
Howard Kippenberger , commander of New Zealand 2nd Division, after the war,. Poor Dimoline Brigadier Dimoline , acting commander of 4th Indian Division was having a dreadful time getting his division into position.
I never really appreciated the difficulties until I went over the ground after the war. Success would pinch out Cassino town and open up the Liri valley.
Freyberg had informed his superiors that he believed, given the circumstances, there was no better than a 50 per cent chance of success for the offensive.
Increasingly, the opinions of certain Allied officers were fixed on the great abbey of Monte Cassino: The British press and C.
Sulzberger of The New York Times frequently and convincingly and in often manufactured detail wrote of German observation posts and artillery positions inside the abbey.
Eaker accompanied by Lieutenant General Jacob L. II Corps also flew over the monastery several times, reporting to Fifth Army G-2 he had seen no evidence that the Germans were in the abbey.
There is no clear evidence it was, but he went on to write that from a military point of view it was immaterial:. If not occupied today, it might be tomorrow and it did not appear it would be difficult for the enemy to bring reserves into it during an attack or for troops to take shelter there if driven from positions outside.
It was impossible to ask troops to storm a hill surmounted by an intact building such as this, capable of sheltering several hundred infantry in perfect security from shellfire and ready at the critical moment to emerge and counter-attack.
Undamaged it was a perfect shelter but with its narrow windows and level profiles an unsatisfactory fighting position. Smashed by bombing it was a jagged heap of broken masonry and debris open to effective fire from guns, mortars and strafing planes as well as being a death trap if bombed again.
On the whole I thought it would be more useful to the Germans if we left it unbombed. Major General Francis Tuker , whose 4th Indian Division would have the task of attacking Monastery Hill, had made his own appreciation of the situation.
In the absence of detailed intelligence at Fifth Army HQ, he had found a book dated in a Naples bookshop giving details of the construction of the abbey.
In his memorandum to Freyberg he concluded that regardless of whether the monastery was currently occupied by the Germans, it should be demolished to prevent its effective occupation.
He also pointed out that with foot 45 m high walls made of masonry at least 10 feet 3 m thick, there was no practical means for field engineers to deal with the place and that bombing with "blockbuster" bombs would be the only solution since 1, pound bombs would be "next to useless".
On 11 February , the acting commander of 4th Indian Division, Brigadier Harry Dimoline , requested a bombing raid. Tuker reiterated again his case from a hospital bed in Caserta, where he was suffering a severe attack of a recurrent tropical fever.
Freyberg transmitted his request on 12 February. The request, however, was greatly expanded by air force planners and probably supported by Ira Eaker and Jacob Devers, who sought to use the opportunity to showcase the abilities of U.
Army air power to support ground operations. Clark of Fifth Army and his chief of staff Major General Alfred Gruenther remained unconvinced of the "military necessity".
When handing over the U. Butler, deputy commander of U. All the fire has been from the slopes of the hill below the wall".
In all they dropped 1, tons of high explosives and incendiary bombs on the abbey, reducing the entire top of Monte Cassino to a smoking mass of rubble.
Between bomb runs, the II Corps artillery pounded the mountain. Eaker and Devers watched; Juin was heard to remark " That same afternoon and the next day an aggressive follow-up of artillery and a raid by 59 fighter bombers wreaked further destruction.
The German positions on Point above and behind the monastery were untouched. Damningly, the air raid had not been coordinated with ground commands and an immediate infantry follow-up failed to materialize.
Its timing had been driven by the Air Force regarding it as a separate operation, considering the weather and requirements on other fronts and theaters without reference to ground forces.
Many of the troops had only taken over their positions from U. II Corps two days previously and besides the difficulties in the mountains, preparations in the valley had also been held up by difficulties in supplying the newly installed troops with sufficient material for a full-scale assault because of incessantly foul weather, flooding and waterlogged ground.
It is certain from every investigation that followed since the event that the only people killed in the monastery by the bombing were Italian civilians seeking refuge in the abbey.
However, given the imprecision of bombing in those days it was estimated that only 10 per cent of the bombs from the heavy bombers, bombing from high altitude, hit the monastery bombs did fall elsewhere and killed German and Allied troops alike, although that would have been unintended.
Clark was doing paperwork at his desk. On the day after the bombing at first light, most of the civilians still alive fled the ruins.
Only about 40 people remained: After artillery barrages, renewed bombing and attacks on the ridge by 4th Indian Division, the monks decided to leave their ruined home with the others who could move at The old abbot was leading the group down the mule path toward the Liri valley, reciting the rosary.
After they arrived at a German first-aid station, some of the badly wounded who had been carried by the monks were taken away in a military ambulance.
After 3 April, he was not seen anymore. It is now known that the Germans had an agreement not to use the abbey for military purposes.
The assault failed, with the company sustaining 50 per cent casualties. The following night the Royal Sussex Regiment was ordered to attack in battalion strength.
There was a calamitous start. Artillery could not be used in direct support targeting point because of the proximity and risk of shelling friendly troops.
It was planned therefore to shell point which had been providing supporting fire to the defenders of point The topography of the land meant that shells fired at had to pass very low over Snakeshead ridge and in the event some fell among the gathering assault companies.
After reorganising, the attack went in at midnight. The fighting was brutal and often hand to hand, but the determined defence held and the Royal Sussex battalion was beaten off, once again sustaining over 50 per cent casualties.
Over the two nights, the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 12 out of 15 officers and out of men who took part in the attack. On the night of 17 February the main assault took place.
This latter was across appalling terrain, but it was hoped that the Gurkhas , from the Himalayas and so expert in mountain terrain, would succeed.
This proved a faint hope. Once again the fighting was brutal, but no progress was made and casualties heavy. It became clear that the attack had failed and on 18 February Brigadier Dimoline and Freyberg called off the attacks on Monastery Hill.
The intention was to take a perimeter that would allow engineers to build a causeway for armoured support. Their isolation and lack of both armoured support and anti-tank guns made for a hopeless situation, however, when an armoured counter-attack by two tanks came in the afternoon on 18 February.
It had been very close. The Germans had been very alarmed by the capture of the station and from a conversation on record between Kesselring and Tenth Army commander Gen.
For the third battle, it was decided that whilst the winter weather persisted, fording the Garigliano river downstream of Cassino town was an unattractive option after the unhappy experiences in the first two battles.
The "right hook" in the mountains had also been a costly failure and it was decided to launch twin attacks from the north along the Rapido valley: The idea was to clear the path through the bottleneck between these two features to allow access towards the station on the south and so to the Liri valley.
British 78th Infantry Division , which had arrived in late February and placed under the command of New Zealand Corps, would then cross the Rapido downstream of Cassino and start the push to Rome.
None of the Allied commanders were very happy with the plan, but it was hoped that an unprecedented preliminary bombing by heavy bombers would prove the trump.
Three clear days of good weather were required and for twenty one successive days the assault was postponed as the troops waited in the freezing wet positions for a favourable weather forecast.
Matters were not helped by the loss of Major General Kippenberger, commanding 2 New Zealand Division, wounded by an anti-personnel mine and losing both his feet.
He was replaced by Brigadier Graham Parkinson; a German counter-attack at Anzio had failed and been called off. The third battle began 15 March.
After a bombardment of tons of 1,pound bombs with delayed action fuses,  starting at The bombing was not concentrated — only 50 per cent landed a mile or less from the target point and 8 per cent within 1, yards but between it and the shelling about half the paratroopers in the town had been killed.
Torrents of rain flooded bomb craters, turned rubble into a morass and blotted out communications, the radio sets being incapable of surviving the constant immersion.
The dark rain clouds also blotted out the moonlight, hindering the task of clearing routes through the ruins. However, the Germans were still able to reinforce their troops in the town and were proving adept at slipping snipers back into parts of the town that had supposedly been cleared.
On 20 March Freyberg committed elements of 78th Infantry Division to the battle; firstly to provide a greater troop presence in the town so that cleared areas would not be reinfiltrated by the Germans and secondly to reinforce Castle Hill to allow troops to be released to close off the two routes between Castle Hill and Points and being used by the Germans to reinforce the defenders in the town.
However, the defenders were resolute and the attack on Point to block the German reinforcement route had narrowly failed whilst in the town Allied gains were measured only house by house.
On 23 March Alexander met with his commanders. A range of opinions were expressed as to the possibility of victory but it was evident that the New Zealand and Indian Divisions were exhausted.
Freyberg was convinced that the attack could not continue and he called it off. The Allied line was reorganised with the exhausted 4th Indian Division and 2nd New Zealand Division withdrawn and replaced respectively in the mountains by the British 78th Division and in the town by British 1st Guards Brigade.
The German defenders too had paid a heavy price. With the arrival of the spring weather, ground conditions were improved and it would be possible to deploy large formations and armour effectively.
The plan for Operation Diadem was that U. II Corps on the left would attack up the coast along the line of Route 7 towards Rome.
The French Corps to their right would attack from the bridgehead across the Garigliano originally created by British X Corps in the first battle in January into the Aurunci Mountains which formed a barrier between the coastal plain and the Liri Valley.
Improved weather, ground conditions and supply would also be important factors. Once again, the pinching manoeuvres by the Polish and British Corps were key to the overall success.
Canadian I Corps would be held in reserve ready to exploit the expected breakthrough. Once the German 10th Army had been defeated, U.
The large troop movements required for this took two months to execute. They had to be carried out in small units to maintain secrecy and surprise.
This was planned to keep German reserves held back from the Gustav Line. Movements of troops in forward areas were confined to the hours of darkness and armoured units moving from the Adriatic front left behind dummy tanks and vehicles so the vacated areas appeared unchanged to enemy aerial reconnaissance.
The deception was successful. As late as the second day of the final Cassino battle, Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring estimated the Allies had six divisions facing his four on the Cassino front.
In fact there were thirteen. The first assault 11—12 May on Cassino opened at By daylight the U. II Corps had made little progress, but their Fifth Army colleagues, the French Expeditionary Corps, had achieved their objectives and were fanning out in the Aurunci Mountains toward the Eighth Army to their right, rolling up the German positions between the two armies.
By the afternoon of 12 May, the Gari bridgeheads were increasing despite furious counter-attacks whilst the attrition on the coast and in the mountains continued.
By 13 May the pressure was starting to tell. The German right wing began to give way to Fifth Army. On 14 May Moroccan Goumiers , travelling through the mountains parallel to the Liri valley, ground which was undefended because it was not thought possible to traverse such terrain, outflanked the German defence while materially assisting the XIII Corps in the valley.
In , the Goumiers were colonial troops formed into four Groups of Moroccan Tabors GTM , each consisting of three loosely organised Tabors roughly equivalent to a battalion specialised in mountain warfare.
The next 48 hours on the French front were decisive. Cerasola , San Giorgio , Mt. For this performance, which was to be a key to the success of the entire drive on Rome , I shall always be a grateful admirer of General Juin and his magnificent FEC.
Under constant artillery and mortar fire from the strongly fortified German positions and with little natural cover for protection, the fighting was fierce and at times hand-to-hand.
With their line of supply threatened by the Allied advance in the Liri valley, the Germans decided to withdraw from the Cassino heights to the new defensive positions on the Hitler Line.
On the Cassino high ground the survivors of the second Polish offensive were so battered that "it took some time to find men with enough strength to climb the few hundred yards to the summit.
At the end of the war the Poles erected a Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino on the slope of the mountain. An immediate follow-up assault failed and Eighth Army then decided to take some time to reorganize.
Getting 20, vehicles and 2, tanks through the broken Gustav Line was a major job taking several days.
On 24 May, the Canadians had breached the line and 5th Canadian Armoured Division poured through the gap.
On 25 May the Poles took Piedimonte and the line collapsed. The way was clear for the advance northwards on Rome and beyond. Lucas as commander of the U.
VI Corps in February, launched a two pronged attack using five three U. The German 14th Army , facing this thrust, was without any armoured divisions because Kesselring had sent his armour south to assist the German 10th Army in the Cassino action.
A single armoured division, the 26th Panzer , was in transit from north of the Italian capital of Rome where it had been held anticipating the non-existent seaborne landing the Allies had faked and so was unavailable to fight.
At this point, astonishingly, Lieutenant General Clark, commanding the American Fifth Army, ordered Truscott to change his line of attack from a northeasterly one to Valmontone on Route 6 to a northwesterly one directly towards Rome.
This was no time to drive to the northwest where the enemy was still strong; we should pour our maximum power into the Valmontone Gap to insure the destruction of the retreating German Army.
I would not comply with the order without first talking to General Clark in person. On the 26th the order was put into effect. To be first in Rome was a poor compensation for this lost opportunity.
An opportunity was indeed missed and seven divisions of 10th Army  were able to make their way to the next line of defence, the Trasimene Line where they were able to link up with 14th Army and then make a fighting withdrawal to the formidable Gothic Line north of Florence.
Rome was captured on 4 June , just two days before the Normandy invasion. Battle honours were awarded to some units for their roles at Cassino.
In addition, subsidiary battle honours were given to some units which participated in specific engagements during the first part. The capture of Monte Cassino came at a high price.
The Allies suffered around 55, casualties in the Monte Cassino campaign. German casualty figures are estimated at around 20, killed and wounded.
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An impeccably researched history relying primarily on first-person accounts of fighting men to tell the heroic and tragic events surrounding the Allied attempt to breach the Gustov Line at Monte Cassino.
Each of the four battles for Monte Cassino is explored in detailed fashion. The overall strategy of each battle is discussed, then the author moves on to the experiences of the individual participants.
The author mainly relies on accounts from Allied soldiers; however, there are some accounts from German veterans as well as from Italian civilians caught in the crossfire.
The sum result is a very moving tale of typically patriotic men arriving in combat and quickly wondering what they had gotten themselves into and why?
Interestingly, one of the most powerful and moving chapters of the book is the postscript where the author describes the postwar lives of many of the people interviewed in the preceding pages.
Easily ranks as one of the finest military histories of the battles for Monte Cassino and military history in general. He also included a large number of very useful maps some with an excellent three-dimensional perspective illustrating the key actions.
He gives good in-depths looks at the lesser-known armies involved in the campaign: He does not only focus on their actions but on their unique backgrounds.
And with his perspective on the individual soldier, Parker highlights the psychological casualties in the battles, even describing the continuing suffering of many of the veterans after the war.
However, despite these excellent perspectives, Parker does not focus enough on the operational side of the battle, nor does he offer much analysis or commentary on the difficult and controversial battles.
He rarely discusses the plans and actions of any commanders above the corps level. Ultimately, though, this is an excellent account of this overlooked battle.
Although the book fails to discuss the bigger picture of the fighting in Italy or analyze the actions of the Allied armies in Italy, Parker does an excellent job writing and interesting and informative account of this campaign that would be enjoyed by anyone interested in World War II.
Monte Cassino was a true "Battle of the Nations". All did honour to their respective countries. In particular, never did men fight so well for such a bad cause as the German parachutists did.
Parker, a historian of whom I had heard little but of whom I would like to read more, shows exactly how military history should be written. He sketches the strategic outline concisely and then lets the men who fought tell their own stories, without boring us with his own opinions and theories.
The result is a vivid account of the follies and horrors of war. This book certainly destroys any subconscious illusions - based on experience of Italy only as a very pleasant tourist destination - that the Italian Campaign must not have been as unpleasant as some others.
The fact is that even the most beautiful country can be turned into a place of torture by total war. Young men read about wars and wish that they could have fought, but reading books like this makes one thank God that one never had to fight.
It left me with a profound sense of gratitude to the generation who went to war so that my generation did not. In my opinion the best of the two Monte Cassino books.
War books can be dry at times however this one put me right in the theater of the Italian campaign. But the book is very well written.
Easy to understand what went on.