The Golden Age

The period between the 10th and 12th centuries was a period of great change for Montecassino. In the late 9th century the abbey was destroyed a second time at the hands of invading Saracens, the surviving monks fleeing to Teano. It was during their time at Teano that the original copy of St. Benedict's Rule was lost to a fire. Montecassino was rebuilt and the cenobites with the abbot Aligernus returned to the sacred hilltop abbey in 949 AD.Montecassino already at this point was highly respected, but it was during the 11th century that we can say they reached a truly golden age under the abbot Desiderius. This period was a time of growth, extreme productivity, political change between the Eastern and Western church, and grand construction projects. Montecassino became a cultural center for Europe. It was during this time that the abbey gained acclaim for their scriptorium, large school of scribes, and miniature painters. This manuscript library of the abbey grew exponentially during this time. Montecassino's church was rebuilt, bigger and more decorated than ever.The 12th century was the start of a long period of stunted progress and fierce political struggle. It was characterized by decline, as the schism due to a double papal election in the church created a political divide which greatly affected Montecassino and other monasteries in Europe. Growth and prosperous life had come to a standstill, and the numbers of monks shrank, as hostilities grew between Montecassino and key political players such as Pope Honorius II and Frederick II. In the 13th century, Montecassino inadvertently lost its long-fought for autonomy. It would prove to be a truly difficult road full of conflicts and world wars to the immense and glorious Montecassino that we see today.
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