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BENEDICTINE


446


BENEDICTINE



1


A Benedictine Abbot


for mutual dependence diminished, but when St. Benedict Biscop came to England with Archbishop Theodore in 669, it fell to liiin to foster a spirit of uniformity amongst the various Benedictine monas- teries 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-opera- tion St. Ethel wold brought out his "Concordia Regu- laris". which is in- teresting as an early attempt to procure a imiform observance in all the monasteries of a nation. A cen- tury later Lanfranc continued the same idea by issuing a series of statutes regulating the hfe of the English Bene- dictines. It should be noted here that these several at- tempts were directed only towards secur- ing outward uniform- ity, and that as yet there was apparently no idea of a congregation , properly so called, with a central source of all legislative authority. In France the abbeys of Fleury, Marmoutier, St. Benignus (Dijon), St. Denis, Chaise-Dieu (Auvergne), St. Victor (Marseilles), St. Claude, Lerins, Sauve-Majour, Tiron, and Val-des-Choux, were all centres of larger or smaller groups of houses, in each of which there was uniform- ity of rule as well as more or less dependence upon the cliief 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 Lerins, which in 150.5 joined the ItaHan congregation of St. Justina of Padua. In Italy the cliief groups had their centres at Cluse in Piedmont, at Fonte Avellana, which was united to the Camaldolese congregation in 1569, La Cava, which joined the congregation of St. Justina in the fifteenth centurj'. and Sasso-\"ivo, which was suppressed as a separate federation in the same century and its forty houses united to other congre- gations 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 will be described in due course. Other free unions, for purposes of mutual help and similarity of discipline, were to be found also in Scotland, Scandina\ia, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere, in which the same idea was carried out, viz., not so much a congregation in its later sense, with a cen- tralized 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 Bene- dictine abbeys in different comitries 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 poUty and history. By the twelfth canon of this council it was decreed that all the monasteries of each ecclesias- tical 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 "■i'isitors" who were to make canonical visitations 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 exerci-sed 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 liis own monastery. England was the first and for some time the only country to give this new arrangement a fair trial. It was not imtil after the issue of the Bull "Benedictina" by Benedict XII, in 1336, that other countries, somewhat tardily, organized their national congregations 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 e.xceptions and some slight variations in matters of detail, the normal form of government thoughout the order.

Progress of the Order. — At the time of this im- portant 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 cen- tury 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

Copes, 200 cardinals, 7,000 archbishops, 15,000 ishops. and over 1,500 canonized saints. It had enrolled among its members 20 emperors, 10 em-

Eresses, 47 kings, and 50 queens. And these num- ers continued to increase by reason of the additional strength wiiich accrued to the order from its con- solidation 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 obHterated 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 remark- able series of revivals and an accession of missionary enterprise, mth the result that there are now over one hundred and fifty monasteries of black monks, or, including affiUated congregations and convents of nuns, a total of nearly seven hundred. These re- vivals and examples of expansion will now be treated in detail under the headings of the various congre- gations, which will bring the history of the order down to the present day.

(] ) The English Congregation. — The EngUsh were the first to put into practice the decrees of the Lateran Council. Some time was necessarily spent