Studying a Saint
The earthly remains of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica still exist today some 15 centuries after their deaths, due in large part to the dedicated monks of Montecassino and other devoted followers over history. Their original tomb was at the early oratory of St. John the Baptist at Montecassino, built around 529 AD. Today their tomb is at the beautifully decorated High Altar of the reconstructed cathedral of Montecassino.
Following the horrific bombardment of Montecassino during WWII, there was an opportunity to exhume and survey the remains that were undisturbed during the bombing. Numerous people were present to witness and document the excavation of the holy sepulcher and survey of the tomb's contents. Doctors, Archaeologists, monks and workers of Montecassino, among them the abbot Ildefonso Rea, were present for the entire process. They celebrated mass and then went to work, removing first the marble flooring of the High Altar. Underneath they found the 15th century engraved marble covering over the alabaster urn. Inside the alabaster urn were the original inscriptions, marking the urn as the resting place for the bones of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. Upon opening the lead container inside, they found the bones of two people. The bones and fragments were removed and carefully separated and organized. The meticulous examination resulted in the confirmation that the bones are indeed those of St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. They were put inside a new container made of silver, and into a new bronze urn. They were ceremoniously repatriated to the High Altar of the new cathedral of Montecassino in 1955.