Sunday, 25 November 2007

Back away

We had a pleasant couple of days in sunny Positano. We are very blessed to have the opportunity to have such trips. On the way back we agreed to see if we could pop in to Monte Cassino, that great Mother House of Benedictines. It's an impressive sight, set high above a range of hills that sweep southwards from Rome.

The Monastery was destroyed by allied bombers during the Second World War. The allies claimed that the Monastery itself was used by the Germans as a store for weapons and that the Germans were stationed in rather than around the monastery. The monks strenuously deny this. I remember going there as a young 19 year old seminarian with friends and seeing the old Abbot, he who had been present during the War, still alive, though very, very old. The stay we had at that time was in mid-February (1987!) and it was extremely cold.

This time the weather was sunny and relatively warm. There were beautiful views all around.

I had remembered the inside of the church there. The tour guides decry it as nothing like the old Monastery. The Monastery was rebuilt after the war, with the help of Allied funds, and rebuilt exactly as it had been. It is evidently, nevertheless, a replica. Yet the tour guides are mistaken as to the church. It is a wondrous place, with beautiful frescoes by the "neo-Renaissance" school painter Pietro Annigoni, a deeply religious man, who took five years to complete the dome at the Monastery. He had returned to painting religious pictures after a career of painting famous people. He said: "I get a little bored with human vanity. I honestly prefer these old saints of mine." In 1979 he completed the The Glory of St. Benedict or The Benedictine Paradise, featuring St Benedict surrounded by monks, bishops, nuns who lived in holiness by following his Rule: in the foreground Pope Paul VI can be seen, who was still alive while the painting was being done, though dead by its completion:

The views from the Monastery are breathtaking. I remember the sunsets when I stayed there previously and this time as well we were blessed to see another such sunset, with all its unique colour and display.

The statue of St Benedict being supported by his brother monks stands in one of the courtyards. Its energy, tautness and sheer desire for God - they say more than I can say:

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