Benedictines And St. Benedict
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Benedictines, as the order of monks were called who followed the rule of St. Benedict, are regarded as the main agents in the spread of Christianity, civilization, and learning in the west. At one time the order is said to have had as many as 37,000 monasteries, and counted among their branches the great Order of Clugny, founded about 910; the still greater Order of the Cistercians, founded in the following century; the congregations of Monte Cassino in 1408, of St. Vanne in 1600, and of St. Maur on the Loire in 1627. All the Benedictine houses in France were affiliated to this last congregation. Among the monks of St. Maur were many noted scholars, and the services v they rendered to literature it would be difficult to overestimate. At the Revolution in 1792 the Benedictines were suppressed in France - and their splendid conventual buildings were destroyed, but the order was revived later. Most of the richest abbeys and all the cathedral priories (excepting Carlisle) in England belonged to the Benedictines, and they had numerous monasteries in Scotland. The Benedictines gained great distinction in both Italy and Germany — in the former as literati, jurists, and physicians, and in the latter as promoters of education and as the founders of mediaeval scholasticism. As early as 1354 this order could boast of having numbered among its followers 24 popes, 200 cardinals, 7,000 archbishops, 15,000 bishops, 1,560 canonized saints, and 5,000 holy persons judged worthy of canonization, besides 20 empresses, 47 kings, above 50 queens, 20 sons of emperors, 48 sons of kings, 100 princesses, and an immense number of the nobility. In the fifteenth century the order had 15,107 monasteries, of which only - 5,000 were left after the Reformation, and there are now not more than 800. They were commonly styled the "Black Monks" from their dress, a long black gown with a cowl or hood of the same, and a scapulary. The rule of St. Benedict was much less severe than that which the eastern ascetics followed. Besides implicit obedience to their superiors, the Benedictines were to shun laughter, to hold no private property, to live sparely, to exercise hospitality, and, above all, to be industrious.