The Abbey of Montecassino was founded in the year 529 by St. Benedict of Nursia, who, on the Acropolis of the pagan city of Casinum, built the fi rst monastery where the historic "Rule" was written, and summarized with the motto "Ora et Labora" (Pray and Work). Th e monastery has suff ered signifi cant damage four times throughout its history: at the hands of the Lombards (in 577), at the hands of the Saracens (in 883), by a catastrophic earthquake (in 1349), and was most recently razed to the ground by bombing during the Second World War (in 1944), after which it was painstakingly restored to its previous state as a symbol of postwar reconstruction.
After traversing the three large cloisters, one of which is dominated by large statues of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica, visitors will fi nd themselves at the church. Th e basilica's interior features a three-nave structure, gilded stucco and polychrome marble decorations, and frescoes by Pietro Annigoni and his pupils (the fresco on the counter-façade depicting "Th e Apotheosis of St. Benedict" - ca. 1979 - is of particular interest).
Starting in 2004, the painter Sergio Favotto dedicated a portion of his time to decorating the chancel, and has now completed the work, which is titled the quattro consacrazioni della Basilica (the "four consecrations of the Basilica"). Be sure to visit the beautiful walnut choir and the magnifi cent organ featuring more than 5,000 pipes. Th e abbey, whose cultural eff orts were main centred upon the transcription of ancient works, also houses a precious archive, the national monument library, which boasts 72,101 volumes, 198 incunabula, 1,500 codices, 20,000 scrolls, 2,063 16th century manuscripts. In the halls of the Montecassino museum, visitors can admire the preliminary sketches of the great frescoes that once adorned the walls and the ceiling of the church, which were irretrievably lost during the bombings, as well as numerous other liturgical treasures, archaeological and medieval artefacts and the splendid "Nativity" by S. Botticelli.