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Benedict of Nursia, St

The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Benedict of Nursia, St (c.480–c.545) 

Author of what became the most important collection of monastic rules in western Christianity. Little is known about his life. His Rule is the only work to survive from his hand. Posthumously, *Pope Gregory I the Great included an account of Benedict’s life in his Dialogues. According to Gregory, Benedict fled ordinary society to become a *hermit in the hilly district of Norcia, northeast of Rome. Eventually, he became an abbot of several *monasteries, a career which culminated in the abbacy of *Monte Cassino.

As abbot, he composed his Rule, which was intended, like contemporary works of this genre, to be a guide to the monastic life and a constitutional document for monastic communities. It is an original work of deep spiritual insight, which artfully combines, often verbatim, several extant traditions about the monastic life. Although influential for centuries after Benedict’s death, it was not until the 9th century and the efforts of the monastic reformer *Benedict of Aniane that Benedict’s Rule became the standard for monastic communities, first in the *Carolingian Empire and later in western Europe more generally. Over time, the monasteries of Monte Cassino and *Fleury both claimed to possess the *relics of Benedict, and thus be the centre of his posthumous cult. See also benedictine order; customaries and ordinals, music and liturgy in; monasticism.

Thomas Head


T. Fry et al., eds, RB 1980: The Rule of St Benedict in Latin and English with Notes (1981).Find this resource:

    Gregory the Great, Dialogues, tr. O. Zimmerman (1959).Find this resource:

      La Règle de Saint Benoît, ed. A. de Vogüé and J. Neufville, 6 vols (1971–72).Find this resource:

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