|We're attacking that? Without B-52s? Why?|
First, hand it to the Lombards, those beer-swilling heathens who overran Italy (or at least much of it). They could have conquered everything they needed without tackling the monastery at Monte Cassino. It sits on a mountaintop 1700 feet up -- that couldn't have been much fun to attack. I'm sure the monks didn't put up much resistance, and there were probably some lovely silver candlesticks, but sacking the place hardly seems worth the effort. Nonetheless, they took it, emptied it, and left it in ruins.
Okay, now it is time to hand it to Petronax, the second founder of Monte Cassino. He started out with a strong brand name and the weather-beaten, vermin-infested shell of a monastery on top of a mountain. By the time he was done, there was a thriving community of monks. In fact, the place was so well-regarded that Pope Zachary gave Petronax a copy of the Rule written out by Saint Benedict himself.
Of course, within two centuries the Saracens had invaded Italy and burned everything that Petronax had rebuilt, but that's just a lesson in impermanence, Buddhist detachment, vanity of vanities, yada yada (dada dada). Like a mandala, the achievement is not diminished by its destruction.