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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/583

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MONTE


527


MONTE


served and enclosed in the later buildings. Outside the existing monastery, however, there still remains a considerable part of a far more ancient enclosure, viz. a Cyclopean wall some twenty-six feet high and four- teen and a half feet in thickness, which once ran down the mountain side enclosing a large triangular space that contained the Cassinum of pre-Roman times. Once established at Monte Cassino, St. Benedict never left it. There was written the Rule whose influence was to spread over all Western monachism; there he received the visit of Totila in 542, the only date in his life of which we have certain evidence; there he died, and was buried in one tomb with his sister, St. Scho- lastica. After the saint's death, the abbey continued to flourish until 580, when it was pillaged and burned by the Lombards, the surviving monks fleeing to Rome. Here, welcomed by the pope, Pelagius II, and porniittcd to establish a monastery beside the Lateran Basilica, they remained for a hundred and thirty years, during which time Monte Cassino seems not to have been entirely deserted, though nothing like a regular community existed there. To this period also is assigned the much discussed translation of St. Benedict's body to Fleury in France, the truth of which it seems almost impossible to doubt. (See Fleury, Abbey of.)

The restoration of Monte Cassino took place in 718, when Abbot Petronax, a native of Brescia, was en- trusted with this task by Gregory II. Aided by some of the monks from the Lateran monastery, Petronax restored the buildings at Monte Cassino and built a new church over the tomb of St. Benedict. This was consecrated in 748 by Pope Zachary in person, who at the same time confirmed all the gifts made to the monastery and exempted it from episcopal juris- diction. The fame of the abbey at this period was great, and, among the monks professed, may be men- tioned Carloman, the .son of Charles Martel, Rachis, brother of the great Lombard Duke Astolf, and Paul A\'arnefrid (usually called Paid the Deacon), the his- torian of the Lombards. Towards the middle of the ninth century the Saracens overran this part of Italy and Monte Cassino did not escape. In 884 Abbot Bertharius and some of his monks were killed, the rest fleeing to Teano. Within two years the restoration of Monte Cassino was begun, but Teano retained the


bulk of the community intil '.ll'J, when Abbot .-Mi- gernus effected the return. The autograph copy of St. Benedict's Rule, which had been preserved till now through all the vicis.situdes of the community's exist- ence, perished in a fire during the stay at Teano. The high state of discipline at Monte Cassino about this time is vouched for by St. Nilus, who visited it in the latter half of the tenth century and again by St. Odilo of Cluny some fifty years later. The abbey's reputa- tion reached its zenith, however, during the reign of


Abbot Desiderius, who ruled from 10.58 until 1087, when he was elected pope under the title of Victor III (q. v.). Under this abbot, the most famous of all the series after St. Benedict himself, the number of monks rose to over two hundred, and the school of copyists and miniature painters became famous throughout the West. The buildings of the monastery were re- constructed on a scale of great magnificence, artists


St.^tues .\nd F.kq\ Chuech, Monte Cassino

being brought from Amalfi, Lombardy, and even Con- stantinople to supervise the various works. The ab- bey church, rebuilt and decorated with the utmost splendour, was consecrated in 1071 by Pope Alexan- der II, who was assisted by ten archbishops, forty- four bishops, and so vast a crowd of princes, abbots, monks, etc. that, the enthusiastic chronicler declares, "it would have been easier to number the stars of heaven than to count so great a multitude." A de- tailed account of the abbey at this date exists in the "Chronica monasterii Cassinensis" of Leo of Ostia (.see Pertz, "Mon. Germ. Hist. Scriptores", VII).

From this date a decline set in. The unsettled condition of Italy and the great strategical value of Monte Cassino involved the abbey in the constant political struggles of the period. In 12.39 the monks were driven out of their cloister by Frederick II, but returned thither under Charles of Anjou. In 1294 Celestine V endeavoured to unite Monte Cassino to his new order of Celestines (q. v.), but this scheme collapsed on his abdication of the papacy. In 1321 .lohii X.XII made the church of Monte Cassino a cathedral, the abbot becoming bishop of the newly constituted diocese, and his monks the chapter. There is no doubt that this was done with the best of in- tentions, as an additional honour to the great abbey; in practice, however, it proved disastrous. The bishops of Monte Cassino, nominated at Avignon, were secular prelates who never visited the diocese, but who appropriated the income of the abbey to their personal use. The number of monks thus dwindled, the observance declined, and utter ruin became a mere question of time. In view of this danger Urban V, who was a Benedictine monk, procIaiiTicd himself ."Vbbot of Monte Cassino, collected monks from other houses to reinforce the community, and in 1370 ap- pointed Andrew of Faenza, a Camaldolese, as superior. The revival, however, was short-lived; in 14,54 the system of commendatory abbots was reintroduced and lasted until 1504, when Julius II united Monte Cas- sino to the recently established Congregation of St. Justina of Padua (see Benedictines), which was thenceforth known as the Cassinese Congregation. In 1799 the abbey was taken and plundered by the French troops who had invaded the Kingdom of Naples, and in 1866 the monastery was suppressed in common with all other Italian religious houses. A^