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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/528

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MONASTICISM


474


MONASTICISM


family which St. Benedict desired above everything. Tlie abbot was to be a father and the monlc a child. Nor W!is he to be more capable of choo.sinR a new fa- ther or a new liome than any other diild was. After all St. Benedict was a Roman, and the scion of a Ro- man patrician family, and he was simply briiiKinn into the monastic life that absolute dependence of all the members of a family upon the fath(-r whicli is so typi- cal of Roman law and usage. Only at the selection of a new abbot can the monks choose for themselves. Once elected the abbot's power becomes absolute; there is nothinR to control him except the Rule and his own conscience which is resi)onsible for the salvation of every soul entruste<l to his care. _ The Rule of .St . Benedict wix.s written at Monte Cas- sino in the ten or fifteen years preceding the saint's death in olS, but vcrj- little is known of the way in which it began to spread to other monasteries. St. Gregorj- (Dial., II, xxii) speaks of a foundation made from Monte Cassino at Terracina, but nothing is known of this hou.se. Again tlie traditions of Bene- dictine foundations in Gaul and .*>icily by St. Maunis and St. Placid are now generally discredited. Still the Rule must have become known verj' soon, for by the death of Simplicius, the third Abbot of Monte Cassino, in line from St Benedict, it is referred to as being gener.allv observed throughout Italy (Mabillon, "Annal. Bened.", VII, ii). In the year ,580 Monte Cassino was destroyed by the Lombards and the monks fled to Rome, taking with them the autograph copy of the Rule. They were installed by Pelagius II in a monastery ne.ar the Lateran Basilica. It is almo.st cer- tain that St. Gregorj- the Great who succeeded Pelagius II int roduced the Benedictine Rule and observance into the monastery of St. Andrew which he founded on the Co'lian Hill at Rome, and also into the si.x monaster- ies he founded in Sicily. Thanks to St. Gregory the Rule was carried to England by St. Augustine and his fellow monks ; and also to the PVankish and Lombard monasteries which the pope's influence did much to revive. Indirectly too, by devoting the second book of his "Dialogiies" to the story of St. Benedict's life and work, (iregory gave a strong impetus to the gprcatl of the Rule. Thus the first stage in the ad- vance of St. Benedict's code across Western Europe is closely bound up with the name of the first monk- pope.

In the seventh century the process continued stead- ily. Sometimes the Benedictine code existed side by side with an older observance. This was the case at Bobbio where the monks lived either under the rule of St. Benedict or of St. Columbanus, who had foimded the monastery in 009. In Gaul at the same period a union of two or more rules was often to be found, as at Luxeuil, Solignac, and elsewhere. In this there was nothing surprising, indeed the last chapter of St. Benedict's nile seems almost to contemplate such an arrangement. In England, thanks to St. Wilfrid of York, St. Benedict Biscop and others, the Benedictine mode of life began to be regarded as the only tnie type of monachi.sm. Its influence however was still .shght in Ireland where the Celtic monasticism gave way more slowly. In the eighth century the advance of Bene- dictinism w'ent on with even greater rapidity owing principally to the efforts of St. Boniface. That saint is known as the Ajmstle of Germany although the Irish missionaries had preceded him there. His ener- gies however were divided between the two tasks of converting the remaining heathen tribes and bringing the Christianity of the Iri.sh converts into line with the Roman use and obedience. In both these undertak- ings he achieved great success and his triumph meant the destruction of the earlier Columban form of mo- nasticism. Fulda, the great monastery of St. Boni- face's institution, wa.s modelled directly on Monte Cassino in which Sturm the abbot h.ad resided for some time so that he might become perfectly ac-


quainted with the workings of the Rule at the foun- tain head, and in its turn Fulda became the model for all German monasteries. Thus by the reign of (^har- lemagnc the HeM('di<'liM<' form of monaslii-isni had be- come the normal type throughout the West with the sole exception of some few Spanish and Irish cloisters. So completely was this the case that even the memory of earlier things had p.assed away and it could be gravely doubled whether monks of any kind at all had existed before St. Benedict and whether there could be any other monks but Benedictines.

At the time of Charlemagne's death in S14 the most famous monk in western I'jirope was St. Benedict of Aniane, the friend and counsellor of Louis the new em- peror. For him Louis built a monastery near his im- perial palace at Aix, and there Benedict gathered thirty monks, chosen from among his own personal friends and in full sympathy with his ideas. This monastery was intended to be a model for all the re- ligious houses of the empire, and the famous Assem- bly of S17 passed a series of resolutions which touched upon the whole range of the monastic life. The ob- ject of these resolutions was to secure, even in the minutest details, an absolute uniformity in all the monasteries of the empire, so that it might seem as if "all had been taught by one single master in one sin- gle spot". As might have been expected the scheme failed to do this, or even anything approaching thereto, but the resolutions of the Assembly are of high interest as the first example of what are nowa- days called "Constitutions", i. e. a code, supplemen- tary to the Holy Rule, which shall regulate the lesser details of everyday life and practice. The growth of the Benedictine monasticism and its develojjment dur- ing the period known as the "Benedictine centuries" will be found treated of in the article Benedictines, but it may be stated broadly that, while it had of course its periods of vigour and decline, no serious modification of St. Benedict's system was attempted until the rise of Cluny in the early part of the tenth century.

(.3) The Rise of Cluny. — The essential novelty in the Cluniac system was its centralization. Hitherto every monastery had been a separate family, inde- pendent of all the rest. The ideal of Cluny, however, was to set up one great central monasterv' with dejjend- ent houses, numbered even by the hundred, scatterc<l over many lands and forming a vast hierarchy or mo- nastic feudal system under the Abbot of Cluny. The superior of every house was nominated by the Abbot of Cluny, every monk was professed in his name and with his sanction. It was in fact more like an army subject to a general than St. Benedict's scheme of a family with a father to guide it, and for two centuries it dominated the Church in Western Europe with a power second only to that of the papacy it.self. (See Cluny; Berno, St.; Odo, St.; Hugh the Great.) Anything indeed more unlike the primitive mo- nastici-sm with its caves and indiwlualism than this elaborate system with the pomp and circumstance which soon attended it could hardly be imagined, and the instinct which pronijitcil men to become monks soon began to tell against a type of monasticism so dangerously liable to relapse into mere formahsm. It must be understood however that the observance of Cluny was still strict and the reaction again.st it was not based on any need for a reform in morals or disci- pline. The abbots of Cluny during the first two cen- turies of its existence, with the sole exception of Pon- tius (1109) who was soon deposed, were men of great sanctity and commanding ability. In practice how- ever the system had resulted in crushing all initiative out of the .superiors of the subordinate monasteries and so, when a renewal of vigour was needed there was no one capable of the effort required and the life was crushed out of the body by its own weight. That this defect was the real cause why the system failed is car-