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St Benedict of Nursia: the Birth of Western Monasticism

St Benedict of Nursia: the Birth of Western Monasticism

Steele, Helen

Published Online, Guernicus.com (2006)

Abstract

St Benedict of Nursia was the founder of western monasticism and an important figure in the early medieval church. Eschewing the dissolute lifestyle of Rome, he became an ascetic hermit, and then as others began to flock to him, he set up a series of monasteries in Northern Italy. To manage these monasteries and to guide the lives of those within, he wrote the Rule, a collection of practical regulations for a holy and orderly life. The Rule emphasized obedience, moderation and community over individualism. It became the blueprint for monastic life in the West and remained unchallenged for centuries. Benedict was born c. 480 CE in Nursia near Spoleto in central Italy. His wealthy parents soon moved to Rome where he was educated in the Humanities. However, as a young man he rejected higher learning after seeing “many by reason of such learning to fall to dissolute and lewd life”. He left Rome and, settled in Enside, a community of likeminded men.

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