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BENEDICTINE


454


BENEDICTINE


kings and emperors and many distinguished persons amongst their confratres, and tliere is hardly a monas- tery of the present day which has not some lay people cormected witli it by this spiritual bond of union.

(4) yuns. — Nothing very definite can be said as to the first nuns U\'ing imder the Rule of St. Bene- dict. St. Gregory the Great certainly tells us that St. Benedict's sister, Scholastica, presided over such a comnnmity of religious women who were estabhshed in a monastery situated about five miles from his Abbey of Monte Cassino; but whether that was merely an isolated instance, or whether it may be legitimately regarded as the foundation of the female department of the order, is at least an open question. We do not even know what rule t hese nuns followed, though we may con- jecture that they were under St. Benedict's spiritual direction and that whatever rule he gave them probably differed but little, ex- cept perhaps in minor details, from that for monks whicli has come down to us bearing his name. It seems tolerably certain, at any rate, that as St. Benedict's Rule began to be diffused abroad, women as well as men formed themselves into communities in order to live a religious Ufe according to its prin- ciples, and wherever the Benedictine monks went, there also we find monasteries being established for nuns. Nun- neries were founded in Gaul by Sts. Csesarius and .\ureUan of Aries, St. Martin of Tours, and St. Col- umbanus of Luxeuil, and up to the sixth century the rules for nuns in most general use were those of St. Ca>sarius and St. Columbanus, portions of which are still extant. These were, however, eventually supplanted by that of St. Benedict, and amongst the earliest nunneries to make the change were Poitiers, Chelles, Remireraont, and Faremoutier. Mabillon assigns the beginning of the change to the year 620, though more probably the Benedictine Rule was not received in its entirety at so early a date, but was only combined with the other rules then in force. Remiremont became for women what Luxeuil was for men, the centre from which sprang a numerous spiritual family, and though later on it was converted into a convent of noble cannonesses, instead of nuns properly so called, a modified form of the Benedictine Rule was still observed there. St. Benedict's Rule was widely propagated by Charlemagne and his son, Louis the Pious, and the Coimcil of Aix-la-Chapelle in 817 enforced its general observance in all the nunneries of the empire. The Abbey of Notre Dame de Ronceray, at .\ngers, founded" in 1028 by Fulke, Covmt of Anjou, was one of the most influen- tial convents in France in the Middle Ages, and had under its jurisdiction a large number of dependent priories.

The earliest convents for women in England were at Folkestone, founded 630, and St. Mildred's in Thanet, established 670, and it is probable that under the influence of the successors of St. Augustine's monks at Canterbury and elsewhere, these nunneries observed the Benedictine Rule from the first. Other important Anglo-Saxon convents were: Ely, founded by St. Etheldreda in 673, Barking (675), Wimborne


Nun


(713), Wilton (800), Ramsey, Hants (967), and Amesbury (980). In Northumbria, Whitby (657) and Coldingham (673) were the cliief houses of nuns. St. Hilda was the most celebrated of the abbesses of Whitby, and it was at Wliitby that the synod which decided the paschal controversy was held in 664. Most of these convents were destroyei.1 by Danish invaders during the ninth and tenth centuries, but some were subsequently restored and many others were founded in England after the Norman conquest.

The first nmas in Germany came from England in the eighth century, having been brought over by St. Boniface to assist him in liis work of conversion and to pro\-ide a means of education for their own sex amongst the newly evangelized Teutonic races. Sts. Lioba, Thecla, and Walburga were the earliest of these pioneers, and for them and their com- panions, who were cliiefly from Wimborne, St. Boniface established many convents throughout the countries in which he preached. In other parts of Europe nunneries sprang up as rapidly as the abbeys for men, and in the Middle Ages they were almost, if not quite, as numerous. In later medieval times the names of St. Gertrude, called the "Great", and her sister St. Mechtilde. who flourished in the thir- teenth century, shed a lustre on the Benedictine nuns of Germany. In Italy the convents seem to have been very numerous during the Middle Ages. In the thirteenth century several were founded in which the reform of Vallombrosa was adopted, but none of these now exist. There were also convents be- longing to the reforms of Camaldoli and Mount Olivet, of which a few still survive.

Except in the Bursfeld Union, which includetl houses of both sexes, and in the Cistercian reform, where the nuns were always under the Abbot of Citeaux. and a few others of minor importance, the congregational system was never applied to the houses of women in an organized way. The con- vents were generally either imder the exclusive di- rection of some particular abbey, through the in- fluence of which they had been established, or else, especially when founded by lay people, they were subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese in which they were situated. These two conditions of existence have sur\-ived to the present day; there are nine belonging to the first and over two hundred and fifty to the second category.

Early in the twelfth century France was the scene of a somewhat remarkable phase in the historj- of the Benedictine nuns. Robert of Arbrissel. formerly chancellor to the Duke of Brittany, embraced an eremitical Ufe in which he had many disciples, and ha\'ing founded a monastery of canons regular, carried out a new idea in 1099 when he established the double Abbey of Fontevrault in Poitou, famous in France for many centuries. The monks and nuns both kept the Benedictine Rule, to which were added some additional austerities. The law of enclosure was very strictly observed. In 1115 the founder placed the entire community, monks as well as nuns, under the rule of the abbess, and he further pro- \'ided that the person elected to that office should always be chosen from the outside world, as such a one would have more practical knowledge of affairs and capacity for administration than one trained in the cloister. Many noble ladies and royal princesses of France are reckoned amongst the aboesses of Fontevrault. (See Fo.\tevr.\ult.)

Excepting at Fontevrault the nuns seem at first not to have been strictly enclosed, as now, but were free to leave the cloister whenever some special duty or occasion might demand it. as in the case of the English nuns already mentioned, who went to Germany for active missionary work. Tliis freedom with regard to enclosure gave rise, in course of time,