MONTE CASSINO, a mountain fifty miles north of Naples topped with a famous Benedictine abbey, was the site of fierce fighting in World War II during the first five months of 1944. German troops in mountaintop gun posts observed the entire Liri Valley, the Allies' chosen route to Rome. Under the mistaken belief that Germans occupied the abbey, the Allies, on 15 February, destroyed the buildings and their artistic and cultural treasures with an air bombardment by 250 planes. Not until a powerful spring offensive broke the Gustav Line did the Allies gain entrance into the Liri Valley and, on 18 May, capture the mountain. The abbey and the town of Cassino (also bombed) were rebuilt after the war, but controversy continued about whether the destruction had been justified.
Blumenson, Martin. Salerno to Cassino. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, U. S. Army, 1969.
Graham, Dominick. Cassino. New York: Ballantine Books, 1971.
Majdalany, Fred. The Battle of Cassino. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
Smith, E. D. The Battles for Cassino. New York: Scribners, 1975.
Monte Cassino (môn´tā käs-sē´nō), monastery, in Latium, central Italy, E of the Rapido River. Situated on a hill (1,674 ft/510 m) overlooking Cassino, it was founded c.529 by St. Benedict of Nursia, whose rule became that of all Benedictine houses in the world. Monte Cassino was throughout the centuries one of the great centers of Christian learning and piety; its influence on European civilization is immeasurable (see Benedictines). Its greatest abbot after St. Benedict was Desiderius (later Pope Victor III) in the 11th cent. The buildings of the abbey were destroyed four times: by the Lombards (c.581); by the Arabs (883); by an earthquake (1349); and, after their restoration in the 17th cent., by a concentrated Allied aerial bombardment in 1944 (see Cassino). The German garrison, who had used the abbey as a fortress, survived the bombing in previously dug caves, but the buildings were flattened and most of their art treasures destroyed. A considerable part of the library's collection of invaluable manuscripts was saved by the monks. The monastery was rebuilt again after World War II.