The library of Montecassino

In the abbey of Montecassino, in the centre of Italy, there is one of the most significant libraries in the western world. The abbey was founded in the year 529 AD by St.Benedict of Nursia and it had an important cultural role in the Medieval age. In fact the monks copied and preserved a lot of Latin and Greek masterpieces thus making of Montecassino a lighthouse of culture.

Medical knowledge was part of the “Ordo studiorum” (plan of studies) of the friars: they translated the main works of important Arabic physicians such as Avicenna and cultivated some medicinal herbs in order to make antidotes and the so-called trocisci (a sort of ancestors of our tablets with good therapeutic effects). Many important historical medicine books are kept in the library including anatomical atlases, books on herbal remedies and precious manuscripts by Constantine the African. In particular, the Codex 69 of Montecassino,written in the 9th century in "Beneventana" handwriting, is a collection of practical remedies and instructions to make different kind of trocisci: it is probably one of the most important and precious documents of medieval medicine.

Actually the library is divided in two different areas: an historical archive and a modern area. Every year people from different parts of the world come to Montecassino to visit this incredible treasure that has survived across the centuries.


A view of the abbey of Montecassino


The entrance to the abbey


A statue of St. Benedict


The gardens of the abbey


In the library a marble tablet reports an inscription about the abbot Erasmo Gattola (1662-1734)


The modern area of the library


The title page of "The encyclopaedia" by Diderot and D'alambert (1771)


Anatomical pictures from "The encyclopaedia"


The title page of "De formato foetu" (1625) by Girolamo Fabrizi d'Acquapendente, successor of Andreas Vesalius


Interesting pictures from "De formato foetu"

  • Photos by Lorenzo Di Sarno (December 2011)


- Mariano Dell'Omo "Montecassino, un'abbazia nella storia". Biblioteca della miscellanea cassinese, 6 - Montecassino 1999, pp.402.
- Tommaso Leccisotti "Montecassino". Badia di Montecassino - Montecassino 1967, pp.324.

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