1905 views, 72 faves – March, 2013

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This is the breath-takingly awesome pipe organ that overwhelms the space behind the altar in the basilica of the monastery of Monte Cassino in southern Italy. This organ has over 5000 pipes (!) and is one of the most impressive worldwide of its kind.

Perched atop a 1,700 ft high section of the Appenines, the monastery itself has a history that totally blew me away… founded in the 6th century AD, it was destroyed several times through wars and earthquake, the most recent destruction being the bombing by the allies on February 15th, 1944 as it was thought to be a German stronghold. In reality it served as a shelter for civilians, hundreds of whom died in the intensive 3-hour bombardment.

Amazingly, the entire monastery and basilica were accurately reconstructed according to plans and pictures of the original architecture, financed entirely by the Italian government. It was reconsecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Shot handheld with EOS 5D and 16mm end of my EF 16-35. I used two takes of different exposures and created an HDR image in Photomatix. I avoided using maximum HDR effect, simply using the program to compensate for the extreme range of shadow and highlight as it takes the best exposed areas of each shot. Also did a bit of color correction and stretching to fine tune the symmetry.

Here’s another shot showing the altar with the pipes in the background. Notice the blank panels on the ceiling left and right… most of the ceiling of the basilica is unpainted as it’s not easy to find artists of Michelangelo’s standing who are willing to spend years suspended on their backs 50 meters above a hard marble floor. So work is still on-going.

The steps up to the upper courtyard and entrance to the basilica are guarded by one of the few original statues that survived the bombing.

Here, in the upper coutyard with your back to the entrance of the basilica, you are faced with the most awesome feeling of being on top of the world, looking out over the beautiful Italian countryside.
It’s hard to visit this place without being totally overwhelmed. Maybe one day I’ll clone out the visitors :-)

I found a YouTube clip which, although a bit naff, gives a good overall view of the monastery as it is now and a sense of the enormity of the reconstruction, as well as some original footage of it’s destruction in 1944 if you dare to look.

I’ve rarely felt this much emotion over a location. If you ever get the opportunity, it’s not to be missed!!

Thanks for looking ♥

First place in challenge Church / Cathedral Interior in HDR


architecture, basilica, billyboy, church, hdr, italy, monastery, music, organ, religion, churches


  • TextureoftheSin
    TextureoftheSinalmost 4 years ago


  • Cheers TotS, you just wouldn’t believe yer eyes!!!

    – billyboy

  • Polly x
    Polly xalmost 4 years ago

  • Rhana Griffin
    Rhana Griffinalmost 4 years ago

    I feel like I am falling into this image.

    There is so much to see, I could look at this image a hundred times and see something new every time. I can only imagine what the experience of being here in real life would be like. Thank you so much for sharing BB, not only this amazing image but the wonderful story of its history.

  • So cool you felt the emotion Rhana. Being in this place reduced me to tears, not only cause of the absolute beauty flooding through every gilt and marbled sculpture and inlay… but also because of the determination of the place to survive as a testament to man’s ability to rise above total destruction.
    There’s no way I could not share that kind of experience.
    Plus the fact I totally get off on awesome pipe organs!!

    Big hugs for stopping by, and cheers for the fave!!

    – billyboy

  • Mel Brackstone.com
    Mel Brackstone...almost 4 years ago

    Wow, Bill, what an amazing sight! So pleased it’s you who went in there and then brought it back to the bub to share, cos the image and history are both so worth seeing! Absolutely fab!!

  • Son in law Art and his family are from the area surrounding Cassino and so that history felt very close to my heart when we were with them there this summer. So yeah, I’m kinda glad it was me too!
    Saw lots of cool stuff over a mere 5 days, but NOTHING compared to this.
    Well, actually there were a couple of other things…

    Cheers for understanding the passion!!

    – billyboy

  • Stuart Chapman
    Stuart Chapmanalmost 4 years ago

    The kind of shot that when opens up on your screen, a satisfying grin creeps across the face. The thought of how pleased you must have been when the full results of this shot sit brimmingly on your pc. That ceiling just really steals the show BB. The organ should be enough but that angle just opens up that glouriously lit and most magnificent of ceilings, the detail is crisp and sharp and every look reveals just a little bit more that you didn’t see the first time around.

  • Stuart, so awesome you’re still around and up for sharing the passion.
    I know there are some more ornate places to be found… Florence and Rome hold some truly massive religious masterpieces. But I think the emotion that Montecassino inspires is from the fact that it is so isolated, and walking through the unassuming doors of the basilica you fee like you’ve discovered this massive treasure from another world. THEN you walk round the altar and are confronted with this unbelievable spectacle.
    I don’t think I’ve ever felt so belittled in my life.
    Thanks so much for showing me your appreciation so eloquently.
    And cheers for faving!!

    – billyboy

  • Hiroko
    Hirokoalmost 4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing the history…the beauty in the details are absolutely magnificent.

  • Thanks for that Hiroko…
    So nice to see you again!!!

    – billyboy

  • Robyn Lakeman
    Robyn Lakemanalmost 4 years ago

    Amazing story and capture, just beautiful billybob :)

  • Thanx Robyn, always a groove when you breeze in!! :-))

    – billyboy

  • Marion  Cullen
    Marion Cullenalmost 4 years ago

    A truly aweinspiring scene (and place) BB, so beautifully realised & presented. Some very very fine HDR work there my friend. I remember seeing a doco about the history and subsequent bombing of Monte Cassino and remembered thinking at the time what an abomination it was that anyone could allow such a place to be willfully razed to the ground. Although beautifully restored, we never truly recover that which was lost.

  • Hiya Marion!
    Thanks so much for that compliment!!
    I`d heard about the massive battle for Montecassino, but never realized the level of destruction of the monastery. As all this unfolded to me, especially that it was the US who actually bombed it, it left me feeling very sad, yet hopeful that even the deepest wounds can be healed… if not forgotten

    – billyboy

  • mikepaulhamus
    mikepaulhamusalmost 4 years ago

    awesome perspective and treatment bb, love your work it is evolving to a new level beautiful man…

  • Thanks for that Mike, getting back to stuff like this makes a change… church interiors and especially pipe organs have always fascinated me, so nice you appreciate the passion!

    – billyboy

  • shanghaiwu
    shanghaiwualmost 4 years ago

    what an incredible image and YES your work inspiring

  • Cheers for stopping by with your your lovely words!

    – billyboy

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