Monte Cassino, Archabbey of
MONTE CASSINO, ARCHABBEY OF
The cradle of the Benedictine Order, hence of Western monasticism in general, founded by St. benedict of Nursia c. 529 within the wall-enclosed citadel of ancient Casinum. There Benedict built a church on the site of a Roman temple (St. Martin; rediscovered in 1953 by Angelo Pantoni, OSB) and another on the place of the altar of the temple (St. John the Baptist; rediscovered under the present church in 1951).
During the tenure of Benedict's fourth successor, Monte Cassino was destroyed by the lombards (c. 581). The monks found refuge in the lateran monastery in Rome where gregory i (the great) befriended them. He knew personal disciples of Benedict and made the saint the protagonist of the second book of the Dialogues. Benedictinism survived, but the existence of Benedict's foundation remained interrupted for about 140 years. The list of the Lateran abbots is a 12th-century forgery to fill this gap.
About 717 petronax of brescia restored Monte Cassino, which then became the model monastery of Europe. Here St. boniface's kinsman Willibald from Wessex stayed as a monk (729–739) before becoming bishop of Eichstätt; here Sturmi, the first abbot of Fulda, "acquired the practice of the Rule" (W. Levison). Boniface himself asked Petronax's successor Optatus to be admitted to the confraternity of Monte Cassino. Carloman, Pepin's brother, retired to the abbey after his abdication in 747, to be joined by the Lombard King Rachis in 749. Pope Zachary issued to Monte Cassino the first of many papal privileges and declared it subject only to the Holy See, an arrangement that still obtains today (abbatia nullius ).
The territorial expansion of the abbey started before the middle of the 8th century with the generous donation of Duke Gisulf II of Benevento. charlemagne visited Monte Cassino in 787, bestowed privileges on it, and later asked for a copy of the alleged autograph of the bene dictine rule to serve as standard text throughout his realm. His friend and helper paul the deacon, historian of the Lombards, was a member of the congregation then. Abbot Gisulf (797–817) transformed the church of St. John into a three-nave basilica and built at the foot of the hill another monastery with a church dedicated to the Savior. It was here that in 883 Abbot bertharius was slain by the Saracens when they destroyed Monte Cassino. The monks fled to Teano (where they lost the alleged autograph of the Rule in a fire) and from there to Capua under pressure of the princes of Capua. Abbot Aligernus (949–86), a pupil of odo of cluny, at last brought the congregation back to Monte Cassino, which he restored. Subsequent Capuan influence ended only with the election of Abbot Theobald (1022–35), which was supervised by Emperor Henry II.
Under Theobald and the Bavarian Richer (1038–55) Monte Cassino began its rise to the splendid height that
it was to reach under Desiderius (1058–87), who directed the abbey's reconstruction (see victor iii, pope), and which was to continue under Oderisius I (1087–105). Numerous monks of Monte Cassino attained the highest ranks in the Church, three of them the papacy (stephen ix, victor iii, gelasius ii). Meanwhile the scriptorium of Monte Cassino, which used the "Beneventan script," led in MS production in southern Italy, and in book illumination also. The library was rich in ancient pagan and Christian texts, some of which are preserved only there. Among the great men active then in the abbey were Alberic of Monte Cassino, alphanus of salerno, the medical writer constantine the african, and the historians Amatus of Monte Cassino, leo marsicanus, Guido, and peter the deacon. The territory belonging to Monte Cassino (Terra s. Benedicti ) reached its largest extension under Desiderius.
A decline set in after Oderisius I. Neither the norman rulers nor their German successors respected the independence of the abbey. It inevitably suffered in the struggles for the possession of southern Italy and endured new misfortunes when John XXII raised the abbots to the rank of bishop; most of them held their tenure in absentia (1322–65). An earthquake destroyed the monastery of Desiderius on Sept. 9, 1349. Rebuilding started through the initiative of Pope Urban V, a Benedictine (1362–70). Throughout the second half of the 15th century the abbey was ruled by commendatory abbots (1454–1504). Only when Monte Cassino joined the Benedictine Congregation of St. Justina of Padua (1504), henceforth called Congregatio Casinensis alias s. Justinae de Padua, was there peace and prosperity. Abbots were now elected only for short terms. Important construction went on during the 16th and 17th centuries. The new church, with the frescoes of Luca Giordano, one of the foremost examples of Neapolitan baroque, was dedicated by Benedict XIII in 1727. Among the eminent scholars of the abbey were Abbot Angelo della Noce (d. 1691), editor of the Chronicle of Monte Cassino (1668), and Erasmo Gattola, the learned archivist and historian of the abbey (1662–1734).
With the fall of the kingdom of Naples and the suppression of the religious houses, Monte Cassino became in 1866 a national monument whose guardians were the monks themselves. The historian Abbot Luigi tosti (1811–97) fought first for the unification of italy and after 1870 for the reconciliation of Church and State. Learning has been flourishing, and important publications issue from Monte Cassino. On Feb. 15, 1944, the abbey, wrongly believed by some Allied commanders to harbor German soldiers, was destroyed by aerial bombardment to the dismay of the entire civilized world. The abandoned ruins were taken over by the Germans and fell to Polish troops on May 18. The abbey has been rebuilt as it was, mainly with funds provided by the Italian government and with the very active help of the congregation itself, led by Abbot Ildefonso Rea. On Oct. 24, 1964, Pope Paul VI consecrated the monastery and from Monte Cassino proclaimed St. Benedict the patron saint of Europe.
Bibliography: Sources. l. marsicanus and peter the deacon, Chronica monasterii Casinensis, ed. w. wattenbach, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores (Berlin 1826–) 7:551–844. Annales Casinenses ex annalibus Montis Casini antiquis et continuatis excerpti, ed. g. smidt, ibid. 30.2:1385–429. Annales Casinenses a. 1000–212, ed. g. h. pertz, ibid. 19:303–20. amatus of monte cassino, Storia de' Normanni, ed. v. de bartholomaeis (Rome 1935). The library contains more than 1,000 MSS; cf. Spicilegium Casinense, 4 v. (1888–1936). Tabularium Casinense, 4 v. (1887–1960). Serie dei Regesti Cassinesi, 4 v. (1914–26). Bibliotheca Casinensis seu codicum manuscriptorum … series, 5 v. (1873–94). m. inguanez, Codicum Casinensium manuscriptorum catalogus, 3 v. (1915–41), covers codices 1–600. t. leccisotti, I Regesti dell' Archivio, v.1– (Rome 1964–). Literature. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 2:1913–16. e. gattola, Historia abbatiae Cassinensis, 2 v. (Venice 1733); Ad historiam abbatiae Cassinensis accessiones, 2 v. (Venice 1734), both works still indispensable. l. tosti, Storia della badia di Monte-Cassino, 3 v. (Naples 1842–43); also in Opere complete, v.14–17 (Rome 1888–90). p. f. kehr, Regesta Pontificum Romanorum. Italia Pontificia, 8 v. (Berlin 1906–35) 8:109–98. g. f. carettoni, Casinum (Rome 1940). g. falco, "Lineamenti di storia Cassinese nei secoli VIII e IX," Casinensia 2 (Monte Cassino 1929) 457–553; repr. Albori d'Europa (Rome 1947) 173–263. Miscellanea Cassinese 1– (1897–). Benedictina 1–13 (Rome 1947–59). In these two series many important volumes and articles, esp. by the following monks of Monte Cassino: m. inguanez, t. leccisotti, a. lentini, and a. pantoni. See particularly: t. leccisotti, a. pantoni, l. olivieri et al., Il sepolcro di S. Benedetto (Miscellanea Cassinese 27; 1951). a. pantoni, "Opinioni, valutazioni critiche e dati di fatto sull'arte benedettina in Italia," Benedictina 13 (1959) 111–58. p. meyvaert, "Peter the Deacon and the Tomb of St. Benedict," Revue Bénédictine 65 (1955) 3–70. h. bloch, "Monte Cassino, Byzantium, and the West in the Earlier Middle Ages," Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Harvard Univ. 3 (1946) 163–224. j. r. hudleston, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. c. g. herbermann et al., 16 v. (New York 1907–14) 10:526–28. v. redlich, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 7:582–84. t. leccisotti, Montecassino (Basel 1949), Ger. ed. l. fabiani, La terra di S. Benedetto (Miscellanea Cassinese 26;1950). On the destruction of Monte Cassino cf. esp. m. w. clark, Calculated Risk (New York 1950) 312. f. von senger and etterlin, Neither Fear nor Hope, tr. g. malcolm (London 1963) 201–06. f. majdalany, The Battle of Cassino (Boston 1957) 134–86. r. bÖhmler, Monte Cassino, tr. r. h. stevens (London 1964) 162–82.