Saint Benedict (b. 480, Nursia, Kingdom of the Lombards; d. ca. 547) is generally considered to be the father of Western monasticism. His founding of the monastery at Monte Cassino and composition of the rules governing the Benedictine monks initiated a monastic movement that spread throughout Europe.
Before Saint Benedict's reforms, monasticism in Europe was largely of the Eastern sort, which sought religious growth through isolated, austere living and constant prayer, exemplified by the hermits who retreated to the deserts of Egypt and Africa in search of God. Saint Benedict was at first drawn to the eremitic life, but he soon came to believe that a good Christian needs to be a responsible actor in the world. It was the genius of Saint Benedict's plan to provide for both the spiritual and material welfare of his brethren. The Benedictine Rule was much more than a spiritual plan; it was a complete administrative package that included a workable daily regime. Moreover, Saint Benedict recognized the limitations of humanity and provided for differences in age, ability, needs, disposition, and faith. The flexibility of the Benedictine Rule largely accounts for the success of the order among different peoples, places, and times. This flexibility allowed the Benedictine monastery to survive a variety of political, religious, and economic challenges to become an important center of religious and secular learning and the model for European monasticism.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.
Last modified April 10, 2014