Originally selected for a war cemetery in January 1944, the site was impossible to use until the fighting in this region subsided, as it did when the Germans withdrew five months later. As the area saw some of the fiercest action among the battles of the Italian campaign, the Cassino War Cemetery is the second largest Second World War cemetery in Italy. More than 4,200 Commonwealth graves are located here, of which 200 are unknown and 855 are Canadian, including seven pilots.
Also in the cemetery is the Cassino Memorial, unveiled in 1956, which commemorates the more than 4,000 Commonwealth war dead of the Sicilian and Italian campaigns who have no known grave. The names of 192 Canadians are inscribed on its 15-foot high slabs of green marble.
The Abbey of Montecassino is one of the most known Abbeys in the world. In 529 Saint Benedict chose this mountain to build a monastery that would host him and those monks following him on the way from Subiaco. Paganism was still present here, but he managed to turn the place into a well-structured Christian monastery where everybody could have the dignity they deserved through praying and working.
Within the centuries the Abbey has met magnificence and destruction many times, and has always come out of its ruins stronger. In 577 Langobards destroyed it, then Saracens in 887. In 1349 a violent earthquake occurred and in Febraury 1944 a bombardment almost flatted it.
It is the faithful rebuilding of the twenty thousand square meters that people can see travelling on their way along the A1 Highway. Up on top of the 520 meters high mountain the monastery can easily be seen from far, making it a distinct landmark of the region.
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