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BENEDICTINES. When Benedict of Nursia... composed his rules of monastic life (529), he had probably no idea of the influence they were destined to exercise. He, like the whole age in which he lived, considered the monastery a place of refuge, a stepping-stone towards holiness, but only for the individual: that it might have a social mission, and become one of the most powerful organs of the Church, he did not realize. That tendency, however, towards compact unity, which is so characteristic for the Church of Rome, had already at that time grown so strong, that monasticism could not develop further without assuming the appearance of uniformity. At the same time as Benedict many other persons were eager to establish order and regularity in this field, - Cassiodorus, Equitius, and Eugippius in Italy; Caesarius and Aurelianus of Aries in France; Isidore of Hispalis in Spain. But only Benedict succeeded. His rules were the wisest, the mildest, the most moderate; and they found in Gregory the Great a most enthusiastic support. He introduced them in Italy, Sicily, and England. In 543 Maurus brought them to France. In the seventh century they spread in Spain; in the eighth century Boniface, himself a Benedictine, established them in Germany.

In the eighth century the Benedictine monastery passed through a very severe crisis, from which it was rescued only by the energy of Benedict of Aniane (see title). It was from its very origin an aristocratic institution, its inmates belonged to the highest classes of society: to the slave and the serf its doors were closed. In course of time it had grown immensely rich. The noble families which sent their Sons to live within its walls bequeathed great estates to it; and under the hands of the monks these estates became very prosperous, and yielded great revenues. The consequence was, that gradually the very character of the institution changed. Each monastery being a law unto itself, without responsibility before any central authority, the rules were modified and remodelled, until a wide entrance stood open for all kinds of worldly interests and passions. In the best monasteries the monks lived like canonici, in the worst, like robbers and rioters. To this danger from within, came another from without. The riches of the monasteries began to tempt the neighboring lords, and abbeys were often given as fiefs to laymen. It was Benedict of Aniane, who, in the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (817), at once secured the social position of the monasteries of the Frankish Empire, and carried out a moral reform by enforcing the original rules. In the tenth century similar reforms were introduced by Archbishop Frederick of Mentz, Archbishop Adalbera of Rheims, Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, and others.

The lack of central organization, which had become very apparent during this same period, was remedied by the formation of the so-called congregations. Several independent monasteries united to guard in common over the strict maintenance of the rules within the pale of the congregation; and several of these congregations, as, for instance, that of Clugny, labored with great success, and exercised considerable influence on the general life of the Church. The period of prosperity was short, however. Other monastic orders arose, especially the mendicant orders, arid threw the Benedictines into the shade. The attempts at reform and re-organization made by Clement V. and Benedict XII. Failed. The effects of the Reformation and of the jealousy of the Jesuits were very detrimental to the order. Nevertheless, it rose once more. In the seventeenth century it became the representative of the science of the Roman Church. The congregation of St. Maur has rendered great services to the science of history: but the political reforms of Joseph II., the French Revolution, and the civil wars in Spain, have almost killed the order; and Austria is now the only country in which it shows any vigor.

Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 1. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. p.242.


Book or monograph Oliver Leonard Kapsner, ed. A Benedictine Bibliography, 2nd edn., 2 Vols. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1962.

Primary Sources

On-line Resource Gregory I (Dialogos): Second Dialogue (Life of St. Benedict) (Medieval Sourcebook)
On-line Resource The Rule of St. Benedict, c.530 (Medieval Sourcebook)
Book or monograph RB 1980: the Rule of St BenedictSt Benedict, RB 1980: the Rule of St Benedict. The Liturgical Press, 1986. Pbk. ISBN: 0814612725. pp.96.

Secondary Sources

Book or monograph Edward Cuthbert Butler, Benedictine Monachism. Studies in Benedictine Life and Rule, new edition. Speculum Historiale, 1962. Hbk. ISBN: 090467603X.
Article in Journal or Book Martin Cawlet, "Christ in the Rule of St. Benedict," Word and Spirit 5 (1983): 117-142.
Book or monograph Collett: Italian Benedictine Scholars and the ReformationBarry Collett, Italian Benedictine Scholars and the Reformation: The Congregation of Santa Giustina in Padua. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985. Hbk. ISBN: 0198229348. pp.300.
Book or monograph Lowrie J. Daly, Benedictine Monasticism, its Formation and Development through the Twelfth Century. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965. pp.xv + 375.
Book or monograph Paul Delatte, Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001. Pbk. ISBN: 1579104606. pp.524.
Book or monograph Delatyte: The Rule of St. Benedict: A CommentaryPaul Delatte, The Rule of St. Benedict: A Commentary, Justin McCann, translator. Latrobe, Pennsylvania: 1950. Reprinted: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2001. Pbk. ISBN: 1579104606. pp.524.
Article in Journal or Book Marilyn Dunn, "Mastering Benedict: Monastic Rules and their Authority in the Early Medieval West," English Historical Review 105 (1990): 567-94.
Book or monograph David Hugh Farmer, ed. Benedict's Disciples. Gracewing, 1995. Pbk. ISBN: 0852442742. pp.354.
Article in Journal or Book Edward Rochie Hardy, "The Dead Sea Discipline and the Rule of St. Benedict," Journal of Bible and Religion 25 (1957): 183-186.
Book or monograph Stephanus Hilpisch, The History of Benedictine Monasticism, Justus Wirth, translator. Peru, IL: 1936.
Book or monograph Stephanus Hilpisch, History of Benedictine Nuns, M.J. Muggli, translator. CollegevilleL St. John's Abbey Press, 1956. pp. vii + 122.
Article in Journal or Book David Knowles, "The Regula Magistri and the Rule of St. Benedict," Great Historical Enterprises: Problems in Monastic History. London, 1963. pp.139-95. cf. Marilyn Dunn's article above.
Article in Journal or Book M.D. Knowles, "Some Recent Work on Early Benedictine History," C.W. Dugmore & Charles Duggan, eds., Studies in Church History, Volume 1. Papers read at the first winter and summer meetings of the Ecclesiastical History Society. London: Thomas Nelson and SOns Ltd., 1964. Hbk. pp.35-46.
Book or monograph Lecleroq: The Love of Learning and the Desire for GodJ. Lecleroq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God. New York: Fordham University Press, 1982. Pbk. ISBN: 0823204073. pp.282.
Article in Journal or Book Andre Louf, "Prayer in the Rule of Saint Benedict," Word and Spirit 2 (1981): 118-135.
Article in Journal or Book Basil Pennington, "Vocational Discernment in the Rule of Saint Benedict," Word and Spirit 2 (1981): 52-58.
Article in Journal or Book Augustine Roberts, "The Journey of the Heart in the Rule of Benedict," Word and Spirit 15 (1993): 74-77.
Book or monograph Sally Elizabeth Roper, Medieval English Benedictine Liturgy. Garland Science, 1993. Hbk. ISBN: 0815309538. pp.389.
Article in Journal or Book George E. Saint-Laurent, "St. Basil of Caesarea and the Rule of St. Benedict," Diakonia 16.1 (1981): 71-79.
Article in Journal or Book Julian Stead, "Man, as the Way to God (in the Rule of Saint)," Word and Spirit 2 (1981): 111-117.
Article in Journal or Book Julian Stead, "The Penal Code of St. Benedict," Word and Spirit 6 (1984): 58-67.
Article in Journal or Book Jerome Theisen, "Personal Prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict," American Benedictine Review 40.3 (1989): 291-303.
Article in Journal or Book John Van Engen, "The 'Crisis of Cenobitism' Reconsidered: Benedictine Monasticism in the years 1050-1150," Speculum 61 (1986): 269-304.
Article in Journal or Book Adalbert de Vogue, "The Master and St. Benedict: A Reply to Marilyn Dunn," English Historical Review 107 (1992): 95-103.
Article in Journal or Book Adalbert de Vogue, "The Abbot, Vicar of Christ, in the Rule of St. Benedict and in the Rule of the Master," Word and Spirit 6 (1984): 41-57.
Article in Journal or Book Adalbert de Vogue, "'Lectiones Santas Liberter Audire': Silence, Reading and Prayer in St. Benedict," Word and Spirit 7 (1985): 87-109.
Article in Journal or Book Adalbert de Vogue,"Formation and Promises of the Monk According to St. Benedict," Word and Spirit 17 (1996): 32-44.
Article in Journal or Book Ambrose Wathen, "Synoptic Parables and the Rule of Benedict," American Benedictine Review 46.4 (1995): 388-408.
Book or monograph Hubert van Zeller, OSB. The Benedictine Idea. Burns & Oates, 1959. Pbk. SBN: 0223304174.

Related Subjects

Cistercians | Cluniacs
Monasticism | Augustinian Orders | Benedictine Orders | Independent Orders | Mendicant Orders | Miltary Orders | Society of Jesus

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