The Rule of Saint Benedict Background

The Rule of Saint Benedict Background

St. Benedict founded the Benedictine monastic order, which settled in a community on a hill about 75 miles southeast of Rome called Monte Cassino. It was there that he and his fellow monks destroyed a pagan temple honoring Apollo and built a chapel which was dedicated to St. Martin. In the course of the residence at Monte Cassino, The Rule of Saint Benedict was written as a framework for providing order and practicality for the monastic life into an environment filled with a variety of different approaches to the concept.

Among the elements outlined by Benedict were that work and prayer would undertaken under the leadership of an abbott deserving of utter obedience. The Rule of Saint Benedict also introduced an idea which was not pervasive at the time, but which has come to be seen as one of the defining characteristics of the monk’s life: sexual abstinence. Other rules introduced were the expectation to remain within the monastery at all hours of all days, to give up all claims to ownership of property, and to set aside specific hours for working and for praying. The text also outlines the sleeping arrangements and even details about the diet a monk should follow.

The Monte Cassino monastery was founded around the year 520. The Benedictine form of monasticism would not become the single dominant model for monastery management until near the end of the 10th century. Thus, while the rest of Christian world was slow to accept The Rule of Saint Benedict, eventually those rules would come to represent for most people the stereotypical view of the cloistered life.

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