BENEDICT BISCOP: First abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow; b. of noble family about 628; d. at Wearmouth (on the north side of the Wear, opposite Sunderland, Durhamshire) Jan. 12, 689 or 690. Biscop was his Saxon name, his ecclesiastical name was Benedict, and he was also called Baducing as a patronymic. He was a thane and favorite of Oswy, king of Nothumbria, but in 653 decided to abandon the world and went to Rome. He became a monk at the monastery of Lerins about 665, and was appointed by Pope Vitalian to conduct Theodore of Tarsus to Canterbury in 668. In 674 be began to build the monastery of St. Peter at Wearmouth on land given by Egfrid, king of Northumbria. In 681 or 682 he founded the sister house, dedicated to St. Paul, at Jarrow (5 m. farther north, on the south bank of the Tyne). He made six visits to Rome, learned the Roman ecclesiastical usages and the rules of monastic life, and strove faithfully to introduce them in England; he also brought back a rich store of books, vestments, pictures, and the like. He induced John, the archchanter of St. Peter's at Rome, to accompany him to England and instruct his monks; and he brought skilled workmen from Gaul to build his monasteries, including the first glass-makers in England.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The source for a biography is the life by his great scholar Bede, Vita beatorum abbatum, chaps. 1-14, best and most accessible in the ed. of C. Plummer, i, 364-379, with notes, ii, 355-365, Oxford, 1896, Eng. transl, by P. Witcock, Sunderland, 1818; cf. also Bede, Hist. eccl., iv, 18, v, 19; Hom., xxv. Consult also C. F. Montalembert, Les Moines de l'occident, iv, 456-487, Paris, 1868; DNB, iv, 214-216.
According, then, to what is left of Gregory's account after removal of the legendary halo around the saint's head, Benedict came of a considerable family in the "province of Nursia," in the Umbrian Apennines, and was born toward the end of the fifth century. He received at Rome the education of his day, which, however, did not mean much acquaintance with the Roman classical authors, and seems to have included no Greek. Shocked by the immorality around him, he left both the school and his father's house for a life of solitary mortification. His first permanent abode was a cave by the Anio, not far from Subiaco, where a monk, Romanus, provided him with the rough monastic garb and with scanty nourishment. Here Benedict spent three years of stubborn conflict with his lower nature, until the spreading of his fame by shepherds brought his solitude to an end. The monks of a neighboring monastery (perhaps at Vicovaro), whose head had just died, begged him to come and rule them. He accepted with reluctance, probably foreseeing what actually happened when he attempted strictly to enforce their rule. When their insubordination went as far as an attempt to poison him, he discovered the plot and gently rebuked them, then retired to his beloved cave. Here, as new disciples came around him, he established twelve small communities, each with twelve inmates and a "father" at their head.
Gregory does not say how long Benedict remained in the neighborhood of Subiaco as director of these pious groups; but the tradition of Monte Cassino ascribes his migration thither to the opposition of a jealous cleric named Florentius, and places it in 529. The new place was about halfway between Rome and Naples, the Castrum Casinum of the Romans, who had had a military colony there. On the summit of the mountain (now Monte San Germano), which had been dedicated to the worship of Apollo by a population still largely pagan, Benedict built two chapels, under the invocation of St. John Baptist and St. Martin, and then laid the foundations of the monastery which was to have such a long and renowned history. Though Gregory does not say so definitely, the traditional view may be accepted that he soon drew up his rule, the mature outcome of his experience in guiding and governing aspirants to the monastic life of perfection. The disturbances of the time, the ware between the Goths and the Byzantine empire from 534, probably helped to increase the numbers of those who sought a peaceful shelter at Monte Cassino; and a daughter house was established at Terracina. In the summer of 542; Totila, king of the Goths, on his way through Campania, desired to see the famous abbot. Gregory relates that, to test his prophetic powers, the king sent one of his officers in royal array to Benedict, who perceived the deception instantly, and, when the young king knelt before him, told him that he should enter Rome, cross the seas, and reign nine years--which came to pass. Gregory mentions Benedict's sister, Scholastica, in connection with the last meeting between the two in a house near the monastery; she had been dedicated to the service of God from her earliest youth. The date of Benedict's death can not be determined from any of the authorities. His body was buried near Scholastica's in the chapel of St. John Baptist, and, according to Paulus Diaconus, was translated about a century later to the monastery of Fleury on the Loire.
Especially since the celebration of the fourteen-hundredth anniversary of Benedict's birth in 1880, his rule has been made the subject of thoroughgoing studies, and it is everywhere recognized as a code which corresponded admirably to its purpose of regulating the common life of the western monks. In the concluding passage of the prologue, probably added later by Benedict, occur the words "Constituenda est ergo a nobis dominici schola servitii." Under the later empire, the word shola was commonly employed to designate the body of guards in the imperial palace under the magister officii; thence the name passed to the garrisons of provincial
In laying down the system of daily prayer, Benedict departed somewhat from the earlier practise by instituting the office of compline as the seventh of the canonical hours. The longest and fullest of all the offices was the nocturna vigilia (matins), recited at two o'clock. The day hours were much shorter–lauds at daybreak, not long after matins; prime; terce, with which at least on Sundays and festivals the Eucharist was connected; sext; none; vespers; and compline. One of the principles on which the system of devotion was laid out was the weekly recitation of the entire Psalter. When this is compared with the requirement by Columban of the recitation of the whole 150 Psalms in the night office of Saturday and Sunday, a second principle is perceived which governed Benedict not merely in the arrangement of the devotional exercises but in all his rule–a wise moderation and gentleness. It appears especially in the regulations for meals, of which he allows two daily, except at times of fasting; it comes out in the rules for labor, which show consideration for the weaker brethren, and also in the system of punishment. Small offenses, as unpunctuality at meals or office, are to be punished without harshness; more serious ones call for two private warnings and one in public, after which the offender is cut off from the society of the brethren at meals and prayers. If he is still obstinate, corporal punishment is the next step, and finally, if the prayers of the brethren have no effect, he is to be expelled from the monastery. Penitents may be twice taken back, but on a third lapse there is no further possibility of restoration.
The fact that, in his provision for the clothing of the monks, Benedict took account of the conditions of more than one province has been made a ground for disputing the authenticity of the rule; but the climatic difference between the hill-country of his first settlement and the Campanian plain on the banks of the Liris is sufficiently notable to find some reflection in the rule. Benedict had lived as an anchorite and as a cenobite, in convents of varying size and in different parts of Italy, at the head of a single small house and of a whole group of houses. When, therefore, with this manifold experience of what suited the monastic life of his time, he drew up a rule for every part of it, in such a definite legislative shape as none of his predecessors–Basil, Cassian, Pachomius, Jerome, Augustine–had given their prescriptions, we may well believe that he was acting to a certain extent with the consciousness that he was giving to Italian monasticism a new form, stronger and more consistent than had been known before. This is the special importance of Benedict's work, both for the Church and for the world at large. About the time when the Roman See, vindicating and even increasing its independence of Arian kings and Byzantine emperors, was preparing to erect its universal empire on the ruins of the old, the monk appeared who knew how to apply the old Roman talents of legislation and organization to the growing but as yet incoherent monasticism. Thus he became the founder of the great Benedictine Order which for centuries concentrated in itself the extraordinary spiritual force of the technically "religious" life, and contributed in so marked a degree to the extension of the Western Church. The striking influence of the order would, however, be inexplicable if it had not early become the guardian of learning and literature. The rule required the brothers, in addition to their manual labor, to devote one or two hours daily to reading; it provided for a convent library from which the monks were to take certain books for study at appointed times; each brother was to have his tablet and stylus; Benedict himself undertook the education of the children of prominent Romans; and in at least one passage of the rule those who can not read are spoken of as an inferior class. All these things speak of learned and literary interests as belonging to the original foundation. Cassiodorus even goes further than Benedict, in whose lifetime probably he founded the double convent of Squillace, providing expressly for the study of classical literature–though it is impossible to determine how far this influenced the Benedictine Order after the infusion with it of Cassiodorus's monasteries.
The history of the early extension of Benedict's society is only scantily told. According to the traditions of Monte Cassino, the third abbot, Simplicius, achieved great success in this work. Under the fifth, Bonitus, the mother house was destroyed in 589 by the Lombards, the monks fleeing to Rome (the universal refuge of those days), carrying with them the copy of the rule written by Benedict's own hand. There was probably already a monastery there which followed this rule–that of St. Andrew, founded by the future Pope Gregory the Great in 575; but Gregory's attachment to the order was presumably increased by the coming of the fugitives, who settled
In spite, however, of this supremacy, and of the glory reflected on the order by such men as Aldhelm and Bede, Alcuin and Paulus Diaconus, an acute observer could already perceive traces of decay. In some places the abbots abused the power given them by the rule; in others laxity had begun to creep in. There was thus room for the reforming activity of Benedict of Aniane, who attempted not only to restore the pristine strictness, but to supplement the rule by special ordinances for the purpose of securing uniformity in the daily life of the Frankish monasteries. His success, powerfully seconded as he was by the emperor Louis the Pious, was not lasting. The ninth century saw a considerable number of new foundations, especially in Saxony, and the literary activity promoted by Charlemagne continued; but there were many complaints not only of the giving of monasteries to laymen but of decay in morality and strict monastic discipline. In addition to these things, grievous havoc was wrought in many different quarters by the irruptions of the barbarians–in England by the Danes, in northern Germany and France by the Normans, in the south of Germany and the north of Italy by the Huns, and on the Mediterranean coast by the Saracens.
The period from Innocent III to the Council of Trent (1200-1563) is a time of increasing inner decay and of futile efforts at reform. The first attempt to restore discipline in the monasteries of the order, which had become very worldly, was made in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council under Innocent III. It ordered that every three years a general chapter should be held, and that the visitations prescribed by this chapter should be made by Cistercian abbots. Under this regulation the archbishops of Canterbury and York introduced the triennial
The Tridentine reforming period (1563-1800) was introduced by the decree De regularibus et monialibus passed in the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent (Dec. 3, 1563), which opposes the mischievous excess of exemptions, puts the female members of the order without exception and the male members for the most part under the supervision of the bishops, and insists upon strict observance of the older regulations concerning the holding of general chapters, visitations, etc. Several new Benedictine congregations sprang up under the influence of the Tridentine decrees; in South Germany one for Swabia (1564), one at Strasburg (1601), one at Salzburg (1641), one for Bavaria (1684); in Flanders the congregation of St. Vedast near Arras, founded about 1590; in Lorraine that of St. Vanne and St. Hydulph, which Abbot Didier de la Cour founded in 1600 and Pope Clement VIII confirmed in 1604. An outgrowth of the latter was the congregation of St. Maur, founded in 1618 under the direction of the same Abbot Didier, which spread all over France, attaining the number of 180 monasteries, and raised the work of the order in the direction of learning to a prosperity which it never had before (see ST. MAUR, CONGREGATION OF). But after about 1780, first the forcible secularization under Joseph II, and then the storm of the Revolution in France and the neighboring countries to the south brought about the ruin of the order.
The epoch of restoration, which coincides with the nineteenth century, has been able to save only about 500 houses (with about 4,300 monks), out of the 37,000 houses (abbeys or priories) which the order numbered before the catastrophes of the eighteenth century. Yet in some of the congregations there is at present a healthy and vigorous life as far as the morals and discipline are concerned and also as to achievements in theological learning and Christian art (painting, sculpture, etc.). In the latter respect the South German congregation of Beuron is especially distinguished. The two other South-German congregations (the Bavarian and the Swabian) and those of northern France and Belgium (especially in the monasteries of Solesmes and Maredsous) have recently produced some able scholars and theologians. The Benedictines of the mother house of the order at Monte Cassino and the American congregations connected with it have also rendered considerable services in the same lines.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The somewhat voluminous early literature on Benedict in the shape of poems and lives may be found in part in MGH, Poet. Lat. med. śvi, i, 36-42, Berlin, 1881 (the Carmina of Paul the Deacon); MGH, Script., vol. xv, part 1, pp. 480-482, 574, Hanover, 1887 (Ex adventu corporis S. Benedicti in agrum Floriacensem); four works on the Miracles are published in MGH, Script., vol. xv, part 1, pp. 474-500, part 2 (1888), 863, 866, ix (1851), 374-376. The Vitś by Gregory and other writers as well as the poems and relations of miracles may be found in ASM, sćc. i, pp. 28, 29-35, and sćc. ii, pp. 80, 353-358, 369-394; in ASB, Mar., iii, 276, 288-297, 302-357; and in MPL, lxxx, xcv, cxxiv, cxxvi, cxxxiii, cxxxiv, clx. Consult: P. K. Brandes, Leben des heiligen Benedikt, Einsiedeln, 1858; P. Lechner, Leben des heiligen Benedict, Regensburg, 1859; C. de Montalembert, Les Moines d'Occident, ii, 3-92 (on St. Benedict), 7 vols., Paris, 1860-77, Eng, transl., 7 vols., London, 1861-79, new ed., with introduction by Dom Gasquet on the Rule, 6 vols., 1896; P. Hügli, Der heilige Benedikt, in Studies und Mittheilungen aus dem Benedict-Orden, year VI, Vol. i (1885), 141-162; J. H. Newman, Mission of St. Benedict, in Historical Sketches, vol. ii, London, 1885; F. C. Doyle, Teaching of St. Benedict, London, 1887; G. Grütsmacher, Die Bedeutung Benedikts . . . und seiner Regel, Berlin, 1892; L. Tosti, St. Benedict; Historical Discourse on his Life, transl. from the Ital., London, 1898 cf. St. Benedict and Grottaferra, Essays on Tosti's Life of St. Benedict, ib. 1895.
On the order: Bibliographie des Bénédictins de France, Solesmes, 1889; the fundamental work is J. Mabillon, Annales ordinis S. Benedicti, 6 vols., Paris, 1703-39; Montalembert, ut sup.; Sir Jas. Stephens, The French Benedictines, in Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, London, 1867; S. Branner, Ein Benediktinerbuch, Würsburg, 1880; Scriptores ordinis S, Benedicti in imperio Austriaco-Hungarico, Vienna, 1881; B. Weldon, Chronicle of English Benedictine Monks, London, 1882 (covers the period from Mary to James II); H. C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy, Philadelphia, 1884, and cf. his History of the Inquisition, new ed., New York, 1906; J. H. Newman, Benedictine Schools, in Historical Sketches, ut sup.; F. Ć. Ranbek, Saints of the Order of St. Benedict, London, 1890; E. L. Taunton, English Black Monks of St. Benedict, 2 vols., ib. 1897; Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen, i, 92-283. Of the Rule among old editions the best is by L. Holstenius, Codex regularum monasticarum, i, 111-135, Augsburg, 1759; another is by E. Martčne in his Commentarius in regulam S. Benedicti, Paris, 1690. The best edition is by E. Woelfflin, Benedicti regula monachorum, Leipsic, 1895; serviceable are E. Schmidt, Die Regel des heiligen Benedicts, Regensburg, 1891, and P. K. Brandes, Leben und Regel des . . . Benedikt, Vols. ii, iii, Einsiedeln, 1858-63. The Latin and Anglo-Saxon Intelinear Translation was edited by H. Logeman, London, 1888. The Rule was published in Eng transl., London, 1886, ib. 1896, in Thatcher and McNeal, Source Book, pp. 432-485, in Henderson, Documents, pp. 274-313; and by D. O. H. Blair, London, 1906. A bibliography of commentaries is in KL, ii, 324-325.
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