Benedict of Nursia
Saint Benedict depicted in an Eastern Orthodox icon
| Religious, Exorcist, Mystic and Abbot |
Founder of the Benedictine Order
|Born||c. AD 2 March 480|
Norcia, Umbria, Odoacer's Kingdom
|Died||c. AD 21 March 547 (aged 66–67) |
Monte Cassino, Eastern Roman Empire
|Venerated in||All Christian denominations which venerate saints|
|Canonized||1220, Rome, Papal States by Pope Honorius III|
|Major shrine||Monte Cassino Abbey, with his burial|
|Feast||11 July (General Roman Calendar), (Anglican Communion)|
14 March (Eastern Orthodox Church)
21 March (pre-1970 General Roman Calendar)
Benedict of Nursia (Latin : Benedictus Nursiae; Italian : Benedetto da Norcia; Vulgar Latin : *Benedecto; Gothic : Benedikt; c. 2 March 480 – c. 21 March 543 AD) is a Christian saint venerated in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion and Old Catholic Churches. He is a patron saint of Europe.
Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 65 kilometres (40 mi) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.
Benedict's main achievement, his "Rule of Saint Benedict", contains a set of rules for his monks to follow. Heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, it shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master, but it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieíkeia), which persuaded most Christian religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Giuseppe Carletti regarded Benedict as the founder of Western Christian monasticism.
Apart from a short poem attributed to Mark of Monte Cassino,the only ancient account of Benedict is found in the second volume of Pope Gregory I's four-book Dialogues, thought to have been written in 593, although the authenticity of this work has been disputed.
Gregory's account of this saint's life is not, however, a biography in the modern sense of the word. It provides instead a spiritual portrait of the gentle, disciplined abbot. In a letter to Bishop Maximilian of Syracuse, Gregory states his intention for his Dialogues, saying they are a kind of floretum (an anthology, literally, 'flowers') of the most striking miracles of Italian holy men.
Gregory did not set out to write a chronological, historically anchored story of Saint Benedict, but he did base his anecdotes on direct testimony. To establish his authority, Gregory explains that his information came from what he considered the best sources: a handful of Benedict's disciples who lived with the saint and witnessed his various miracles. These followers, he says, are Constantinus, who succeeded Benedict as Abbot of Monte Cassino; Valentinianus; Simplicius; and Honoratus, who was abbot of Subiaco when St Gregory wrote his Dialogues.
In Gregory's day, history was not recognised as an independent field of study; it was a branch of grammar or rhetoric, and historia was an account that summed up the findings of the learned when they wrote what was, at that time, considered 'history.'Gregory's Dialogues Book Two, then, an authentic medieval hagiography cast as a conversation between the Pope and his deacon Peter, is designed to teach spiritual lessons.
He was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia,the modern Norcia, in Umbria. A tradition which Bede accepts makes him a twin with his sister Scholastica. If 480 is accepted as the year of his birth, the year of his abandonment of his studies and leaving home would be about 500. Saint Gregory's narrative makes it impossible to suppose him younger than 20 at the time. He was old enough to be in the midst of his literary studies, to understand the real meaning and worth of the dissolute and licentious lives of his companions, and to have been deeply affected by the love of a woman. He was at the beginning of life, and he had at his disposal the means to a career as a Roman noble; clearly he was not a child.
Benedict was sent to Rome to study, but was disappointed by the life he found there. He does not seem to have left Rome for the purpose of becoming a hermit, but only to find some place away from the life of the great city. He took his old nurse with him as a servant and they settled down to live in Enfide.Enfide, which the tradition of Subiaco identifies with the modern Affile, is in the Simbruini mountains, about forty miles from Rome and two from Subiaco.
A short distance from Enfide is the entrance to a narrow, gloomy valley, penetrating the mountains and leading directly to Subiaco. The path continues to ascend, and the side of the ravine, on which it runs, becomes steeper, until a cave is reached above which the mountain now rises almost perpendicularly; while on the right, it strikes in a rapid descent down to where, in Saint Benedict's day, 500 feet (150 m) below, lay the blue waters of the lake. The cave has a large triangular-shaped opening and is about ten feet deep. On his way from Enfide, Benedict met a monk, Romanus of Subiaco, whose monastery was on the mountain above the cliff overhanging the cave. Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him to Subiaco, and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake.
Gregory tells us little of these years. He now speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man (vir) of God. Romanus, Gregory tells us, served the saint in every way he could. The monk apparently visited him frequently, and on fixed days brought him food.
During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, Benedict matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his fellow-man, and at the same time he became not merely known to, but secured the respect of, those about him; so much so that on the death of the abbot of a monastery in the neighbourhood (identified by some with Vicovaro), the community came to him and begged him to become its abbot. Benedict was acquainted with the life and discipline of the monastery, and knew that "their manners were diverse from his and therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., 3). The experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him. The legend goes that they first tried to poison his drink. He prayed a blessing over the cup and the cup shattered. Thus he left the group and went back to his cave at Subiaco. There lived in the neighborhood a priest called Florentius who, moved by envy, tried to ruin him. He tried to poison him with poisoned bread. When he prayed a blessing over the bread, a raven swept in and took the loaf away. From this time his miracles seem to have become frequent, and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. Having failed by sending him poisonous bread, Florentius tried to seduce his monks with some prostitutes. To avoid further temptations, in about 530 Benedict left Subiaco.He founded 12 monasteries in the vicinity of Subiaco, and, eventually, in 530 he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, which lies on a hilltop between Rome and Naples.
During the invasion of Italy, Totila, King of the Goths, ordered a general to wear his kingly robes and to see whether Benedict would discover the truth. Immediately the Saint detected the impersonation, and Totila came to pay him due respect.
He is believed to have died of a fever at Monte Cassino not long after his twin sister, Saint Scholastica, and was buried in the same place as his sister. According to tradition, this occurred on 21 March 547.He was named patron protector of Europe by Pope Paul VI in 1964. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared him co-patron of Europe, together with Saints Cyril and Methodius.
In the pre-1970 General Roman Calendar, his feast is kept on 21 March, the day of his death according to some manuscripts of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum and that of Bede. Because on that date his liturgical memorial would always be impeded by the observance of Lent, the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar moved his memorial to 11 July, the date that appears in some Gallic liturgical books of the end of the 8th century as the feast commemorating his birth (Natalis S. Benedicti). There is some uncertainty about the origin of this feast.Accordingly, on 21 March the Roman Martyrology mentions in a line and a half that it is Benedict's day of death and that his memorial is celebrated on 11 July, while on 11 July it devotes seven lines to speaking of him, and mentions the tradition that he died on 21 March.
The Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Benedict on 14 March.
The Anglican Communion has no single universal calendar, but a provincial calendar of saints is published in each province. In almost all of these, Saint Benedict is commemorated on 11 July.
Benedict wrote the Rule in 516for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Seventy-three short chapters comprise the Rule. Its wisdom is twofold: spiritual (how to live a Christocentric life on earth) and administrative (how to run a monastery efficiently). More than half of the chapters describe how to be obedient and humble, and what to do when a member of the community is not. About one-fourth regulate the work of God (the "opus Dei"). One-tenth outline how, and by whom, the monastery should be managed.
Following the golden rule of Ora et Labora - pray and work, the monks each day devoted eight hours to prayer, eight hours to sleep, and eight hours to manual work, sacred reading and/or works of charity.
This devotional medal originally came from a cross in honour of Saint Benedict. On one side, the medal has an image of Saint Benedict, holding the Holy Rule in his left hand and a cross in his right. There is a raven on one side of him, with a cup on the other side of him. Around the medal's outer margin are the words "Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur" ("May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death"). The other side of the medal has a cross with the initials CSSML on the vertical bar which signify "Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux" ("May the Holy Cross be my light") and on the horizontal bar are the initials NDSMD which stand for "Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux" ("Let not the dragon be my guide"). The initials CSPB stand for "Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti" ("The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict") and are located on the interior angles of the cross. Either the inscription "PAX" (Peace) or the Christogram "IHS" may be found at the top of the cross in most cases. Around the medal's margin on this side are the Vade Retro Satana initials VRSNSMV which stand for "Vade Retro Satana, Nonquam Suade Mihi Vana" ("Begone Satan, do not suggest to me thy vanities") then a space followed by the initials SMQLIVB which signify "Sunt Mala Quae Libas, Ipse Venena Bibas" ("Evil are the things thou profferest, drink thou thy own poison").
This medal was first struck in 1880 to commemorate the fourteenth centenary of Saint Benedict's birth and is also called the Jubilee Medal; its exact origin, however, is unknown. In 1647, during a witchcraft trial at Natternberg near Metten Abbey in Bavaria, the accused women testified they had no power over Metten, which was under the protection of the cross. An investigation found a number of painted crosses on the walls of the abbey with the letters now found on St Benedict medals, but their meaning had been forgotten. A manuscript written in 1415 was eventually found that had a picture of Saint Benedict holding a scroll in one hand and a staff which ended in a cross in the other. On the scroll and staff were written the full words of the initials contained on the crosses. Medals then began to be struck in Germany, which then spread throughout Europe. This medal was first approved by Pope Benedict XIV in his briefs of 23 December 1741, and 12 March 1742.
Saint Benedict has been also the motive of many collector's coins around the world. The Austria 50 euro 'The Christian Religious Orders', issued on 13 March 2002 is one of them.
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The early Middle Ages have been called "the Benedictine centuries."In April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the influence St Benedict had on Western Europe. The pope said that "with his life and work St Benedict exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture" and helped Europe to emerge from the "dark night of history" that followed the fall of the Roman empire.
Saint Benedict contributed more than anyone else to the rise of monasticism in the West. His Rule was the foundational document for thousands of religious communities in the Middle Ages.To this day, The Rule of St. Benedict is the most common and influential Rule used by monasteries and monks, more than 1,400 years after its writing. Today the Benedictine family is represented by two branches: the Benedictine Federation and the Cistercians.
The influence of Saint Benedict produced "a true spiritual ferment" in Europe, and over the coming decades his followers spread across the continent to establish a new cultural unity based on Christian faith.
A basilica was built upon the birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica in the 1400s. Ruins of their familial home were excavated from beneath the church and preserved. The earthquake of 30 October 2016 completely devastated the structure of the basilica, leaving only the front facade and altar standing.
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The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict, are a monastic Catholic religious order of monks and nuns that follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of the members' religious habits.
Pope Victor III, born Dauferio, was Pope from 24 May 1086 to his death in 1087. He was the successor of Pope Gregory VII, yet his pontificate is far less impressive in history than his time as Desiderius, the great Abbot of Montecassino.
The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written in 516 by Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot.
Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, in the Latin Valley, Italy, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the west of the town of Cassino and 520 m (1,706.04 ft) altitude. Site of the Roman town of Casinum, it is best known for its abbey, the first house of the Benedictine Order, having been established by Benedict of Nursia himself around 529. It was for the community of Monte Cassino that the Rule of Saint Benedict was composed.
Scholastica is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia. Her feast day is 10 February, Saint Scholastica's Day.
Odo of Cluny was the second abbot of Cluny. He enacted various reforms in the Cluniac system of France and Italy. He is venerated as a saint by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. His feast day is 18 November.
Norcia, traditionally known in English by its Latin name of Nursia, is a town and comune in the province of Perugia (Italy) in southeastern Umbria. Unlike many ancient towns, it is located in a wide plain abutting the Monti Sibillini, a subrange of the Apennines with some of its highest peaks, near the Sordo River, a small stream that eventually flows into the Nera. The town is popularly associated with the Valnerina.
Cassino is a comune in the province of Frosinone, central Italy, at the southern end of the region of Lazio, the last City of the Latin Valley.
Subiaco is a town and comune in the Metropolitan City of Rome, in Lazio, central Italy, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Tivoli alongside the river Aniene. It is a tourist and religious resort thanks to its sacred grotto, in the medieval St Benedict's Abbey, and for the Abbey of Santa Scolastica.
The Benedictine Confederation of the Order of Saint Benedict is the international governing body of the Order of Saint Benedict.
Saint Maurus, O.S.B., was the first disciple of Saint Benedict of Nursia (512–584). He is mentioned in Saint Gregory the Great's biography of the latter as the first oblate; offered to the monastery by his noble Roman parents as a young boy to be brought up in the monastic life.
The Cluniac Reforms were a series of changes within medieval monasticism of the Western Church focused on restoring the traditional monastic life, encouraging art, and caring for the poor. The movement began within the Benedictine order at Cluny Abbey, founded in 910 by William I, Duke of Aquitaine (875–918). The reforms were largely carried out by Saint Odo and spread throughout France, into England, and through much of Italy and Spain.
Fleury Abbey (Floriacum) in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, Loiret, France, founded about 640, is one of the most celebrated Benedictine monasteries of Western Europe, which possesses the relics of St. Benedict of Nursia. Its site on the banks of the Loire has always made it easily accessible from Orléans, a center of culture unbroken since Roman times. Today the abbey has over forty monks and is headed by the abbot Etienne Ricaud.
Saint Placidus was a disciple of Saint Benedict. He was the son of the patrician Tertullus, was brought as a child to St. Benedict at Sublaqueum (Subiaco) and dedicated to God as provided for in chapter 69 of the Rule of St. Benedict (oblate).
Saint Berno of Cluny or Berno of Baume was the first abbot of Cluny from its foundation in 909 until he died in 927. He began the tradition of the Cluniac reforms which his successors spread across Europe.
The Order of Saint Benedict is a loose affiliation of monastics of the Orthodox Church who strive to live according to the Rule of St Benedict. The "Order of Saint Benedict" is not an incorporated body. Orthodox Benedictines enjoy good relations with each other, which frequently cross jurisdictional boundaries. "Monastic Orders" are not found in Orthodoxy, so Orthodox Benedictines are often known as "Orthodox Community of Saint Benedict" OCSB-Ro where the "Ro" refers to their lineage from Saint Romould. Their Roman Catholic equivalents are OSB-Cam where the "Cam" refers to their Camaldolese lineage.
In 6th-century Christianity, Roman Emperor Justinian launched a military campaign in Constantinople to reclaim the western provinces from the Germans, starting with North Africa and proceeding to Italy. Though he was temporarily successful in recapturing much of the western Mediterranean he destroyed the urban centers and permanently ruined the economies in much of the West. Rome and other cities were abandoned. In the coming centuries the Western Church, as virtually the only surviving Roman institution in the West, became the only remaining link to Greek culture and civilization.
The Subiaco Cassinese Congregation is an international union of Benedictine houses within the Benedictine Confederation. It developed from the Subiaco Congregation, which was formed in 1867 through the initiative of Dom Pietro Casaretto, O.S.B., as a reform of the way of life of monasteries of the Cassinese Congregation, formed in 1408, toward a stricter contemplative observance, and received final approval in 1872 by Pope Pius IX. After discussions between the two congregations at the start of the 21st century, approval was given by Pope Benedict XVI in 2013 for the incorporation of the Cassinese Congregation into its offshoot, the Subiaco Congregation. The expanded congregation was given this new name.
The Abbey of Saint Scholastica, also known as Subiaco Abbey, is located just outside the town of Subiaco in the Province of Rome, Region of Lazio, Italy; and is still an active Benedictine order, territorial abbey, first founded in the 6th century AD by Saint Benedict of Nursia. It was in one of the Subiaco caves that Benedict made his first hermitage. The monastery today gives its name to the Subiaco Congregation, a grouping of monasteries worldwide that makes up part of the Order of Saint Benedict.
The Monastero di San Benedetto in Monte is a male Benedictine community located in southeastern Umbria, just outside the city of Norcia, Italy.
Today, tens of thousands of men and women throughout the world profess to live their lives according to Benedict's Rule. These men and women are associated with over two thousand Roman Catholic, Anglican, and ecumenical Benedictine monasteries on six continents.
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