Holy Rule of Saint Benedict

(ca. 525)

In 529 Benedict founded his famous monastery at Monte Cassino. Bringing the traditional Roman virtues of seriousness, stability, authority, and moderation to the cloister, Benedict soon composed a Holy Rule for his monks, which eventually supplanted all other rules in Western monasticism. The epochal character of the Rule stems from its precision and thoroughness, its temperance, and its concern for order. Unlike the moral maxims forming the substance of previous rules, Benedict's Holy Rule was characterized by detailed instructions about what actions to perform and when to perform them. The Holy Rule was stringent enough to conquer base human inclinations without resorting to the extremes of torturing the body. In contrast to eremitic (solitary desert) monasticism and small groups without discipline, the Holy Rule delineated for its monks a balanced regimen of worship, study, and manual labor. In these ways, Benedict's Rule aimed to transform each monastery into a...

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Saint Benedict (Yale University Art Gallery)

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