Sunday, July 04, 2010

Road trip . . .

. . . to Monte Cassino Abbey

We have been so busy trying to get organized and move to permanent quarters that we haven't taken much time to travel. We were scheduled for a trip to the Vatican three weeks ago, but too many people backed out, and the tour was cancelled.

On 04 JUL, we decided to visit the Abbey at Monte Cassino - the location of one of the fiercest (and most misguided) battles of WWII. I had read Ed Smith's "The Battles for Cassino" years ago, and decided that the Abbey would be near the top of our must-visit list.

The Abbey, founded by St. Benedict of Nursia in 529, is only about 70 km from our quarters, just a few km off the Autostrada del Sole (The A1). The drive is tricky, because the Abbey is 520 m (1706.04 ft) above sea level. The road is well-maintained and fairly wide, so the "pucker factor" is minimal. But, there are 6% grades, seven 180 degree switchbacks and VERY low stone walls along some of the cliffs. Toss in another bit of misdirection by Garmin, though, and it is a bit of an adventure - and some "white knuckle" time for Mrs. B.

If you fancy a view from the road, Google coordinates 41.486825, 13.814074 and invoke the street view.

We were simply amazed by the construction. It looks as if it has been here for a thousand years. In fact, the Abbey was almost totally destroyed in 1944, and was totally reconstructed according to the original plans. It was rededicated by Pope Paul VI in 1964. With all of it's ancient, classical look, it's less than 60 years old.

We drove from here . . . to THERE!

One of the least scary parts of the drive.

Entrance to the Abbey. The inscription is "PAX" or peace. It's an appropriate wish, because the Abbey was destroyed in 577 by the Lombards, in 883 by the Saracens, in 1349 by an earthquake, and in 1944 by the Allied armies.

The entrance cloister and the statue of St. Benedict.

The Cloister of Bramante and the steps to the Basilica.

The Cloister of Bramante from the Basilica steps.

The Benefactors' Cloister with statues of the Popes and Kings who supported the Abbey, and the entrance to the Basilica Cathedral .

The altar.

The Cathedra at the left of the main altar.

The reliquary of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica.
Scholastica was St. Benedict's twin sister.

The Liri River valley to the west of the abbey.

Grape arbors to the southwest of the abbey.

(Being blessed by St. Benedict)

No comment required . . .

. . . but I wish a larger share of our population shared this little one's enthusiasm.