Nowhere did the order link itself so intimately with people and institutions, secular as well as religious, as in England.
From thence spread, hand in hand, Christianity and Benedictine monasticism, to Denmark and Scandinavia, and from the latter even to Iceland. In Switzerland the disciples of Columbanus had founded monasteries early in the seventh century, two of the best known being St.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. Mabillon gives 640 as the date of its introduction into that country (Acta Sanctorum O. Gall's, established by the saint of that name, and Dissentis (612), founded by St. The Celtic rule was not entirely supplanted by that of St.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. 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.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.
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. There, as also in Switzerland, it had to contend with and supplement the much stricter Irish or Celtic Rule introduced by St. In other monasteries it entirely displaced the earlier codes, and had by the end of the eighth century so completely superseded them throughout France that Charlemagne could gravely doubt whether monks of any kind had been possible before St. The authority of Charlemagne and of his son,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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
It is in this latter sense that the term is applied in this article to all monasteries professing to observe St. Subiaco was his original foundation and the cradle of the institute. 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. 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.
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