Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Benedictine Order

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From volume 2 of the work.

95895Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) — Benedictine OrderCyprian Alston

The Benedictine Order comprises monks living under the Rule of St. Benedict, and commonly known as "black monks". The order will be considered in this article under the following sections:

I. History of the Order;

II. Lay brothers, Oblates, Confraters, and Nuns;

III. Influence and Work of the Order;

IV. Present Condition of the Order;

V. Benedictines of Special Distinction;

VI. Other Foundations Originating from, or Based upon, the Order.


The term Order as here applied to the spiritual family of St. Benedict is used in a sense differing somewhat from that in which it is applied to other religious orders. In its ordinary meaning the term implies one complete religious family, made up of a number of monasteries, all of which are subject to a common superior or "general" who usually resides either in Rome or in the mother-house of the order, if there be one. It may be divided into various provinces, according to the countries over which it is spread, each provincial head being immediately subject to the general, just as the superior of each house is subject to his own provincial. This system of centralized authority has never entered into the organization of the Benedictine Order. There is no general or common superior over the whole order other than the pope himself, and the order consists, so to speak, of what are practically a number of orders, called "congregations", each of which is autonomous; all are united, not under the obedience to one general superior, but only by the spiritual bond of allegiance to the same Rule, which may be modified according to the circumstances of each particular house or congregation. It is in this latter sense that the term Order is applied in this article to all monasteries professing to observe St. Benedict's Rule.

Beginnings of the Order

St. Benedict did not, strictly speaking, found an order; we have no evidence that he ever contemplated the spread of his Rule to any monasteries besides those which he had himself established. Subiaco was his original foundation and the cradle of the institute. From St. Gregory we learn that twelve other monasteries in the vicinity of Subiaco also owed their origin to him, and that when he was obliged to leave that neighbourhood he founded the celebrated Abbey of Monte Cassino, which eventually become the centre whence his Rule and institute spread. These fourteen are the only monasteries of which there is any reliable evidence of having been founded during St. Benedict's lifetime. The tradition of St. Placid's mission to Sicily in 534, which first gained general credence in the eleventh century, though accepted as genuine by such writers as Mabillon and Ruinart, is now generally admitted to be mere romance. Very little more can be said in favour of the supposed introduction of the Benedictine Rule into Gaul by St. Maurus in 543, though it also has been strenuously upheld by many responsible writers. At any rate, evidences for it are so extremely doubtful that it cannot be seriously regarded as historical. There is reason for believing that it was the third Abbot of Monte Cassino who began to spread a knowledge of the Rule beyond the circle of St. Benedict's own foundations. It is at least certain that when Monte Cassino was sacked by the Lombards about the year 580, the monks fled to Rome, where they were housed by Pope Pelagius II in a monastery adjoining the Lateran Basilica. There, in the very centre of the ecclesiastical world, they remained for upwards of a hundred and forty years, and it seems highly probable that this residence in so prominent a position constituted an important factor in the diffusion of a knowledge of Benedictine monasticism. It is generally agreed also that when Gregory the Great embraced the monastic state and converted his family palace on Apostle, it was the Benedictine form of monachism that he adopted there.

It was from the monastery of St. Andrew in Rome that St. Augustine, the prior, and his forty companions set forth in 595 on their mission for the evangelization of England, and with them St. Benedict's idea of the monastic life first emerged from Italy. The arguments and authorities for this statement have been admirably marshalled and estimated by Reyner in his "Apostolatus Benedictinorum in Angliâ" (Douai, 1626), and his proofs have been adjudged by Mabillon to amount to demonstration. [Cf. Butler, "Was St. Augustine a Benedictine?" in Downside Review, III (1884).] At their various stopping places during the journey through France the monks left behind them traditions concerning their rule and form of life, and probably also some copies of the Rule, for we have several evidences of its having gradually introduced into most of the chief monasteries of Gaul during the seventh century. Lérins, for instance, one of the oldest, which had been founded by St. Honoratus in 375, probably received its first knowledge of the Benedictine Rule from the visit of St. Augustine and his companions in 596. Dismayed by the accounts they had heard of the ferocity of the English, the missionaries had sent their leader back to Rome to implore the pope to allow them to abandon the object of their journey. During his absence they remained at Lérins. Not long after their departure, Aygulph, Abbot of Fleury, was called in to restore the discipline and he probably introduced the full Benedictine observance; for when St. Benedict Biscop visited Lérins later on in the seventh century he received the Benedictine habit and tonsure from the hands of Abbot Aygulph. Lérins continued through several centuries to supply from its monks bishops for the chief churches of Southern Gaul, and to them perhaps may be traced the general diffusion of St. Benedictine's Rule throughout that country. There, as also in Switzerland, it had to contend with and supplement the much stricter Irish or Celtic Rule introduced by St. Columbanus and others. In or practised side by side. Gregory of Tours says that at Ainay, in the sixth century, the monks "followed the rules of Basil, Cassian, Caesarius, and other fathers, taking and using whatever seemed proper to the conditions of time and place", and doubtless the same liberty was taken with the Benedictine Rule when it reached them. In other monasteries it entirely displaced the earlier codes, and had by the end of the eighth century so completely superseded them throughout France that Charlemagne could gravely doubt whether monks of any kind had been possible before St. Benedict's time. The authority of Charlemagne and of his son, Louis the Pious, did much, as we shall presently see, towards propagating the principles of the Father of western monachism.

St. Augustine and his monks established the first English Benedictine monastery at Canterbury soon after their arrival in 597. Other foundations quickly followed as the Benedictine missionaries carried the light of the Gospel with them throughout the length and breadth of the land. It was said that St. Benedict seemed to have taken possession of the country as his own, and the history of his order in England is the history of the English Church. Nowhere did the order link itself so intimately with people and institutions, secular as well as religious, as in England. Through the influence of saintly men, Wilfrid, Benedict Biscop, and Dunstan, the Benedictine Rule spread with extraordinary rapidity, and in the North, when once the Easter controversy had been settled and the Roman supremacy acknowledged (Synod of Whitby, 664), it was adopted in most of the monasteries that had been founded by the Celtic missionaries from Iona. Many of the episcopal sees of England were founded and governed by the Benedictines, and no less than nine of the old cathedrals were served by the black monks of the priories attached to them. Even when the bishop was not himself a monk, he held the place of titular abbot, and the community formed his chapter.

Germany owed its evangelization to the English Benedictines, Sts. Willibrord and Boniface, who preached the Faith, there in the seventh and eighth centuries and founded several celebrated abbeys. From thence spread, hand in hand, Christianity and Benedictine monasticism, to Denmark and Scandinavia, and from the latter even to Iceland. In Spain monasteries had been founded by the Visigothic kings as early as the latter half of the fifth century, but it was probably some two or three hundred years later St. Benedict's Rule was adopted. Mabillon gives 640 as the date of its introduction into that country (Acta Sanctorum O. S. B., saec. I, praef. 74), but his conclusions on this point are not now generally accepted. In Switzerland the disciples of Columbanus had founded monasteries early in the seventh century, two of the best known being St. Gall's, established by the saint of that name, and Dissentis (612), founded by St. Sigisbert. The Celtic rule was not entirely supplanted by that of St. Benedict until more than a hundred years later, when the change was effected chiefly through the influence of Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne. By the ninth century, however, the Benedictine had become the only form of monastic life throughout the whole of Western Europe, excepting Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, where the Celtic observance still prevailed for another century or two. At the time of the Reformation there were nine Benedictine houses in Ireland and six in Scotland, besides numerous abbeys of Cistercians.

Benedictine monasticism never took such deep root in the eastern countries of Europe as it had done in the West. The Bohemians and the Poles, nevertheless, owed their conversion respectively to the Benedictine missionaries Adalbert (d. 997) and Casimir (d. 1058), whilst Bavaria and what is now the Austrian Empire were evangelized first by monks from Gaul in the seventh century, and later on by St. Boniface and his disciples. A few of the larger abbeys founded in these countries during the ninth and tenth centuries still exist, but the number of foundations was always small in comparison with those farther west. Into Lithuania and the Eastern Empire the Benedictine Rule never penetrated in early times, and the great schism between East and West effectually prevented any possibilities of development in that direction.

Early Constitution of the Order

During the first four or five centuries after the death of St. Benedict there existed no organic bond of union amongst the various abbeys other than the Rule itself and obedience to the Holy See. According to the holy legislator's provisions each monastery constituted an independent family, self-contained, autonomous, managing its own affairs, and subject to no external authority except that of the local diocesan bishop, whose powers of control were, however, limited to certain specific occasions. The earliest departures from this system occurred when several of the greater abbeys began sending out offshoots, under the form of daughter-houses retaining some sort of dependence upon the mother abbey from which they sprang. This mode of propagation, together with the various reforms that began to appear in the eleventh and succeeding centuries, paved the way for the system of independent congregations, still a feature peculiar to the Benedictine Order.


A system which comprised many hundreds of monasteries and many thousands of monks, spread over a number of different countries, without any unity of organization; which was exposed, moreover, to all the dangers and disturbances inseparable from those troublous times of kingdom-making; such a system was inevitably unable to keep worldliness, and even worse vices, wholly out of its midst. Hence it cannot be denied that the monks often failed to live up to the monastic ideal and sometimes even fell short of the Christian and moral standards. There were failures and scandals in Benedictine history, just as there were declensions from the right path outside the cloister, for monks are, after all, but men. But there does not seem ever to have been a period of widespread and general corruption in the order. Here and there the members of some particular house allowed abuses and relaxations of rule to creep in, so that they seemed to be falling away from the true spirit of their state, but whenever such did occur they soon called forth efforts for a restoration of primitive austerity; and these constantly recurring reform movements form one of the surest evidences of the vitality which has pervaded the Benedictine Institute throughout its entire history. It is important to note, moreover, that all such reforms as ever achieved any measure of success came invariably from within, and were not the result of pressure from outside the order.

The first of the reforms directed towards confederating the monastic houses of a single kingdom was set on foot early in the ninth century by Benedict of Aniane under the auspices of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. Though a Benedictine himself born in Aquitaine and trained at Saint-Seine near Dijon, Benedict was imbued with the rigid austerity of the East, and in his Abbey of Aniane practiced a mode of life that was severe in the extreme. Over Louis he acquired an ascendancy which grew stronger as years went on. At his instigation Louis built for him a monastery adjoining his own palace at Aix-la-Chapelle, which was intended to serve as a model according to which all others were to be reformed, and to bring about this end Benedict was invested with a general authority over all the monasteries of the empire. Absolute uniformity of discipline, observance, and habit, after the pattern of the royal monastery, was then the general scheme which was launched at an assembly of all the abbots at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in 817 and embodied in a series of eighty capitula passed by the meeting. Though by reason of the very minuteness of these capitula, which made them vexatious and ultimately intolerable, this scheme of centralized authority lasted only for the lifetime of Benedict himself, the capitula (printed in full in Herrgott, "Vetus Disciplina Monastica", Paris, 1726) were recognized as supplying a much needed addition to St. Benedict's Rule concerning points not sufficiently provided for therein, and as filling much the same place then as the approved Constitutions of a monastery or congregation do now.

A century later, in 910, the first real reform that produced any widespread and general effect was commenced at the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, under St. Berno, its first abbot. The object was an elaboration of the Benedictine ideal, for the uniform preservation of which a highly centralized system of government, hitherto unknown to Benedictine monachism, except as suggested by St. Benedict of Aniane, was introduced. It was in fact the establishment of a veritable order, in the common acceptance of that term, within the Benedictine family, the abbot of Cluny retaining an actual headship over all dependent houses, the latter being governed only by priors as his vicars. For two centuries or more Cluny was probably the chief religious influence in the Latin Church, as it was also the first abbey to obtain exemption from episcopal oversight. Through the efforts of Berno's immediate successors the congregation grew apace, partly by founding new houses and partly by incorporating those already existing, so that by the twelfth century Cluny had become the centre and head of an order embracing some 314 monasteries in all parts of Europe, France, Italy, the Empire, Lorraine, Spain, England, Scotland, and Poland. Although the congregation had its own constitutions and was absolutely autonomous, its members always claimed to be and were actually recognized as real Benedictines; hence it was not strictly a new order but only a reformed congregation within the order. (See CLUNY).

Following the example of Cluny, several other reforms were initiated from time to time in different parts during the next three centuries, which while taking the Rule of St. Benedict as a basis, aimed frequently at a greater austerity of life than was practised by the black monks or contemplated by the holy Rule. Some were even semi-eremitical in their constitution, and one-Fontevrault-consisted of double monasteries, the religious of both sexes being under the rule of the abbess. In dealing with these reformed congregations a distinction must be made between those which, like Cluny, continued to be considered as part of the main Benedictine body, and those which constituted practically new and independent orders, like Cîteaux, and have always been looked upon as outside the Benedictine confederation, though still professing the Rule of St. Benedict in some form or other. Those of the former category are treated here, since they and their successors constitute the order as we understand it at the present day. In the latter class the most important were Camaldoli (1009), Vallombrosa (1039), Grammont (1076), Cîteaux (1098), Fontevrault (1099), Savigny (1112), Monte Vergine (1119), Sylvestrines (1231), Celestines (1254), and Olivetans (1319). All of these will be described in detail under the respective titles.

The influence of Cluny, even in monasteries which did not join its congregation or adopt any of the other reforms mentioned above, was large and far-reaching. Many such abbeys, including Subiaco and Monte Cassino, adopted its customs and practices, and modelled their life and spirit according to the example it set. Monasteries such as these often became in turn the centres of revival and reform in their respective neighbourhoods, so that during the tenth and eleventh centuries there arose several free unions of monasteries based on a uniform observance derived from a central abbey. These unions, the germ of the congregational system which developed later on, deserve a somewhat detailed enumeration here. In England there had been three distinct efforts at systematic organization. The various monasteries founded by St. Augustine and his fellow-monks had preserved some sort of union, as was only natural with new foundations in a pagan country proceeding from a common source of origin. As Christianity spread through the land this necessity for mutual dependence diminished, but when St. Benedict Biscop came to England with Archbishop Theodore in 669, it fell to him to foster a spirit of uniformity amongst the various Benedictine monasteries then existing. In the tenth century St. Dunstan set himself to reform the English monastic houses on the model of Fleury and of what he had seen successfully carried out at Ghent during his exile in Flanders. With his co-operation St. Ethelwold brought out his "Concordia Regularis", which is interesting as an early attempt to procure a uniform observance in all the monasteries of a nation. A century later Lanfranc continued the same idea by issuing a series of statutes regulating the life of the English Benedictines. It should be noted here that these several attempts were directed only towards securing outward uniformity, and that as yet there was apparently no idea of a congregation, properly so called, with a central source of all legislative authority. In Fra Chaise-Dieu (Auvergne), St. Victor (Marseilles), St. Claude, Lérins, Sauve-Majour, Tiron, and Val-des-Choux, were all centres of larger or smaller groups of houses, in each of which there was uniformity of rule as well as more or less dependence upon the chief house. Fleury adopted the Cluniac reform, as did also St. Benignus of Dijon, though without subjection to that organization; and all were eventually absorbed by the congregation of St. Maur in the seventeenth century, excepting St. Claude, which preserved its independence until the Revolution, Val-des-Choux, which became Cistercian, and Lérins, which in 1505 joined the Italian congregation of St. Justina of Padua. In Italy the chief groups had their centres at Cluse in Piedmont, at Fonte Avellana, which united to the Camaldolese congregation in 1569, La Cava, which joined the congregation of St. Justina in the fifteenth century, and Sasso-Vivo, which was suppressed as a separate federation in the same century and its forty houses united to other congregations of the Benedictine family. The monasteries of Germany were divided chiefly between Fulda and Hirschau, both of which eventually joined the Bursfeld Union. (See BURSFELD.) In Austria there were two groups of monasteries, the abbeys of Melk (Molck or Melek) and Salzburg being the chief houses. They continued thus until well into the seventeenth century, when systematic congregations were organized in compliance with the Tridentine decrees, as well be described in due course. Other free unions, for purposes of mutual help and similarity of discipline, were to be found also in Scotland, Scandinavia, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere, in which the same idea was carried out, viz., not so much a congregation in its later sense, with a centralized form of government, as a mere banding together of houses for the better maintenance of rule and policy.

Notwithstanding all these reform movements and unions of monasteries, a large number of Benedictine abbeys in different countries retained to the end of the twelfth century, and even later, their original independence, and this state of things was only terminated by the regulations of the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, which were to change materially the whole trend of Benedictine polity and history. By the twelfth canon of this council it was decreed that all the monasteries of each ecclesiastical province were to unite into a congregation. The abbots of each province or congregation were to meet in chapter every third year, with power to pass laws binding on all, and to appoint from amongst their own number "visitors" who were to make canonical visitation of the monasteries and to report upon their condition to the ensuing chapter. In each congregation one of the abbots was to be elected president, and the one so chosen presided over the triennial chapter and exercised a certain limited and well-defined authority over the houses of his congregation, in such a way as not to interfere with the independent authority of each abbot in his own monastery. England was the first and for some time the only country to give this new arrangement a fair trial. It was not until after the issue of the Bull "Benedictina" by Benedict XII, in 1336, that other countries, somewhat tardily, organized their national congregation in conformity with the designs of the Lateran Council. Some of these have continued to the present day, and this congregational system is now, with very few exceptions and some slight variations in matters of detail, the normal form of government throughout the order.

Progress of the Order

At the time of this important change in the constitution of the order, the black monks of St. Benedict were to be found in almost every country of Western Europe, including Iceland, where they had two abbeys, founded in the twelfth century, and from which missionaries had penetrated even into Greenland and the lands of the Eskimo. At the beginning of the fourteenth century the order is estimated to have comprised the enormous number of 37,000 monasteries. It had up to that time given to the Church no less than 24 popes, 200 cardinals, 7,000 archbishops, 15,000 bishops, and over 1,500 canonized saints. It had enrolled amongst its members 20 emperors, 10 empresses, 47 kings, and 50 queens. And these numbers continued to increase by reason of the additional strength which accrued to the order form its consolidation under the new system. In the sixteenth century the Reformation and the religious wars spread havoc amongst its monasteries and reduced their number to about 5,000. In Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden, where several houses had joined the German (Bursfeld) Union, the order was entirely obliterated by the Lutherans about 1551 and its property confiscated by the crown. The arbitrary rule of Joseph II of Austria (1765-90) and the French Revolution and its consequences completed the work of destruction, so that in the early part of the nineteenth century, the order numbered scarcely more than fifty monasteries all told. The last seventy years, however, have witnessed a remarkable series of revivals and an accession of missionary enterprise, with the result that there are now over one hundred and fifty monasteries of black monks, or, including affiliated congregations and convents of nuns, a total of nearly seven hundred. These revivals and examples of expansion will now be treated in detail under the headings of the various congregations, which will bring the history of the order down to the present day.

(1) The English Congregation.-The English were the first to put into practice the decrees of the Lateran Council. Some time was necessarily spent in preliminary preparations, and the first general chapter was held at Oxford in 1218, from which time up to the dissolution under Henry VIII the triennial chapters appear to have been held more or less regularly. (Details of these chapters will be found in Reyner, "Apostolatus Benedictinorum".) At first only the monasteries of the southern province of Canterbury were represented, but in 1338, in consequence of the Bull "Benedictina", the two provinces were united and the English congregation definitely established. This system of the union of houses and periodical chapters interfered in the least possible degree with the Benedictine tradition of mutual independence of monasteries, though the Bull "Benedictina" was intended to give some further development to it. In other countries attempts were made from time to time to effect a greater degree of organization, but in England there was never any further advance along the path of centralization. At the time of the dissolution there were in England nearly three hundred houses of black monks, and though the numbers had from one cause or another somewhat declined, the English congregation may truthfully be said to have been in a flourishing condition at the time of the attempt to suppress it in the sixteenth century. The grave charges brought against the monks by Henry VIII's Visitors, though long believed in, are not now credited by serious historians. This reversal of opinion has been brought about mainly through the researches of such writers as Gasquet (Henry VIII and the English Monasteries, London, new ed., 1899; Eve of the Reformation, London, 1890), and Gairdner (Prefaces to "Calendars of State Papers of Henry VIII").

Throughout the period of suppression the monks were the champions of the old Faith, and when turned out of their homes very few conformed to the new religion. Some sought refuge abroad, others accepted pensions and lingered on in England hoping for a restoration of the former state of things, whilst not a few preferred to suffer lifelong imprisonment rather than surrender their convictions and claims. In Queen Mary's reign there was a brief revival at Westminster, where some of the surviving monks were brought together under Abbot Feckenham in 1556. Of the monks professed there during the three years of revived existence, Dom Sigebert Buckley alone survived at the beginning of the seventeenth century; and he, after forty years of imprisonment, when nigh unto death, in 1607, invested with the English habit and affiliated to Westminster Abbey and to the English congregation two English priests, already Benedictines of the Italian congregation. By this act he became the link between the old and the new lines of English black monks, and through him the true succession was perpetuated. About the same time a number of English monks were being trained abroad, mostly in Spain, for the English mission, and these were in 1619 aggregated by papal authority to the English congregation, though the monasteries founded by them had perforce to be situated abroad. St. Gregory's at Douai was established in 1605, St. Lawrence's at Dieulouard in Lorraine in 1606, and St. Edmund's at Paris in 1611. The first two of these communities remained on the continent until driven to England by the French Revolution, but the third has only recently returned. In 1633, by the Bull "Plantata", Pope Urban VIII bestowed upon the restored English congregation "every privilege, grant, indulgence, faculty, and other prerogative which had ever belonged to the ancient English congregation" and also approved of its members taking on oath by which they bound themselves to labour for the reconversion of their country. So zealous were they in this twenty-seven suffered martyrdom for the Faith, whilst eleven died in prison. Two other monasteries were added to the congregation, viz., Lamspring in Germany in 1643, and Saint-Malo in Brittany in 1611, the latter, however, being passed over to the French (Maurist) congregation in 1672.

In 1795 the monks of Douai were expelled from their monastery by the Revolution, and after many hardships, including imprisonment, escaped to England, where, after a temporary residence at Acton Burnell (near Shrewsbury), they settled in 1814 at Downside in Somerset. The monks of Dieulouard were also driven out at the same time and after some years of wandering established themselves in 1802 at Ampleforth in Yorkshire. The monks of St. Edmund's, Paris, not successful in making their escape from France, were dispersed for a time, but when, in 1818, the buildings of St. Gregory's at Douai were recovered by the congregation, the remnants of St. Edmund's community reassembled and resumed conventual life there in 1823. For eighty years they continued undisturbed, recruited by English subjects and carrying on their school for English boys, until, in 1903, the "Association Laws" of the French government once more expelled them from their monastery; returning to England, they have established themselves at Woolhampton in Berkshire. The Abbey of Lamspring continued to flourish amongst Lutheran surroundings until it was suppressed by the Prussian Government in 1802 and the community dispersed. In 1828 a restoration of conventual life in a small way was attempted at Broadway in Worcestershire, which lasted until 1841. The monks then went to other houses of the congregation, though the community was never formally disbanded. Continuity was preserved by the last survivors of Broadway being incorporated in 1876 into the newly founded community of Fort Augustus in Scotland. In 1859 St. Michael's priory, at Belmont, near Hereford, was established, in compliance with a decree of Pius IX, as a central novitiate and house of studies for the whole congregation. It was also made the pro-cathedral of the Diocese of Newport, the bishop and canons of which are chosen from the English Benedictines, the cathedral-prior acting as provost of the chapter. Up to 1901 Belmont had no community of its own, but only members from the other houses who were resident there either as professors or students; the general chapter of that year, however, decided that novices might henceforth be received for St. Michael's monastery. In 1899 Leo XIII raised the three priories of St. Gregory's (Downside), St. Lawrence's (Ampleforth), and St. Edmund's (Douai) to the rank of abbeys, so that the congregation now consists of three abbeys, and one cathedral-priory, each with its own community, but Belmont still remains the central novitiate and tyrocinium for all the houses. Besides its regular prelates, the English congregations, by virtue of the Bull "Plantata" (1633), allowed to perpetuate as titular dignities the nine cathedral-priories which belonged to it before the Reformation, viz., Canterbury, Winchester, Durham, Coventry, Ely, Worcester, Rochester, Norwich, and Bath; to these have been added three more, Peterborough, Gloucester, and Chester, originally Benedictine abbeys but raised to cathedral rank by Henry VIII. Six ancient abbacies also, St. Alban's, Westminster, Glastonbury, Evesham, Bury St. Edmunds, and St. Mary's, York, are similarly perpetuated by privilege granted in 1818.

(2) The Cassinese Congregation.-To prevent confusion it is necessary to pint out that there are two congregations of this name. The first, with Monte Cassino as its chief house, was originally known as that of St. Justina of Padua, and with one exception has always been confined to Italy. The other is of much later institution and is distinguished by the title of "Primitive Observance". What follows relates to the former of these two.

Most of the Italian monasteries had fallen under the influence of Cluny in the tenth and eleventh centuries, and had adopted its customs, but by the end of the fourteenth century they had so greatly declined that there was then hardly one left in which the Cluniac observance was retained. The Abbey of St. Justina at Padua, which had formerly been Cluniac, was in a very corrupt and ruinous state in 1407 when Gregory XII bestowed it in commendam on the Cardinal of Bologna. That prelate, desirous of reform, introduced some Olivetan monks, but the three remaining Cluniac monks appealed to the Venetian Republic against this encoachment on their rights, with the result that the abbey was restored to them and the Olivetans dismissed. The cardinal resigned the abbey to the pope, who thereupon gave it to Ludovico Barbo, a canon regular of St. George in alga. He took the Benedictine habit and received the abbatial blessing in 1409. With the help of two Camaldolese monks and two canons of Alga, he instituted a reformed observance, which was quickly adopted in other monasteries as well. Permission was obtained from the pope for these to unite and form a new congregation, the first general chapters of which was held in 1421, when Abbot Barbo was elected the first president. Amongst those that joined were the celebrated abbeys of Subiaco, Monte Cassino, St. Paul's in Rome, St. George's at Venice, La Cava, and Farfa. In 1504 its title was changed to that of the "Cassinese Congregation". It gradually came to embrace all of the chief Benedictine houses of Italy, to the number of nearly two hundred, divided into seven provinces, Rome, Naples, Sicily, Tuscany, Venice, Lombardy, and Genoa. In 1505 the Abbey of Lérins in Provence together with all its dependent houses joined it. A highly centralized system of government was developed, modelled on the Italian republics, by which the autonomy of the individual houses was almost entirely destroyed. All power was vested in a committee of "definitors", in whose hands were all appointments, from that of president down to the lowest official in the smallest monastery. But in spite of this obvious departure from the Benedictine ideal and the dangers arising from such a system, the congregation continued in considerable prosperity until the wars of the Revolution period; and the later decrees of the Italian government put a check to its reception of novices and began a series of suppressions which have reduced its numbers enormously and shorn it of much of its former greatness. The formation of the congregation of Primitive Observance from out of its midst has still further diminished the congregation, until it now consists nominally of sixteen monasteries, some entirely without communities, and only three or four with sufficient numbers to keep up full conventual observances.

(3) The Cassinese Congregation of Primitive Observance.-In the year 1851 Abbot Casaretto of Subiaco initiated at Genoa a return to a stricter observance than was then in vogue, and several other monasteries of the Cassinese congregation, including Subiaco itself, desiring to unite in this reforming movement, Pius IX joined all such abbeys into one federation, which was called after its chief house, the "Province of Subiaco". Before long monasteries in other countries adopted the same reformed observance and became affiliated to Subiaco. In 1872 this union of monasteries was separated altogether from the original congregation and erected as a new and independent body under the title of the "Cassinese Congregation of Primitive Observance", which was divided into provinces according to the different countries in which its houses were situated, with the Abbot of Subiaco as abbot-general of the whole federation.

(a) The Italian Province dates from the original federation in 1851, and comprises ten monasteries with over two hundred religious. One of these is the Abbey of Monte Vergine, formerly the mother-house of an independent congregation, but which was aggregated to this province in 1879.

(b) The English Province was formed in 1858 when certain English monks at Subiaco obtained permission to make a foundation in England. The Isle of Thanet, hallowed by the memory of St. Augustine's landing there twelve hundred and sixty years previously, was selected and a church which Augustus Welby Pugin had built at Ramsgate was placed at their disposal. By 1860 a monastery had been erected and full conventual life established. It became a priory in 1880 and in 1896 an abbey. In course of time, in addition to serving several neighbouring missions, the community embarked on work in New Zealand, where Dom Edmund Luck, a Ramsgate monk, was made Bishop of Auckland. They also undertook work in Bengal in 1874, but this has since been relinquished to the secular clergy.

(c) The Belgian Province began in 1858 with the affiliation to Subiaco of the eleventh-century Abbey of Termonde. Afflighem followed in 1870, and since then two new foundations have been made in Belgium, and quite recently missionary work has been undertaken in the Transvaal, South Africa.

(d) The French Province, perhaps the most numerous and flourishing in the congregation, dates from 1859. Jean-Baptiste Muard, a parish priest and founder of a society of diocesan missioners, became a monk at Subiaco. After his profession there in 1849, he returned to France with two companions and settled at Pierre-qui-Vire, a lonely spot amid the forests of Avallon, where a most austere form of Benedictine life was established. After his death in 1854, the abbey he had founded was affiliated to the Cassinese P. O. congregation and became the mother-house of the French province. New foundations were made at Béthisy (1859), Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire, the ancient Fleury (1865), Oklahoma, Indian Territory, U.S.A., with an Apostolic vicariate attached (1874), Belloc (1875), Kerbeneat (1888), Encalcat (1891), Nino-Dios, Argentina (1899), and Jerusalem (1901). In 1880 the French Government annexed Pierre-qui-Vire and expelled the community by force; some of them, however, were able to regain possession a year or two later. The remainder sought refuge in England, where in 1882 they acquired the site of the old Cistercian Abbey of Buckfast, in Devonshire. Here they are gradually rebuilding the abbey on its original foundations. The "Association Laws" of 1903 again dispersed the congregation, the monks of Pierre-qui-Vire finding a temporary home in Belgium, those of Belloc and Encalcat going to Spain, and Kerbeneat to South Wales, whilst those of Béthisy and Saint-Benoit, being engaged in parochial work, obtained authorization and have remained in France.

(e) The Spanish Province dates from 1862, the year in which the ancient Abbey of Montserrat, founded in the ninth century, was affiliated to the Cassinese P. O. congregation. The old Spanish congregation, which ceased to exist in 1835, is dealt with separately. Other old monasteries which had been restored, St. Clodio in 1880, Vilvaneira in 1883, and Samos in 1888, were, in 1893, joined with Montserrat to form the Spanish province. Since then new foundations have been made at Pueyo (1890), Los Cabos (1900), and Solsona (1901), besides one at Manila (Philippines) in 1895. This province also includes the Abbey of New Nursia in Western Australia, founded in 1846 by two exiled monks from St. Martin's Abbey, Compostella, who after the general suppression in 1835 had found a home at La Cava in Italy. Seeing no hope of a return to Spain they had volunteered for foreign mission work and were sent to Australia in 1846. Their names were Joseph Serra and Rudesind Salvado. They settled amongst the aboriginal inhabitants at a place some seventy miles north of Perth, which they called New Nursia in honour of St. Benedict's birthplace, and there worked as pioneers of civilization and Christianity amongst the natives. Their labours were crowned with success and their abbey gradually became the centre from which a number of outlying mission stations were established. Dom Serra became coadjutor to the Bishop of Perth in 1848, and Dom Salvado was made Bishop of Port Victoria in 1849, though he still remained superior of New Nursia, which was made an abbey in 1867 with a diocese attached. It had been aggregated to the Italian province of the congregation in 1864, but was transferred to the Spanish province on its formation in 1893. The monks own vast tracts of bushland around their monastery and they rear horses, sheep, and cattle on a large scale. The community includes a number of aboriginal converts amongst its lay brethren.

(4) The Bursfeld Union.-Although more fully dealt with in a separate article, something must be said here about this congregation. Formed in 1430, it included all the principal monasteries of Germany, and at the height of its prosperity numbered one hundred and thirty-six houses of men and sixty-four of women. It flourished until the Protestant Reformation, which with the religious wars that followed entirely obliterated it, and most of its monasteries passed into Lutheran hands. In 1628 the few remaining representatives of the congregation, having recovered a right to some of their possessions, offered seven monasteries to the newly resuscitated English congregation, on condition that the task of getting rid of the Lutheran occupants should devolve upon the English monks, whilst the monasteries should be restored to the Bursfeld congregation in the event of its ever requiring them. No advantage was taken of this offer except with regard to two houses-Rintelin, which was used as a seminary for a few years by the English Benedictines, and Lamspring, which continued as an abbey of English monks from 1644 to 1802. No other monasteries of the Bursfeld Union were ever restored to Benedictine use. (See BURSFELD.)

(5) The Spanish Congregation.-There were originally two distinct congregations in Spain, that of the "Claustrales" or of Tarragona, formed in 1336, and that of Valladolid, organized in 1489. At the time of the general suppression in 1835, the former comprised sixteen abbeys, and the latter fifty, besides one or two priories in Peru and Mexico. Belonging to the Claustrales were Our Lady's Abbey, Vilvaneira, St. Stephen's, Rivas del Sil, founded in the sixth century, and St. Peter's, Cardena, which claimed to be the oldest in Spain. The Valladolid congregation had St. Benedict's, Valladolid (founded 1390), for its mother-house, and amongst its houses were St. Martin's, Compostella (ninth century); St. Benedict's, Sahagun, the largest in Spain; St. Vincent's, Salamanca, famous for its university; Our Lady's, Montserrat; and St. Domingo at Silos. Of the sixty-six monasteries suppressed in 1835, five have been restored, viz., Montserrat (1844), St. Clodio (1880), Vilvaneira (1883), and Samos (1888) by the Cassinese P. O. congregation, and Silos (1880) by the French monks from Ligugé. Of the rest, sixteen remain as parish churches, thirteen are now occupied by other religious orders, two or three are used as barracks, two as prisons, one as a diocesan seminary, a few have been converted into municipal buildings or private residences, and the remainder have been destroyed.

(6) The Portuguese Congregation.-In the sixteenth century the monasteries of Portugal were all held by commendatory abbots and consequently were in a very unsatisfactory state as regards discipline. A reform was initiated in 1558 in the Abbey of St. Thirso, monks from Spain being introduced for the purpose. After much difficulty the leaders succeeded in spreading their reform to two or three other houses, and these were formed into the Portuguese congregation by Pius V in 1566. The first general chapter was held at Tibaes in 1568 and a president elected. The congregation eventually comprised all the monasteries of Portugal and continued in a flourishing state until the wholesale suppression of religious houses in the early part of the nineteenth century, when its existence came to an abrupt end. Only one Benedictine monastery in Portugal has since been restored-that of Cucujães, originally founded in 1091. Its resuscitation in 1875 came about in this way: to evade the law forbidding their reception of novices, the Brazilian Benedictines had sent some of the subjects to Rome for study and training in the monastery of St. Paul's, where they were professed about 1870. The Brazilian government refusing them permission to return to that country, they settled in Portugal and obtained possession of the old monastery of Cucujães. After twenty years of somewhat isolated existence there, unable to re-establish the Portuguese congregation, they were, in 1895, affiliated to that of Beuron. Thus Brazil, which had received its first Benedictines from Portugal, became in turn the means of restoring the Benedictine life in that country.

(7) The Brazilian Congregation.-The first Benedictines to settle in Brazil came from Portugal in 1581. They established the following monasteries: St. Sebastian, Bahia, (1581); Our Lady of Montserrat, Rio de Janeiro (1589); St. Benedict, Olinda (1640); the Assumption, Sao Paulo (1640); Our Lady's, Parahyba (1641); Our Lady's, Brotas (1650); Our Lady's, near Bahia (1658); and four priories dependent on Sao Paulo. All these remained subject to the Portuguese superiors until 1827, when in consequence of the separation of Brazil from the Kingdom of Portugal, an independent Brazilian congregation was erected by Leo XII, consisting of the above eleven houses, with the Abbot of Bahia as its president. A decree of the Brazilian government in 1855 forbade the further reception of novices, and the result was that when the empire came to an end in 1889, the entire congregation numbered only about twelve members, of whom eight were abbots of over seventy years of age. The abbot-general appealed for help to the pope, who applied to the Beuronese congregation for volunteers. In 1895 a small colony of Beuronese monks having spent some time in Portugal learning the language, set out for Brazil and took possession of the abandoned Abbey of Olinda. The divine office was resumed, mission work in the neighbourhood commenced, and a school of alumni (pupils destined for the monastic state) established. Two new abbeys have also been added to the congregation: Quixada, founded in 1900, and St. Andre at Bruges (Belgium) in 1901, for the reception and training of subjects for Brazil. In 1903 Rio de Janeiro was made the mother-house of the congregation and the residence of the abbot-general.

(8) The Swiss Congregation.-The earliest monasteries in Switzerland were founded from Luxeuil by the disciples of Columbanus, amongst whom was St. Gall, who established the celebrated abbey afterwards known by his name. By the end of the eighth century the Benedictine Rule had been accepted in most, if not in all of them. Some of these monasteries still exist and their communities can boast of an unbroken continuity from those early days. The various monasteries of Switzerland were united to form the Swiss congregation in 1602, through the efforts of Augustine, Abbot of Einsiedeln. The political disturbances at the end of the eighteenth century reduced the number of abbeys to six, of which five still continue and constitute the entire congregation at the present day. They are as follows: (a) Dissentis, founded in 612; plundered and destroyed by fire in 1799; restored 1880. (b) Einsiedeln, founded 934, the abbey from which the Swiss-American congregation has sprung. (c) Muri, founded 1027; suppressed 1841; but restored at Gries (Tyrol) 1845. (d) Engelberg, founded 1082. (3) Maria Stein, founded 1085; the community was disbanded in 1798, but reassembled six years later; again suppressed in 1875, when the members went to Delle in France; expelled thence in 1902, they moved to Dürnberg in Austria, and in 1906 settled at Bregenz. The sixth abbey was Rheinau, founded 778, which was suppressed in 1862; its monks, being unable to resume conventual life, were received into other monasteries of the congregation.

(9) The Congregation of St.-Vannes.-To counteract the evils resulting from the practice of bestowing ecclesiastical benefices upon secular persons in commendam, then rife throughout Western Europe, Dom Didier de la Cour, Prior of the Abbey of St.-Vannes in Lorraine, inaugurated in 1598 a strict disciplinary reform with the full approbation of the commendatory abbot, the Bishop of Verdun. Other monasteries soon followed suit and the reform was introduced into all the houses of Alsace and Lorraine, as well as many in different parts of France. A congregation, numbering about forty houses in all, under the presidency of the prior of St.-Vannes, was formed, and was approved by the pope in 1604. On account of the difficulties arising from the direction of the French monasteries by a superior residing in another kingdom, a separate congregation - that of St.-Maur - was organized in 1621 for the monasteries in France, whilst that of St.-Vannes was restricted to those situated in Lorraine. The latter continued with undiminished fervour until suppressed by the French Revolution, but is privileges were handed on by Gregory XVI in 1837 to the newly founded Gallican congregation, which was declared to be its true successor, though not enjoying actual continuity with it.

(10) The Congregation of St.-Maur.-The French monasteries which had embraced the reform of St.-Vannes were in 1621 formed into a separate congregation named after St. Maur, the disciple of St. Benedict, which eventually numbered on hundred and eighty houses, i.e. all in France except those of the Cluniac congregation. The reform was introduced mainly through the instrumentality of Dom Laurent Bénard and quickly spread through France. Saint-Germain-des-Prés at Paris became the mother-house, and the superior of this abbey was always the president. The constitution was modelled on that of the congregation of St. Justina of Padua and it was a genuine return to the primitive austerity of conventual observance. It became chiefly celebrated for the literary achievements of its members, amongst whom it counted Mabillon, Montfaucon, d'Achery, Martene, and many others equally famous for their erudition and industry. In 1790 the Revolution suppressed all its monasteries and the monks were dispersed. The superior general and two others suffered in the massacre at the Carmes, 2 September, 1792. Others sought safety in flight and were received into Lamspring, and abbeys of Switzerland, England, and North America. A few of the survivors endeavoured to restore their congregation at Solesmes in 1817, but the attempt was not successful, and the congregation died out, leaving behind it a fame unrivalled in the annals of monastic history. (see MAURISTS.)

(11) The Congregation of St. Placid.-This congregation was also an outcome of the reform instituted at St.-Vannes. The Abbey of St. Hubert in Ardennes, which had been founded about 706 for canons regular but had become Benedictine in 817, was the first in the Low Countries to embrace the reform. To facilitate its introduction, monks were sent from St.-Vannes in 1618 to initiate the stricter observance. In spite of some opposition from the community as well as from the diocesan, the Bishop of Liège, the revival of discipline gradually gained the supremacy and before long other monasteries, including St. Denis in Hainault, St. Adrian, Afflighem, St. Peter's at Ghent, and others followed suit. These were formed into a new congregation (c. 1630) which was approved by Pope Urban VIII, and existed until the Revolution. Two abbeys of this congregation, Termonde and Afflighem, have since been restored and affiliated to the Belgian province of the Cassinese P. O. congregation.

(12) The Austrian Congregations.-For many centuries the monasteries of Austria maintained their individual independence and their abbots acquired positions of much political power and dignity, which, though considerably diminished since medieval times, are still such as are enjoyed by no other Benedictine abbots. The example of reform set by the congregation of St. Justina in the fifteenth century exercised an influence upon the Austrian monasteries. Beginning (1418) in the Abbey of Melk (founded about 1089), the reform was extended to other houses, and in 1460 a union of those that had adopted it was proposed. Sixteen abbots were present at a meeting held in 1470, but for some reason this union of abbeys does not seem to have been at all lasting, for in 1623 a new Austrian congregation was projected to consist of practically the same abbeys as the former congregation: Melk, Göttweig, Lambach, Kremsmunster, Vienna, Garsten, Altenburg, Seitenstetten, Mondsee, Kleinck, and Marienberg. In 1630 it was proposed to unite this congregation, those of Busfeld and Bavaria, and all the houses that were still independent, into one general federation, and a meeting was held at Ratisbon to discuss the scheme. The Swedish invitation, however, put an end to the plan and the only result was the formation of another small congregation of nine abbeys, with that of St. Peter's, Salzburg, at its head. These two congregations, Melk and Salzburg, lasted until towards the end of the eighteenth century, when the despotic rule of Joseph II (1765-90) gave them their death-blow. In 1803 many of the abbeys were suppressed and those that were suffered to remain were forbidden to receive fresh novices. The Emperor Francis I, however, restored several of them between the years 1809 and 1816, and in 1889 those that still survived, some twenty in number, were formed into two new congregations under the titles of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph, respectively. The former comprises ten houses under the presidency of the Abbot of Göttweig, and the latter seven, with the Abbot of Salzburg at its head. The congregation of the Immaculate Conception, in which are Kremsmunster, dating from 777, St. Paul's in Carinthia, and the Scots monastery at Vienna, includes none of later date than the twelfth century; whilst in the congregation of St. Joseph there are Salzburg (before 700), Michaelbeuern (785), four others of the eleventh century, and only one of recent foundation, Innsbruck (1904).

(13) The Bavarian Congregation.-A reform initiated amongst the monasteries of Bavaria, based upon the Tridentine decrees, caused the erection of this congregation in 1684. It then consisted of eighteen houses which flourished until the general suppression at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Beginning in 1830, the pious King Ludwig I restored the abbeys of Metten and Ottobeuern (founded in the eighth century), Scheyern (1112), and Andechs (1455), and founded new monasteries at Augsburg (1834), Munich (1835), Meltenburg (1842), and Schaftlarn (1866). Pius IX restored the congregation (1858) comprising the above houses, of which the Abbot of Metten is president. The abbeys of Plankstetten (1189) and Ettal (1330) were restored in 1900 and 1904, respectively and added to the congregation.

(14) The Hungarian Congregation.-This congregation differs from all others in its constitution. It comprises the four abbeys of Zalavar (1919), Bakonybel (1037), Tihany (1055), and Domolk (1252), which are dependent on the Arch-Abbey of Monte Pannonia (Martinsberg), and to these are added six "residences" or educational establishments conducted by the monks. The members of this body are professed for the congregation and not for any particular monastery, and they can be moved from one house to another at the discretion of the arch-abbot and his sixteen assessors. The arch-abbey was founded by Stephen, the first king of Hungary, in 1001, and together with the other houses enjoys an unbroken succession from the date of foundation. The congregation is affiliated to the Cassinese, though it enjoys a status of comparative independence.

(15) The Gallican Congregation.-This, the first of the new congregations of the nineteenth century, was established in 1837 at Solesmes in France by Dom Guéranger. He had been professed at St. Paul's, Rome, and though at one time desirous of joining the community of Monte Cassino, was urged by the Bishop of Le Mans to restore the Benedictine Order in France. He acquired possession of the old Maurist priory of Solesmes, which Pope Gregory XVI made an abbey and the mother-house of the new congregation. He also declared it to be the true successor to all the privileges formerly enjoyed by the congregations of Cluny, St.-Vannes, and St.-Maur. Guéranger was soon joined by numbers of offshoots. In this way Ligugé, originally founded by St. Martin of Tours in 360, was restored in 1853, Silos (Spain) in 1880, Glanfeuil in 1892, and Fontanelle (St. Wandrille), founded 649, in 1893. New foundations were likewise made at Marseilles in 1865, Farnborough (England), and Wisque in 1895, Paris 1893, Kergonan 1897, and a cell from Silos was established in Mexico in 1901. The community of Solesmes have been expelled from their monastery by the French government no less than four times. In the years 1880, 1882, and 1883 they were ejected by force, and, being afforded hospitality in the neighbourhood, kept up their corporate life as far as possible, using the parish church for the Divine Office. Each time they succeeded in re-entering their abbey, but at the final expulsion in 1903 they were, in common with all other religious of France, driven out of the country. The Solesmes monks have settled in the Isle of Wight, England, those of Fontanelle, Glanfeuil, Wisque, and Kergonan have gone to Belgium, those of Ligugé to Spain, and those of Marseilles to Italy. The Fathers at Paris have been allowed to remain, in consideration of the important literary and history work on which they are engaged. This congregation has endeavoured to carry on the work of the Maurists, and numbers many well-known writers amongst its members. The Abbot of Solesmes is the superior general, to which position he has been twice re-elected.

(16) The Congregation of Beuron.-This congregation was founded by Dom Maurus Wolter, who, whilst a seminary professor, was fired with the desire of restoring the Benedictine Order in Germany. He went to St. Paul's, Rome, where he was joined by his two brothers, and all were professed in 1856, one dying soon after. The two survivors, Maurus and Placid, set out in 1860, with a sum of £40 and the pope's blessing, to reconquer Germany for St. Benedict. In 1863, through the influence of the Princess Katharina von Hohenzollern, they obtained possession of the old Abbey of Beuron, near Sigmaringen, which had been originally founded in 777, but was destroyed in the tenth century by Hungarian invaders and later restored as a house of canons regular; it had been unoccupied since 1805. Dom Maurus became the first abbot of Beuron and superior of the congregation. In 1872 a colony was sent to Belgium to found the Abbey of Maredsous, of which Dom Placid was first abbot. The community of Beuron were banished in 1875 by the "May Laws" of the Prussian Government and found a temporary home in an old Servite monastery in the Tyrol. Whilst there their numbers increased sufficiently to make new foundations at Erdington, England, in 1876, Prague in 1880, and Seckau, Styria, in 1883. In 1887 Beuron was restored to them, and since then new houses have been established at Maria Laach, Germany (1892), Louvain, and Billerbeck, Belgium (1899 and 1901), and in 1895 the Portuguese monastery of Cucujães was added to the congregation. The founder died in 1900, and his brother, Dom Placid Wolter, succeeded him as Archabbot of Beuron.

(17) The American Cassinese Congregation.-Nothing very definite can be said with regard to the first Benedictines in North America. There were probably settlements amongst the Eskimo from Iceland, by way of Greenland, but these must have disappeared at an early date. In 1493 a monk from Montserrat accompanied Columbus on his voyage of discovery and became vicar-Apostolic of the West Indies, but his stay was short, and he returned to Spain. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries one or two English monks, and at least one of the Maurist congregation, worked on the American mission; and at the time of the French Revolution negotiations had been commenced by bishop Carroll, first Bishop of Baltimore, for a settlement of English Benedictines in his diocese, which, however, came to nothing. The Benedictine Order was first established permanently in America by Dom Boniface Wimmer, of the Abbey of Metten, in Bavaria. A number of Bavarians had emigrated to America, and it was suggested that their spiritual wants in the new country should be attended to by Bavarian priests. Dom Wimmer and a few companions accordingly set out in 1846, and on their arrival in America they acquired the church, a house, and some land belong to the small mission of St. Vincent, Beatty, Pennsylvania, which had been founded some time previously by a Franciscan missionary. Here they set to work, establishing conventual life, as far as was possible under the circumstances, and applying themselves assiduously to the work of the mission. Reinforced by more monks from Bavaria and their poverty relieved by some munificent donations, they accepted additional outlying missions and established a large college. In 1855 St. Vincent's, which had already founded two dependent priories was made an abbey and the mother-house of a new congregation, Dom Wimmer being appointed first abbot and president. Besides St. Vincent's Arch-Abbey, the following foundations have been made: St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, founded 1856, mainly through the generosity of King Ludwig I of Bavaria; connected with the abbey is a large college for boys, with an attendance of over 300; St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, founded 1857, said to possess the finest Benedictine church in America, built in the style of the Rhenish churches of the tenth and eleventh centuries; there is in connexion a school with 150 boys; St. Mary's Abbey, Newark, New Jersey, founded 1857, with a school of 100 boys; Maryhelp Abbey, Belmont, North Carolina, founded 1885, the abbot of which is also vicar-Apostolic of North Carolina; attached to the abbey are two colleges and a school, with over 200 students; St. Procopius's Abbey, Chicago, founded 1887, with a school of 50 boys and an orphanage attached; St. Leo's Abbey, Pasco County, Florida, founded 1889; this abbey has a dependent priory in Cuba; St. Bernard's Abbey, Cullman County, Alabama, founded 1891, with a school of over 100 boys; St. Peter's Priory, established in Illinois in 1892 and transferred to Muenster, Saskatchewan, N. W. T., in 1903; St. Martin's Priory, Lacey, the State of Washington, founded 1895.

(18) The Swiss American Congregation.-In 1845 two monks from Einsiedeln in Switzerland came to America and founded the monastery of St. Meinrad, in Indiana, serving the mission and conducting a small school for boys. It became a priory in 1865, and in 1870 was made an abbey and the centre of the congregation which was canonically erected at the same time. The first abbot, Dom Martin Marty, became, in 1879, first Vicar Apostolic of Dakota, where he had some years previously inaugurated mission work amongst the Indians. The following new foundations were made: Conception Abbey, Conception, Missouri (1873), the abbot of the abbey being president of the congregation; New Subiaco Abbey, Spielerville, Arkansas (1878); St. Benedict's Abbey, Mount Angel, Oregon (1882); St. Joseph's Abbey, Covington, Louisiana (1889); St. Mary's Abbey, Richadton, North Dakota (1899); St. Gall's Priory, Devil's Lake (1893), the last two communities subject to the same abbot. To all these monasteries are attached numerous missions, in which the monks exercise the cure of souls. They also have several seminaries and colleges.

(19) The Congregation of St. Ottilien.-This congregation, specially established for the work of foreign missions, was commenced in 1884 in the Abbey of St. Ottilien, in Bavaria, under the title of the "Congregation of the Sacred Heart". It was not then Benedictine, but in 1897 was affiliated to the Cassinese congregation and in 1904 formally incorporated into the Benedictine Order. The Abbot of St. Ottilien is the superior general and the Beuronese Abbot of Seckau the apostolic visitor. This congregation has been largely recruited from the congregation of Beuron, to which it is bound by close ties. In 1901 it established a cell at Wipfeld, in Bavaria, and it has also ten mission stations in Central Africa, one of its members being Vicar Apostolic of Zanzibar. Its roll of honour was opened in August, 1905, by a bishop, two monks, two lay brothers, and two nuns, who suffered martyrdom for the Faith at the hands of the Central African natives.

(20) Independent Abbeys.-Besides the above congregations there also are two independent abbeys, which belong to no congregation, but are immediately subject to the Holy See; (a) The Abbey of Fort Augustus, Scotland. Founded in 1876, as a priory of the English congregation, mainly through the munificence of Lord Lovat, its first community was drawn from the other houses of that body. It was intended partly to continue the community of Sts. Denis and Adrian, originally of Lamspring, which had been dispersed since 1841, and of which there were only one or two surviving members; and partly to preserve continuity with the Scottish monasteries that had from time to time been founded in different parts of Germany and Austria, and of which there was, likewise, only one survivor-Father Anselm Robertson, professed at St. Jame's, Ratisbon, in 1845. These monks took up residence with the new community and assisted in the clothing of the first novice received for Fort Augustus. In order that its members might be exempt from the external mission work with which the English Benedictines are specially charged, the monastery was, in 1883, separated from the English congregation by the Holy See, and in 1888 was made an independent abbey, directly subject to the pope. A monk of the Beuron congregation, Dom Leo Linse, was at the same time appointed its first abbot. The Beuronese constitutions were first adopted, but these have since been replaced by new constitutions. Of late years the community has undertaken the spiritual care of three parishes in the vicinity of the abbey. (b) St. Anselm's Abbey and International Benedictine College, Rome. This was originally founded in 1687 as a college for Benedictines of the Cassinese congregation, but later on monks of other congregations were also admitted. Having ceased to exist in 1846, it was revived on a small scale by the Abbot of St. Paul's, and reconstituted in 1886 as a college and university for Benedictines from all parts of the world by Leo XIII, who at his own expense erected the present extensive buildings. In 1900 the abbey church was consecrated, in the presence of a great gathering of abbots from all over the world, by Cardinal Rampolla, acting as representative of the pope. St. Anselm's is presided over by Abbot Hildebrand de Hemptinne (who is also Abbot of Maredsous) with the title of "Abbot Primate" of the whole order. It has power to grant degrees in theology, philosophy, and canon law, and both professors and students are drawn from all congregations of the order. There is accommodation for one hundred students, but the full number in residence at one time has not yet exceeded sixty.


(1) Lay Brothers.-Up to the eleventh century in Benedictine houses no distinction of rank was made between the clerical and the lay brethren. All were on an equal footing in the community and at first comparatively few seem to have been advanced to the priesthood. St. Benedict himself was probably only a layman; at any rate it is certain that he was not a priest. A monk not in sacred orders was always considered as eligible as a priest for any office in the community, even that of abbot, though for purposes of convenience some of the monks were usually ordained for the service of the altar; and until literary and scholastic work, which could only be undertaken by men of some education and culture, began to take the place of manual labour, all shared alike in the daily round of agricultural and domestic duties. St. John Gualbert, the founder of Vallombrosa, was the first to introduce the system of lay brethren, by drawing a line of distinction between the monks who were clerics and those who were not. The latter had no stalls in choir and no vote in chapter; neither were they bound to the daily recitation of the breviary Office as were the choir monks. Lay brothers were entrusted with the more menial work of the monastery, and all those duties that involved intercourse with the outside world, in order that the choir brethren might be free to devote themselves entirely to prayer and other occupations proper to their clerical vocation. The system spread rapidly to all branches of the order and was imitated by almost every other religious order. At the present day there is hardly a congregation, Benedictine or otherwise, that has not its lay brethren, and even amongst numerous orders of nuns a similar distinction is observed, either between the nuns that are bound to choir and those that are not, or between those that keep strict enclosure and those that are not so enclosed. The habit worn by the lay brethren is usually a modification of that of the choir monks, sometimes differing from it in colour as well as in shape; and the vows of the lay brethren are in most congregations only simple, or renewable periodically, in contrast with the solemn vows for life taken by the choir religious. In some communities at the present time the lay brothers equal and even outnumber the priests, especially in those, like Beuron or New Nursia, where farming and agriculture are carried out on a large scale.

(2) Oblates.-This term was formerly applied to children offered by their parents in a solemn way to a monastery, a dedication by which they were considered to have embraced the monastic state. The custom led to many abuses in the Middle Ages, because oblates sometimes abandoned the religious life and returned to the world, whilst still looked upon as professed religious. The Church, therefore, in the twelfth century, forbade the dedication of children in this way, and the term oblate has since been taken to mean persons, either lay or cleric, who voluntarily attach themselves to some monastery or order without taking the vows of religious. They wear the habit and share all the privileges and exercises of the community they join, but they retain dominion over their property and are free to leave at any time. They usually make a promise of obedience to the superior, which binds them as long as they remain in the monastery, but it only partakes of the nature of a mutual agreement and has none of the properties of a vow or solemn contract.

(3) Confratres.-A custom sprang up in the Middle Ages of uniting lay people to a religious community by formal aggregation, through which they participated in all the prayers and good works of the monks, and though living in the world, they could always feel that they were connected in a special way with some religious house or order. There seem to have been Benedictine confratres as early as the ninth century. The practice was widely taken up by almost every other order and was developed by the mendicants in the thirteenth century into what are now called "third orders". It was peculiar to Benedictine confratres that they were always aggregated to the particular monastery of their selection and not to the whole order in general, as is the case with others. The Benedictines have numbered kings and emperors and many distinguished persons amongst their confratres, and there is hardly a monastery of the present day which has not some lay people connected with it by this spiritual bond of union.

(4) Nuns.-Nothing very definite can be said as to the first nuns living under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Gregory the Great certainly tells us that St. Benedict's sister, Scholastica, presided over such a community of religious women who were established in a monastery situated about five miles from his Abbey of Monte Cassino; but whether that was merely an isolated instance, or whether it may be legitimately regarded as the foundation of the female department of the order, is at least an open question. We do not even know what rule these nuns followed, though we may conjecture that they were under St. Benedict's spiritual direction and that whatever rule he gave them probably differed but little, except perhaps in minor details, from that for monks which has come down to us bearing his name. It seems tolerably certain, at any rate, that as St. Benedict's Rule began to be diffused abroad, women as well as men formed themselves into communities in order to live a religious life according to its principles, and wherever the Benedictine monks went, there also we find monasteries being established for nuns. Nunneries were founded in Gaul by Sts. Caesarius and Aurelian of Arles, St. Martin of Tours, and St. Columbanus of Luxeuil, and up to the sixth century the rules for nuns in most general use were those of St. Caesarius and St. Columbanus, portions of which are still extant. These were, however, eventually supplanted by that of St. Benedict, and amongst the earliest nunneries to make the change were Poitiers, Chelles, Remiremont, and Faremoutier. Mabillon assigns the beginning of the change to the year 620 though more probably the Benedictine Rule was not received in its entirety at so early a date, but was only combined with the other rules then in force. Remiremont became for women what Luxeuil was for men, the centre from which sprang a numerous spiritual family, and though later on it was converted into a convent of noble cannonesses, instead of nuns properly so called, a modified form of the Benedictine Rule was still observed there. St. Benedict's Rule was widely propagated by Charlemagne and his son, Louis the Pious, and the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 817 enforced its general observance in all the nunneries of the empire. The Abbey of Notre Dame de Ronceray, at Angers, founded in 1028 by Fulke, Count of Anjou, was one of the most influential convents in France in the Middle Ages, and had under its jurisdiction a large number of dependent priories.

The earliest convents for women in England were at Folkestone, founded 630, and St. Mildred's in Thanet, established 670, and it is probable that under the influence of the successors of St. Augustine's monks at Canterbury and elsewhere, these nunneries observed the Benedictine Rule from the first. Other important Anglo-Saxon convents were: Ely, founded by St. Etheldreda in 673, Barking (675), Wimborne (713), Wilton (800), Ramsey, Hants (967), and Amesbury (980). In Northumbria, Whitby (657) and Coldingham (673) were the chief houses of nuns. St. Hilda was the most celebrated of the abbesses of Whitby, and it was at Whitby that the synod which decided the paschal controversy was held in 664. Most of these convents were destroyed by Danish invaders during the ninth and tenth centuries, but some were subsequently restored and many others were founded in England after the Norman conquest.

The first nuns in Germany came from England in the eighth century, having been brought over by St. Boniface to assist him in his work of conversion and to provide a means of education for their own sex amongst the newly evangelized Teutonic races. Sts. Lioba, Thecla, and Walburga were the earliest of these pioneers, and for them and their companions, who were chiefly from Wimborne, St. Boniface established many convents throughout the countries in which he preached. In other parts of Europe nunneries sprang up as rapidly as the abbeys for men, and in the Middle Ages they were almost, if not quite, as numerous. In later medieval times the names of St. Gertrude, called the "Great", and her sister St. Mechtilde, who flourished in the thirteenth century, shed a lustre on the Benedictine nuns of Germany. In Italy the convents seem to have been very numerous during the Middle Ages. In the thirteenth century several were founded in which the reform of Vallombrosa was adopted, but none of these now exist. There were also convents belonging to the reforms of Camaldoli and Mount Olivet, of which a few still survive.

Except in the Bursfeld Union, which included houses of both sexes, and in the Cistercian reform, where the nuns were always under the Abbot of Cîteaux, and a few others of minor importance, the congregational system was never applied to the houses of women in an organized way. The convents were generally either under the exclusive direction of some particular abbey, through the influence of which they had been established, or else, especially when founded by lay people, they were subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which they were situated. These two conditions of existence have survived to the present day; there are nine belonging to the first and over two hundred and fifty to the second category.

Early in the twelfth century France was the scene of a somewhat remarkable phase in the history of the Benedictine nuns. Robert of Arbrissel, formerly chancellor to the Duke of Brittany, embraced an eremitical life in which he had many disciples, and having founded a monastery of canons regular, carried out a new idea in 1099 when he established the double Abbey of Fontevrault in Poitou, famous in France for many centuries. The monks and nuns both kept the Benedictine Rule, to which were added some additional austerities. The law of enclosure was very strictly observed. In 1115 the founder placed the entire community, monks as well as nuns, under the rule of the abbess, and he further provided that the person elected to that office should always be chosen from the outside world, as such a one would have more practical knowledge of affairs and capacity for administration than one trained in the cloister. Many noble ladies and royal princesses of France are reckoned amongst the abbesses of Fontevrault. (See FONTEVRAULT.)

Excepting at Fontevrault the nuns seem at first not to have been strictly enclosed, as now, but were free to leave the cloister whenever some special duty or occasion might demand it, as in the case of the English nuns already mentioned, who went to Germany for active missionary work. This freedom with regard to enclosure gave rise, in course of time, to grave scandals, and the Councils of Constance (1414), Basle (1431), and Trent (1545), amongst others, regulated that all the professedly contemplative orders of nuns should observe strict enclosure, and this has continued to the present time as the normal rule of a Benedictine convent.

The Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century affected the nuns as well as the monks. Throughout north-western Europe the Benedictine institute was practically obliterated. In England the convents were suppressed and the nuns turned adrift. In Germany, Denmark, and Scandinavia the Lutherans acquired most of the nunneries and ejected their inmates. The wars of religion in France also had a disastrous effect upon the convents of that country, already much enfeebled by the evils consequent on the practice of commendam. The last few centuries, however, have witnessed a widespread revival of the Benedictine life for women as well as for men. In France, especially, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there sprang up several new congregations of Benedictine nuns, or reforms were instituted among those already existing. These were not strictly congregations in the technical sense, but rather unions or groups of houses which adopted a uniform observance, though the individual convents still remained for the most part subject to their respective bishops. Mention may be made of the reforms of Montmartre, Beauvais, Val-de-Grace, and Douai, and those of the Perpetual Adoration founded at Paris in 1654 and Valdosne in 1701. The French Revolution suppressed all these convents, but many have since been restored and fresh foundations added to their number.

The first convent of English nuns since the Reformation was founded at Brussels in 1598; and another was established at Cambrai in 1623 under the direction of the English Benedictine Fathers of Douai, from which a filiation was made at Paris in 1652. At Ghent in 1624 a convent was founded under Jesuit guidance, and established daughter-houses at Boulogne in 1652, Ypres in 1665, and Dunkirk in 1662. All these communities, except that of Ypres, were expelled at the French Revolution and escaped to England. That of Cambrai is now at Stanbrook and still remains a member of the English congregation under the jurisdiction of its abbot-president. The Brussels community is now at East Bergholt, and the Paris nuns at Colwich, whence an off-shoot has been planted at Atherstone (1842). Those of Ghent are now at Oulton; Boulogne and Dunkirk, having combined, are settled at Teignmouth. The convent of Ypres alone remains at the place of its original foundation, having survived the troublous times of the Revolution. There are also small Benedictine convents of more recent foundation at Minster (Thanet), Ventnor, Dumfries, and Tenby, and one at Princethorpe, originally a French community founded at Montargis in 1630, but driven to England in 1792, and now almost exclusively English. The nuns of Stanbrook, Oulton, Princethorpe, Ventnor, and Dumfries conduct boarding-school for the higher education of young ladies, and those of Teignmouth, Colwich, Atherstone, and Dumfries have undertaken the work of perpetual adoration.

In Austria many of the medieval convents have remained undisturbed, and likewise a few in Switzerland. In Belgium there are seven dating from the seventeenth century, and in Germany fourteen, established mostly during the last half century. In Italy, where at one time they were very numerous, there still remain, in spite of recent suppressions, eighty-five Benedictine convents dating from the Middle Ages, with over a thousand nuns. Holland has three convents of modern date, and Poland one, at Warsaw, founded in 1687. The convents of Spain numbered thirty at the time of the suppressions of 1835. The nuns were then robbed of all their possessions, but managed to preserve their corporate existence, though in great poverty and with reduced numbers. Ten of the old convents have since been restored, and eleven new ones founded. It is a peculiarity of the Spanish convents that their abbesses who are elected triennially, receive no solemn blessing, as elsewhere, nor do they make use of any abbatial insignia.

Benedictine life in America may be said to be in a flourishing condition. There are thirty-four convents with nearly two thousand nuns, all of which have been founded within the last sixty years. The first establishment was at St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, where Abbot Wimmer settled some German nuns from Eichstätt in 1852; this is still one of the most important convents in the United States, and from it many filiations have been made. St. Benedict's convent at St. Joseph, Minnesota, founded in 1857, is the largest Benedictine convent in America. Other important houses are at Allegheny (Pennsylvania), Atchison (Kansas), Chicago (2), Covington (Kentucky), Duluth (Minnesota), Erie (Pennsylvania), Ferdinand (Indiana), Mount Angel (Oregon), Newark (New Jersey), New Orleans (Louisiana), Shoal Creek (Arkansas), and Yankton (South Dakota). The nuns are chiefly occupied with the work of education, which comprises elementary schools as well as boarding school for secondary education. All the American convents are subject to the bishops of their respective dioceses.


The influence exercised by the Order of St. Benedict has manifested itself chiefly in three directions: (1) the conversion of the Teutonic races and other missionary works; (2) the civilization of north-western Europe; (3) educational work and the cultivation of literature and the arts, the forming of libraries, etc.

(1) Missionary Work of the Order.-At the time of St. Benedict's death (c. 543) the only countries of Western Europe which had been Christianized were Italy, Spain, Gaul, and part of the British Isles. The remaining countries all received the Gospel during the next few centuries, either wholly or partially through the preaching of the Benedictines. Beginning with St. Augustine's arrival in England in 597, the missionary work of the order can be easily traced. The companions of St. Augustine, who is usually called the "Apostle of England", planted the Faith anew throughout the country whence it had been driven out nearly two centuries previously by the Anglo-Saxon and other heathen invaders. St. Augustine and St. Lawrence at Canterbury, St. Justus at Rochester, St. Mellitus at London, and St. Paulinus at York were Benedictine pioneers, and their labours were afterwards supplemented by other monks who, though not strictly Benedictine, were at least assisted by the black monks in establishing the Faith. Thus St. Birinus evangelized Wessex, St. Chad the Midlands, and St. Felix East Anglia, whilst the Celtic monks from Iona settled at Lindisfarne, whence the work of St. Paulinus in Northumbria was continued by St. Aidan, St. Cuthbert, and many others. In 716 England sent forth Winfrid, afterwards called Boniface, a Benedictine monk trained at Exeter, who preached the Faith in Friesland, Alemannia, Thuringia, and Bavaria, and finally, being made Archbishop of Mentz (Mainz), became the Apostle of central Germany. At Fulda he placed a Bavarian convert named Sturm at the head of a monastery he founded there in 744, from which came many missionaries who carried the Gospel to Prussia and what is now Austria. From Corbie, in Picardy, one of the most famous monasteries in France, St. Ansgar set out in 827 for Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, in each of which countries he founded many monasteries and firmly planted the Benedictine Rule. These in turn spread the Faith and monasticism through Iceland and Greenland. For a short time Friesland was the scene of the labours of St. Wilfrid during a temporary banishment from England in 678, and the work he began there was continued and extended to Holland by the English monks Willibrord and Swithbert. Christianity was first preached in Bavaria by Eustace and Agilus, monks from Luseuil, early in the seventh century; their work was continued by St. Rupert, who founded the monastery and see of Salzburg, and firmly established by St. Boniface about 739. So rapidly did the Faith spread in this country that between the years 740 and 780 no less than twenty-nine Benedictine abbeys were founded there.

Another phase of Benedictine influence may be founded in the work of those monks who, from the sixth to the twelfth century, so frequently acted as the chosen counsellors of kings, and whose wise advice and guidance had much to do with the political history of most of the countries of Europe during that period.

In more recent times the missionary spirit has manifested itself anew amongst the Benedictines. During the penal times the Catholic Church in England was kept alive in great measure by the Benedictine missioners from abroad, not a few of whom shed their blood for the Faith. Still more recently Australia has been indebted to the order for both its Catholicity and its hierarchy. The English congregation supplied some of its earliest missionaries, as well as its first prelates, in the persons of Archbishop Polding, Archbishop Ullathorne, and others during the first half of the nineteenth century. Later on, the Spanish monks, DD. Serra and Salvado, arrived and successfully evangelized the western portion of the continent from New Nursia as a centre. Mention must also be made of the numerous missions amongst the North American Indians by the monks of the Swiss-American congregation from St. Meinrad's abbey, Indiana; and those of the American-Cassinese congregation in various parts of the United States, from St. Vincent's Arch-Abbey, Beatty, Pennsylvania. Apostolic work was also done by the English Fathers of the Cassinese P. O. congregation amongst the Hindus in Western Bengal, and amongst the Maoris in New Zealand; and French monks of the same congregation laboured in the Apostolic vicariate of the Indian Territory, U. S. A., from the headquarters at the Sacred Heart Abbey, Oklahoma. In Ceylon the Sylvestrine Benedictines have undertaken (1883) missionary work amongst the natives in the Diocese of Kandy, the bishop of which is a member of the order; and still more recently the congregation of St. Ottilien, expressly established to provide workers for the foreign mission field, has established missions amongst the native tribes of Central Africa, where the seeds of the Faith have already been watered by the blood of its first martyrs.

(2) Civilizing Influence of the Order.-Christianity and civilization go hand in hand, and hence we naturally look to North-western Europe for the effects of the civilizing influences exerted by the Benedictine missionaries. St. Benedict himself began by converting and civilizing the barbarians who overran Italy in the sixth century, the best of whom came and learned the Gospel principles at Monte Cassino. Previous to the institution of monasticism labour had been regarded as the symbol of slavery and serfdom, but St. Benedict and his followers taught in the West that lesson of free labour which had first been inculcated by the fathers of the desert. Wherever the monks went, those who were not employed in preaching tilled the ground; thus whilst some sowed in pagan souls the seeds of the Christian Faith, others transformed barren wastes and virgin forests into fruitful fields and verdant meadows. This principle of labour was a powerful instrument in the hands of the monastic pioneers, for it attracted to them the common people who learned form the monasteries thus reared as from object lessons the secrets of organized work, agriculture, the arts and sciences, and the principles of true government. Neander (Eccl. Hist.) points out that the profits accruing from the labour of the monks were employed ungrudgingly for the relief of the distressed, and in times of famine many thousands were saved from starvation by the charitable foresight of the monks. The accounts of the beginnings of abbey after abbey present the same features with recurring regularity. Not only were the marshes drained, sterile plains rendered fertile, and wild beasts tamed or driven away, but the bandits and outlaws who infested many of the great highways and forests were either put to flight or converted from their evil ways by the industrious and unselfish monks. Around many of the greater monasteries towns grew up which have since become famous in history; Monte Cassino in Italy and Peterborough and St. Alban's in England are examples. Large-hearted abbots, eager to advance the interests of their poorer neighbours, often voluntarily expended considerable annual sums on the building and repairing of bridges, the making of roads, etc., and everywhere exercised a benign influence directed only towards improving the social and material condition of the people amongst whom they found themselves. This spirit, so prevalent during the ages of faith, has been successfully emulated by the monks of later times, of which no more striking instances in our own day can be cited than the wonderful influence for good amongst the aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia possessed by the Spanish Benedictines of New Nursia, and the great industrial and agricultural work done amongst the native tribes of South Africa by the Trappists at Mariannhill and their numerous mission stations in Natal.

(3) Educational Work and the Cultivation of Literature.-The work of education and the cultivation of literature have always been looked upon as belonging by right to the Benedictines. In the earliest days of the order it was the custom to receive children in the monasteries that they might be educated by the monks. At first such children were always destined for the monastic state, and St. Benedict legislated in his Rule for their solemn dedication by their parents to the service of God. St. Placid and St. Maur are examples from St. Benedict's own day and amongst other may be instanced the English saint, Bede, who entered the monastery of Jarrow in his seventh year. The education of these children was the germ out of which afterward developed the great monastic schools. Although St. Benedict urged upon his monks the duty of systematic reading, it was Cassiodorus, the quondam minister of the Gothic kings, who about the year 538 gave the first real impetus to monastic learning at Viviers (Vivarium) in Calabria. He made his monastery a Christian academy, collected a great number of manuscripts, and introduced an organized plan of study for his disciples. The liberal arts and the study of the Holy Scriptures were given great attention, and a monastic school was established which became the pattern after which many others were subsequently modelled.

In England St. Augustine and his monks opened schools wherever they settled. Up to that time the tradition of the cloister had been opposed to the study of profane literature, but St. Augustine introduced the classics into the English schools, and St. Theodore, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 668, added still further developments. St. Benedict Biscop, who returned to England with Archbishop Theodore after some years abroad, presided over his school at Canterbury for two years and then, going north, transplanted the new educational system to Wearmouth and Jarrow, whence it spread to Archbishop Egbert's school at York, which was one of the most famous in England in the eighth century. There Alcuin taught the seven sciences of the "trivium" and "quadrivium", i.e. grammar, rhetoric, and logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. (See ARTS, THE SEVEN LIBERAL.) Later on King Alfred, St. Dunstan, and St. Ethelwold did much to foster learning in England, substituting monks for secular canons in several cathedrals and greatly improving the monastic schools. Ramsey Abbey, founded by St. Oswald of Worcester, long enjoyed the reputation of being the most learned of the English monasteries. Glastonbury, Abingdon, St. Alban's, and Westminster were also famous in their day and produced many illustrious scholars.

In France Charlemagne inaugurated a great revival in the world of letters and stimulated the monks of his empire to study, as an essential of their state. To further this end he brought over from England in 782 Alcuin and several of the best scholars of York, to whom he entrusted the direction of the academy established at the royal court, as well as various other schools which he caused to be started in different parts of the empire. Mabillon gives a list of twenty-seven important schools in France established under Charlemagne (Acta Sanctorum O. S. B., saec. IV, praef., 184). Those of Paris, Tours, and Lyons eventually developed into universities. In Normandy, later on, Bec became a great scholastic centre under Lanfranc and St. Anselm, and through them gave a fresh impetus to the English schools. Cluny also took its share in the work and became in turn the custodian and fosterer of learning in France.

In Germany St. Boniface opened a school in every monastery he founded, not only for the younger monks, but also for the benefit of outside scholars. Early in the ninth century two monks of Fulda were sent to Tours by their abbot to study under Alcuin, and through them the revival of learning gradually spread to other houses. One of the two, Rabanus Maurus, returning to Fulda in 813, became scholasticus or head of the school there, later abbot, and finally Archbishop of Mainz. He was the author of many books, one of which, his "De Institutione Clericorum", is a valuable treatise on the faith and practice of the Church in the ninth century. This work probably exercised a beneficial influence on all the cloister-schools of the Frankish Empire. Hirschau, a colony sent out from Fulda in 830, became a celebrated seat of learning and survived till the seventeenth century, when both the monastery and its library were destroyed during the Thirty Years War. Reichenau, which suffered a similar fate at the same time, owed its early celebrity to its school under Walafrid Strabo, who had studied at Fulda and on his return became scholasticus and subsequently abbot. In Saxony the monastery of New Corbie also possessed a famous school, which sent forth many learned missionaries to diffuse learning over Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It was founded by Ansgar, the apostle of Scandinavia, who came from Old Corbie in 822, where he had been the favourite disciple of Paschasius Radbertus, a theologian, poet, musician, and author of Scriptural commentaries and an exposition of the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist.

After the death of Charlemagne the revival of secular learning which he had begun waned somewhat, except in the Benedictine abbeys where the study of letters still remained the prerogative of the monks. The Abbey of St. Gall, in particular, during the tenth century drew to its walls numerous students desirous of gaining the knowledge that was imparted there, and produced many celebrated writers. The fame of Reichenau also revived, and from it was founded Einsiedeln (934), which helped to carry on the traditions of the past. Nor was Italy behindhand, as is shown by the history of such monastic schools as Monte Cassino, Pomposia, and Bobbio.

Most of the older universities of Europe have grown out of monastic schools. Paris, Tours, and Lyons have been mentioned; amongst others were Reims and Bologna, and, in England, Cambridge, where the Benedictines of Croyland first set up a school in the twelfth century. At Oxford, the English Benedictines, though they could not claim to be the founders, took an important part in the university life and development. Monks had from time to time been sent from different abbeys to study there, but in 1283 a number of the chief monasteries combined in founding a joint college for their members, called St. Benedict's, or Gloucester, Hall, which is now Worcester College. In 1290 the cathedral-priory of Durham established for its own monks St. Cuthbert's College, which is now Trinity; and in 1362 another college, now Christ Church, was founded for the monks of Canterbury. The Cistercians had Rewley Abbey just outside the town, founded about 1280, and St. Bernard's College, now St. John's, established in 1436 by Archbishop Chichele. All these colleges flourished until the Reformation, and even after the dissolution of the monasteries many of the ejected monks retired to Oxford on their pensions, to pass the remainder of their days in the peace and seclusion of their Alma Mater. Feckenham, afterwards Abbot of Westminster under Queen Mary, was the last English Benedictine to graduate at Oxford (about 1537) until, in 1897, the community of Ampleforth Abbey opened a hall and sent some of their monks there to study for degrees.

Besides being the chief educational centres during the Middle Ages, the monasteries were, moreover, the workshops where precious manuscripts were collected, preserved, and multiplied. To the monastic transcribers the world is indebted for most of its ancient literature, not only the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, but those of the classical authors also. (Numerous examples are cited in Newman, Essay on the Mission of St. Benedict, 10.) The monastic scriptoria were the book-manufactories before the invention of printing, and rare MSS. were often circulated amongst the monasteries, each one transcribing copies before passing the original on to another house. Without doubt the copying was often merely mechanical and no sign of real scholarship, and the pride taken by a monastery in the number and beauty of its MSS. sometimes rather that of the collector than of the scholar, yet the result is the same as far as posterity is concerned. The monks preserved and perpetuated the ancient writings which, but for their industry, would undoubtedly have been lost to us. The copyists of Fontanelle, Reims, and Corbie were especially noted for the beauty of their penmanship, and the number of different MSS. transcribed by some of their monks was often very large.

Full particulars are given by Ziegelbauer (Hist. Lit. O. S. B., I) of the most important medieval Benedictine Libraries. The following are some of the chief amongst them: In England: Canterbury, founded by St. Augustine, enlarged by Lanfranc and St. Anselm, containing, according to a catalogue of the thirteenth century, 698 volumes; Durham, catalogues printed by the Surtees Society (VII, 1838); Whitby, catalogues still existing; Glastonbury, catalogues still existing; Wearmouth; Croyland, burnt in 1091, containing 700 volumes; Peterborough. In France: Fleury, MSS. deposited in the town library of Orleans, 1793; Cobrie, 400 of the most valuable MSS. removed to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, 1638, the remainder, partly to the National Library, Paris (1794), and partly to the town library of Amiens; Saint-Germain-des-Prés; Cluny, MSS. dispersed by the Huguenots, except a few which were destroyed at the Revolution; Auxerre; Dijon. In Spain: Montserrat, the majority of the MSS. still existing; Valladolid; Salamanca; Silos, library still existing; Madrid. In Switzerland: Reichenau, destroyed in the seventeenth century; St. Gall, dating from 816, still existing; Einsiedeln, still existing. In Germany: Fulda, much indebted to Charlemagne and Rabanus Maurus, with 400 copyists under Abbot Sturm, and containing, in 1561, 774 volumes; New Corbie, MSS. removed to the University of Marburg in 1811; Hirschau, dating from 837; St. Blaise. In Austria and Bavaria: Salzburg, founded in the sixth century, and containing 60,000 volumes; Kremsmunster, of the eleventh century, with 50,000 volumes; Admont, the eleventh century, 80,000 volumes; Melk, the eleventh century, 60,000 volumes; Lambach, the eleventh century, 22,000 volumes; Garsten; Metten. In Italy: Monte Cassino, three times destroyed by the Lombards in the sixth century, by the Saracens, and by fire in the ninth, but each time restored and still existing; Bobbio, famous for its palimpsests, of which a tenth-century catalogue is now in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, printed by Muratori (Antiq. Ital. Med. Aev., III); Pomposia, with an eleventh-century catalogue printed by Montfaucon (Diarium Italicum, c. xxii).

Besides preserving the writings of the ancient authors, the monks were also the chroniclers of their day, and much of the history of the Middle Ages was written in the cloister. English history is especially fortunate in this respect, the monastic chroniclers including St. Bede, Ordericus Vitalis, William of Malmesbury, Florence of Worcester, Simeon of Durham, Matthew Paris, and Eadmer of Canterbury. The rise of the scholastics, for the most part outside the Benedictine Order, in later medieval times, seems to have checked, or at any rate relegated to the background, both the literary and the educational activity of the black monks, whilst the introduction of the art of printing rendered superfluous the copying of MSS. by hand; at the same time it is worth noticing that many of the earliest printing presses were set up in Benedictine cloisters, e.g. by Caxton at Westminster, and by some authorities the invention of movable types is also ascribed to the sons of St. Benedict.

The most notable revival of learning in post-Reformation times was that effected by the congregation of St.-Maur in France in the seventeenth century. Diligent and profound study in all departments of ecclesiastical literature was one of the professed objects of this reform, and a congregation that produced such men of letters as Mabillon, Montfaucon, d'Achery, Menard, Lami, Garnier, Ruinart, Martene, Sainte-Marthe, and Durand needs no further eulogy than a reference to their literary achievements. Their editions of the Greek and Latin Fathers and their numerous historical, theological, archaeological, and critical works are sufficient evidence of their industry. There were not less successful in the conduct of the schools they established, of which those at Soreze, Saumur, Auxerre, Beaumont, and Saint-Jean d'Angely were the most important. (See MAURISTS.)

The arts, sciences, and utilitarian crafts also found a home in the Benedictine cloister from the earliest times. The monks of St. Gall and Monte Cassino excelled in illumination and mosaic work, and the latter community are credited with having invented the art of painting on glass. A contemporary life of St. Dunstan states that he was famous for his "writing, painting, moulding in wax, carving of wood and bone, and for work in gold, silver, iron, and brass". Richard of Wallingford at St. Alban's and Peter Lightfoot at Glastonbury were well-known fourteenth-century clockmakers; a clock by the latter, formerly in Wells cathedral, is still to be seen in the South Kensington Museum, London.

In modern times the monks of Beuron have established a school of art where painting and design, especially in the form of polychromatic decoration, have been brought to a high stage of perfection. The printing presses of Solesmes and Ligugé (both now confiscated by the French Government) have produced much excellent typographical work, whilst the study and restoration of the traditional plainchant of the Church in the same monasteries, under DD. Pothier and Mocquereau, is of world-wide reputation. Embroidery and vestment-making are crafts in which many communities of nuns excel, and others, like Stanbrook, maintain a printing office with considerable success.


Development of external organization

A brief sketch of the constitution and government of the order is necessary for a proper understanding of its present organization.

According to St. Benedict's idea, each monastery constituted a separate, independent, autonomous family, the members of which elected their own superior. The abbots, therefore, of the different houses were equal in rank, but each was the actual head of his own community and held his office for life. The necessities of the times, however, the need for mutual support, the establishment of daughter-houses, and possibly the ambition of individual superiors, all combined in course of time to bring about a modification of this ideal. Although foreshadowed by the Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) capitula of 817 under St. Benedict of Aniane, the actual results of which died out with their originator, the first real departure from the Benedictine ideal, subjecting the superiors of different houses to one central authority, was made by Cluny in the tenth century. The plan of the Cluniac congregation was that of one grand central monastery with a number of dependencies spread over many lands. It was feudalism applied to the monastic institute. Every prior or subordinate superior was the nominee of the Abbot of Cluny and held office only during his pleasure; the autonomy of the individual communities was destroyed so far, even, that no monk could be professed in any house except by permission of the Abbot of Cluny, and all were obliged usually to spend some years at Cluny itself. But notwithstanding the extent of this departure from Benedictine tradition, the Cluniacs were never considered to have seceded from the main Benedictine body or to have instituted a new order. Hirschau, in Germany, copied Cluny, though with less conspicuous success, and Cîteaux developed the system still further and constituted a new order outside the Benedictine fold, which has ever since been regarded as such. The example of Cluny produced imitators and many new unions of monasteries subject to a central abbey resulted. The Lateran Council of 1215, perceiving the good points of the system as well as its dangers, set itself to strike the mean between the two. The risks of an ever-widening breach between those which adhered to Benedictine tradition and those which had adopted the Cluniac ideas, were to be minimized, whilst at the same time uniformity of observance and the mutual strength resulting therefrom, were to be fostered. The council decreed that the monasteries of each country should be banded together into a congregation; periodical representative chapters were to ensure systematic government after one pattern; the appointment of definitors and visitors was to secure uniformity and cohesion; and the autonomy of the individual monasteries were to be preserved. The plan promised well, but England alone seems to have given it a fair trial. In some of the countries it was not until the issue of the Bull "Benedictina" in 1336, or even the Tridentine decrees of two centuries later, that any serious attempt was made towards carrying out the proposals of 1215. Meanwhile certain Italian reforms had produced a number of independent congregations outside the order, differing from each other in organization and spirit, and in each of which the departure from Benedictine principles was carried a stage further. Even in the Cluniac congregation the power of the Abbot of Cluny was, after the twelfth century, somewhat curtailed by the institution of chapters and definitors. The Sylvestrines (1231) preserved the perpetuity of superiors and recognized the advantages of a representative chapter, though its chief superior was something more than a mere primus inter pares. The Celestines (1274) adopted a somewhat similar system of centralized authority, but differed from it in that their superior was elected triennially. The Olivetans (1319) marked the furthest point of development by instituting an abbot-general with jurisdiction over all the other abbots as well as their communities. The general chapter nominated the officials of all the houses; the monks belonged to no one monastery in particular, but to the whole congregation; and by thus destroying all community rights, and placing all power in the hands of a small committee, the Olivetan congregation approximated nearest to the alter orders like the Dominicans and Jesuits, with their highly centralized systems of government. The congregation of St. Justina of Padua was modelled on similar lines, though afterwards considerably modified, and some centuries later St.-Vannes and St.-Maur followed in its wake. The Spanish congregation of Valladolid, too, with its abbot-general, and with superiors who were not perpetual and chosen by the general chapters, must be classed with those that represent the line of departure from earlier Benedictine tradition; as must also the resuscitated English congregation of the seventeenth century, which inherited its constitution from that of Spain. In these two latter congregations, however, there were some modifications, which made their dissent from the original ideal less marked than in those previously enumerated. On the other side, as representing those that preserved the traditional autonomy and family spirit in the individual houses, we have the Bursfeld Union which, in the fifteenth century, made an honest attempt to carry out the Lateran decrees and the provisions of the Bull "Benedictina". The Austrian, Bavarian, and Swiss congregations of the same period followed out the same idea, as do also almost all of the more modern congregations, and by the legislation of Leo XIII the traditional principles of government have been revived in the English congregation. In this way the true Benedictine ideal was restored, whilst by means of general chapters, at which every monastery of the congregation was represented, and by the periodical visitations made by the presidents or others elected for that duty, uniform observance and regular discipline were preserved. The presidents were elected by the other abbots composing the chapter and their office was merely presidential not that of a superior general or abbas abbatum.

Present System of Government

All the congregations of more recent formation have been constituted, with slight variations, on the same plan, which represents the normal and traditional form of government in the order. Uniformity in the various congregations is further secured by what are called Constitutions. These are a series of declarations on the holy Rule, defining its interpretation and application, to which are added other regulations on points of discipline and practice not provided for by St. Benedict. The constitutions must be approved at Rome, after which they have binding force upon the congregation for which they are intended. The capitula of Aachen and the Concordia Regularis were the earliest examples of such constitutions. Amongst others may be mentioned the "Statues" of Lanfranc, the "Discipline of Farfa", the "Ordo" of Bernard of Cluny, and the "Constitutions" of St. William of Hirschau. (The three latter are printed by Herrgott in "Vetus Disciplina Monastica", Paris, 1726.) Since the thirteenth century every congregation has had its own set of constitutions, in which the principles of the Rule are adapted to the particular work of the congregation to which they apply. Each congregation is composed of a certain number of monasteries, the abbots of which, with other officials and elected representatives, form the general chapter, which exercises legislative and executive authority over the whole body. The power possessed by it is strictly limited and defined in the constitutions. The meetings of the chapter are held usually every two, three, or four years and are presided over by one of the members elected to that office by the rest. Whilst the office of abbot is usually for life, that of the president is generally only for a term of years and the person holding it is not in all cases eligible for continuous re-election. Each president, either by himself or in conjunction with one or more specially elected visitors, holds canonical visitations of all the houses of his congregation, and by this means the chapter is kept informed of the spiritual and temporal condition of each monastery, and discipline is maintained according to the constitutions.

The Abbot Primate

In order the better to bind together the various congregations that constitute the order at the present day, Pope Leo XIII, in 1893, appointed a nominal head over the whole federation, with the title of Abbot Primate. The traditional autonomy of each congregation, and still further of each house, is interfered with in the least possible degree by this appointment, for, as the title itself indicates, the office is in its nature different from that of the general of an order. Apart from matters explicitly defined, the abbot primate's position with regard to the other abbots is to be understood rather from the analogy of a primate in a hierarchy than from that of the general of an order like the Dominicans or Jesuits.

Methods of Recruiting

The recruiting of the various monasteries of the order differs according to the nature and scope of the influence exerted by each individual house. Those that have schools attached to them naturally draw their members more or less from these schools. The English congregation is recruited very largely from the schools attached to its monasteries; and other congregations are similarly recruited. Some educate and train in their monasteries a number of alumni, or pupils provisionally intended for the monastic state, who though not in any way bound to do so, if showing any signs of vocation, are encouraged to receive the habit on reaching the canonical age.

A candidate for admission is usually kept as a postulant for at least some weeks in order that the community he seeks to join may judge whether he is a suitable person to be admitted to the probationary stage. Having been accepted as such, he is "clothed" as a novice, receiving the religious habit and a religious name, and being placed under the care of the novice-master. According to the Rule he has to be trained and tested during his period of noviceship, and canon law requires that for the most part the novice is to be kept apart form the rest of the community. For this reason the novices' quarters are generally placed, if possible, in a different part of the monastery from those occupied by the professed monks. The canonical novitiate lasts one year, at the end of which, if satisfactory, the novice may be admitted to simple vows, and at the conclusion of another three years, unless rejected for grave reasons, he makes his solemn vows of "Stability, Conversion of manners, and Obedience". (Rule of St. Benedict.)


With slight modifications in shape in some congregations the habit of the order consists of a tunic, confined at the waist by a girdle of leather or of cloth, a scapular, the width of the shoulders and reaching to the knees or ground, and a hood to cover the head. In choir, at chapter, and at certain other ceremonial times, a long full gown with large flowing sleeves, called a "cowl", is worn over the ordinary habit. The colour is not specified in the Rule but it is conjectured that the earliest Benedictines wore white or grey, as being the natural colour of undyed wool. For many centuries, however, black has been the prevailing colour, hence the term "black monk" has come to signify a Benedictine not belonging to one of those separate congregations which has adopted a distinctive colour, e. g. the Camaldolese, Cistercians, and Olivetans, who wear white, or the Sylvestrines, whose habit is blue. The only differences in colour within the Benedictine federation are those of the monks of Monte Vergine, who though now belonging to the Cassinese congregation of Primitive Observance, still retain the white habit adopted by their founder in the twelfth century, and those of the congregation of St. Ottilien, who wear a red girdle to signify their special missionary character.

Present Work of the Order

Parochial work is undertaken by the following congregations: Cassinese, English, Swiss, Bavarian, Gallican, American-Cassinese, Swiss-American, Beuronese, Cassinese P.O., Austrian (both), Hungarian, and the Abbey of Fort Augustus. In the majority of these congregations the mission are attached to certain abbeys and the monks serving them are under the almost exclusive control of their own monastic superiors; in others the monks only supply the place of the secular clergy and are, therefore, for the time being, under their respective diocesan bishops.

The work of education is common to all congregations of the order. It takes the form in different places of seminaries for ecclesiastical studies, schools, and gymnasia for secondary education not strictly ecclesiastical, or of colleges for a higher or university course. In Austria and Bavaria many of the government lycées or gymnasia are entrusted to the care of the monks. In England and America the Benedictine schools rank high amongst the educational establishments of those countries, and compete successfully with the non-Catholic schools of a similar class. Those of the American Cassinese congregation have already been enumerated; they include three seminaries, fourteen schools and colleges, and an orphanage, with a total of nearly two thousand students. The Swiss American congregation carries on scholastic work at five of its abbeys. At. St. Meinrad's, besides the seminary, there is a commercial college; at Spielerville (Arkansas) and Mount Angels (Oregon) are seminaries; and at Conception, Spielerville, Covington (Louisiana), and Mount Angel are colleges. The English Benedictines have large and flourishing colleges attached to each of their abbeys, and belonging to Downside are also two other smaller schools, one a "grammar school" at Ealing, London, and the other a preparatory school recently established at Enniscorthy, Ireland.

Foreign Missionary Work

Besides the congregation of St. Ottilien, which exists specially for the purpose of foreign missionary work, and has ten mission stations in the Apostolic Vicariate of Zanzibar, a few others are also represented in the foreign mission field. Both American congregations labour amongst the Indians, in Saskatchewan (N.W.T., Canada), Dakota, Vancouver's Island, and elsewhere. The Cassinese P.O. congregation has missions in the Apostolic Vicariate of the Indian Territory (U.S.A.) and in Argentina, under the monks of the French province, in New Zealand under the English province, in Western Australia (Diocese of New Nursia and Apostolic Vicariate of Kimberley) and in the Philippines under the Spanish province, and the Belgian province has quite lately made a foundation in the Transvaal, South Africa. The Brazilian congregation has several missions in Brazil, which are under the direction of the Abbot of Rio de Janeiro, who is also a bishop. In the island of Mauritius the Bishop of Port Louis is generally an English Benedictine. Mention has already been made of the work of the Sylvestrine Benedictines in Ceylon and of the Cistercians in Natal, South Africa.

Missions Missions and Churches Served

Statistics of the Order
Congregation Monasteries Monks
Congregation Monasteries Monks No. of Souls Administered to Schools Students