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are some ruins of a Roman villa, supposed to be that of Varro (called by Cicero "a most conscientious and upright man " ), of which he has left us a detailed description in his Res Rust. III. 5. It was here that Marc Antony indulged in the orgies, against which Cicero poured forth his eloquence.
"How many days did he spend in that villa in the most scandalous revels. From morning onwards it was one scene of drinking, gambling, and vomiting. Unhappy house! unhappy indeed in its change of masters. For Marcus Varro it was a place of studious seclusion, not a theatre for his lusts. What noble discussions, what high thoughts, what works originated there! The laws of the Roman people, our ancestral traditions, every kind of scientific and learned theory! but with you as its denizen (no master you) the place resounded with drunken voices; the floors were flooded, and the walls dripped with wine . . ."
Cic. Phil. ii. 41.
The churches of San Germano, though modernized, are full of interest. The ColUgiata was built by the Abbot Gisulf in the 9th century, and, though greatly altered in the 17th century, retains its twelve ancient marble columns.
Donkeys may be obtained, if desired, for the ascent to the Monastery, price 2 francs each. The steep and stony path winds above the roofs of the houses, leaving to the right the ruins of the castle of Rocca Janula, which was twice besieged and taken by Frederick II. At each tum of the path the viewis fresh; at each it is more beautiful. We look down upon the purple valley through which winds the silver thread of the Garigliano, and in which Aquino, Pontecorvo, and many other towns are lying. Beyond, girdling in the plain on every side, are chains of mountains, broken into every conceivable form, every hue of colour melting into the faintest blue, tossing far away in billow upon billow of rocky surge,
ASCENT TO MONTE CASSINO.
crested or coated with snow. Sometimes, as you turn a corner, a promontory of rock juts out like a vast buttress, covered with wood; sometimes, the path itself is lost in the deep thickets where only the blue sky can be seen through the twisted boughs of the dark ilexes, which open again to admit a new snow-peak, or a fresh vista of purple mountains. Small oratories by the wayside offer shelter from
Castle of Rocca Janula.
the wind and sun, and commemorate the Benedictine story. First we have that of S. Placidus, the favourite disciple of the patriarch; then that of S. Scholastica, the beloved sister; then a triple-chapel where one of the Benedictine miracles occurred. Beyond these, a cross upon a platform marks the final meeting-place of Benedict and Scholastica, It is not known that the beloved twin-sister of S. Benedict ever took any vows, though she privately dediVol. 11. 14
cated herself to God from childhood. When her brother came to his mountain monastery, she followed him, and founded a religious house in the valley below (it is supposed at the spot called Plumbariola), where she devoted herself to a life of prayer with a small community of pious women her companions.
"There is something striking in the attachment of the brother and sister, the human affection struggling with the hard spirit of monasticism. S. Scholastica was a female Benedict . Equally devout, equally powerful in attracting and ruling the minds of recluses of her own sex, the remote foundress of convents, almost as numerous as those of her brother's rule. With the most perfect harmony of disposition, one in holiness, one in devotion, they were of different sexes and met but once a year."—Milman.
It was here that they met for the last time and passed the day together in pious exercises. At this last interview Scholastica implored Benedict to remain with her till the morning, that they might praise God through the night; but the saint refused, saying that it was impossible for him to be absent from his convent. Then Scholastica bent over her clasped hands and prayed, and, though the weather was beautiful and there was not a cloud in the sky, the rain began immediately to fall in such torrents, accompanied by thunder and lightning of such a terrific kind, that neither Benedict nor the brethren who were with him could leave the place where they were. "The Lord be merciful to you, my sister," said the Abbot, "what have you done." "You have rejected my prayers," answered Scholastica, " but God has been more merciful," and thus the brother and sister remained together till the morning. St. Gregory the Great, who tells the story, says that one must not be surprised that the wish of the sister was heard by God rather than that of the brother, because, of ASCENT TO MONTE CASSINO. 211
the two, the sister was the one who loved him the most, and with God the one who loves the most is always the most powerful.
As we draw nearer the convent, we find a cross in the middle of the way. In front of it, a grating covers the mark of a knee which is said to have been left in the rock by St. Benedict when he knelt there to ask a blessing before laying the foundation-stone of his convent.
Benedict came hither from Subiaco, when he had already been 36 years a monk, led through the windings of the Apennines, says the tradition, alternately by two angels and two birds, till he reached this spur of the mountain above Casinum, which had then already been ruined by Genseric. Strange to say, the inhabitants of this wild district were, in the sixth century of Christianity, still Pagan, and worshipped Apollo in a temple on the top of the mountain, where also was a grove sacred to Venus. Gregory the Great wrote that which he was told by four of Benedict's disciples, three of whom succeeded him in the government of the monastery, and one of whom, Honoratus, was abbot at the time:
"The holy man (Benedict) in changing his home changed not his foe. Nay, rather his conflict grew the more severe, inasmuch as he found the author of evil himself openly warring against him. The strong place called Cassino is situated on the side of a lofty mountain which enfolds the fort in a broad hollow; the mountain itself rears its peak three miles into the air. Here stood a very ancient temple, in which Apollo was worshipped in heathen fashion by the foolish country folk. Groves too, devoted to devil-worship, had grown up on every side, in which even still the folly of a crowd of misbelievers kept up blasphemous sacrifices. Hither came the man of God, brake in pieces the idol, overthrew the altar, burnt down the grove, and in Apollo's own temple set up a chapel to St. Martin, and, where the altar of the god had stood, a chapel to St. John. Here he tarried, and by preaching the gospel far and near brought over a host of converts to the Faith. This was more than his old enemy could quietly bear. So now, not secretly, nor in dreams, but quite openly he presented himself before the saint, and with great shouts complained that violence was being done him. To whom the holy man answered never a word, tho' the fiend taunted him saying, "No Benedict, but Maledict thou! What hast thou to do with me, why persecutest thou me?"
S. Gregory Ihe Great, ii. 8.
Dante writes in allusion to this:
"Quel monte, a cui Cassino b nella costa,
Fu frequentato gia in su la cima
Dalla gente ingannata e mat disposta.
Lo nome di Colui che'n terra addusse
La verita, che tanto ci sublima;
Ch'io ritrassi le ville circostanti
Dall 'empio culto che'l mondo sedusse."
Seated on the greensward in front of the convent, with the glorious view before us, it will be interesting, before we enter the monastery, to go back to its story.
According to a bull of Pope Zacharias of 748, the abbey was built on land of Tertullus, father of the young Placidus, one of the favourite disciples of S. Benedict. The Patriarch was probably attracted to that especial spot by the desire of attacking Paganism in one of its last strongholds, by cutting down the grove of Venus, and destroying the temple of Apollo. He worked with his own hands at the building, and he is said to have fought in person with the Evil One, who tried to interfere with his work, and to have subdued him when he had successfully disinterred unhurt one of his monks whom the arch-enemy had buried under a fallen wall.
On the site of the temple, Benedict built two oratories, one to St. John Baptist the first hermit, the other to St. Mar