- Point of Interest
- Via Montecassino, 1, 03043 Cassino FR, Italie
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The abbey of Monte Cassino was founded in the 6th century by St. Benedict. During the Second World War it formed a key part of the German Gustav Line. On 15 February 1944 the abbey was bombed by the Allies who wrongly believed that it was being used as a German observation post.
The abbey of Monte Cassino is one of the two largest monasteries in Italy. The abbey was founded by Saint Benedict in the 6th century. The abbey made up one section of the 161 km long German Gustav Line, intended to block the Allied advance into Italy.
Between 17 January and 18 May 1944, Monte Cassino was the scene of fierce fighting. Lying in a protected historic zone, the abbey itself had been left unoccupied by the Germans. Unfortunately, the Allied commanders believed that the abbey was being used as an artillery observation point by the German forces. In spite of a lack of clear evidence, the monastery was marked for destruction. On 15 February American bombers dropped their bombs on the abbey, reducing the entire top of Monte Cassino to a smoking mass of rubble.
The destruction of the abbey was one of the greatest military blunders of the Second World War. 230 Italian civilians that were seeking refuge in the monastery were killed and with the building now destroyed German paratroopers occupied the ruins, which provided them with excellent defensive cover.
Fortunately, the destruction was not complete. At the beginning of the battle German officers had transferred some 1,400 precious manuscripts and other items from the abbey to the Vatican saving them from destruction. After the war the abbey was rebuilt exactly as it was.
The War Cemetery in Cassino lies 139 km south-east of Rome. It contains the graves of 4,271 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War. The Cassino Memorial stands within the cemetery and commemorates over 4,000 Commonwealth servicemen who took part
The Polish Military Field of Honour at Monte Cassino holds the graves of 1,052 soldiers of the 2nd Polish Army Corps who died in the Battle of Monte Cassino, fought from 17 January until 18 May 1944. The cemetery also holds the grave of the Polish commander General Anders who died in London in 1970.
The Allied campaign of Monte Cassino was fought in four phases between January and May 1944. The town of Cassino was a key stronghold on the Gustav Line, the German defence line in Central Italy designed to prevent Allied advance towards Rome. The Allies suffered about 55,000 casualties, the Germans 20,000.
During the Italian campaign, Crown Prince Umberto di Savoia often visited the front and on the eve of the Battle of Monte Lungo (7 December 1943) volunteered for a dangerous air reconnaissance mission. The American Commander nominated him for the Bronze Star Medal, which was not awarded for political expediency.
During the campaign in Italy, Sergio Pivetta was a cadet in the Alpine troops of the Royal Italian Army. During the Battle of Cassino in 1944, his battalion displayed bravery in their attempt to conquer the strategic Monte Marrone. After the war, Pivetta received the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.