The Madonna at Montecassino
Born in Glasgow to Italian café owners, Angela Boni, brilliant graduate in Italian, and student of the Fascist professor Ernesto Grillo, celebrates her twenty-first birthday before preparing to go out to see relatives in Italy and to work for an aristocratic landowner. Her aunt and uncle live on a small farm under the protective shadow of the Benedictine monastery of Montecassino. Angela has an idyllic life among the mules which her uncle Benigno, a mountain guide, uses. In the gatherings with wine and song she becomes attracted to Augusto, a passionate enemy of Mussolini’s Fascist regime and a committed Communist. Angela’s sojourn is supposed to be for a year, when she returns to Glasgow in September 1939 to prepare a doctoral thesis on Dante supervized by Professor Grillo. But the outbreak of war keeps her in Italy, and as the Germans fortify the area to prevent the Allied army pushing north, with the liberation of Rome the prize, Angela becomes one of many refugees in the monastery, under threat from the guns of both sides. This is a dramatic story of love, dedication and faith in the face of terror and destruction, especially when the massed bombers arrive overhead.
Published: 30 November 2015