The Monastery at Monte Cassino dominated the battlefield of the Liri Valley. Founded by St Benedict in 529 AD, before the Second World War it was a place of pilgrimage, universal learning and had a massive library and archives. These were all transferred to the Vatican at the beginning of the war, but the Monks remained. When the Germans came to fortifty the area around Cassino, the Monastery offered a good observation point to command the ground, but it soon became an obsession with Allied commanders in 1944, when it was bombed heavily in March. Fighting in and around continued until May, when the position was finally taken by Polish troops.

The Monastery was rebuilt after the war and finally finished in 1952. Today it is open every day, and is free to go into. It accessed by road from Cassino town, and there are parking facilities where a small fee is charged. Appropriate dress must be worn within the abbey - shorts are not permitted. There is a bookshop and souvenir shop.

While there is little mention of the war at this site, no visit to Cassino is complete without coming here. There are spectacular views on the way up of Cassino town, and from the Monastery you can look across to Hill 593 and Snakeshead Ridge. Nearby is also the Polish Cemetery.

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View of the outside of the Monastery. The main courtyard. The figure of St Benedict which survived the war.

ŠPaul Reed 2003

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