A Christmas present from Adrian, a book I first read a long while ago.
The novel is Walter J. Miller's account of a new Dark Age, the aftermath of global thermonuclear warfare with the Catholic church the sole repository of stored knowledge.
Inevitably, as the sterile centuries roll on, there comes a painful new Renaissance. More centuries spin by till two thousand years have passed: we enter the time of starships and fledgling colonies around other stars. On Earth, the antimissile missiles power up as ICBMs curve their long trajectories again.
As the Vatican's final mission to the stars launches, the cycle of history closes - the abbey starting the novel succumbs to the force of a nuclear shockfront.
Miller was a USAF crewman in the second world war and participated in the infamous assault on the historic hilltop abbey of Monte Cassino, obliterated by 1,400 tons of allied bombing. It seems this experience marked him for ever.