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A monk or nun of an order following the rule of St Benedict. From the original Benedictine foundations at Subiaco and Monte Cassino in Italy the number of monastic houses in Europe grew to many thousands. The order reached its peak of prestige and influence in the 10th and 11th centuries, with the abbey of Cluny in Burgundy its most prestigious foundation. The basic concept of Benedictine monasticism was that it should encourage a way of life separated from the world, within which monks could achieve a life devoted to prayer.

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