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Death of Saint Benedict. 

I. 0. G. I). 






O. S. B. 

From the German of 





• . *. . • 

Main Lib. 




This history of The Life and Times of St. Benedict has 
been translated v\nth the hope that it may increase 
in some small degree the knowledge of a saint who 
in good old Catholic days held a place in the heart 
of nearly every Englishman. That this was so we 
cannot doubt, seeing that his sons brought to our 
land the gift of the true faith, and with it all that 
was noblest and best, and that Benedictine Abbeys 
were studded over the length and breadth of the 
country. When the Reformation swept away the 
monasteries and scattered the monks, devotion to 
St. Benedict gradually declined and became extinct. 
Now, however, when a brighter day is dawning for 
the Church in England, surely it is time to stir up 
and re-enkindle in our hearts the love of our fore- 
fathers for a saint to whom we owe so much. . 

The translation is a very free one, and some stories 
and traditions culled from old writers have been here 
and there inserted with a view of enhancing the 
interest of the book. As regards dates, many of 
them are the subject of controversy ; but on this 
point it has been thought best to adhere strictly to 
our author. 




As formerly St. Benedict gathered some of the 
greatest of his saints from our English soil, so may 
he now reap once again a fresh and yet more fruitful 
harvest from a land which has so long lain fallow. 

0. S. B. 

Bergholt, 1900. 

We have received the following authorisation for 
this translation from the present Abbot of Scheyern 
Abbey, the Eight Kev. Dom Eupert III. : — 

" God be praised that the life of St. Benedict 
written by our good Prior Lechner, who died on 
26th July, 1874, should have been so highly appre- 
ciated by our sisters as to have been translated by 
them for publication. The work will doubtless 
prove a source of edification to many, besides 
causing great satisfaction to our Community at 

''I gladly avail myself of this opportunity to 
send my heartfelt blessing to every member of 
your 'House of God,' while I beg a remembrance 
in your holy prayers both for myself and my 

" Abbey op Our Lady's Assumption 
" and the Holy Cross, 

" Scheyern, Bavaria." 


St. Paul teaches us in his First Epistle to the 
Corinthians that "the foolish things of the world 
hath God chosen, that He may confound the 
wise : and the weak things of the world hath God 
chosen, that He may confound the strong : And the 
base things of the world, and the things that are 
contemptible hath God chosen, and things that are 
not, that He might bring to nought things that are : 
That no flesh should glory in His sight , '. 1 The 
blessed Benedict was yet a child when, moved and 
enlightened by the Holy Spirit, his pure young 
heart grasped the full meaning of this teaching of 
the Apostle. Kealising its truth, at the first sound 
of the Divine Voice calling him he left wealth and 
honour, even home and family, in order to find 
salvation and everlasting life in Him for Whose sake 
he renounced all earthly joys. He retired into soli- 
tude, and for three years lived in unbroken com- 
munion with his Creator, thus satisfying the one 
object of his desire. After this preparation God 
called him to be a guide and a teacher to many, 
though his own attraction and longing was to live 
hidden and unknown ; and the humble youth, who 

1 1 Cor. i. 27-29. 


considered himself the last and the least of all man- 
kind, was chosen to be the legislator whose precepts 
have been, and ever will be, the foundation of 
monastic life in the West. Weak and powerless 
of himself, God endowed him with the gift of 
miracles to such an eminent degree that the lapse 
of centuries has but made their fame more wide- 
spread ; and Benedict, the humble disciple of Christ, 
has been universally recognised as a great power in 
the Church, a renowned character in history, an 
object of admiration to all, and the Patriarch of 
Western monks. What wonder then that St. 
Gregory the Great, both Pope and Doctor, con- 
sidered it a privilege and a pleasure to immortalise 
in his Dialogues the life and miracles of this saint ? 
Possessing as we do this unparalleled biography, 
written by one famous alike for his sanctity and 
his learning, it would seem not only bold, but almost 
unnecessary, to attempt to bring forward a second. 
What could be added to the praise already bestowed 
by St. Gregory? Who could write with greater 
unction, and at the same time with greater modera- 
tion, or pretend to possess his inimitable talent of 
relating facts in the most comprehensive and yet 
concise way? Indeed, his work was regarded with 
such reverence that for a thousand years no one 
dreamt of compiling a fresh life of the saint ; the 
only thing considered allowable and tending to 
Benedict's glorification was either to write com- 
mentaries on St. Gregory's life or to paraphrase and 
clothe it with a poetic form. 


In modern times, when printing gave a fresh 
impetus to every branch of literature, the idea of 
bringing out the life of St. Benedict in a new and 
original form commended itself to many minds, 
and several biographies were published ; yet, not- 
withstanding the talent and diligence which they 
evinced, they soon fell into oblivion, while St. 
Gregory's life not only survived, but became even 
more appreciated, for all felt that his work was 
endowed with a higher value than that bestowed 
by human gift or human industry. It may then 
be asked, with reason, why the present volume has 
been written, and why the author has attempted 
what others have tried with little success. The 
question is difficult to answer satisfactorily, acknow- 
ledging as I do that St. Gregory's life cannot be 
improved upon. The task is a hazardous one, for 
it seems to demand abilities which I cannot boast 
of ; and not without alarm do I read those words of 
Kerz that ' ' it would be very desirable for a man 
like Gorres to use the remarkable gifts with which 
God has endowed him to undertake the portrayal 
of such a great and holy man as St. Benedict". 

My apology then for the present volume must 
be that I was urged to undertake the task, not only 
by the entreaties of fellow-monks and the invitation 
of superiors, but also by men the value of whose 
judgment in the matter encouraged me to attempt 
a work of the kind ; added to which, my exceeding 
great love for our blessed Founder made me the 
more anxious to place one little flower side by side 


with the magnificent wreath woven by St. Gregory 
some thirteen centuries ago. After mature delibera- 
tion, several thoughts presented themselves which 
seemed to justify the undertaking, and served as 
guides in its execution. First, that a subject good 
and holy in itself cannot be too carefully considered, 
and that by looking at it from different points of 
view we are better enabled to appreciate and under- 
stand it. Take, for example, the Holy Scriptures : 
it would be impossible to guess the number of works 
written to elucidate and explain every portion of 
them. The same passages ever form the subjects 
of sermons, commentaries, books, etc., and yet they 
always seem fresh, they never grow old or out of 
date, but bring forth untold mines of riches as they 
are considered in some new light. Of course I am 
not for a moment comparing St. Gregory's Dialogues 
to the Sacred Scriptures ; at the same time, it is a 
work in which we cannot fail to see the influence 
of the Holy Spirit, and to be edified by the sublime 
examples of the Gospel precepts. Surely then no 
blame is to be attached to one who endeavours to 
present the same truths under a new aspect ; not to 
obscure the light already thrown by a more masterly 
hand, but to enhance it by looking at it from another 
point of view. 

Again, a biographer, like a painter, may depict the 
same subject in various ways : one will devote the 
whole of his canvas to the subject of his portrait, 
another will make him prominent in a group, while 
a third prefers to place him among scenes which are 


in keeping with his character or profession. St. 
Gregory chose to treat St. Benedict as a solitary 
figure, and makes scarcely any mention of his con- 
temporaries ; so much so that, if it were not for one 
or two names which belong to history, and which 
occur in connection with the saint's life, we should 
not even know at what period he lived. There are, 
however, many who would gladly hear something of 
his contemporaries, of the history of his time, and 
of those events which either directly or indirectly 
influenced him. It is the aim of the present volume 
to portray our saint as the chief figure of a group, 
showing the part he played in the Church and in the 
world, and how he was affected by the vicissitudes 
of the history of his day. While peace prevailed he 
was employed in planting and sowing the good seed, 
and reaping the plentiful harvest which was the 
result of his labours ; while in times of war, famine 
and distress his hands were uplifted in supplication, 
his mortifications were redoubled in expiation, and 
the exceeding charity of his heart ever found means 
to relieve the sufferers. And now that he rejoices 
in Heaven surrounded by a family which no man 
can number — now that his visible presence is no 
longer with us to teach and encourage us, the bright 
light of his example still remains to spur us on ; a 
light which time can never dim, and which, while 
the world lasts, must ever continue to increase God's 
glory and win souls to Him. 

And lastly, it cannot be without interest to study 
the country to which the subject of our biography 


belonged, its inhabitants, the places where he dwelt, 
and all those surroundings and circumstances which 
affected him, in order that by so doing we may learn 
to know and appreciate him more. 

Alas, that such a task should be entrusted to one 
with such meagre talents ! With such materials, 
what a marvellous picture might have been produced 
of a saint who, trampling under foot "the asp and 
the basilisk," possessed that power with which man 
in his primitive innocence was endowed. The author 
can only hope that God will mercifully accept the 
praise which, through this biography, he has en- 
deavoured to render Him : that Our Lord Jesus 
Christ will not despise the offering, however small ; 
and that the Holy Ghost may graciously bless both 
the writer and the reader, so that the day may come 
at last when, with St. Benedict, we may ever sing 
" Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus ". 


Prior of Scheyem. 
January, 1857. 



Our first parents, having been expelled from the 
paradise of delights through their own fault, were 
constrained -to live a life of toil, hardship and pain. 
Nevertheless God in His infinite mercy did not 
exact from them the full penalty of their guilt, but 
by the promise of a future Kedeemer He gave them 
a hope of one day regaining that state of unspeak- 
able bliss for which they had been created. More- 
over, desiring that all should be saved, He sent His 
only-begotten Son to live and die for their redemp- 
tion ; and implanted in the heart of fallen man an 
instinctive craving after that innocence and happi- 
ness which he had lost, giving him also the means 
to make that longing a reality. Hence it is that 
we all live in the hope of something better ; each 
soul in some degree feels that it%is created for a 
nobler and greater end than the present life on 
earth. But the knowledge of what that end really 
is — namely, union with God — has been dimmed, 
nay, in too many cases totally obscured, by the 

prevalence of unbelief, pride and concupiscence. 



There are, however, and always have been, a 
chosen few who recognise for what they have been 
created, and who, faithful to the inspiration of Divine 
grace, draw nearer day by day to that union with 
their Creator which will be perfected only in 

Love alone can attain to this end ; but there are 
two roads by which those who love may reach the 

The first of these roads is trod by the majority of 
good Christians, and consists in an exact observance 
of the precepts, in good works and in self-denial. 
Hence, when the young man in the Gospel asked 
our Lord : ' ' What good shall I do that I may have 
life everlasting? " our Lord answered, "Keep the 
commandments ".* 

The second road is that of perfection : this con- 
sists in the observance not only of precepts, but 
also of counsels ; not only of self-denial, but of 
self-renunciation. Those who would tread this 
path must ever aspire and strive after a higher 
state of sanctity ; not content till they reach the 
very summit of their mountain, which can never 
be in this mortal life. This road of perfection forms 
the groundwork of religious life, because religious 
life is simply a means to an end ; the end, as we 
have already pointed out, being union with God ; 
and this union is attained most surely in a life 
where every rule and occupation tends to bring a 

1 Matt. xix. 16, 17. 


man nearer and nearer to his Maker. A religious 
renounces everything : family, possessions, pleasures, 
even self, that by so doing he may the more effec- 
tually obtain that which alone can satisfy the 
cravings of his heart, and that he may be able to 
say with the Apostle in very truth, " our conversa- 
tion is in heaven , \ 1 



Henoch and Abel are the first examples we meet 
with in the Old Testament of those chosen souls 
who by their fidelity to grace tread this path of 
perfection, leading eremetical or quasi-religious lives. 
Then we have " the Father of the Faithful," Abra- 
ham, whose vocation has been an incentive to 
countless souls who like him have been inspired 
to leave home and country for Christ's sake. Moses 
too, in one sense, may be said to have led a religious 
life, first for forty years as a shepherd and a hermit, 
and again for another forty years as leader to his 
people, who formed, as it were, a religious com- 
munity living under a rule, or the law which God 
gave to them through him. In this law we find 
a decisive regulation for those who wished to lead 
more perfect lives : " When a man, or woman, shall 
make a vow to be sanctified, and will consecrate 
themselves to the Lord : They shall abstain from 
w 7 ine, and from every thing that may make a man 

1 Phil. iii. 20. 


drunk. They shall not drink vinegar of wine, or 
of any other drink, nor any thing that is pressed out 
of the grape : nor shall they eat grapes either fresh 
or dried. . . . All the time of his separation no razor 
shall pass over his head until the day be fulfilled of 
his consecration to the Lord. He shall be holy, and 
shall let the hair of his head grow." 1 

Later on we have the pious Anna vowing her 
child to the service of the Temple even before his 
birth ; a vow which Samuel himself afterwards fully 
ratified by his life of heroic devotion in the service 
of God. Again, we find examples of religious com- 
munities in the Nazarites and Rechabites. The 
latter were a whole tribe descended from Hobab, 
the brother-in-law of Moses. By their rule they 
never touched wine nor owned fields or vineyards, 
but they dwelt in tents and lived by rearing cattle. 
God set them up as an example of conscientious 
fidelity to all the children of Israel, and addressed 
to them these words by the mouth of Jeremias the 
prophet : " Because you have obeyed the command- 
ment of Jonadab your father, and have kept all his 
precepts, and have done all that he commanded 
you : Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the 
God of Israel : There shall not be wanting a man 
of the race of Jonadab the son of Rechab, standing 
before Me for ever." 2 

The school of the prophets founded by Samuel 
was the most perfect model of religious life, where 

1 Num. vi. 2, 3, 5. 2 Jer. xxxv. 18, 19. 


contemplation, prayer, psalmody, Divine science and 
sacred music were nurtured by instruction and pro- 
moted by self-sacrifice and renunciation. Among 
the many shining lights of sanctity and wisdom 
reared in this school Elias stands pre-eminent. For 
many years he lived the life of a hermit beside the 
brook of Carith, fed miraculously by a raven : a life 
which has been emulated by so many thousands of 
his followers. 

That the holy prophets adhered strictly to poverty 
is proved by innumerable instances : suffice it to 
quote that of Eliseus, who refused the ten talents 
and costly presents offered to him by Naaman, and 
would not take so much as a single piece of money. 
Mention might also be made of the Assideans, who 
by their existence testified to the universal recogni- 
tion of religious life ; unfortunately, however, these 
formed a sect which later lapsed into error. 

But of all the saints of the Old Law, patriarchs 
and prophets, priests and kings, none surpassed or 
even equalled the great Precursor of our Divine Lord. 
Sanctified in his mother's womb, he dedicated his 
whole life to unbroken intercourse with God. Clothed 
in camel's hair, feeding on locusts, he led an existence 
wholly supernatural, and in all things showed himself 
worthy of our Lord's words concerning him : " There 
hath not risen among them that are born of women 
a greater than John the Baptist ". 1 

These recluses and holy men of the Old Testament 
were the types and forerunners of those who were to 

J Matt. xi. 11. 


lead a life even more perfect than their own under 
the new dispensation. 



When He who calls Himself the ''Light of the 
/World," Jesus Christ our Lord, came upon this earth 
He dispersed the darkness which prevailed. The 
dim light of prophecy and type, figure and parable, 
gave way to the splendour of Divine truth taught and 
expounded by the Author of all truth. That which 
God had implanted in the hearts of men, that which 
He had announced through the instrumentality of 
others, He now revealed in all its fulness by means" 
of His only begotten Son. 

What then was it that this Divine teacher taught 
concerning religious life ? He taught that there is 
a life raised above the common level, a life led by 
those who strive after the heights of perfection : 
hence His words to the rich young man : " If thou 
wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to 
the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : 
and come, follow Me ". 1 Again He said to His 
Apostles : "Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money 
in your purses : Nor scrip for your journey, nor two 
coats, nor shoes, nor a staff ". 2 Thus poor and des- 
titute of all they were to go forth and spiritually 
conquer the world. 

So also, with regard to chastity, Christ says: "There 
are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for 

1 Matt. xix. 21. 2 Matt. x. 9, 10. 


the kingdom of heaven ", l In the same spirit the 
Apostle writes : " Concerning virgins, I have no com- 
mandment of the Lord : but I give counsel, as having 
obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful. I think 
therefore that this is good for the present necessity, 
that it is good for a man so to be," and " He that 
giveth his virgin in marriage doth well : and he that 
giveth her not, doth better." 2 

And, lastly, Christ taught that virtue which sur- 
passes in value even voluntary poverty or chastity, 
namely, obedience or the giving up of our own will. 
"He that loveth his life shall lose it: and he that 
hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life 
eternal. If any man minister to Me, let him follow 
Me : and where I am, there also shall My minister 
be." 3 By these words Christ not only commands 
us to put to death our will and inclinations, but He 
also counsels us to renounce even the right of free- 
will ; so that those who bind themselves by obedience 
in religious life can truly say : "I seek not my own 
will, but the will of Him that sent me ; " 4 that is, I 
seek the will of those to whom for Christ's sake 
t have subjected myself. How pregnant are St. 
Gregory's words on this point : "It is not very hard 
for a man to leave what he has ; but it is exceedingly 
laborious for him to give up what he is ". 5 

The counsels of our Divine Lord and of His holy 
Apostles with regard to the more perfect life sank 

1 Matt. xix. 12. 2 1 Cor. vii. 25-26, 38. 3 John xii. 25, 26. 
4 John v. 30. B Homil. 32 in Evang. 


deep into the hearts of the first Christians, who en- 
deavoured to carry them out as far as the state of 
the Church then permitted. That little band of 
believers at Jerusalem, so sweetly depicted in the 
Acts as having "but one heart and one soul," and 
possessing all things in common, 1 forms a most 
perfect picture of what a community should be. 
And doubtless the same mode of life was practised 
by Christians in other places, for in the early ages 
of persecution thousands of men and women followed 
strictly the evangelical counsels, and were only pre- 
vented from forming themselves into communities 
by the stringent laws enforced against them. 

The elements of religious life always existed on a 
small scale ; thus every bishop's household was, in 
a sense, a religious community ; so, too, virgins were 
everywhere fo be found who, having taken the veil 
and vowed their virginity to God, led retired lives 
either in their own homes or in houses set apart. 
St. Cyprian says : " Virgins are the more excellent 
portion of Christ's flock ; the renowned fruitfulness 
of the Church, their Mother, flourishes abundantly in 
them ". 2 Again Tertullian writes : " These virgins, 
so pleasing and acceptable to God, hold nothing 
more dear to them than holy chastity ; and love to 
be bound to God rather than to men. With Him 
they live ; with Him they speak ; on Him they 
meditate day and night, offering Him their prayers 
and gifts." 3 They received the consecration proper 

1 Acts iv. 32. 2 De habitu Virg. > Ad uxor., lib. i. 


to virgins, wore a special dress, had a place set apart 
for them in the assemblies of the faithful, and were 
maintained by the Church. 

Among men there were many who, having made 
a vow of chastity, led holy and retired lives in the 
practice of penance, manual labour and good works. 
They are mentioned by Athenagoras, who in the 
reign of Marcus Aurelius published a book in de- 
fence of the Christians. In his apology he says that 
the ascetics drew their motive of total renunciation 
from the hope of a more intimate union with God. 
Origen and Clement of Alexandria likewise speak in 
highest praise of these pious men, extolling their 
mortification, poverty, chastity, watchings, prayers 
and fasts. 

Many retired into the desert in order to sever 
themselves completely from all intercourse with 
their fellow-creatures ; these were styled Anchorets 
or Hermits. It is generally supposed that St. Paul 
of Thebes in the third century gave the first ex- 
ample of this total seclusion. At the beginning of 
the fourth century, when the persecutions had at 
length ceased, the ascetic life developed in a wonder- 
ful manner ; it grew and flourished in the deserts 
till it became a mighty tree, productive of those 
countless blossoms of which the world was not 

St. Anthony, the Egyptian, born a.d. 251 of noble 
parents, who had embraced a life of solitude from 
his earliest youth, was chosen by God to be the 
great promoter of monastic life. After having spent 


thirty- six years alone in the desert occupied in mor- 
tifying his passions and sanctifying his soul, urged 
by a Divine inspiration and by the entreaties of his 
friends, he once more appeared among men, and, like 
a second John, became a preacher in the wilderness. 

"His meekness," says Count Stolberg (in his 
history of religion), "his wisdom, example, and all 
the wonders which through him God worked upon 
the sick, the possessed, and the diseased, and more 
than all the visible blessing and protection of God, 
drew great multitudes to him ; many became his 
disciples and under his guidance led lives of prayer, 
labour and penance." The more the blessed saint 
strove to evade the task of leading and teaching 
others, so much the more eagerly did those who 
aspired after perfection attach themselves to him. 
Conscious of his own weakness and incapacity he 
often fled away, but always unsuccessfully, for each 
time his retreat was discovered and he was com- 
pelled to return to the leadership he would fain have 
shunned. In a few years his disciples were numbered 
by hundreds ; they lived together divided into larger 
or smaller communities, and endeavoured by prayer, 
abstinence, labour, poverty and obedience to walk 
the narrow way which leads to everlasting life. 
Some dwelt on the banks of the Red Sea, others 
near the Isthmus of Suez. 

Contemporary with St. Anthony were other great 
masters of the ascetic life : notably St. Ammon, St. 
Pachomius and St. Macarius. 

St. Ammon lived in the desert of Nitria in Lower 


Egypt. After observing virginal chastity in the 
marriage state, he separated from his wife ; and 
settling in the desert he gathered round him a 
number of disciples who dwelt in separate cells. 
Later, by the advice of St. Anthony, he built a 
monastery ; and at the end of the fourth century his 
disciples numbered over 5,000. 

In the Thebaid, or centre of the Egyptian desert, 
St. Pachomius was the great light and example of 
religious life. Having consecrated himself to God, 
and after being trained in monastic discipline by St. 
Palemon, he received a Divine command to build at 
Tabenna a dwelling-place for those whom God would 
send him. This probably occurred in the year 325 ; 
a year immortalised by the famous Council of Nicea. 
The concourse of people who flocked to this holy 
man surpassed anything hitherto known. He founded 
eight monasteries, which he governed collectively as 
abbot ; and his monks numbered about 7,000.* St. 
Pachomius was the first to write a Kule and to 
prescribe an exact method of living for his disciples. 
We find it narrated in some manuscripts relating 
to him that the principal points of his Kule were 
dictated to him by an angel. 2 

In the desert of Scete St. Macarius was the 
superior of many monasteries ; while God made use 
of St. Hilarion, a disciple of St. Anthony, to found 
religious life in Syria. Meantime the fame of these 
holy solitaries spread into most distant lands ; so 

1 Pallad. hist, laus., chap, xxxviii. > Bolland. Acta Ss. 14 Maj. 


that before the close of the fourth century monas- 
teries nourished even in far off Britain. We may 
form some idea of the universal esteem felt for 
religious from these words of St. John Chrysostom : 
" Entering the Egyptian desert one finds a waste 
which deserves rather to be called a paradise, for it 
is studded with innumerable angels clothed with 
mortal bodies. A vast army of men and women 
peoples that waste, walking in the path of virtue, 
whose lives give forth a brilliant lustre ; in number 
and in splendour they surpass even the stars of 
heaven." l 



From the very beginning there were various forms 
of religious life ; but the first Rule written with any 
detail was that of St. Pachomius, and upon this all 
later ones were grounded. According to his Rule 
every monastery, or laura, was composed of twenty- 
four orders or choirs ; each division had its own 
superior, and these superiors were all subject to the 
Abbot of Tabenna. Again, each order had its own 
particular office or occupation ; one was employed in 
cooking ; another in nursing the sick ; a third had 
care of the guests ; a fourth had charge of the gate ; 
others were occupied in instructing novices and 
beginners, while others again had to work in the 
garden or bakehouse or at some trade. Each order 

1 Horn, 8 in Matth, 


had a separate house, built with branches of trees or 
blocks of wood; these were divided into cells, and 
three brethren dwelt in each cell. 

The abbot was in constant correspondence with 
the subordinate superiors ; he frequently visited the 
monasteries, and twice a year — at Easter and in the 
middle of August — he held a general chapter at the 
principal monastery of Pabau. In these chapters 
all that could promote religious discipline and per- 
fection was discussed ; dissensions were pacified ; 
fresh fervour aroused ; and the link of fraternal 
charity strengthened and renewed. 

Any one desirous of being admitted into the monas- 
tery had to wait at least ten days ; during which time 
his petition was examined and his motive considered. 
If the result of the investigation proved satisfactory, 
the petitioner was at once clothed with a habit, his 
secular dress being laid aside in case he might after- 
wards return to the world. He was not allowed to 
offer any gift on entering. As a novice he was 
permitted to take part in the prayers and exercises 
of the community ; but during the first year of his 
probation he remained under the supervision of the 
porter, and was employed in waiting on the guests. 
During the second and third years he was trained in 
all the duties and observances of his Kule, especially 
in exact and prompt obedience. All were obliged to 
know how to read ; and each one had to learn the 
greater part of the Holy Scriptures by heart, particu- 
larly the Psalter and the New Testament. Those 
who were professed were allowed to fast or not in 


proportion to their strength, and their work was 
measured out accordingly. The daily refection was 
taken in common at midday, and there was a collation 
in the evening. The clothing of the monks consisted 
of a short sleeveless tunic made of sackcloth, known 
asa" Lebiton," and girded at the waist with a belt ; 
over this they wore a white sheepskin called a 
" Melotus," which reached from the neck to the feet ; 
and their heads were covered with a large capuce or 
hood, which they never removed. At three separate 
times, viz., in the morning, in the evening, and again 
at night, a trumpet sounded to call the brethren to 
prayer, whereupon each one laying aside his occupa- 
tion hastened to the oratory. Twelve especially 
appointed prayers were then said, preceded by a 
psalm ; on Saturdays and Sundays all received Holy 
Communion. As none of the monks were in Holy 
Orders, a priest from some neighbouring church 
usually came to offer the Holy Sacrifice. The cus- 
tomary food consisted of bread, cheese, olives and 
vegetables salted or prepared with oil and vinegar, 
fruit, figs and salt fish ; cooked vegetables were given 
to the sick and to old men and children, and the sick 
were also allowed meat and wine. On Wednesdays 
and Fridays only one meal was taken and that in the 
evening, but this fast was dispensed in Paschal time. 
The greater part of the day was employed in 
manual labour : some prepared the necessary food 
and clothing ; others occupied themselves in making 
baskets and plaiting mats ; in the East these mats 
supply the place of tables, seats and beds. A pro- 


curator had the charge of disposing of the articles 
made by the brethren and of buying the provisions 
required. For this purpose there were two boats 
constantly passing up and down the Nile, between 
the monasteries and Alexandria. 

Three times a week the head of each division gave 
a conference to his own particular order ; and on 
Saturdays and Sundays the abbot or chief superior 
gave one to the whole community. St. Pachomius 
seems to have given one every evening. Silence was 
strictly enforced. Every monastery had its own 
library from which the monks received books for 
spiritual reading ; each one had to take the greatest 
care of the volume lent him, and had to show it to 
his superior every week, and ask him to explain any 
passage he might not understand. 

At the general chapters the brethren publicly 
accused themselves of their faults, asked for a pen- 
ance, and begged the superior to make known to 
them any imperfection he might perceive. Hos- 
pitality was afforded to all ; the monks washed the 
feet of strangers, offered them refreshment and gave 
them lodging in a place detached from the rest of 
the monastery. The female quarter was situated 
at some distance. A brother was occasionally per- 
mitted to visit his relatives, but under the escort 
of an elder and trustworthy religious. If a monk 
died, those of his own division passed the night 
praying beside his corpse. On the following day 
the whole community carried the body to the 
grave, singing hymns and reciting prayers for the 


departed soul, for whom the Holy Sacrifice was also 

This Eule has been the admiration of all succeeding 
ages ; so much so that its chief points have been 
adopted by all founders of religious orders. Pacho- 
mius enforced his precepts more by his example than 
by his words : his tears and prayers were unceasing ; 
his mortifications unsurpassed ; he was ever vigilant, 
and united the sternness of a father with the tender- 
ness of a mother : so that all who came in contact 
with him felt that he was in very deed t'he model 
and ideal of a perfect monk. 



The dignity and excellence of religious life lie in 
its nature and object. By its nature it cuts a man 
off from all the ties which bind him to earth, and 
thus enables him more swiftly to attain his object, 
which is union with God. ''When a man has de- 
tached himself from worldly cares and all the super- 
fluities of life, and seeks no longer the things of 
earth, but only those of heaven, then, indeed, he 
may rightly be called a saint." 1 

The religious state, therefore, is a school for saints, 
and saints of the highest order, because, by means of 
a rule and vows, it fastens its members to the Cross. 
St. Jerome says very beautifully that " to be a martyr 
it is only necessary to shed one's blood once, but 

1 Origen, Horn. 11 in Levit, 


that the unspotted service of a soul dedicated to 
God is a daily martyrdom. The crown of a martyr 
is wreathed of roses and violets, that of a religious 
of lilies." 1 

"Why," asks St. Bernard, "is the promise made 
to the poor the same as that made to the martyrs, 
unless voluntary poverty be a kind of martyrdom ? " 
Or again: "What is a more admirable, or a more 
painful martyrdom than to restrain one's desires 
and longings?" 2 Indeed, the religious life raises 
those who dedicate themselves to it with fervour to 
the summit of apostolic sanctity. Hence it is that 
St. Jerome says : " To sell all and give to the poor 
•is an apostolic state and the height of virtue, and 
those who embrace this state fly without any hind- 
rance to Christ in heaven ". 3 St. Bernard spoke in 
the same strain when, addressing his monks, he told 
them he esteemed them even more blessed than the 
Apostles, for these left all at the call of Christ, but 
they had renounced everything promptly at the word 
of Christ's servant. " Blessed are they that have not 
seen, and have believed." 4 

It would be impossible to enumerate all the advan- 
tages which the holy fathers ascribe to the religious 
state. They say it raises a man above the earth 
and makes him even in this life similar to the angels 
and saints in heaven. St. Basil writes that "he 
who sues for a divorce with the world must clearly 

1 In epitaphio Paulae. 2 Serm. 1 omn. Ss. 

:i Ep, 8 ad Demetriad. 4 John xx. 29. 


understand that by so doing he oversteps the bound- 
aries of human nature and undertakes to walk in the 
path trod by angels. The angelic nature consists 
specially in this, that being free from earthly fetters, 
and undistracted by any creature, the heavenly spirits 
keep their gaze fixed on their Creator." l And to 
quote St. Bernard again : " Our profession," he says, 
" is exceedingly excellent, it is above the heavens, 
it is angelic." 2 St. John Climacus also says that 
"the cloister is an earthly paradise, and the mon- 
astic life an angelic life led by mortal men ". 3 
Nay, some of the fathers affirm that the religious 
state surpasses even that of the angels ; for example, 
St. Ambrose says : " The victory of a virgin is 
greater than that of an angel, for an angel is a 
pure spirit, whereas a virgin triumphs over flesh 
and blood ". 4 Lactantius and St. Bernard are of 
the same opinion. 

From the great excellence of the religious life we 
pass to the advantages it bestows and to the influence 
it exercises, not merely over those consecrated to it, 
but over the whole Church — we might say, the whole 
world. "That which originates from heaven, leads 
back to heaven." In these few words all the 
advantages of religious life might be summarised, 
but the subject is so interesting that it deserves 
to be treated at some length. 

In the first place, those who consecrate themselves 

1 De monach. instit., serm. 1. 2 Ep. ad fratres de monte Dei, chap. ii. 
3 Clim. par ad. grad. 1. i In 1 Cor. vii. 


to God in holy religion are freed from thousands of 
dangers to which souls struggling in the world are 
subject ; they have every opportunity of learning the 
way to perfection ; they are freed from all worldly 
cares ; the concupiscence of the flesh, the concu- 
piscence of the eyes, and the pride of life are almost 
impossible temptations ; they have before them daily 
examples of virtue, they are in constant communion 
with God, and by the path of obedience they tread 
the most direct, the surest and the easiest way to 
heaven ; because to live under obedience means to 
lay all our responsibility on another. St. Bernard 
sums up the advantages of religious life in the follow- 
ing words : "In religion man lives in greater purity, 
falls less frequently, rises more quickly, walks more 
cautiously, enjoys more abundant graces, rests more 
securely, dies with greater confidence, is purified more 
speedily, and receives a greater reward ". 1 And what 
does our Divine Lord and Master say of the reward 
He gives in compensation for the sacrifice made by 
those who renounce all to follow Him ? They " shall 
receive an hundred-fold, and shall possess life ever- 
lasting." 2 

Secondly, religious not only benefit themselves, but 
likewise the whole Church and all those who come 
in contact with them. They are living examples of 
what they profess, and a constant reminder that men 
are not created for this life, but for the next. They 
atone for the sins of the world and avert the just 

1 Homil. de quaer. bona margar. 2 Matt. xix. 29. 


anger of God. They labour for souls, give frequent 
alms, and are a sure refuge for all who are in sorrow 
or suffering. And, finally, the religious state has ever 
been the source and centre of learning from which 
have issued so many popes, bishops and doctors. 
By means of religious men and women the arts and 
sciences have flourished, nations have been civilised, 
lands have been cultivated, deserts have been made 
fertile. They have refuted heresies, healed schisms, 
and, above all, they have furnished the Church with 
most powerful advocates in the persons of martyrs, 
confessors and holy virgins. 

Thirdly, the effects of religious life extend even to 
those dark regions whose inhabitants know not God ; 
for both monks and nuns are ever occupied by night 
and by day imploring light for those who " sit in 
darkness and the shadow of death". Zealous mis- 
sionaries daily go forth to give their life, nay even, 
if necessary, to shed their blood for the conversion 
of heathens and infidels. The greater part of 
Europe is indebted to the Benedictine Order for 
the knowledge of the true faith, and the sons of 
St. Francis, St. Dominic and St. Ignatius have 
ever laboured with a like zeal to carry the 
message of the Gospel to unbelievers in distant 

To say all that might be said on this subject would 
fill volumes ; suffice it then to conclude with St. 
Theresa's words : " Woe to the world, if there were 
no monks ". 




We read most astonishing facts regarding the 
growth and increase of religious life ; facts which 
would seem almost incredible were they not based 
on incontestable evidence. In 373 Kuffinus, who 
travelled in the East, states that there were as many 
monks in the desert as there were laymen in the 
cities. Serapion alone had 10,000 monks under his 
guidance. In other lands also the increase was as 
rapid as it was fruitful. St. Basil, Archbishop of 
Csesarea, did much to promote the monastic state. 
Helyot says of him : " He brought religious life to 
the highest perfection, not only by urging his monks 
to take the solemn vows of their state, but also by 
writing a Kule for them which was, so to say, an 
epitome of the Gospel : a Eule which was found 
so holy and salutary that it was adopted by the 
disciples of St. Anthony, St. Pachomius and St. 
Macarius ; hence he is called the Patriarch of 
Eastern Monks ". 

In the West monasticism received a new im- 
pulse from the life of St. Anthony written by St. 
Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria ; the astonishing 
facts he related thrilled all hearts and converted 
many, encouraging them to go and do likewise. Soon 
numerous and flourishing monasteries sprang up in 
Italy, France, Spain and Britain. Eome set the 
example and France quickly followed. In 360 St. 


Martin of Tours, being then only a priest, built a 
monastery near Poitiers ; this was soon filled with 
monks, and he saw himself obliged to-build another, 
which he called " Marmoutier," or larger monastery. 
When he died, we are told that no less than 4,000 
monks attended his funeral. 

In 409 Cassian, the renowned author of the Col- 
lations, who had himself travelled in the East for 
the purpose of studying monastic life, founded two 
monasteries near Marseilles, one for men and one 
for women; and in 410 St. Honoratus built his 
famous monastery on the island of Lerins, in which 
so strict and rigorous a life was led that it surpassed 
anything hitherto known even in the Egyptian 

St. Augustine was distinguished as the author of 
his widespread Kule, which has been adopted so often 
in the Church as the groundwork of other rules. 
Eusebius, Caesarius and Donatus were also founders 
of religious houses. In Spain, at the Council of 
Saragossa in the year 380, monasticism was already 
spoken of as widespread. 

In England and Ireland religious life began to 
flourish from the time Christianity itself was intro- 
duced, and on account of their numerous monasteries 
and the missionaries they sent forth were called the 
Islands of Saints. Thence came St. Columban and 
his disciples to found their celebrated house in France. 

It is unnecessary to pursue the subject further; 
sufficient has been said to show the state of monastic 
life in general before the birth of St. Benedict, who, 


by his example and by his Rule, exercised such a 
mighty influence upon its formation that he is justly 
styled the Patriarch of Western Monks. 



Formerly, the Western monks followed various 
Rules based on those of St. Basil and St. Pachomius, 
with such modifications as the difference of climate 
and character rendered not only justifiable, but even 
necessary. At the same time it is very easy to un- 
derstand that, once a Rule is altered and adapted, it 
requires more than common wisdom to prevent either 
too much severity or too much laxity. Many holy 
and enlightened men set themselves to cope with this 
difficulty ; notably, Abbots Paul, Stephen, Caesarius, 
Columban, Isidore of Seville and Fructuosus, and 
their efforts met everywhere with most happy results. 

But it was St. Benedict who was specially chosen 
by God to carry out the great work of compiling a 
Rule for Western monks. His own intention was 
to furnish a method suitable for training beginners 
in the monastic life, a method which might attract 
those unable to embrace the severe austerities of the 
Anchorets. Hence it was that he called his Rule 
"the least of all Rules". 1 But this "little Rule" 
speedily became widespread and was everywhere 
adopted, St. Gregory the Great, the first of a long 

1 " Minhnam inchoationis Regulam" 


line of Benedictine Pontiffs, solemnly approved and 
commended it. In his Dialogues he speaks of it as 
follows : " Among so many miracles for which he 
was famous in the world, the holy man of God, 
Benedict, was also sufficiently learned in divinity, 
for he wrote a Rule for his monks, both excellent 
for discretion and eloquent in style. Of whose life 
and conversation if any be curious to know further, he 
may in the institutions of that Rule understand all 
his manner of life and discipline, for that holy man 
could not otherwise teach than himself lived." 1 

St. Fulgentius says of it : "It contains all that is 
necessary ; on no single point does it say too little ; 
its words and precepts lead the observer of them to 
the kingdom of heaven ". In less than a century 
this Rule had penetrated into every country, and not 
only new but ancient communities adopted it. At 
the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, 817, it was unani- 
mously agreed that from that time all monasteries 
should take it as their own. Thus it came about that 
for many centuries all Western monks were Bene- 
dictines ; and it is an historical fact that wherever 
monks were to be found, there Christianity, civilisa- 
tion and learning flourished. So the humble man 
of God who had fled from the world to bury himself 
in solitude became that great light whose brightness 
has shone and continues to shine over so vast a 

No one who studies the development of the various 

1 Dialogues, bk. ii., chap, xxxvi. 


states of Europe can fail to perceive that the whole 
fabric of the mediaeval West was founded and sus- 
tained by the monasticism of St. Benedict, and that 
the whole history of its origin is nothing else than 
a history of Benedictine monasteries and the mission- 
aries sent forth from them. The early history of 
many dioceses is likewise taken chiefly from monastic 
annals, and even later we find it closely linked with 
the monasteries. The monks of those days, being 
mixed up with the Christian life around them, op- 
posed a mighty weapon to the increase of moral 
corruption, and did much to elevate Europe to the 
spiritual pre-eminence which it attained over the 
rest of the world. 

When the Benedictine Order began somewhat to 
decay men were raised up who awakened its dormant 
energy, reformed its life and extended it by new foun- 
dations. Thus began the branch orders of Camaldoli, 
Vallisumbrosa, Citeaux, the Cistercians, the Olivetans, 
the Feuillants and la Trappe. These new branches 
gave fresh vigour and impetus to the religious life, 
and produced not only an increase of virtue, but also 
a marked progress in science and learning. The 
fame of the Abbey of Cluny alone spread throughout 
Europe ; it was renowned for its strict religious 
observance, whilst its abbots were consulted and 
honoured by Popes and Emperors. 

During the last centuries many congregations in 
different countries have been labouring with incredible 
zeal to restore monastic discipline, which had again 
decayed, and to bring once more into prominence 


the study of the Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers. 
And so it is that, while the more modern orders of 
St. Dominic, St. Francis and St. Ignatius are fulfil- 
ling a new and admirable mission in the world, the 
Benedictine Order still flourishes ; renewing its youth 
like the eagle, and continuing to accomplish a very 
considerable work. May God give it strength to 
carry out all that He requires from it, for the glory 
of Jesus Christ, for the honour of the Church, and 
for the salvation of mankind. 



Translator's Preface iii 

Preface v 

Introduction xi 




▼ I. Benedict's Native Country and Lineage. His Birth 

and Infancy 3 

, II. Benedict's Boyhood. The African Persecution . . 9 

III. Early Education of the Saint. Contemporary History 15 

IV. The Eternal City. Vocation 22 

,V. The Flight from Rome. Enfide. The First Miracle . 28 

VI. The Young Hermit 32 

VII. The Hidden Treasure brought to Light ... 39 

, VIII. The Furnace of Temptation 42 

v IX. Benedict as Teacher and Guide 46 

X. Vicovaro. The Poisoned Cup 50 

XI. A Glance at the History of the Time .... 57 
XII. Contemporary Rulers, Famous Bishops . . .67 

XIII. Monasteries at Subiaco 73. 

"XIV. A Summary of St. Benedict's Rule. I. The Abbot— 

The Virtues required in a Monk— The Divine Office 78 
XV. Summary of the Rule (continued). II. The Officials 
and Subordinates of the Monastery — Labour — 

Food— Clothing, etc 84 

XVI. Summary of the Rule (concluded). III. Penances — 
Novitiate — Profession — The Sick — Zeal — Love of 

God 90 



XVII. Maurus and Placid 95 

XVIII. A Monk cured of Wandering during the Time of 

Prayer 100 

XIX. Benedict draws Water from a Rock .... 102 

XX. Miracle of the Iron Sickle 104 

XXI. Maurus rescues Placid from Drowning . . . 106 

XXII. Contemporary History 109 

XXIII. The Franks. St. Remigius 114 

XXIV. "Blessed are they that Suffer Persecution" . . 119 



I. Benedict's Arrival at Monte Cassino . . . .131 

II. Extinction of Idolatry 135 

III. The Erection of a Monastery 140 

IV. St. Scholastica 144 

V. Monastic Life at Monte Cassino. Benedict's Gift of 

Prophecy 147 

VI. Terracina 154 

VII. The First Fruits, or the Martyrdom of St. Placid . 157 

VIII. " The Deaf hear, the Blind see, the Dead rise again " 163 

IX. Benedict's Power over the Devil 167 

X. "Whatsoever you shall bind upon Earth shall be 

bound also in Heaven " 172 

XI. Destruction of the Vandal Rule in Africa by Belisarius. 

He invades Sicily and Italy 175 

XII. St. Silverius and Vigilius 187 

XIII. Famine In Italy. Benedict's Generosity and Con- 

fidence in Divine Providence 190' 

XIV. Progress of the Gothic War 194 

XV. Triumph of Belisarius. Troubles in the East. A 

New King of the Goths . .' . . .197 

XVI. Contemporary Saints 202 

XVII. Zalla the Goth 209 

XVIII. Remarkable Vision granted to the Saint . . . 212 
XIX. Benedict's Prophecy concerning Monte Cassino and 

Rome 215 

XX. King Totila visits St. Benedict at Monte Cassino . 217 

XXI. St. Benedict sends St. Maurus into France . . 221 





I. Benedict's last Meeting with Scholastica .... 229 
II. The Dove of the Cloister flies to her Home . . . 232 

III. " Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of His 

Saints" 235 

IV. The Reward exceeding Great 239 

V. Miracles wrought after the Saint's Death . . . 243 

VI. Universal Veneration 246 

Appendices 249 





a.d. 480. 

North of the Campagna, stretching from the Tiber 
to the Adriatic Sea — bounded on the north by the 
Rubicon, and on the south by the Nera and the 
Esino — lies a region which from earliest times has 
been known as Umbria. Although crossed and 
broken into on all sides by the Apennines, it 
possesses many picturesque plains and fruitful 
valleys. Formerly it was inhabited by a strong 
and hardy race, who for many years succeeded in 
keeping the power of Rome at bay ; but at length 
had to submit to its mighty sway. The principal 
towns of Umbria are Rimini, Pesaro, Sinigaglia, 
Urbino, Camerino, Jesi, Gubbio, Spoleto and Assisi, 
all of which date back to a very early period. 

When the Emperor Augustus made his division 
of land, Umbria was called the sixth Italian region. 
Later on this region belonged partly to the Duchies 
of Urbino and Spoleto and partly to the Marquisate 
of Ancona. Christianity early penetrated into these 
parts ; and many of the larger towns can trace the 
line of their bishops back to apostolic times. 



In the south of Umbria, not far from Spoleto and 
west of the high mountains of Sipilla and Cardossa, 
lies the little city of Nursia, situated on the river 
Freddara in the province of the same name. It was 
once a place of importance and held in some repute 
by the Romans, owing to the fact that it was the 
birthplace of the General Sertorius. It was here 
too that Scipio Africanus gathered together the 
bravest sailors for his war against Carthage. 

At the time when the Western Empire was sink- 
ing powerless under the blows of the northern 
barbarians, and that Odoacer, the youthful prince 
of the Heruli, began to reign in Eome, there lived 
in this province a powerful, ancient and aristocratic 
family, destined by God to number the blessed 
Benedict among "its members ; — for most authors 
agree that he was descended from the Anician 
family — one of the most noble of ancient Eome. 
St. Gregory says he was born of an " illustrious 
family ". Cassiodorus tells us that this family of 
the Anicii was one of the most celebrated in the 
world ; for in it might be found all that was glorious 
in regal power, all that was heroic in war, all that 
was grand in dignity, all that was learned in science, 
and all that was holy in the Church. Consuls, 
kings, and even emperors have sprung from it, as 
well as prelates, doctors and saints. The emperors 
who belonged to it were Constantine and Justinian ; 
the saints — besides St. Benedict — were St. Ambrose, 
St. Paulinus, St. Gregory the Great, St. Cecilia and ' 
the holy Roman ladies Demetria and Proba, who 


were among the first, as St. Jerome tells us, to lead 
a religious life in Eome in their own houses. Dom 
Mege even affirms that the royal families of Austria 
and Savoy can trace their descent from this ancient 
patrician race. Peter xhe Deacon, a monk of Cas- 
sino, says that Benedict's father was named Anicius 
Eutropius, and his mother was Claudia Abundantia, 
Countess of Nursia. It was by this marriage that 
Eutropius had added to his already large estates 
the province of Nursia, where Benedict and his 
twin sister Scholastica were born ; Claudia being 
sole heiress of her family's immense fortune. 

Some Benedictine biographers say that she died 
soon after giving birth to these tw T o children ; from 
which they infer that her life was no longer neces- 
sary to the world after giving it such precious fruits. 
The monk Adrevald, who wrote in the ninth century, 
tells us that the ruins of the palace of St. Benedict's 
parents attested its former splendour ; as from the 
foundations which yet remain, it is clearly seen that 
it was magnificent in point of art, and larger than 
the palaces of many kings. 1 

In the principal church of Nursia, which is dedi- 
cated to St. Benedict, there is a crypt that, according 
to an old tradition, is built over the place of his 
birth ; the church itself having been erected on the 
site of the ancient palace, which some authors say 
was turned into a monastery after the saint's death. 
An old writer quaintly remarks : " Nursia the cold 

1 De miraculis 8. Bened., chap. i. 


gives us a youth full of glowing ardour ; the moun- 
tainous country sends us the humble one ; the rough 
country sends us the saint, who endears himself to 
us by his charms ; and the uncultivated land pro- 
duces the wise Benedict ". J 

The saint was born in the year ad. 480, four years 

'after the fall of Romulus Augustulus, the last of 
Ki tine's emperors, 2 when the whole world was in 
confusion and trouble. The once mighty Rome had 
been thrice plundered, and now lay humbled to the 
very dust ; the proud patricians, overpowered and 
defeated, had been compelled to acknowledge the 
barbarians as their lords and masters, and to yield 
to them a third of all their possessions ; probably 
Benedict's parents, like the rest, were somewhat 
reduced from their former splendour. 

* The birth of this son must have been like a star 
of hope rising in the gloom, and the very name 
Benedict, which they gave him at the baptismal 
font, expressed the feelings of gratitude which rilled 
their hearts, and foreshadowed the blessings which 

4hey desired and prayed might come to them through 
him. It is a name full of rich meaning; and St. 
Gregory in the first line of his life shows that he 
well understood its worth, when he says that he was 
11 blessed by grace and by name ". 8 

1 Archang. Castivil. hist. Camald., vol. i., chap. ii. 

2 Odoacer, King of the Heruli, revolted against Romulus Augus- 
tulus, the last Emperor of Rome. He attacked him in Ravenna 
and took him prisoner, but spared his life. He then made himself 
master of Rome and was proclaimed king in 476. 

8 Dialogues, quart, series, bk. ii., Prologue. 


We have no authentic portrait of the saint ; but 
we may gather from what we know of him, that he 
was of a strong and vigorous nature, with a con- 
stitution which could withstand all the difficulties 
of a hard and austere life ; that he had a noble and 
beautiful countenance, and that in stature he sur- 
passed the ordinary height. His Holy Eule shows^ 
that he had a very retentive memory and great 
power of speech, as well as a clear understanding, 
a wonderful discretion, a tender and loving heart, 
a manly disposition and a heroic spirit ; in short, a 
character which fitted him to be a leader and guide 
to others. 

During the first years of Benedict's life political 
events were taking place which totally changed the 
existing state of the world. Home had fallen from 
the pinnacle of her greatness ; and the northern* | 
barbarians had forced their way into every known 
part of the globe, ravaging and destroying all without 
pity or remorse. Then God, compassionating the 
misery which prevailed., raised up certain chosen 
souls whom He destined to shine all the more bril- % 
liantly because of the darkness of the moral night 
surrounding them. These He appointed to be teachers 
to His people, and endowed them at the same time 
with all the gifts necessary to make them heavenly 
architects, who might construct for Him new and 
lasting dwellings in the hearts of men. Thus it was 
that, while the world at large presented a sad and 
most lamentable spectacle, the Church of God alone 
flourished and bore fruit in the sanctity and fervour 


of thousands of her members. Eminent pontiffs 
sat on the chair of Peter ; illustrious bishops 
governed their afflicted and oppressed flocks ; the 
deserts resounded with the psalmody of both monks 
and nuns. Among free men and slaves, among 
nobles and citizens, there bloomed most wonderful 
examples of holiness, who were ready when needful, 
as we find by many instances, to tread in the steps 
of those martyred heroes who in former ages had 
shed their blood for Christ. Souls such as these 
gave a new character to a depraved world, and, 
owing to their efforts, the Kingdom of God at length 
obtained her position of universal esteem and influ- 
ence. Not the least among the souls chosen by 
God for this purpose was Benedict of Nursia. 



a.d. 477-484. 

^Three things concur to form a man's character : 
the grace of God, external influences, and the co- 1 . 
operation of man's own wilU These causes working 
together form that individual personality which gives 
him his position among his fellow-creatures. To 
the natural gifts possessed by Benedict, God super- 
added those of His grace in such abundance that, as 
his name signified, he was indeed a child of blessing. 
By a special grace he was preserved in innocence [ 
amidst all the pomp and luxury with which he was 
surrounded ; for as St. Odo, Abbot of Cluny, says, 
"the Holy Spirit had already chosen his little heart 
for His dwelling ". 

In many councils which were held at this time, we 
find mention made of the Bishops of Nursia, such as 
of Stephen who sat in the Roman Synod in 495, also 
of the Bishops John, Evandus and Optatus. It is 
therefore most probable that these holy men, accord- 
ing to the custom of those days, took a watchful 
interest in the spiritual training of the young Bene- 
dict. In his father's palace he seems to have had 
' (9) 


the example of every virtue, and to have had early 
planted in his heart the fear of God, the love of 
Jesus Christ, and that principle of obedience which 
,he made afterwards the foundation of his Eule. And 
not only the surroundings of his own home, but the 
events then taking place in the Eoman Empire must 
have influenced his opening intelligence. In his 
family circle public affairs, especially the troubles 
then distracting the world, must often have been dis- 
cussed, and commented upon ; and as the boy listened 
he would make his own observations, form his 
judgment, and realise the position he held in society. 
At the time when Benedict was a child in his 
father's palace, the Vandal King Huneric was still 
reigning in Africa. 1 In his passionate zeal for the 
Arian heresy, he persecuted all who adhered to the 
true faith, and went so far in his cruelty that he 
seemed to surpass even Diocletian himself. The 
persecution had fallen with particular fury on the 
bishops and priests, so that they were almost ex- 
terminated ; nuns and consecrated virgins had been 
put to the torture to make them confess, as it was 
said, their crimes : but as none knew any crime to 
confess, they had died under their torture. Numbers 
of bishops, priests and deacons with their relatives, 
and among them many innocent children, had been 
driven into the horrible deserts of Mauritania, and 
there left to perish. In 484, when Benedict was four 

1 Huneric was the son of Genseric and succeeded him on the 
throne in 478. He married Eudoxia, the sister of the Emperor 


years old, Huneric, by an edict, forbade the Catholic 
religion to be practised throughout Africa. The 
churches were closed, and the revenues taken by the 
king or given to the Arians. All Catholics were 
declared to be disgraced'. The old edicts of the 
Koman emperors against the Christians were put in 
force ; and hundreds of bishops were banished to 
Corsica, or the desert parts of Africa. Among the 
confessors twelve little choristers are especially 
noticed. On account of their clear young voices the 
heretics endeavoured to gain them over to sing in 
the Arian churches, but neither threats nor promises 
could move them ; they were scourged and beaten 
with clubs, but all in vain — and for their faithful con- 
fession they are named in the Acts of the African 
Church the " twelve little Apostles " of Carthage. 
Throughout the kingdom sorrow and lamentation 
filled every city and every village — we might say, 
every house and every family. The rack, the scourge 
and an ignominious death awaited all those who did 
not possess a certificate from an Arian bishop testi- 
fying that they had received Arian baptism. The 
historian of this period says he could fill volumes 
with the acts of the martyrs of his day, and yet not 
exhaust all. The faithful showed a courage and 
constancy worthy of apostolic times, and compara- 
tively few were guilty of apostasy. Their heroism 
was glorified by God with such extraordinary signs 
and wonders, and such convincing proofs of the truth, 
that only the most hardened unbelievers could have 
withstood them. 


Before this terrible persecution broke out, a pious 
deacon of Carthage had seen in a vision, three times 
repeated, many of these calamities. He saw the 
Church of St. Faustus shining with brilliant splen- 
dour and illuminated by thousands of lamps, costly 
tapestry adorned the walls and a dense throng of 
worshippers clothed in white filled the sacred edifice. 
The celebration of Mass began, and heavenly chants 
floated in the air ; when on a sudden all the lights 

- were extinguished, the sweet harmonies ceased, and 
a horde of Ethiopians rushing in scattered the whole 

Many miracles also testified to the might of God's 
power and the strength of His Church. Among 
other instances we are told of an old Carthaginian 
who went by the name of '* blind Felix ". Being 
commanded in a vision to go to Eugenius and receive 
from him his sight, he obeyed ; the bishop, however, 

"was naturally somewhat embarrassed at his request, 
not considering himself worthy to perform such a 

'miracle. But at length, moved by a Divine inspira- 
tion, he prayed and made the sign of the Cross over 
the man, who was immediately cured. The fact was 

. incontestable, and the whole city was moved by the 
news of the prodigy. Huneric alone gnashed his 
teeth with rage, and declared it to be the effect of 
witchcraft. At another time we read of Victoria, 
the young wife of one of the most distinguished men 
of Consula, who, in defence of her faith, had hung 
i for a whole day on a gibbet until all her bones were 
dislocated and her body in a piteous state. Her 


executioners, believing her to be dead, cut her down 
and threw her on the ground, when suddenly she 
stood up and found herself completely healed. After- 
wards she related how a lady of great dignity and 
surpassing beauty had appeared to her, and touching 
her hand had restored her to life. 

In Typasus, a town of Mauritania, hundreds — 
some authors say thousands — of the faithful under- 
went the torture of having their tongues cut out ; 
yet, nevertheless, they were able to speak, and being m 
dispersed into many lands they bore, wherever they 
went, a striking witness to the truth of the Catholic 

Though the hand of God was thus visible to all, 
the impious Huneric remained hardened, and con- 
tinued his persecution until he was summoned before 
the awful judgment seat of Him Whom he had 
mocked and outraged in the persons of His saints. 
He was unexpectedly seized with a terrible sickness,- 
the nature of which baffled the skill of his physicians; 
and after suffering the most awful torments, he died* 
on 6th December, 484, having reigned seven years. 

Events such as these must have made a deep im- 
pression on the child Benedict, and, like the little St. 
Theresa of modern times, he too probably thirsted to 
die a martyr for the name of Jesus. 

The tender-hearted and religious nurse to whom 
he was entrusted in his early years 1 surely under- 
stood how to picture these moving scenes to the boy 

1 Peter the Deacon calls her Cyrilla. 


in such a way as to touch his innocent heart ; and 
she would have shown him how far more our hearts 
should he affected by the sufferings of Him Who left 
the glory of His throne in Heaven to become man 
for us, and Who underwent the greatest sufferings 
in order to deliver us from sin and damnation and 
make us eternally happy. 

If it were permitted us to glance into the Book of 
Life we should doubtless be able to narrate the 
feelings which stirred the soul of the little Benedict, 
the attractions, designs and resolutions urging him 
to those holy deeds which he afterwards accom- 

How pure are the sentiments and affections of 
children, and how heavenly their desires ! " Unless 
you be converted, and become as little children, you 
shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." * 

1 Matt, xviii. 8. 



a.d. 487-493. 

We know nothing definite about the early education 
of this child of predilection. He, doubtless, went 
through the usual course of training requisite for a 
nobleman's son in those days, and was required to 
study the arts and sciences which distinguished the 
patrician from a common citizen ; doubtless, too, he 
was instructed by efficient masters in the history and 
political events of the time, and taught how to con- 
duct himself in a way befitting his high rank. 

But the principal part of Benedict's education, and 
that which chiefly concerns us, was his spiritual 
training. He very soon learnt to realise the difference 
between good and evil ; he was shown how noble 
and pleasing is virtue, and how vile and degrading 
is sin ; and he quickly understood the necessity of 
checking and fighting against his passions. Child as 
he was at the time, one of the great events of ecclesi- 
astical history, which occurred when he was only 
about seven years old, may have had an effect in 
showing him how much sorrow and sadness are the 

consequences of yielding to temptation. In the early 



ages of Christianity, exterior sins were usually pun- 
ished by public penances, in order to inspire men 
with a salutary fear. During the African persecution 
already spoken of several leading men had unhappily 
apostatised ; but when under King Gundamund ! the 
rage of the persecutors abated, bitter remorse filled 
the hearts of these unfortunate apostates. In their 
distress they appealed to Eome, and Pope Felix III. 
convened a council to decide the question. It met 
on 13th March, 487, in St. Peters ; fourty-four bishops - 
and seventy-five priests assisted. This council de- 
creed that all priests of higher orders who had denied „ 
the Faith should do penance for the remainder of 
their lives, not receiving Holy Communion till their * 
death ; all priests of lower orders, as well as the 
monks, nuns and laymen who were guilty, were to 
abstain from Holy Communion for twelve years ; and 
children were to be placed among the penitents for 
so long a time as the circumstances of each case 
should decide. 

A year after this council, Peter the Fuller, 2 who 
had usurped the patriarchal chair of Antioch, died. 
In a very short time Acacius, Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, followed him to the grave, Peter Mongus, 
Patriarch of Alexandria, surviving the latter only 
one year. These three had retained their sees in, 
spite of the decrees of the council, and by their 
wickedness were the authors of a disastrous schism ; 
unfortunately, there is no record of their repentance. 

1 Gundamund succeeded Huneric as King of the Vandals in 484. 

2 So called on account of his former lowly occupation. 


These events saddened all good Christians ; and grave 
and thoughtful as Benedict was, he cannot have 
failed to draw many practical lessons from them. 

At the beginning of the year 491 the whole world 
was startled by the tragic end of the Emperor Zeno. 1 
Suspecting that some of his subjects were pretenders 
to his throne, he ordered several barbarous executions ; 
having perpetrated these foul deeds, he was seized 
with remorse, and on the 9th of April, as he was 
rising from table in an intoxicated condition, he 
fell violently to the ground, seized with an epileptic 
fit from which he never recovered. Such a death 
was a great lesson to all ; and though Benedict was 
but a boy, it must have brought home to him the 
vanity of all human greatness. Things which would 
have been indifferent or incomprehensible to other 
children his precocious mind took seriously to heart ; 
for, as St. Gregory says of him, " from his very 
childhood his mind and heart were matured ". 

As little is known of St. Benedict's childhood, so 
his growing years must equally remain a sealed book 
to us. But it is evident that from the beginning 
Christ had laid in him a deep foundation, and that 
he too, like his Divine Master, advanced both in 
" wisdom and age, and grace with God and men ". 2 
Hence we may conjecture that he eagerly drank in 
that knowledge which could bring him nearer to 
God and the realisation of his vocation. The Church 

1 Zeno the Isaurian, Emperor of Constantinople, reigned from 474 
to 491. 

2 Luke ii. 52. 


appeared to him like a vast garden in which grew 
and blossomed thousands of precious and beautiful 
plants — such as St. Eugenius of Carthage, in whom 
seemed to have been raised up another Athanasius ; 
as Stephen, Patriarch of Antioch, who had lately 
shed his blood for the Faith ; as the wonderful 
" Stylite," honoured by all the people and sum- 
moned by the emperor to help him in his direst 
distress ; as Valdus, who for forty years combined 
the office of a missionary in France with that of a 
bishop, and afterwards retired into the desert, where 
he died rich in merit ; as Epiphanius of Pavia, who 
boldly presented himself before the kings Odoacer 
and Theodoric to persuade them to spare his little 
flock. These, and many other holy and virtuous 
men, flourished and adorned the Church at that 

Benedict must have grieved to see this garden 
blighted with the foul poison of heresy ; that of Arius 
had infected whole nations, including the Vandals, 
the Goths and the Heruli, who had shortly before 
conquered Italy. Eutychianism had penetrated into 
Egypt and Syria ; Nestorianism into Mesopotamia ; 
while the Indians, Franks, Huns and Germans still 
groped in the darkness of paganism. But zealous 
missionaries were at work labouring to counteract 
these evils. Amantius of Rodez and St. Germanus 
carried the message of the gospel to the banks of 
the Moselle, to Normandy and Picardy. Albeus, a 
companion of St. Patrick, afterwards Bishop of 
Munster, converted numberless infidels by his elo- 


quence, his miracles, and, above all, by his example ; 
he also founded a monastery on the Isle of Arran, 
renowned for the holiness of its inmates. In 486 
Eleutherius was made Bishop of Tournay, and began 
his work of evangelising the Franks, crowning his 
labours with martyrdom. At the same time St. 
Eemigius was nominated Bishop of Kheims, though 
only twenty-two years old, and governed that church 
for seventy years. His rare gifts and qualities and 
his singular attractiveness did much for the conversion 
of the heathen, and his power over sinners made him 
like a second St. Paul. In Wales Prince Gunthlaus, 
having relinquished his crown and sceptre, withdrew 
into the desert, whither he was speedily followed by 
his son Cadoc, who, after a short reign, imitated the 
example of his father, that he might more surely gain 
an imperishable crown. He founded a monastery at 
Llancarfan, near Cowbridge, which gave to the 
Church many saints and illustrious men. 

The fame of the holy solitaries of Palestine, Abbots 
Theodore and Sabas, had spread even into Western 
countries. By their wisdom they put to shame the 
most astute philosophers, and their advice was sought 
by emperors and prelates. Theodore lived as a hermit 
for thirty years, but afterwards he became the founder 
of a renowned monastery near Bethlehem, and died 
in 529. On account of his numerous disciples he 
was called " Father of monks ". Sabas founded the 
monastery which bears his name. He died in 532. 

At this period also St. Genevieve, the virgin saint, 
was still living and illustrating the Church by her 


virtues and miracles. Her gift of prophecy was so 
great that, as her biographer tells us, "the future 
was as clear to her as the present ". About the year 
451, by her prayers and fasts she had deserved to 
obtain from Almighty God the preservation of the 
city of Paris, when it was threatened by the Huns 
under Attila. She died in 512 at the age of eighty- 

At the end of the fifth century Italy was being 
devastated by war. In 489 Theodoric, King of the 
Ostrogoths, 1 had come with the consent of Anastasius, 
Emperor of Constantinople, to conquer Italy. Odo- 
acer was his equal in valour and prudence, but discord 
prevailed in his army ; three pitched battles were 
fought in 490 and 491, in each of which Theodoric 
was victorious ; and Odoacer saw himself compelled 
to take refuge in the impregnable fortress of Kavenna, 
where he awaited his fate. Theodoric made himself 
master of all Italy, and at length Odoacer, constrained 
by famine, treated for peace through the intervention 
of Bishop John. His proposals were accepted by the 
conqueror, who agreed that they should reign con- 
jointly over the country ; their compact was sealed 
on 5th March, 493. A few days later Odoacer was 
treacherously assassinated when dining with Theo- 
doric ; he had reigned seventeen years. His death 
left Theodoric sole master of Italy. 

Benedict, who was but just developing into man- 
hood, witnessed these events with feelings similar to 

1 Of the royal race of the Amali. Under the name of Theodoric 
the Great he planted the Ostrogoth power in Italy. 


those of the Wise Man, saying like him, "All is 
vanity except to love and serve God alone " ; and 
there arose in his soul a great longing to humble and 
abase himself that he might become great in the 
eyes of Him Whose praise alone he sought. 


a.d. 487-493. 

It was while studying at Eoine that Benedict decided 
on the all-important matter of his vocation ; a point 
attended with such vital results. He had been sent 
by his father to their house in that city for the pur- 
pose of perfecting his literary education. 

The Benedictine abbot Cajetan Constantine, who 
lived under the pontificate of Gregory XV., gives us 
the following account of St. Benedict's residence in 
Kome. " The Church of St. Benedict in Piscinula, 
on the other side of the Tiber, though almost in 
ruins, is distinguished as the birthplace of the saint's 
ancestors, he being a descendant of the patrician 
family of the Anicii. In some old documents at 
Monte Cassino, to which this church belongs, it is 
called ' St. Benedict sub Monte Lycaonis,' because it 
is situated near that island in the Tiber, which takes 
its name from Jupiter Lycaonis. In ancient times 
the splendid palace of the Anicii was built on this 
spot, and its immense extent has been verified by re- 
cent excavations. Another circumstance strengthens 
this evidence, viz., that the house of St. Cecilia, who 

belonged to the same family, is to be found close by. 



According to reasonable conjecture a part of the 
above-mentioned palace, and probably that part re- 
served for the use of Benedict, was shortly after his 
death converted into a church and dedicated to his 
glorious memory. It is also a tradition that the 
beautiful picture of Our Lady which is in this church 
is the same which the boy Benedict used to venerate." 
Gregory XV., at the request of the abbot from whose 
writings we have just quoted, gave this house to the 
Benedictines as a hospice for monks. 

When our saint arrived in Kome, the City of the 
Seven Hills, which had been rebuilt by Nero with so 
much splendour, still retained much of its former 
greatness ; and although some buildings already 
showed signs of decay, and others were in ruins, yet 
it was easy to trace the magnificence of ancient 
Borne with its temples and baths, its Colosseum and 
Triumphal Arches ; and now added to these were the 
modern, but withal majestic, basilicas of St. John 
Lateran and St. Mary Major. According to Optatus 
of Milves, Borne possessed forty churches even before 
the close of the persecutions ; twenty-five were added 
in the fourth century and about fourteen in the fifth 

Gelasius then occupied the chair of Peter, to which 
he had been elected on 1st March 492, five days after 
the death of his predecessor, Pope Felix III. St. 
Gelasius gave a new impetus to the liturgy ; he had 
all the services and ceremonies of Holy Church carried 
out with the utmost solemnity, and he also founded 
many charitable institutions. Hence it was that, 


during the seven years spent by Benedict in Rome, 
he had every opportunity of satisfying his devotion 
by assisting at the great functions in the various 
churches, and by visiting the catacombs, or " ceme- 
teria •' as they were then called, in which thousands 
of the holy martyrs who had suffered so recently 
were buried. He must have been deeply edified by 
the many examples of faith and piety, patience and 
brotherly love, which he saw among the Christians 
of Rome, especially their wonderful charity towards 
the poor and afflicted. The effect of all this upon 
his yoHng mind was that he desired more than ever 
to dedicate himself to God in a state in which he 
could securely serve Him ; and he determined to 
embrace such a state, however hard to nature and 
whatever sacrifices it might involve. 

Meantime he continued his studies — the " Hu- 
manities," as St. Gregory calls them — m the public 
schools. At that time every student who wished to 
distinguish himself in the literary world had to go 
through a double " cursus " or course of studies : first, 
the " Trivium," which included grammar, rhetoric and 
logic; and secondly, the " Quadrivium," embracing 
arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Bene- 
dict's clear mind and quick perception must soon 
have mastered these sciences, at least to some extent, 
and although St. Gregory assures us that he departed 
from Rome with all her evil and pagan influences 
" skilfully ignorant and wisely unlearned," he is not 
in any way depreciating human learning in itself, 
but re-echoing the warning that "the bewitching of 


vanity obscureth good things, and the wandering of 
concupiscence overturneth the innocent mind "^ And 
while other youths of equal talent became absorbed 
in these studies, and looked forward with delight to 
the honours and dignities they hoped to acquire in 
the world, " the blessed one " despised all this ; and 
his understanding and heart felt a void which nothing 
earthly could fill. He sought and longed for one 
thing only : to please God, to become a true servant 
of God, and to gain merit for eternity. 

Owing partly to the fact that the Empire had a 
barbarian master, and that the city of Borne itself 
had been so long the scene of bloodshed, there was 
everywhere licence and corruption. Whether Bene- 
dict was horrified at such a constant spectacle of 
violence and crime, and was shocked by the depraved 
morals of his fellow-students, who gave themselves 
unrestrainedly up to sinful pleasures ; or whether he 
received, which is more probable, a direct call from 
God to leave the world, and seek Him alone ; in 
either case we know that, after he had been seven 
years in Borne, and before he was yet old enough to 
have taken any part in worldly vanities and follies, 
he resolved to quit it for ever. St. Gregory says he 
had barely put his foot in the world when he took 
this resolution. It seemed to him as if he heard 
constantly an interior voice saying to him : " Fly, 
Benedict, into the desert ; there thou wilt taste how 
sweet is the Lord to those who love Him ". This 

] Wisdom iv. 12. 


interior impulse grew stronger as he daily discovered 
fresh proofs of the dangers which surrounded him, 
until at last it became irresistible. His resolution 
was taken : he would leave Home and renounce his 
rich inheritance in order to follow his Lord in poverty 
and in pain. His nurse, Cyrilla, who had remained 
with him as was the custom in those days and had 
been like a second mother to him, must have perceived 
something unusual about her foster-child, and before 
long she had won his confidence. Having learnt his 
secret, she determined to accompany him in his 
flight. Thus, says his biographer, " he despised the 
study of the liberal arts and forsook the paternal roof ; 
wishing only to be pleasing to God, he sought for 
that manner of life in which he could serve Him 
most perfectly. Therefore did he withdraw his foot 
new set in the world, fearing lest, if he but once 
suffered himself to taste its fruits of knowledge, he 
should be certain after that to throw himself headlong 
over its precipice into the abyss below." J 

According to tradition, Benedict took this impor- 
tant step, which was the beginning of all the blessings 
poured out upon him, and through him upon all 
mankind, in the year 494, when he was fourteen 
years old. Baronius thinks that he was older, but, 
as St. Gregory expressly uses the word " puer," we 
cannot suppose him to have been more. St. Odo, 
Abbot of Cluny, says: "Tender in years but great 
in spirit, he braves the dreary solitude of the desert ". 

1 Dialogues, bk. ii., Prologue. 


At this very time it was being reported on all 
sides that Theodoric, the new king and master of 
Italy, intended to restore the fallen city to its former 
prosperity and grandeur. But the young saint, who 
had chosen the path which leads to eternal riches, 
could not be kept back by any prospect of earthly 
gain. On the contrary, it only incited him to be 
more steadfast in his resolution. He well knew 
that it was quite possible to live in the world without 
being of it, and that society required the light and 
salt of holy and enlightened men ; yet he saw also 
most clearly that it would be best for him to fly from 
it. He felt no attraction for the toga of a Roman 
noble, but his heart yearned for the poor habit of a 
monk. Earthly wisdom was but dross in his eyes, 
for he had tasted that which is eternal. And so he, 
who had despised and forsaken the world, became by 
this very means fitted to be the master and leader of 
thousands of his fellow-creatures, to teach them 
how to discover new sources of wisdom and know- 
ledge, and how to become the light of the world and 
the salt of the earth by their words and example. 


a.d. 493-494. 

Turning his back on Koine, and leaving his home 
and kindred and all those prospects and pleasures 
which had tried in vain to captivate his pure young- 
heart, Benedict set out accompanied by Cyrilla, his 
faithful old nurse. They directed their steps east- 
wards towards the river Anio, which rises in that 
portion of the Sabines joining the Apennines and 
rushes down over a hundred cascades to pour its 
noisy waters, into the Tiber below. St. Hildegarde 
tells us that Benedict was led by two angels along- 
secret paths, to prevent his being discovered by those 
who were seeking -him in every direction when his 
flight became known to them. St. Peter Damian 
confirms this statement, and says that he learnt the 
same thing from an ancient author. 

It is probable that on the first evening the two 
fugitives only reached the foot of the mountains, 
where, even now, travellers are wont to take a night's 
rest after leaving Kome. From this spot the Holy 
City appears like a magnificent amphitheatre, with 
St. Peter's at one end, and the Lateran Church and 

palace at the other ; and as they turned to take a 



parting look at that fair scene, doubtless tears welled 
up in the eyes of the old nurse and her young charge. 
But grace triumphed over nature, and the next 
morning saw them aga"in on their journey. And 
as of old the Eomans fetched their first brides 
from the city of the Sabines, and astonished the 
world by their powerful posterity, so now Benedict 
hastened thither to gather those virtues by which he 
was enabled to give to the Church a spiritual pos- 
terity which should continue to the end of time, and 
be the edification and salvation of mankind, as well 
as its delight and admiration. On the second day 
the travellers passed through deep valleys, formed 
by mountain ranges, along a road which runs half- 
way up a steep slope, and in a wild romantic spot 
on the crest of a rising range they came upon the 
village of Enfide, now Affile. Benedict went straight 
to the church, which was dedicated to St. Peter, and 
prayed earnestly for guidance. Adjoining the church 
were some houses inhabited by devout and worthy 
people who pressed Cyrilla and the boy, who passed 
for her son, to accept hospitality from them. St. 
Gregory says: " Multisque honestioribus viris," 
which some have interpreted to mean people of noble 
family ; and have concluded from thence that Bene- 
dict was known to them, at least by name, and was 
welcomed by them as a friend, possibly as a relation. 
But the more common opinion is that the inhabitants 
of Enfide were only rustics and honest peasants, who 
showed charity to the old nurse and her charge, as 
they did to every wayfarer, for the love of Christ, 


Who said, "I was a stranger, and you took Me 
in". 1 

As Benedict did not yet know exactly the designs 
of God regarding his future abode, he considered 
the kind reception given him by these good people 
as a mark of the Divine will that he should remain 
there for the present ; and therefore resolved to rest 
for a time and confer with God until He should deign 
further to manifest His will. An event, however, 
soon occurred which, although it proved that God 
was with him, equally showed him that this was 
not the place where he could carry out his holy 
aspirations. During his stay at Enfide, we are told 
that the sole occupation of the young pilgrim was 
to spend his day kneeling at the door of St. Peter's 
Church, rapt in prayer. One evening, as he re- 
turned home, he found Cyrilla in great distress ; 
she had borrowed a sieve from one of the neighbours 
— St. Gregory calls it a " capisterium," which was 
an earthenware vessel for shaking corn, but without 
holes ; this she had incautiously left on a table, and 
by some accident it fell and was broken in half. 
When Benedict returned she was crying bitterly ; 
and the tender-hearted boy, distressed by her tears, 
was moved with compassion, and taking the two pieces 
of the broken sieve knelt down outside and began to 
pray over them. When he rose from his knees the 
sieve was repaired in such a way that no trace of 
the fracture was to be found, and he smilingly 

1 Matt. xxv. 35. 


restored it to Cyrilla sound and whole. This miracle, 
though seemingly trivial, served an important pur- 
pose, for it proved that his flight from Home had 
the Divine sanction, and it also evinces the progress 
he had already made in prayer and union with 

This event soon came to the knowledge of the 
people of Enfide, and caused such admiration that 
the inhabitants hung up the sieve in the church, so 
that posterity might know what a high degree of 
grace God had given the young Benedict, even at 
the very beginning of his religious life. There it 
remained for many years, until in 568 Italy was 
invaded by the Lombards, when it was destroyed. 
To his dismay, Benedict now became an object of 
esteem, not only to the village people, but to many 
who came from the surrounding country to see and 
speak with the young Thaumaturgus. He well 
knew the danger of flattery, especially for a beginner 
in the spiritual warfare, and he trembled to see his 
hitherto hidden life exposed to the inquisitive gaze 
of men. Therefore, as St. Gregory says, " being 
more desirous of the miseries of the world than the 
praises of men, rather to be wearied with labour 
for God's sake than to be exalted with transitory 
commendation, he fled privily from his nurse," J and 
alone, with his angel to guide him, he bent his steps 
towards Subiaco. 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. i. 


a.d. 494. 

It was Eastertide when Benedict set out on his 
second journey ; in the springtime of the year, 
when all nature is fresh and fair. He hastened 
over Mount Carpineto towards the eastern valley 
of the Anio, about three miles beyond Enfide, in- 
tending to push on into the depths of the mountains. 
As he was thus making his way, intent on his holy 
purpose, he saw a monk coming towards him. In- 
stinctively he was attracted by the appearance of 
the stranger, convinced that God had brought him 
there in answer to his prayer for guidance. Eomanus 
had indeed come into the wilderness to meditate 
with greater quiet, and the Holy Ghost caused 
Benedict to meet him that in him he might find 
a guide and helper in the beginning of the new life 
to which he was called. 1 

He kindly inquired of the young fugitive who he 
was and where he was going. And Benedict openly 

1 Romanus was a monk at the monastery of Monte Calvo, not 
far from Subiaco ; subsequently he was sent into France to make 
a foundation, and after a most edifying life he died in 546, leaving 
a great number of disciples. He is mentioned in the Roman Mar- 
tyrology on 22nd May. 


THE YOUNG- hekmit. 33 

and simply communicated to him the affairs of his 
soul, and told him he was looking for a place where 
he could live hidden from the whole world. In 
order to try him, Eomanus began by urging objec- 
tions to his design ; but the holy youth answered 
them with so much wisdom and firmness that the 
monk was struck with amazement and could only 
praise God Who had given such resolution to a 
mere child. Satisfied as to his vocation, Romanus 
hesitated as to where he should direct the boy. 
But his doubt was soon cleared up, for near at 
hand he knew of a cave on Monte Calvo, which 
would hide the young hermit completely from the 
world and give him greater security than he could 
find in any fortress. To discover this cavern we 
must follow the course of the river Anio towards 
the south-east where the valley becomes more and 
more narrow, and about three miles from Subiaco 
we find ourselves between two mountain walls 
whose summits seem to touch the sky. That on 
the right bank of the river belongs to Monte Calvo, 
that on the left to Monte Carpineto, behind which 
is Enfide. A thousand feet above the valley, in the 
steep wall of Monte Calvo, is a deep cavern, seven 
feet long by four broad, with a large triangular 
opening. This was the spot chosen by St. Romanus 
to be a school of perfection for his disciple. The 
foreground of the cave was somewhat extended, 
affording sufficient space for a small garden, while 
the path leading up to it was exceedingly steep, 

narrow and difficult to climb. Benedict entered 



his new abode with a heart full of joy, and a feeling 
of sweetness which was not of earth ; and kneeling 
down he made this prayer : " I thank Thee, my 
God, because, through Thine infinite goodness, Thou 
hast delivered me from the world and its corruption. 
Grant that I may remain here alone with Thee, and 
that neither flesh nor blood may ever draw me away 
from Thee. Bless, Lord, the design I have con- 
ceived and the resolutions I have made, for if I have 
left my father's house to live in this solitude, I have 
always confided in Thy help, and I have always 
believed that under Thy powerful protection I had 
nothing to fear. Accomplish, therefore, my God, 
what Thou hast begun in me." l 

Before leaving him St. Eomanus clothed him 
with the habit of religion which the monks of those 
days were accustomed to wear. It was a long 
garment made of sheepskin called a " melotus," 
and was thrown over the body like a mantle. In 
the chapel which is built over the place where St. 
Benedict received this habit there is a large stone 
about five feet high on which he is said to have 
hung his worldly dress as the spoils of the enemy 
he had conquered in leaving the world. Dom Mege 
makes and answers four difficulties about St. 
Eomanus giving him the habit : (1) Where did St. 
Romanus find this habit, as he was at some distance 
from his monastery ? (2) How could he give away 
a habit without breaking his vow of poverty ? (3) 

1 Dom Mkge, Vie de S. Benoist, chap. i. 


How could he give the monastic habit on his own 
authority, and without any ceremony ? (4) Why 
did he not persuade St. Benedict to go to his 
monastery with him, instead of leaving him alone 
in the cave ? As to the first difficulty, we can only 
conjecture that St. Komanus had a melotus as well 
as his other habit, or else that he returned to his 
monastery to fetch one for him. With regard to 
the second, it is well known that before St. Benedict 
wrote his Kule, monks were not obliged to such 
great poverty and strict dependence, and were 
allowed to give away their old habits to the poor. , 
The third difficulty is a more serious one, but we 
must remember that the government of monasteries, 
and even of the Church, was not then exactly the 
same as it is now, and in those days the monastic 
habit and tonsure were given in a much more 
simple manner. Not only abbots and superiors 
could give the habit and receive to profession 
without the knowledge of the bishop, but even 
private religious, if they were priests, could do the 
same. It follows, therefore, that St. Eomaims as a 
monk and a priest only acted according to the 
usages of the times in which he lived. As to the 
last objection — why St. Komanus did not persuade 
St. Benedict to go to his own monastery, which would 
seem the most natural and the most prudent course 
to pursue, instead of leaving him all alone in a cave, 
exposed to the rigour of the seasons and to the 
temptations of the devil — Dom Mege says that St. 
Komanus certainly acted contrary to the usual rules 


of the spiritual life, which prescribe that those who 
give themselves to God shall first be tried in all the 
virtues of a monastic life before attempting that of 
the desert ; nevertheless, there is no doubt that St. 
Bomanus acted by a special inspiration when he 
gave the habit to St. Benedict at their first meeting, 
the Holy Spirit dispensing them both from the rules 
which His wisdom has prescribed for the generality 
of men. 

Also the Holy Ghost willed to be Himself the 
only master of a saint destined to teach the most 
sublime perfection, in order that the great legislator 
of monastic life in the West might be able to say 
with St. Paul, that he had learnt from God and not 
from men that perfect life and heavenly doctrine 
which he afterwards taught to his children, and 
through them to all the nations of the earth. 

On leaving the cave St. Eomanus had promised 
to provide the holy youth with bread, to give him 
every necessary assistance, and, above all, he had 
promised faithfully to keep his secret. We may 
easily conjecture that he felt a fatherly tenderness 
and loving interest in one so young, and that he 
procured for him all the necessaries which he could 
obtain without betraying his trust. It is probable 
also that he lent him books, and the tools that he 
needed for his daily work. The monastery in which 
Bomanus dwelt was so situated that he could not 
reach the cave except by a long and circuitous route 
though the actual distance was not great. To avoid 
this journey he bethought himself of letting down 


the food over the edge of the rock by means of a 
basket attached to a rope, a little bell being fastened 
to the rope to serve as a signal. One day, however, 
it happened, says St. Gregory, " the old enemy, 
envying the charity of the one and the refection of 
the other, seeing a loaf upon a certain day let down, 
threw a stone and broke the bell ; but for all that, 
Komanus gave not over to serve him by all . the 
possible means he could , \ 1 

It is easy to relate facts, but who shall fathom the 
feelings of that generous young heart when it rested 
at length in its longed-for solitude ? From his lofty 
seclusion he could, like David, bid defiance to all his 
enemies and sing with him, " The Lord ruleth me : 
and I shall want nothing. He hath set me in a 
place of pasture." 2 

Perhaps he felt like Moses after crossing the Ked 
Sea, or like Elias when, after escaping from the 
impious Jezebel, he recognised the voice of God in 
the soft murmur of the breeze. And Peter's words 
must have found an echo in his heart, " Lord, it 
is good for me to be here '\ 8 Separated from all 
human intercourse he communed alone with his 
Creator ; the roaring of the torrent, the whistling of 
the wind, the rolling of thunder, the song of the birds 
were his only companions, and they served to lift his 
heart on high. In silence he meditated on the great 
mysteries of faith, and realised more and more his 
nearness to God. How often the stars shining out 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. i. ' s Ps. xxii. 1, 2. 

;! Matt. xvii. 4. 


in the dark sky must have beheld that youthful 
figure, kneeling in the stillness of the night, rapt in 
contemplation ! How his Angel Guardian must 
have smiled, and how tenderly the Blessed Mother 
must have watched over her faithful son ! 

Doubtless Benedict had his trials ; it could not be 
otherwise. Indeed we marvel how such a mere boy 
could brook the silence, the solitude and the cramped 
enclosure in which he dwelt, and also the inclemency 
of the weather, for though summer days are bright 
and hot, December and January, even in Italy, are 
sharp and severe. So in spite of the consolations 
and fervour which Benedict often felt, he must 
\ necessarily have had times of sadness and suffering, 
of dryness and temptation. But these were seasons 
replete with blessings, for the seed when it remains 
alone cannot bear fruit, "but if it die, it bringeth 
forth much fruit "- 1 

It is generally supposed that St. Komanus gave 
him a rule of life in accordance with that observed 
in his own monastery ; but it was by a higher 
direction that Benedict discovered the manner of 
life best suited to his spiritual needs, containing 
the germ of what he afterwards taught to so many 
thousands of his children. Peacefully and unevent- 
fully the time passed for the young solitary in his 
cave ; he had found what he sought, and in later 
years he might well have said with St. Theresa : 
"Those years were the happiest of my life". 

1 John xii. 25. 


a.d. 497. 

After three years spent in his beloved solitude, God 
willed that the seed so long buried should spring up 
and bear fruit, and He Himself vouchsafed to make 
His servant known to men. It was Easter again, 
and the bright sun shone gloriously into the rocky 
cavern where Benedict dwelt. " At length," says St. 
Gregory, "when Almighty God was determined to 
ease Romanus of his pains, and to have Benedict's 
life known to the world for an example (that such a 
candle set upon a candlestick might shine and give 
light to the Church of God), Our Lord vouchsafed to 
appear to a certain priest dwelling a good way off, 
who had made ready his dinner for Easter day, and 
spake thus to him : ' Thou hast provided good cheer 1 
for thyself, and my servant in such a place is afflicted 
with hunger,' who, hearing this, forthwith rose up 
with such meat as he had prepared and went to the 
place where he sought for the man of God among the 
steep hills, the low valleys and the hollow pits, and 
at length found him in his cave, where, after they 
had prayed together, and sitting down had given 

God thanks, and had much spiritual talk, then the 



priest said unto him, ' Rise up, brother, let us dine, 
because to-day is the feast of Easter \ To whom 
the man of God answered, ' I know that it is Easter 
with me, and a great feast, having found so much 
favour at God's hands as this day to enjoy your 
company,' for by reason of his long absence from 
men he knew not that it was the great solemnity of 
Easter ; but the reverend priest did assure him 
saying, ' Verily, to-day is the feast of Our Lord's 
Resurrection, and therefore meet it is not that you 
should keep abstinence ; besides I am sent to the end 
that we might eat together of such provisions as 
God's goodness hath sent us '. Whereupon they 
said grace and fell to their meat, and after they had 
dined and bestowed some time in joking the priest 
returned to his church." l 

Benedict could no longer remain unknown, God 
Himself having manifested him to the priest, by 
whose means others sought out and found the precious 
jewel which had lain hidden for so long. The very 
fact of the good priest's seeking and inquiring for the 
saint must have raised the curiosity of the neigh- 
bouring shepherds as to the object of his search, for 
soon after they climbed up to the cave to see who its 
occupant might be. As they approached and saw 
through the bushes a figure dressed in skins, they 
thought it must be some animal, but, instead of a 
wild beast, a youth with gentle mien and winning 
manners came to meet and welcome them. The 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. i. 


sanctity which shone on his countenance inspired 
them with reverential awe, while his burning words 
betrayed the love which absorbed his whole soul and 
roused the dull though well-disposed minds of those 
rough peasants. Instinctively they felt they had 
found a friend ; and many and many a time after- 
wards they might have been seen toiling up the steep 
ascent to seek advice and help from one who seemed 
to them more like an angel than a man. And 
Benedict did not avoid them ; he knew that God had 
directed their steps to him, and, generously embrac- 
ing his new mission, he devoted himself to the 
spiritual needs of those who came to him. Very 
soon rumours of the youthful hermit spread all over 
the country, j^very one spoke of him ; every one 
wanted to seeVSim ; men and women, youths and 
maidens, mothers and children flocked to the cave, 
bringing him presents of food and bodily refreshment, 
and receiving in return the heavenly nourishment 
which he gave them out of the fulness of his heart. 
Sinners were converted ; the lukewarm aroused ; 
and souls desirous of serving God were encouraged 
to walk in the narrow path with fervour and con- 
stancy. Such a scene recalls to our mind one which 
happened five centuries before, when, not on the 
banks of the Anio, but by the river Jordan, the great 
Precursor taught the multitudes who sought him in 
the desert, and exhorted them to penance, not so 
much by his words as by the wonderful example of 
his own mortified life. 



The praise and admiration openly evinced for the 

servant of God, the crowds that gathered round him, 

and the confidence reposed in him, might have 

proved a dangerous snare to one still so youthful ; 

so easily can thoughts of pride creep even into an 

innocent heart ! But the time had come when God 

saw it would be good for Benedict to be proved by 

the fierce fire of temptation, both to test the virtue 

of his blessed soul and to burn away every atom of 

dross and alloy ; for as gold in the furnace so must 

the heart be tried in the fire of temptation and 

suffering. And as of old God permitted Satan to 

tempt His faithful servant Job, so now he allowed 

him to test the fidelity of Benedict by a violent 

temptation of the flesh. 

St. Gregory relates it as follows : " Upon a certain 

day, being alone, the tempter was at hand, for a 

little black bird began to fly about his face, and that 

so near as the holy man, if he would, might have 

taken it with his hand, but after he had blessed 

himself with the sign of the Cross the bird flew away, 

and forthwith the holy man was assaulted with such 

a terrible temptation of the flesh as he had never 



felt the like in all his life. A certain woman there 
was which sometime he had seen, the memory of 
whom the wicked spirit put into his mind, and by 
the representation of her did mightily inflame with 
concupiscence the soul of God's servant, which did 
so increase that, almost overcome with pleasure, he 
was of a mind to have forsaken the wilderness. But 
suddenly assisted with God's grace he came to him- 
self, and seeing many thick briars and nettle bushes 
to grow hard by, off he cast his apparel, and threw 
himself into the midst of them, and there wallowed 
so long that when he rose up all his flesh was piti- 
fully torn, and so, by the wounds of his body, he 
cured those of his soul, in that he turned pleasure 
into pain, and by the outward burning of extreme 
smart quenched that fire which, being nourished 
before with the fuel of carnal cogitations, did inwardly 
burn in his soul, and by this means he overcame the 
sin, because he made a change of the fire. From 
which time forward, as he himself did afterwards 
report to his disciples, he found all temptation of 
pleasure so subdued that he never felt any such 
thing." l 

Benedict's courage in this struggle and the resolu- 
tion he took were truly heroic ; and nowhere in the 
lives of the ancient fathers do we read of such a 
wonderful resistance and victory. Mabillon says 
very beautifully : " What great danger may come 
from one temptation ! What great fruit from one 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. ii. 


victory ! What would have become of the salvation 
of Benedict and innumerable other souls if he had 
been conquered in the fight ? But having gained this 
victory, he obtained his own salvation and that of 

Luke Wadding, the famous Franciscan historian, 
relates that on one occasion St. Francis went to 
St. Benedict's cave. Being filled with devotion at 
the sight of the thorns, and at the thought of how 
the saint had procured help for himself through so 
sharp and painful a remedy, he kissed the briar, 
making the sign of the Cross over it, and changed it 
by the power of God into a beautiful rose-bush. 
From that time the scene of Benedict's victory was 
even more frequented and honoured than before ; and 
the rose-bush, sanctified by the blessing of both 
saints, still brings forth flowers possessing such 
miraculous power that they work many cures in 
cases of sickness. 

By this victory which the saint gained, through 
the grace of Him in Whom we can do all things, he 
made, as it were, his solemn profession of the religious 
state. The determination to live undividedly for God 
he had taken upon himself when he first entered the 
desert ; but from this time it became a steadfast vow. 
Henceforth he was resolved rather to die than to 
give up walking in the path he had chosen. This 
event, therefore, was a turning point, a transition 
from the lower to the higher regions of the spiritual 
life, from the opening buds of virtue to the full and 
perfect blossoms. From a disciple he had developed 


into a master, and from an inexperienced youth into 
a man of God. His call to be a teacher of perfection 
soon showed itself, for after this, says his biographer, 
" many abandoned the world and became his scholars, 
and being now freed from' the malady of temptation, 
worthily and with great reason is he made master of 
virtue "- 1 

It is difficult to ascertain exactly in what year this 
took place ; St. Gregory very aptly compares this 
phase of St. Benedict's life to that of the Levites, who 
entered upon their service when they reached their 
twenty-fifth year. But it is scarcely sufficient ground 
on which to hazard a statement that this was his 
age at the time ; all we know is that he was still 
very young when called to serve his Lord. 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. ii. 


a.d. 509. 

To hold an office of superiority over others requires a 
very special vocation. We might well say of it what 
God declared with regard to the priesthood, " Neither 
doth any man take the honour to himself, but he 
that is called by God, as Aaron was ". ] Benedict 
had no ambition to rule over any one but himself, 
and on account of this very humility God chose him 
to lead and teach men. 

Many now came to him for guidance ; and he 
simply and sweetly gave them whatever assistance 
was in his power, utterly unconscious that he was 
looked upon as a master in the spiritual life. Perhaps 
some may wonder where he learnt his discretion and 
circumspection, his knowledge and grasp of spiritual 
matters, seeing that he lived entirely alone, removed 
from any instructors, without any access to books. 
But Benedict had been taught by the Author of all 
knowledge ; like Mary, he had sat at the feet of 
Jesus, and learnt the better part. By his intercourse 
with God, by meditation, by reading the Holy Scrip- 
tures, by crucifying his flesh, by despising himself, 

1 Heb. v. 4. 



by silence and continual prayer, he had learnt that 
art which is called by the Master of masters the 
" one thing necessary 'V 

Like the prophets of old, he had sought for wisdom 
in the desert and found it in the heart of his God ; 
and by it he understood how to judge himself, and 
those with whom he came in contact. Neither did 
he forget those words of Our Lord, " He that is the 
greater among you, let him become as the younger : 
and he that is the leader, as he that serveth ", 2 All 
who came to him found him a meek and humble servant 
of Christ ; one easy of access and inviting confidence ; 
a man who loved God and all else for His sake, a 
man with a mean dwelling, mean food, and meaner 
clothing, but great — aye, great indeed — in virtue and 
in grace. No wonder that he attracted all hearts. 
And if, as sometimes happened, contempt and derision 
were shown him, he gloried in the shame ; for " the 
disciple is not above the master, nor the servant 
above his lord. ... If they have called the good- 
man of the house Beelzebub, how much more them 
of his household ? " 3 

One of St. Benedict's disciples, writing seven 
centuries later, sums up in the second book of the 
Folloiuing of Christ the essence of the instructions 
which the saint gave to those who gathered round 
him ; for as he himself knew only one science, so 
he taught but one — the way to Jesus. " When 
Jesus is present, all goes well and nothing is difficult ; 
but when Jesus is absent, everything is hard. When 

1 Luke x. 42. *Ibid., xxii. 26. • Matt. x. 24, 25. 


Jesus speaks not within, our comfort is worth nothing ; 
but if Jesus speaks but one word, we feel a great 
consolation. Did not Mary Magdalen arise presently 
from the place where she wept, when Martha said to 
her, ' The Master is here and calls for thee ' ? Happy 
hour, when Jesus calls from tears to joy of spirit ! 
How dry and hard art thou without Jesus ! How 
foolish and vain, if thou desirest anything out of Jesus ! 
Is not this a greater damage than if thou wert to 
lose the whole world? What can the world profit 
thee without Jesus? To be without Jesus is a 
grievous hell ; to be with Jesus is a sweet paradise. 
If Jesus be with thee, no enemy can hurt thee. 
Whoever finds Jesus finds a good treasure, yea, good 
above all goods. And he that loseth Jesus, loseth 
exceedingly much, and much more than if he lost 
the whole world." * 

By means of teaching such as this, Benedict led 
his disciples to share in that intimate familiarity with 
Our Lord which he himself enjoyed. At the same 
time he studied the Scriptures with renewed zest, he 
sought advice, he read the writings of St. Basil and 
the collations of Cassian, and daily became more 
proficient and capable of being a leader and ruler of 

His sincere attachment and loyalty to Holy Church, 
and his horror of any division or blemish in the 
seamless robe of Christ, made him the more eager to 
inspire his disciples with absolute submission and filial 

1 Imitation of Christ, bk. ii., chap. viii. 


love towards their Mother, the Church, impressing 
upon them those words of Our Lord, "And if he will 
not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen 
and publican," l and the admonition of the apostle, 
" That there be no schisms among you ". 2 And if 
it be true that example is better than precept, we 
may say that Benedict was a perfect model of all he 
taught ; and with St. Paul he too might have said, 
"Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ ". 3 It 
is impossible to ascertain whether at the beginning 
his disciples lived with him, or whether, which is 
more probable, they were dispersed in huts and caves 
in the surrounding country, meeting at stated times 
and places. Be that as it may, it is certain that 
Benedict's name became daily more famous and 
more widely known. 

1 Matt. xviii. 17. *1 Cor. i. 10. 3 Ibid., iv. 16. 


a.d. 510. 

A few hours' journey distant from Subiaco in a 
north-westerly direction, but lower down the river 
Anio, stands the little town Vicovaro (Vicus Varronis), 
its very name showing its antiquity. Opposite on the 
left side of the Anio, and close to the bank, there is 
a steep ridge of rock in which may be found several 
spacious caves. These were soon sought out by those 
who craved for solitude, and a religious community 
was formed there. This was the origin of the 
monastery of Vicovaro, doubtless an excellent one, 
and for a time fervour was maintained and all went 
well. Unfortunately, however, before very long 
discipline began to relax, a spirit of independence 
crept in, silence was neglected, poverty ignored, 
mortification forgotten ; and this, not by one or two 
delinquents, but apparently by the whole community. 
Nevertheless, in spite of their laxity, the monks could 
not but admire and reverence the virtues of the youth- 
ful hermit whose fame had reached them, and whom 
they had probably seen ; perhaps, too, his example 
had somewhat stirred their dormant fervour. In any 

case, it happened that when their abbot died they 



unanimously determined to elect Benedict in his 

With this intention they sent a deputation to him 
in his cave, and used every argument to induce him 
to accept the dignity. But the saint had no such j 
ambition, and refused even to consider their proposal. 
When they persisted, he, knowing something of their 
life, said plainly to them, "Your manners and mine 
do not agree ". This, however, instead of rousing 
their indignation as one would have supposed, only 
increased their desire to obtain his consent, and they 
renewed their entreaties, assuring him that it would 
be for the glory of God and the good of their souls. 
These last reasons at length prevailed, and Benedict 
reluctantly yielded. 1 

Quitting his retreat which had been to him an 
earthly paradise, the holy man set out for his new 
abode, heavy at heart on account of the burden he 
had taken upon himself. Such a dignity must, in 
every case, be a responsibility, and a charge fraught 
with many difficulties ; and Benedict found it doubly 
so, both on account of the rough ground he had to 
cultivate, and because he felt that his own young 
hands were unskilled in the work. But he placed all 
hjs confidence in God and set manfully to his task, 
determined to enforce the Kule, and to lead the 
brethren along the straight path. It is not known 

1 St. Gregory does not give the name of the monastery in his 
Dialogues, but there is no doubt that it was that of Vicovaro. 
The cave which served as a refectory is still shown to the pilgrim, 
and St. Benedict's cell has been converted into a chapel, 


whether he gave them a new rule, or whether he 
adopted the one already followed. 

He entered upon his office after receiving the 
blessing of the Bishop of Tivoli, Vicovaro being under 
his jurisdiction ; then, with that fatherly solicitude 
which characterised him, Benedict began his reform. 
Poverty was made obligatory, independence was no 
longer tolerated, idle conversations were forbidden, 
superfluous food and clothing curtailed, and strict 
regularity enforced, faults had to be acknowledged 
and satisfaction duly made. In order to assist the 
monks, the abbot gave them frequent conferences 
and exhortations, and poured out upon them all the 
love and kindness of his great heart, that thereby he 
might temper the severity of the Bule. But all his 
efforts only produced the result he had foreseen. 
The brethren had fostered their evil habits till they 
had become a second nature ; the new regulations 
seemed to them unbearable, and necessary prohibi- 
tions unlawful despotism. At first they nursed their 
resentment in silence, bitterly regretting their folly 
in choosing a superior whose yoke they could not 
carry ; then gradually they began to murmur, and to 
ask one another how such a state of things could be 
remedied. Benedict, when he perceived this, did all 
in his power to allay the evil, hoping by time and 
patience to heal the breach ; but the bad seed had 
sunk deep, and its fruit was already ripe. At length 
matters came to a crisis. The most depraved among 
the brethren hid their wickedness under such an 
appearance of regularity that their foul conspiracy 


escaped the abbot's watchful eye. These impious 
men, having taken counsel among themselves, deter- 
mined to poison their saintly master and spiritual 
father. They knew they could easily procure some 
deadly potion which they would put into the cup 
from which he daily drank. 

Thus we see Benedict apparently on the very brink 
of the grave, his life hanging on a thread. The 
morning dawns which those ministers of Satan 
determine shall be his last. All is in readiness. 
Slowly and silently the brethren have walked into 
the refectory, grace has been sung, all are seated. 
Then the server steps forward with the poisoned 
cup and, offering it to the abbot, salutes him with 
the words " Benedicite Pater," and the abbot, raising 
his hand, blesses it in the name of Him Who knows 
all and can do all, whose might penetrates the 
bowels of the earth and can deliver from death and 
hell. The sign of the Cross is scarcely made, the 
words " Deus benedicat" barely pronounced, when 
suddenly the cup breaks into a thousand atoms as 
though struck by a heavy stone ! The diabolical 
plan has failed and the gentle power of the Cross 
has prevailed. The guilty monks were paralysed 
with terror, and Benedict at once recognised the 
meaning of what had occurred ; for he knew that 
must have been the drink of death which could not 
endure the sign of life. Therefore, rising with a calm 
countenance and a peaceful mind, he thus addressed 
the monks: "Almighty God have mercy upon you 
and forgive you. Why have you used me in this 


manner? Did I not tell you beforehand that our 
manner of living could never agree together? Go 
your ways, and seek out some other father suitable 
to your own conditions, for I intend not now to stay 
any longer among you." Thus taking leave of them, 
he returned to the solitude he so much loved and 
dwelt alone with himself in the sight of his Creator. 
St. Gregory explains very beautifully what he 
means by the words "dwelt alone with himself," and 
his explanation gives us an insight into Benedict's 
interior life. He says : " If the holy man had longer, 
contrary to his own mind, continued his government 
over those monks, who had all conspired against him, 
and were so unlike him in life and conversation, 
perhaps he would have diminished his own devotion, 
and somewhat withdrawn the eyes of his soul from 
the light of contemplation, and being weary daily 
with correcting their faults, he would have had less 
care of himself, and so haply it might have fallen 
out that he should have both lost himself without 
finding them, for as often as by infectious emotion 
we are carried too far from ourselves, we remain the 
same men that we were before, because we are 
wandering about other men's affairs, little consider- 
ing and looking into the state of our own soul. For 
shall we say that he was with himself, who went 
into a far country, and after he had, as we read in 
the Gospel, prodigally spent that portion which he 
received of his father, was glad to .serve a citizen to 
keep his hogs, and would willingly fill his hungry 
belly with the husks that they did eat? who not- 


withstanding afterwards when he thought with him- 
self of those goods he had lost, it is written of him, 
that returning into himself, he said, ' How many 
hired men in my father's house do abound with 
bread'. If then before, he were with himself, from 
whence did he return unto himself ? And therefore 
I said that this venerable man did dwell with himself 
circumspectly and carefully in the sight of his Creator, 
always considering his own actions, always examining 
himself, never did he turn his eyes from himself to 
behold aught whatsoever." Here, in St. Gregory's 
Dialogues, his disciple, Peter, asks whether St. Bene- 
dict could in conscience abandon those monks whose 
government he had taken upon him ? And St. 
Gregory answers, "In my opinion evil men may 
with good conscience be tolerated in that community 
where there be some good who may be helped. But 
where there be none good at all, that may receive 
spiritual profit, oftentimes all labour is lost that is 
bestowed in bringing of such to good order, espe- 
cially if other occasions be offered of doing God 
presently better service elsewhere. And if you mark 
well, you shall quickly perceive that venerable Bene- 
dict forsook not so many in one place that were un- 
willing to be taught, as he did in sundry places raise 
up from the death of the soul many more that were 
willing to be instructed." l 

In fact, Benedict was received back by his former 
disciples with a. joy which is easier imagined than 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. iii. 


described. His absence bad taught them what they 
had lost, and now they attached themselves to him 
more closely and intimately than before, and as 
fallow ground produces more abundant harvests, 
and the pruned tree more perfect fruits, so now 
they pressed forward with renewed vigour, and the 
spiritual life grew and flourished under so skilful a 
master. For Benedict had himself profited by his 
stay at Vicovaro, where he had gathered experience, 
and a more thorough knowledge of men, and now 
he could confidently teach what he so heroically 
practised — forgiveness of injuries and love for 


a.d. 496 519. 

Before we enter upon the life of activity and zeal 
which St. Benedict is about to join to his life of 
solitude and prayer, we will take another glance at 
the history of the Church, and at the events which 
were, then taking place around him. It has been 
said that a man cannot be separated from the period 
in which he lives, because he is a member of that 
society which form&4hc_ history of his time. This 
is especially the case with regard to Christians, who 
are members of one Church and are individually 
affected by all her acts. Thus, a Christian is born 
to the Church by holy baptism, nourished and reared 
by her sacraments and her doctrines, and sanctified 
by her benediction ; while proportionately to the 
use he makes of these goods he contributes to her 
structure and well-being. 

Benedict with ever-increasing gratitude under- 
stood and valued his position as a son of the one 
holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded on the 
rock of Peter, and to contribute to her glorification 
was his one aim and desire. His flight, his solitude, 

his prayer and vigils, his zeal for souls, all tended to 



this one object ; hence, he regarded her destiny with 
keenest interest, and longed for the realisation of 
our Lord's prayer, that " there shall be one fold and 
one shepherd". 1 It will not then be irrelevant if, 
before pursuing his life, we take a glance at the 
history of the time in which he played so prominent 
a part. 

In 496 St. Anastasius II. had, by the unanimous 
choice of both clergy and people, been elected to fill 
the chair of Peter.- He was in every way worthy of 
the dignity bestowed upon him, and an outcome of 
his great heart was his intense longing to heal the 
schism which had separated the East from the centre 
of unity. For this purpose he sent two bishops to 
Constantinople as the bearers of a letter to the Em- 
peror Anastasius, in which he besought him with 
fatherly tenderness no longer to suffer the seamless 
robe of Christ to be rent by impious dissensions. 
Eagerly did he wait for an answer to his appeal ; but 
he died before it arrived, having governed the Church 
only two years. Meanwhile the East remained 
obstinate, although Macedonius, then Patriarch of 
Constantinople, was estimable in many respects, and 
was sincerely desirous of seeking a reconciliation 
with Home. 

Five days after the death of St. Anastasius, Sym- 
machus, a Sardinian, was elected to succeed him by 

1 John x. 16. 

2 The names of these legates were Cresconius and Germanus. 
They were to demand the removal from the diptychs of the names 
of Peter Mongus and Acacius, the recognition of the Council of 
Chalcedon, and the extinction of the schism. 

HISTORY OF THE TIMES, A.D. 496-519. 59 

a plurality of votes. He was possessed of many 
excellent qualities, but, unfortunately, his nomination 
proved an apple of contention, and Italy was thrown 
into confusion and alarm. 

Festus, a patrician sent to the imperial court to 
obtain the ratification of Theodoric as King of Italy, 
had been bribed by the Emperor to do all in his power 
to procure the recognition of the Henotikon in Kome. 1 
The election of a new Pope seemed to him the best 
moment to effect his purpose. But as Symmachus 
was not at all the kind of man likely to make con- 
cessions in matters of faith, Festus, assembling a 
large faction of Roman dignitaries, proceeded to 
choose as anti-pope the Archpriest Lawrence, and 
caused him to be consecrated on the self-same day 
as the true Pope. Schism was then publicly de- 
clared ; the whole city was in a ferment; blood ran 
freely in the streets, and every species of crime was 
perpetrated. Theodoric, who, though an Arian, had 
always shown great esteem for the Church, decided 
that Symmachus, who had been first elected and 
received the majority of votes, was the lawful Pope ; 
and he was at once recognised as such. Thus the 
affair seemed to have ended peaceably, but it was 
merely on the surface. Before long the two senators, 
Festus and Probinus, brought up a shameful accusa- 
tion against the Pope ; and matters became so critical 
that Theodoric determined to hasten his intended 

1 The " Henotikon," a Greek word signifying " Formula of union," 
was an heretical formula, or edict, drawn up by Acacius, Patriarch 
of Constantinople, at the desire of Zeno, the Emperor of the East. 


visit to Rome, that he might in person restore peace. 
He came in the year 500, and his arrival was at- 
tended with unparalleled rejoicings^ every species of 
honour being heaped upon him. St. Fulgentius, 
Bishop of Ruspa, who happened to be there at the 
time, relates how he saw Theodoric at a place called 
" Palma Aurea " seated on a magnificent throne 
surrounded by his court ; and struck dumb with 
admiration, he exclaimed : " Ah ! if earthly Rome is 
so beautiful, what must the heavenly Jerusalem be 
like'? If in this transitory life God surrounds the 
partisans of vanity with such splendour, what un- 
speakable happiness He must have prepared for His 
saints in heaven? " 

For a year the ecclesiastical conflict was more 
or less forgotten, but, in order effectually to put 
an end to it, Theodoric asked the Pope to convene 
a Council, which was held in 501. The first session 
in the Julian Basilica consisted merely of prelimin- 
aries ; the second took place in the Basilica of 
Santa Croce. At this the venerable pontiff appeared 
in person, and his innocence of any charge was 
so manifest that his enemies were only the more 
infuriated, and fresh scenes of bloodshed ensued. 
The Council continued to meet ; but the Pope, 
whose life was in danger, was unable to be present ; 
and at length the prelates again had recourse to 
Theodoric. His answer might serve as a model 
to Christian rulers in their dealings with the 
Church. In his letter to the Fathers of the Council 
he says, " Had it fallen within the sphere of my 

HISTORY OF THE TIMES, A.D. 496-519. 61 

powers to judge this matter, I certainly could with 
God's help have brought it to a satisfactory close. 
But it is the cause of God and His ministers, and I 
call upon you to discuss it ; for I deem it not my 
province to decide in ecclesiastical affairs. Pronounce 
then your judgment according to the dictates of your 
conscience, and thus restore peace to the senate, the 
clergy and people of Borne." The Council then met 
again in a third session, and declared that Symmachus 
was entirely innocent of the accusations brought 
against him ; apologising, as they did so, for their 
decision, because as inferiors they knew they had no 
right to judge a superior, above all, one who was the 
representative of Jesus Christ on earth. All such 
matters concerning his person ought to have been 
left to the judgment of God alone. 

Notwithstanding this apology, the bishops of Gaul 
loudly protested against the whole procedure, which 
they considered iniquitous ; and headed by St. Avitus, 
Bishop of Vienne, they sent a protest to the Italian 
bishops, expressive of their sorrow and surprise at 
what had occurred. This protest was as just and 
energetic as it was mild and conciliatory. One writer 
says of it : " We do not remember to have found in 
any age a more strong or significant proof of the 
deep reverence of any Church towards the Holy See 
than this letter of St. Avitus, a bishop who on 
account of his learning and piety was universally 
esteemed, not only by the Western Church, but even 
by the barbarians and their Arian kings ". 

But as the hostile faction continued its calumnies 


against both Pope and Council, Ennodius, afterwards 
Bishop of Pavia, was ordered to refute them, which 
he did so effectually that all his opponents were 
silenced. The fifth and last session of the Council 
was held at Eome in 503. 1 When it became a ques- 
tion of inflicting punishment on the heretics, Sym- 
machus won over even the most obdurate by his 
extreme leniency ; all submitted to the decrees of the 
Council, and thus the schism ended. It may be that 
Benedict's ceaseless prayers for the triumph of Holy 
Church had much to do with a victory in which 
apparently he took no part. 

However, the calm which followed the storm was 
of very brief duration ; scarcely had the last thunder- 
clap died away in the distance when fresh clouds 
began to gather. Symmachus, impelled by his 
apostolic zeal, sent a letter to Anastasius, Emperor 
of Constantinople, in which he declared that he could 
not in conscience allow the name of Acacius to be 
inserted in the diptychs, seeing that he had died in 
schism. The only answer to this admonition was 
virulent abuse on the part of the emperor, who called 
the Pope a usurper and a Manichean ; added to this, 
he began to persecute the monasteries in his do- 
minions, and openly announced himself a Eutychian. 
The two Eutychian Patriarchs of Antioch and Alex- 
andria were allowed to preach their erroneous 
doctrines unmolested, and at the same time their 
impious lives were a continual source of scandal. 

1 The fourth, called " Synodus Palmaris," had been held the year 
before, 502. 

HISTOBY OF THE TIMES, A.D. 496-519. 63 

Gradually the greater number of the Oriental bishops 
were overcome by the threats and entreaties of the 
Emperor, and consented to condemn the Council of 
Chalcedon as illegal. 

Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople, alone 
resisted, with a firmness which was truly admirable ; 
in consequence, he was hated by the Emperor and 
his partisans, who covered him with infamy, hired an 
assassin to despatch him, and when this stratagem 
failed sent him into exile, electing in his stead a 
man named Timothy, equally devoid of religion and 
honour. The emperor then convened a council for 
the purpose of anathematising the exiled patriarch ; 
and, in his fury against the Church, he actually 
caused the original documents of the Council of 
Chalcedon to be destroyed ; up to that time they had 
been in the keeping of Macedonius. These events 
happened in the year 512. Macedonius lived about 
four years in banishment near the Black Sea and 
died at Gangra in 515, where he had fled for refuge 
from the barbarians. It is generally supposed that 
he was murdered by command of Anastasius. The 
Greek Church numbers him among her saints. 

The Patriarchate of Jerusalem, hitherto so closely 
united with Koine, was now held by one John, who \ 
had so far debased himself as to promise to anathe- 
matise the Council of Chalcedon in order to obtain 
the dignity. But owing to the unceasing prayers 
and efforts of the saintly abbots, Sabas and Theodosius, 
the erring Patriarch was not only led to see his sin, 
but even to become a champion of the faith. Thus 


it came to pass that, on the day fixed for his public 
defence of heresy, after having celebrated Holy Mass 
assisted by St. Sabas and St. Theodosius, he unex- 
pectedly pronounced a threefold anathema against 
Nestorius, Eutyches, Soteric of Caesarea and Severus 
of Antioch, whereupon the whole congregation of the 
faithful burst out into cries of rapturous delight. 

Pope Symmachus died on 9th July, 514, in the 
odour of sanctity, reverenced by all as one as en- 
lightened and zealous as he was pious and generous. 
Hormisdas, a deacon, succeeded him on 26th July 
of the same year. He did not announce his election 
to the Emperor ; but in 515 Anastasius showed by his 
letters a willingness to seek for a reconciliation with 
the Holy See. This change was brought about by 
Vitalian, one of his guards, who marched against him 
with an immense army in order to compel him to 
cease his persecution of the Church. Anastasius 
then besought the Pope to convene a council at 
Heraclea; and Hormisdas sent Ennodius with several 
other distinguished men to Constantinople as his 
legates. By the express command of the Pope, they 
required as preliminaries that the emperor should 
recognise the orthodoxy of the decrees of Chalcedon 
and the letters of St. Leo the Great against Nestorius, 
Eutyches and Dioscorus, and that he should abjure 
the Eutychian and Monophysite heresies. This he 
absolutely refused to do ; and the legates returned to 
Kome. Another embassy sent by Hormisdas in 517 
was equally unsuccessful. Then, when all human 
means had failed, God laid His all-powerful hand on 

HISTOEY OF THE TIMES, A.l). 496-519. 65 

His persecutor, and called Anastasius to his reckon- 
ing ; he died quite suddenly on 9th July, 518. His 
death put an end to the schism, which had lasted 
thirty-five years. Justinian, his successor, was a 
loyal adherent to the faith, and did bis utmost to 
restore peace and union. 

On the 28th of March, 519, the formula of reunion 
sent by the Pope was solemnly accepted, and signed 
by the prelates. The orthodox bishops then returned 
to their sees, and the heretics fled. Alexandria was 
the only sad exception, Eutychianism having gained 
there such a firm footing that Justinian feared to 
make matters worse if he used violence ; he tried 
what he could do by kindness and leniency, but 
many years passed without a change. 

In Africa the Christians, after a brief interval of 
peace under Gundamund, were treated with the 
utmost severity by Thrasimund, his successor, who 
came to the throne in 496. This king gave free 
license to the Arians to persecute the Christians as 
cruelly as they chose. The holy bishop Faustus was 
attacked even in the monastery where he had taken 
refuge ; and Fulgentius, Bishop of Euspa, was so 
barbarously beaten by an Arian priest that he nearly 
died. By order of Thrasimund all churches were 
closed, and it was absolutely forbidden to consecrate 
any new bishops ; thus he hoped the Catholic religion 
would gradually die out, but, needless to say, new 
bishops were consecrated, with the result that those 
who had performed the ceremony were banished, to 
the number of sixty — some to Corsica, others to Sar- 



dinia. The great Eugenius of Carthage, who had 
but now restored sight to the blind, was once more 
sent into exile ; he went to France and lived in 
silence and retirement at Albi, where he died, 505. 
He was buried in the tomb of St. Amaranth, near 
which he had built a monastery. This monastery 
was still flourishing in the thirteenth century. 
Thrasimund reigned twenty-seven years, during 
which thousands suffered banishment, torture and 
even death for the faith they valued more than life. 
St. Fulgentius' biographer says that this persecution 
can only be compared to the earlier barbarous one 
under Huneric. 

How often must Benedict have uplifted his hands 
in prayer for the suffering Church, imploring God to 
turn away the scourge of His wrath, and look once 
more with an eye of mercy on His people ; and at 
the great day of judgment, when all hearts shall be 
revealed, we shall doubtless find that many of those 
African martyrs owed their perseverance and their 
crown to the young saint who made their cause 
his own. 



So long as Theodoric lived uninterrupted peace 
reigned in Italy. He chose the best and most en- 
lightened men for his counsellors, such men as 
Cassiodorus, Boetius, Symmachus, Liberius and 
Ovidius, and thus in ten years the country was 
entirely changed. Instead of being depopulated and 
desolate, commerce and agriculture flourished ; and, 
though himself illiterate, Theodoric encouraged every 
branch of science and art. But illiterate as he was 
he was very politic, and while he bestowed honours 
and dignities on the deserving, to all he offered 
liberty and protection. In him the Church found 
a faithful defender in spite of his Arian tendencies ; 
he always treated her ministers with respect, and 
vindicated her privileges as if he had been her most 
devoted champion. Unfortunately, before his death 
he became both suspicious and tyrannical. 1 

In France Clovis was extending the true faith by 
his repeated victories over the barbarians. 2 Pope 

1 He unjustly condemned to death the Senator Boetius, and 
Symmachus his father-in-law, and also cast the holy Pope John I. 
into prison, where he soon died. Theodoric reigned from 493 to 

2 Clovis, King of the Franks, is considered as the founder of the 
French monarchy. The Franks were not one distinct tribe, but 



Anastasius II. had written to congratulate both 
him and his subjects on their conversion, comparing 
it to the miraculous draught of fishes on Lake 
Genesareth. When the oppression of King Alaric 
had reached its height, and the Christians in his 
dominions were crying out for a deliverer, Clovis 
volunteered to declare war against him. The 
Franks hailed this resolution with shouts of joy, 
vowing not to shave their heads till they had ob- 
tained a complete victory. Previous to his departure 
his wife, St. Clotilde, made a promise to build a 
church in honour of SS. Peter and Paul if her 
husband were victorious. Her prayers were heard. 
The Visigoths were utterly routed at Poitiers, and 
St. Gregory of Tours says that the dead bodies lay 
heaped one on the other like mounds. Thereupon 
Clovis abolished Arianism, restored the churches to 
their rightful owners, and accomplished an immense 
work in spreading the Gospel. He was scarcely 
forty-five when he died in 511 ; his widow, St. 
Clotilde, spent the remainder of her life near the 
tomb of St. Martin of Tours, engaged in works of 
charity and piety. 

Sigismund, a true son of holy Church, at this time 

made up of several German tribes who had entered into a con- 
federacy to preserve their independence. They had often before 
made incursions into Gaul and taken possession of its northern 
frontiers, when Clovis, young and ambitious, determined to subju- 
gate it entirely. This was about the year 486. He became a 
Christian in 496, after the battle of Tolbiac. He died in 511, after 
a reign of thirty years, leaving his kingdom to be divided among 
his four sons. 


reigned in Burgundy, and did all in his power to 
assist St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienne, in his missionary 
labours. He founded monasteries, built churches, 
insisted on the Divine service being carried out 
with all splendour, and was beloved by all his clergy. 
Unfortunately he fell into a great sin which cost the 
life of his son, but repentance speedily followed. St. 
Gregory of Tours relates that he wept and prayed 
day and night, and established a monastery for the 
perpetual celebration of the Divine Office in satis- 
faction for his crime. God permitted him to fall 
into the hands of Clodomir, 1 by whom he was 
executed ; but before his death he had so expiated 
his sin that he is numbered among the saints. 

The news of these events spread even into the 
cloister ; and though Benedict lived apart from the 
world, yet from his proximity to Rome he must 
have heard of them, and together with his disciples 
taken part in the joys and consolations, the trials 
and sorrows of the Church. And if the vicissitudes 
of human affairs were often the subject of his thoughts 
and prayers, so also may he be said to have formed 
the model of his life on the saints who were his 
contemporaries ; for in them his spiritualised vision 
saw clearly reflected the image of their Creator, and 
in proportion to this likeness were his admiration 
and his love. 

Many of these saints have already been spoken of, 
but there are still a few whom we must not over- 

1 King of Orleans, one of the sons of Clovis. 


look. In particular we would mention Caesarius, 
Bishop of Aries ; from his earliest years he had 
shown signs of future sanctity, and at the tender 
age of ten he entered the monastery of Lerins, 
where, on account of his singular virtue, he was 
ordained priest, and in course of time was made 
abbot of a neighbouring monastery. On the death 
of TConius, Bishop of Aries, in 501, Caesarius was 
forced to accept the episcopate, though he had sought 
refuge in flight. His zeal in his new capacity was 
unbounded ; among other works he founded a 
monastery of nuns, placing them under the direc- 
tion of his sister, St. Caesaria ; the Rule which he 
compiled for them was afterwards adopted by many 
communities of women. He was falsely accused by 
Alaric, and banished to Bordeaux, where by his 
prayers he saved the town from being destroyed by 
fire. When his innocence was subsequently proved 
Alaric recalled him, and the inhabitants of Aries 
went out to meet him, carrying candles and singing 
psalms. Later on he was again banished and sent 
to King Theodoric loaded with chains. At the sight 
of the saint's venerable appearance the king was 
convinced of his innocence and said : " I trembled 
when I beheld him, because he seemed to me rather 
an angel than a man ". Caesarius died in 541, having 
governed his see forty years. 

Vedastus, Bishop of Arras, lived about the same 
time ; solitude had made him a saint, and, recog- 
nised as such by the Bishop of Toul, he was ordained 
priest in 496, and deputed to instruct Clovis in the 


truths of Christianity. St. Kemigius consecrated 
him Bishop of Arras, and his labours and .heroic 
endeavours were crowned with wonderful success. 
Viton, Bishop of Verdun, was his contemporary ; 
he shone as much by the holiness of his life as by 
his numerous miracles, and died in 525, worn out 
with work and penance. At Lyons St. Viventius, 
a friend of St. Avitus and St. Apollinaris, was 
universally esteemed. St. Sylvester was Bishop 
of Chalons for forty-two years, and was the first 
instructor of the great Caesarius of Aries. After his 
death many sick people were laid on his bed of 
twisted ropes, and thus obtained their cure. St. 
Gregory governed the Church of Langres for thirty- 
three years, though he was fifty-seven years old at 
his consecration and had been previously married. 
He led a life of remarkable fervour and sanctity, and 
gave proof of his zeal in his immense labours among 
both Christians and heathens. He was succeeded 
in his see by his own son Tetricus, 541. 

During the reign of Clovis the fame of the holy 
abbot Severinus had spread far and wide, as on 
one occasion when the king's life was despaired of, 
he had cured him by merely covering him with his 
cloak ; he also cured the deaf and dumb Bishop 
Eulalius and healed a leper. He succeeded St. 
Agapitus as abbot, when the latter retired into the 
desert ; and during the war against the Visigoths 
his presence was sufficient to prevent the plunder 
of the monastery. Even the elements obeyed his 
word. He died in 515. 


We will conclude this list of St. Benedict's con- 
temporaries with St. Euspicius, a priest of Verdun. 
Clovis built a monastery for him at Misci, near 
Orleans, which afterwards became very famous ; 
his nephew, Maximus, succeeded him as abbot, and 
became the spiritual father of many saints. These 
and many other holy men, too numerous to mention, 
shone as bright lights in the Church, and served to 
point out the straight- way at a period when much 
confusion reigned ; and their example led others to 
walk faithfully in the path of salvation which leads 
to eternal life. 


a.d. 511-519. 

On leaving Vicovaro, Benedict's one idea was to 
return to his beloved solitude, there to live in un- 
broken communion with his Creator. But God 
■would not leave concealed the light which He Him- 
self had kindled ; and though Benedict endeavoured 
to hide himself from all men, many disciples con- 
tinued to gather round him, for he was already 
renowned, not only for his virtues, but also on 
account of his wonderful gift of miracles. He had 
no earthly ambition, yet God had decreed that he 
should be all things to all men, and that all eyes 
should turn to him as one capable of imparting the 
choicest of heavenly gifts. He was silent, yet his 
very presence seemed to speak to all who beheld 
him. As his disciples daily increased, they were no 
longer content to live scattered here and there in 
the surrounding country ; and they desired very 
naturally to form a community with Benedict for 
their abbot and guide. Thereupon, having acquired 
sufficient land, and benefactors having come forward 

with the necessarv means to defray the expenses of 



building, twelve monasteries were erected in the 
course of a few years, viz., from 510 to 519. These 
monasteries were all within a radius of two miles 
of Subiaco. If we take into consideration the diffi- 
culties of building even one monastery, especially in 
that mountainous country with but a scant popula- 
tion, we cannot fail to see how the hand of. God 
rested visibly on Benedict and his work ; a work 
unprecedented in the West, and which surpassed 
and outshone the labours of all his contemporaries. 
Truly, to change the Sabine Mountains, as he did, 
into a spiritual paradise required a man of apostolic 
power, of far-reaching prudence and of angelic 

In each of the twelve monasteries Benedict placed 
an abbot and twelve monks ; but though each house 
had its superior, they were all under his own super- 
vision. He gave them their Kule, frequently visited 
them, animated them with his spirit, and formed 
them after the model which God had shown him 
during his long years of solitude and intercourse with 
Him. The monks, who loved him as a father and 
venerated him as a saint, did their utmost to conform 
their lives to his teaching. 

Around his own cave on Monte Calvo, hung as it 
were between earth and heaven, St. Benedict placed 
a few chosen disciples, such as in accordance with 
his own Rule (ch. i.) he deemed to be called to the 
solitary or eremitical life." In later ages this be- 
came the monastery of the Sacro Speco, and is the 
true cradle of the whole Order. The actual buildings 


comprise a basement of chapels attached to the 
Holy Cave, the crypt of the present twelfth century 
church and choir. Annexed are the ancient Chapter 
House and Refectory and monastic offices, over 
which 200 years ago were built dormitories, library, 
etc. A tower, raised in the middle ages for purposes 
of defence, guards the drawbridge, once the only 
means of access to the Sanctuary, from which a short 
cloister leads to the church. 

The Holy Cave itself, adorned with a handsome 
marble altar, is lit by a circle of lamps, each inscribed 
with the name of the monastery whose community 
desires thus to watch where St. Benedict prayed. 
The statue of the saint attributed to Bernini is a well- 
known work of art. The interior walls of the church 
and cloister are covered with fresco paintings. They 
form a consecutive record of mediaeval art from the 
eighth to the fifteenth century. Especially interest- 
ing are those of St. Thomas of Canterbury (the 
earliest known picture of the saint), of Pope 
Innocent III., drawn during his pontificate, and 
of " Frater Franciscus," afterwards St. Francis of 
Assisi, a portrait from life, without stigmata or 

The second monastery built by the holy patriarch 
was that of SS. Cosmas and Daniian, now dedicated 
to St. Scholastica, situated on a mountain half way 
between Subiaco and the Sacro Speco. It is not 
known whether it was named after the benefactor 
who gave it, or whether St. Benedict had a special 
devotion to the two holy martyrs.. Later on, when 


St. Scholastica was honoured in the Order as second 
only to her brother, this monastery was called after 
her. It exists even to this day, having been rebuilt 
in the thirteenth century. Sylvia, the mother of St. 
Gregory the Great, was much attached to it, and 
endowed it with large revenues ; afterwards, when it 
was destroyed by the Lombards, she caused it to be 
restored. The Sacro Speco is now incorporated 
with it, and twelve religious keep watch in the Holy< 
Cave and there sing the Divine Office. Many 
eminent men have come forth from the walls of St. 
Scholastica's, and it has always been celebrated for 
its regular discipline. 

These two monasteries were the most famous of 
the twelve. The remaining ten may be enumerated 
as follows : St. Angelus, of which nothing remains 
but a little chapel in honour of St. Maurus. St. 
Mary's, which is thought to be the one in which 
Blessed Laurence the Hermit spent thirty-three 
years, leading a life of marvellous austerity ; he was 
buried there, though the relics have since been trans- 
lated to the Sacro Speco, and the monastery now 
bears his name. The fifth was dedicated to St. 
John the Baptist, and the sixth to St. Jerome ; both 
these were situated on high mountains, and were 
those for which St. Benedict caused water to flow 
miraculously from the rock. The miraculous spring 
may still be seen at St. John's. Then follow St. 
Clement's, St. Blaise's (later on dedicated to St. 
Komanus), St. Michael's, situated below the Sacro 
Speco, overhanging the lake, and the scene of the 


miracle of the rescue of St. Placid ; St. Victoria's, 
at the foot of Monte Porcario ; and St. Andrew's, 
afterwards called "Vita geterna ". Of these last 
monasteries no trace remains. In 1699 Bernard 
of Montfaucon writes that St. Michael's was still 
standing, but unfit for habitation. 



I. — On the Abbot — The Virtues required in a Monk — 
The Divine Office. 

St. Benedict oniy wrote his famous Kule later on 
in life, though there is no doubt that its spirit and 
outlines were those by which he trained his disciples 
from the very beginning. In his Rule he describes 
the religious life : (1) as one of labour and difficulty, 
by which man regains, through obedience, that which 
he had formerly lost through disobedience. (2) He 
says that it is a military service under the standard 
of Christ, the monk to be clad in the strong armour 
of obedience. (3) He compares it to a race in the 
arena. (4) He depicts it as a life of spotless purity 
and fidelity ; and lastly as a school, in which is 
taught and practised the most sublime of all arts, 
how to serve God perfectly — a school of divine service 
in which, to a beginner, many things appear rough 
and hard, but, after the first difficulties have been 
surmounted, all is done with the unspeakable sweet- 
ness of love. The saint acknowledges that a life of 
complete solitude is very excellent, but that it is open 
to many dangers, and can only be adopted wffrh 



security by those who have, by many and long trials 
in a monastery, learnt to withstand alone the enemy 
of their souls. For this reason he prefers religious 
li'fe in community, that is, cenobitical, living under 
a rule and abbot. At the head of this common life 
is the abbot who must rule the monastery as the 
representative of Christ, commanding nothing but 
what is conformable to the Divine precepts, and 
teaching more by his example than by his words. 
He is to make no distinction among the brethren, 
whether noble or servile ; nor may he favour or love 
one more than another unless one be found who 
surpasses the rest in obedience and good works. 
According to a fundamental law of good government 
he is to temper severity with love, reproving the 
disorderly with sharpness, but exhorting the meek 
and patient by entreaties. He must not overlook 
any faults lest they take root, but use all possible 
endeavours utterly to eradicate them. He is not to 
take more care of the temporal goods of the monastery 
than of the souls entrusted to him ; nor to complain 
of the want of temporal means, remembering that it is 
written, " Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, 
and His justice, and all these things shall be added 
unto you ".* If important matters have to be decided, 
the abbot must call the whole community to council, 
and listen to each one's opinion before coming to a 
decision. In lesser matters he is to seek advice only 
from the senior brethren according to that saying 

1 Matt. vi. 33. 


in Holy Scripture, M Do thou nothing without counsel, 
and thou shalt not repent when thou hast done 'V 1 

The holy patriarch takes the Gospel as the true 
basis of religious life ; and extracting from it the 
most important precepts, he places them before his 
disciples in seventy-two short sentences, which con- 
tain all that belongs to the practice of perfection. 
He calls these the instruments of the spiritual art, 
exercised in the monastery as in a workshop of 
salvation and sanctification. Upon this foundation 
he sets the four pillars of the spiritual edifice, viz., 
obedience, silence, humility and prayer. 

Obedience, he says, is the first thing necessary for 
those who hold nothing more dear than Jesus Christ ; 
and it must be obedience without delay, which signi- 
fies that the command of a superior should be so 
quickly accomplished by the inferior as to be like 
one foot following another. Neither must the 
command be obeyed timidly, coldly, or slowly, nor 
with murmuring or an answer showing unwilling- 
ness, but with a good will because " God loveth a 
cheerful giver," 2 and the obedience which is given 
to a superior is given to God. 

Benedict drew his love and appreciation forsilence 
from the Psalmist, who says : " I will take heed to 
my ways : that I sin not with my tongue. I have 
set a guard to my mouth, ... I was dumb, 
and was humbled, and kept silence from good 
things ". 3 Therefore he wills that those who seek 

1 Ecclus. xxxii. 24. 2 2 Cor, ix. 7. ? ' Ps f xxxviii. 2, 3. 


after perfection shall be rarely allowed to talk ; 
while, as for buffoonery and idle words, he will not 
tolerate them at all in a monastery. 

Great, however, as was his esteem for silence, he 
valued humility even more. He considered true 
humility as the very height of perfection ; a summit 
to be attained by means of twelve ascending steps, 
which he enumerates as follows : The first degree is 
the fear of God which causes the commandments to 
be obeyed, and the senses and inclinations to be 
mortified. The second degree is the voluntary sub- 
mission of the will, according to that saying of Our 
Lord : " I came, . . . not to do My own will, but the will 
of Him that sent Me ". 1 The third degree is perfect 
obedience in imitation of Our Divine Lord, Who was 
obedient even unto death. In some monasteries 
this degree is the only portion of the Holy Kule 
read during the last three days of Holy Week. The 
fourth degree is to receive willingly, when occasion 
offers, not only hard and difficult commands, but even 
injuries and insults. The fifth degree is to confess 
to the abbot all evil thoughts and secret sins, ac- 
cording to those words of the Psalmist : ''I will 
confess against myself my injustice to the Lord : 
and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my 
sin". 2 The sixth degree is that a monk be con- 
tent with all that is poorest and meanest, and thinly 
himself a worthless servant. The seventh degree is 
that he really believe himself to be the lowest and 

1 John vi. 38. 2 Ps. xxxi. 5. 


vilest of all, saying with the Psalmist, "lam a worm, 
and no man "} The eighth degree is that he do 
nothing but what the common rule and the example 
of his seniors teaches him. The ninth degree is that 
he observe silence unless questioned. The tenth 
degree is that he be not easily moved to laughter. 
The eleventh degree is that if he speaks he must do 
so gently, humbly, gravely, discreetly and with few 
words, for the Scripture says : "A wise man is 
known by the fewness of his words ". 2 The twelfth 
degree is that a monk be always mindful of God's 
judgments, and with eyes cast on the ground think 
himself guilty for his sins, ever saying in his heart 
with the publican : " Lord, I, a sinner, am not 
worthy to lift up mine eyes to Heaven ". 3 The holy 
founder then assures his disciples that, when all these 
degrees of humility have been attained, they will 
soon come to that love of God which is perfect and 
casteth out fear, and that then the exercise of virtue 
will become not only easy, but a source of delight to 

From humility St. Benedict passes to prayer, 
which is the fourth pillar of religious life. He calls 
it the " work of God," and says that no other work 
may be preferred to it. He then distinguishes be- 
tween, the vocal prayers made in common and interior 
prayers uttered only in the heart. He says that 
vocal prayer is to be carried out in the manner pre- 
scribed by the Church ; it is to be divided into night 

1 Ps. xxi. 7. 2 Cf. Eccl. x. 3 Cf. Luke xviii. 13. 


watches and day hours ; each week 150 psalms are 
to be said, interspersed with lessons from Holy 
Scripture and the homilies of the Fathers. About 
two hours after midnight the brethren are to rise 
and hasten to the church for the night watches. 
Whenever the monks hear the signal for prayer they 
must at once lay aside their work, and go with all 
speed to the service of God, yet with gravity and 
modesty. Once in choir, they must remember with 
what reverence they should stand in the sight of 
God and His angels, and so sing that heart and 
voice may accord together. 

As to the second kind of prayer, St. Benedict 
teaches his disciples always to bear in mind that they 
will be heard, not on account of many words, but for 
their purity of heart and penitential tears ; and that 
their prayer is to be short and pure, unless prolonged 
by the inspiration of Divine grace. Supported by 
these four pillars of obedience, silence, humility and 
prayer, the monks' daily life in the monastery flows 
gently on in beautiful order and harmony. 


SUMMARY OF THE RULE (continued). 

II. — Officials and Subordinates of the Monastery — 
Labour — Food — Clothing, etc. 

St. Benedict then proceeds to regulate the offices 
of the various subordinates. Obviously, it would be 
impossible for the abbot to preside everywhere in 
person ; he must, therefore, with the advice of the 
senior monks, appoint a prior to take his place as 
often as may be required. The abbot may also 
appoint deans, with whom he may share the burden 
of government ; nevertheless, those so chosen must 
be on their guard against pride, lest they come to 
regard themselves as second abbots, which would 
cause endless scandals and dissension. One of the 
brethren is to be chosen as cellarer, and must care 
for the food and drink and other necessaries of the 
monastery. He must be wise, mature in manners, 
• and abstemious, neither hasty, nor haughty, nor 
insolent ; not slow, nor wasteful, but God-fearing, 
and he should act as a father to the whole com- 
munity. St. Benedict specially recommends him to 
take particular care of the sick, the guests, the 
children and the poor, remembering that for all he 

must give an account on the day of judgment. If 



the ceHarer has really nothing to give to those who 
ask, he is at least to bestow a kind word, for it is 
written : " The good word is better than the gift "j 

If there are priests among the monks, they are 
allowed to rank next to the abbot, to celebrate Holy 
Mass and to give the blessing ; yet with submission 
and humility. Other clerics are to hold a middle 
rank, and all without exception must observe the 
Eule. If secular priests ask for admission, they may 
only be received after some time of trial. The porter 
of the monastery is to be a wise old man, capable of 
giving a suitable answer to those who present them- 
selves at the gate, and one not given to idle talk. 
As soon as any one knocks, he must immediately 
answer "Deo Gratias," and then hasten to serve 
the new comer with all the fervour of oharity. 

The abbot is to appoint officials for the various 
offices, but he himself is to be elected by all the , 
community. St. Benedict wills that the monks 
should choose for their abbot one who excels in ' 
virtue, learning and wisdom, even though he be *tne 
last of the brethren. If it should ever happen that 
the community choose one unworthy of the dignity, 
the bishop and neighbouring abbots are to depose 
him, and appoint a more worthy steward in his 
place, knowing that by so doing they shall deserve 
a great reward. 

With regard to the various occupations and the 
division of labour, the holy Legislator regulates as 

1 Ecclus. xviii. 16. 


/ follows : Idleness, he says, is an enemy of the soul ; 
J^ therefore he requires that the brethren shall so spend 
y ) their time as by it to merit a happy eternity. He 
distinguishes two kinds of labour — spiritual and 
manual; the first he calls reading, the ^second work 
done with the hands. Codices were provided from 
the library for the monks to read ; these were manu- 
scripts, which in those days supplied the place of 
printed books. In summer time two hours before 
dinner were given to reading, the remainder of the 
day to manual labour. In winter the time appointed 
for reading was from the end of Prime till the second 
hour, and from None till Vespers ; in Lent, from 
Prime till Tierce. There was also to be reading 
during meals, and St. Benedict especially lays down 
that the brethren are not to read and sing in turns, 
but only those are to be chosen who will edify their 
hearers. During the hours devoted to reading one 
or two seniors were appointed to see that no one 
gave himself up to sleep or idle talk. Sundays are 
to be consecrated entirely to the Divine service, 
meditation and spiritual reading, with the exception 
of a few necessary occupations. 

After this careful legislation for the mind, the holy 
Patriarch goes on to speak of the body, which is also 
to be employed in labour, and thus made to carry out 
what God had commanded even in Paradise. He 
says : The brethren are to be employed at certain 
times in labouring with their hands. In summer 
he gives to this kind of work the four first and the 
three last hours of the day, and in winter six hours 


in the middle of the day, with an extra hour in Lent. 
The mill, the garden and the bakehouse are all to be 
within the enclosure of the monastery, so that the 
monks may have no occasion to go out, and thus 
come in contact with the world ; the different trades 
are likewise to be carried on inside the monastery. 
St. Benedict adds that if the situation of the place, 
or poverty, requires the monks to reap their own 
harvest, they are not to be grieved, for by so doing 
they are monks in very deed, living by the labour of 
their hands as did the Apostles and the holy Fathers. 
If there are artisans among the brethren, they may 
be allowed to exercise their crafts, provided they do 
so with humility. 

All are to take their turn in the labours of the 
kitchen and refectory, entering on and ending their 
week's service by asking the abbot's blessing and the 
prayers of the community. The monks are to treat 
whatever things may be entrusted to their care as 
if they were the sacred vessels, because everything 
belonging to the monastery is to be considered as 
belonging to God Himself. For this reason, those 
who end their week of work in the kitchen must 
hand over what has been used perfectly clean and 
neat. The abbot must keep a list of all the goods of 
the monastery, and if any one uses the property of 
the community in a slovenly or negligent manner he 
is to be rebuked. The monks may not look upon 
anything as their own ; and without leave from the 
abbot they may neither give nor receive anything, 
because they are men whose very bodies and wills 


are not in their own power. Neither may they send 
letters, presents or " eulogiae " without express per- 
mission (these eulogiae were blessed breads, which 
Christians used to send to one another as tokens of 
love and friendship and communion of faith). St. 
Benedict shows the greatest dread of anything like 
proprietorship, because he looked upon it as a source 
of many evils ; hence he legislates on this point with 
great severity, declaring that "this vice must be cut 
away from the Monastery by the very roots ". Never- 
theless, the father or cellarer is to provide the monks 
with all necessaries. 

The daily meal is to be taken at midday in summer, 
in the afternoon in winter, and during Lent not till 
the evening. During Paschal time a supper may be 
provided as well as dinner. There are always to be 
two dishes of cooked food ; and, when seasonable, 
fruit and young vegetables may be added as a third 
dish. Every one is to receive a pound of bread, which 
must suffice for both dinner and supper. Meat is 
forbidden except for the use of the sick. A certain 
quantity of wine is allowed, proportionate to the heat 
and the greater or less stress of work. Both in 
eating and drinking all excess must be carefully 
avoided, as unbecoming to Christians. 

With regard to sleeping, each monk is to have a 
separate bed, and either the entire community are to 
sleep in one dormitory, or else ten by ten with their 
respective superiors or deans. They are to sleep 
clothed and girt that they may be ready to rise at 
once when the signal is given for the work of God. 


After the evening meal all are to meet together 
for the reading of some holy book and for Compline, 
after which no word may be spoken till after Prime 
on the following day. It is probable that in St. 
Benedict's time the monks went to bed an hour 
after sunset, as the Collations and Compline began 
at sunset and lasted about an hour. 

The monks' clothing is to be chosen according to 
the climate, and to consist of a cowl, tunic and 
scapular, with shoes and stockings to cover the feet ; 
the material of these garments to be of a common 
kind, such as can easily be procured in the country 
where the monastery may be. The bedding is to 
consist of a mattress, a blanket, a coverlet and a 


SUMMARY OF THE RULE (concluded). 

III. — Penances — Novitiate — Profession — The Sick — Zeal 
and Love of God. 

Another point upon which St. Benedict insists in 
his Rule is the maintenance of discipline by the 
correction of faults. He ordains that any one who 
commits a fault against the Rule, or who, while 
labouring, has injured or destroyed anything, shall 
accuse himself of it before the abbot and community; 
and make the appointed satisfaction ; if he neglects 
to do this, and his negligence is made known by 
another, he is to be more severely punished. By 
this means St. Benedict would make the monks 
careful and attentive, remembering, as he says, that 
the eyes of God are always upon them, and that he 
who is faithful in that which is least, will be faithful 
also in that which is greater. When it is a question 
of a graver offence — for example, if a monk be stub- 
born, disobedient, proud, or murmuring — he is to be 
once or twice privately admonished, before proceed- 
ing to the penalty of excommunication. This 
excommunication is of two kinds. By the lesser, 
which is imposed for smaller faults, the delinquent 

is not allowed to intone a psalm or read a lesson in 



choir, and he is to take his meal alone, after the 
rest of the brethren. 

The greater excommunication, incurred by graver 
offences, causes the guilty one to be entirely cut off 
from the community. He may not go to the choir 
nor to the refectory, nor may any one speak to him 
or bless him as he passes. Yet the holy Patriarch 
here gives proof of his sweetness and mildness, for 
he adds that the abbot is to take the greatest care 
of the offending brethren, and use every means to 
win them to repent. He is to send them, as it were 
secretly, some older monks to console and encourage 
them to make satisfaction ; and cause all to unite in 
praying for them. If his efforts fail, he is to inflict 
corporal chastisement, and again pray with fervent 
charity that God, Who can do all things, would 
vouchsafe to cure the infirm brother. Should 
even this powerful remedy prove ineffectual, the 
abbot must, like a wise physician, use the sword of 
separation, lest one diseased sheep infect the whole 
flock. Those who are expelled from the monastery, 
or those who have left, may be received back three 
times, after which all entrance shall be denied them. 
This last regulation is a very beautiful evidence of 
the forbearance of the saint. 

The children of the monastery are to be punished 
with stripes or fasting. As monastic discipline aims 
not only at satisfying for offences, but also at pre- 
venting them, it is to be enforced at the very 
beginning of the novitiate. Those who come to 
offer themselves as religious are to be kept at the 


door and not admitted for some days, during which 
time they are to be tried by harshness. After ad- 
mission they are to remain for a year under the care 
of a skilled master, who understands how to win 
souls to God. The novice master must watch the 
novices narrowly and carefully, to discover whether 
they truly seek God and are eager for the Divine 
service, for obedience and for humiliation ; and he 
must lay before them all the rigour and austerity by 
which monks tend towards God. Three times during 
the year of novitiate the entire Eule must be read to 
them. If, after that, they promise to observe all 
things commanded, they are to write their vows, 
and, in the presence of the community, to make 
a promise, before God and His saints, of Stability, 
Conversion of manners and Obedience. The newly 
professed shall then sing three times the words : 
" Uphold me, Lord, according to Thy word, and 
I shall live : and let me not be confounded in my 
expectation ". , This having been thrice repeated 
by all, the professed shall cast themselves at the 
feet of the brethren, and from that time shall be 
considered as belonging to the community. If as 
novices they had any possessions, they must before 
profession dispose of everything, knowing that 
henceforth they may have nothing of their own. 
Their clothes, however, are to be kept, in case at 
any time one of them, succumbing to temptation, 
shall wish to leave the monastery. 

1 Beg. S.P.B.,g. 58. 


Those monks who have to go on a journey are 
to commend themselves before starting to the 
prayers of their brethren ; while absent they must 
carefully recite their office, and on returning they 
are to prostrate themselves in the choir, in order to 
atone for the faults committed on the journey. They 
must never speak of what they have heard and seen 
outside, because it is hurtful for monks to hear much 
of worldly things. 

One very stringent rule is that no one may either 
defend another, or strike, or excommunicate another. 
If a monk is rebuked for the least thing, or if he 
see that a senior is even slightly moved against him, 
he is without delay to prostrate at his feet, and 
remain there till he receive a blessing. In order 
to do penance for past laxity, the monks are so to 
use the holy time of Lent as to repair all the 
delinquencies of other times ; and to apply them- 
selves with fervour to tearful prayer, spiritual 
reading, compunction of heart and abstinence ; each 
one is to make some offering in the way of abstin- 
ence from food and drink, sleep or laughter, that by 
so doing he may await the feast of Easter with 
spiritual joy and desire ; yet he must acquaint the 
abbot with what he offers, and do it with his consent 
and blessing. 

The holy Patriarch, knowing that perfection con- 
sists in love, desires that monks shall treat all 
with fraternal charity, and serve, obey and prevent 
each other in honour. Great care is to be taken of 
the sick, for in them Christ is more especially 


honoured. The same law of charity is to extend 
to guests, who are to be received as Christ Himself. 
The abbot and monks are to go and meet them with 
all reverence, and, after praying with them, are to 
wash their feet and give them the kiss of peace ; 
a most loving consideration is to be shown to the 
poor and to pilgrims, who represent Christ in a 
special manner. 

In these few words we have tried to give the spirit 
and essentials of St. Benedict's Bale ; a rule by 
which he strove to lead his disciples to perfection. 
He himself esteems it but a rule for beginners, and 
suggests that one who has mastered it may rise to 
the higher paths of sanctity by means of the precepts 
of the holy Fathers. That it was dictated by the 
Holy Spirit we see clearly from the universal respect 
and appreciation in which it has always been held, 
and from the fact that it was adopted by all the 
Western monks and commended by many Councils. 


a.d. 522. 

As we have already seen, St. Benedict had now 
founded his first twelve monasteries and established 
his Rule in them. Subiaco had become transformed 
from a barren solitude into a delightful paradise. 
No longer the dwelling of wild beasts, and the terror 
of benighted travellers on account of its hissing 
serpents, it now re-echoed with the sound of God's 
praises. In its valleys and upon its summits the 
first Benedictines lived with a purity and perfection 
surpassed only by that of the angels and saints in 
heaven. Cardinal Baronius, contemplating the birth 
and happy beginning of the order, regards it as the 
aurora or dawn of one of the Church's most beautiful 
days. He says : " St. Benedict, the patriarch of 
monks, the resplendent light of the Catholic world, 
was still concealed in the fastnesses of the Apennines ; 
but neither the height of the rocks nor the deep 
recesses of the valley could hide so great a light. 
It soon shed its rays all over Italy, and Rome, being 
enlightened by it, as mistress of the world diffused 
it over the whole earth. For what province was 

there in the empire but would love and admire one 



whom Kome venerated and esteemed ! " It was not, 
however, his personal sanctity only which then 
attracted the eyes of all : a father is best known 
through his children, and if Benedict had hitherto 
been honoured for his own merits, he was now 
esteemed for the wisdom with which he trained up 
disciples who reflected his humility, diligence, fervour 
and fidelity ; whom he imbued with his own know- 
ledge and discernment in spiritual matters ; men 
who not only carried out the Gospel maxims in their 
own lives, but whom he rendered fit and capable of 
impressing them on the hearts and minds of others. 
The two hours daily spent in reading and medi- 
tating on the Holy Scripture, retirement from the 
world, the continual practice of self-denial, and the 
renunciation of their own will, together with the 
wonderful and saintly guidance they enjoyed, all 
co-operated to train them into perfect monks and 
true sons of holy Church. Consequently the new 
order began to be spoken of in every class of society ; 
its fame was spread abroad ; young men were eager 
to join so holy a congregation, and parents were 
delighted to find an asylum for their children, where 
they might be safe from the temptations of the 
world. St. Gregory tells us that many of the nobles 
and citizens of Kome brought their children to 
Benedict to be trained by him in God's service. 
It must have been a touching sight to see those 
Roman patricians offering their sons to the holy 
abbot that they might the more surely inherit, not 
the perishable goods of this world, but an eternal 


kingdom in paradise. The saint wisely ordained in 
his Kule that when a nobleman brought his child to 
the monastery, he was to make an oath never after- 
wards to give or furnish him with anything, either 
by himself or any other person ; this was to save 
the child from any temptation of returning to the 

About the year 522 three of the leading patricians 
of Eome, Equitius, Tertullus and Boetius, came to 
visit Benedict at Subiaco. They were deeply im- 
pressed by his evident sanctity and edified by the 
words of heavenly wisdom which fell from his lips ; 
while they marvelled at the admirable order esta- 
blished in his monasteries, and the union which 
prevailed among his disciples. They felt that, if 
they could, they would willingly have broken the 
chains which bound them to the world in order to 
embrace so angelic a life. However, being unable 
to do this, two of them, Equitius and Tertullus, 
offered Benedict their sons, Maurus and Placid, one 
a boy of twelve, the other a child of seven, begging / 
him to be a father to them. The saint received 
these, and the other children brought to him, not 
so much for the purpose of secular education, but 
rather as given to God to become future monks, 
growing up from childhood, as he himself had done, 
in the practice of monastic life. According to the 
custom of those times, parents had a perfect right 
to decide as to the education and future career of 
their children ; hence, if a child was offered to a 
monastery, it was looked upon as a voluntary pro- 



fession. In later days the Church decided that the 
entering a religious house and the profession must 
depend on the free will of the individual ; and the 
Council of Trent decreed that religious vows made 
before the age of sixteen can in no case be binding. 

Faustus, the fellow-monk and biographer of St. 
Maurus, tells us that the latter was the son of a 
senator named Equitius, and of his wife Julia. St. 
Benedict loved him the most tenderly of all his 
monks and instructed him most carefully, training 
him so carefully in virtue that he surpassed the rest 
of his brethren in the exactness of his observance. 
After describing the various kinds of self-denial which 
he practised in sleeping, eating, etc., especially during 
Lent, Faustus ends by saying " that he was so de- 
voted to silence and holy reading as to astonish even 
St. Benedict " (and we may suppose that it took a 
good deal to astonish him). Doubtless the excellent 
education Maurus had received, previous to his entry 
into the monastery, enabled him to teach the other 
boys, for St. Gregory says " he began to be a help to 
his master". As he increased in age he naturally 
became more useful, and by his wisdom and piety 
was looked upon as a second Benedict. 

Of St. Placid, St. Gregory writes that he was quite 
a child when he came to the monastery. From an 
old chronicle of Leo the Marsican we learn that his 
father Tertullus was very rich, and gave St. Benedict 
eighteen farms in Sicily, a magnificent house in Kome, 
the whole of Monte Cassino, and other estates. 

From this time the names of Maurus and Placid 


are inseparably united with that of their holy Father, 
since they were destined by God to be, as it were, 
the arms by which he was to spread his Order over 
the world, and by strengthening and consolidating 
it interiorly they became two firm pillars of the 
monastic edifice. There is no doubt that Benedict 
recognised the future greatness of the two boys, for 
we find them constantly chosen in preference to 
others as his companions and assistants. Gordian, 
St. Placid's biographer, relates how when Tertullus, 
clothed in purple and precious stones and accom- 
panied by other great lords of the empire, went to 
visit St. Benedict, he prostrated himself at the saint's 
feet and implored him with many tears to obtain for 
him the Divine mercy ; Benedict, seeing his humility, 
raised him from the ground, and instructed him as 
to the true means of meriting eternal life. Then it 
was that Tertullus offered his son Placid to be edu- 
cated and trained in the monastery. Both Tertullus 
and Equitius are thought to have been related to our 
saint, and like himself to have belonged to the 
Anician family. 



Very little is known of the various events which 
happened in the twelve monasteries of the Benedic- 
tine Order while St. Benedict presided over them. 
St. Gregory has handed down to us a few details 
which show that the holy Patriarch possessed not 
only miraculous power, but also supernatural wisdom 
for the government and direction of his disciples. 

In one of these monasteries, governed by the 
Abbot Pompeianus, St. Gregory says that there was 
a certain monk who could not remain quiet at his 
prayers, but as soon as he saw his brethren kneel 
and dispose themselves for their mental prayer he 
would get up and wander about, thinking only of 
worldly and transitory things. The abbot had often 
rebuked him for his fault and exhorted him to 
amend, but evidently in vain, for the monk continued 
to leave the church as soon as the others began to 
pray. At length Pompeianus had recourse to St. 
Benedict, and brought to him the erring brother. 
The saint reproached him very severely for his in- 
constancy and want of devotion, and the poor monk 
took his words to heart, and promised to do better. 

But in two days he was as bad as ever, and, yielding 



to his old temptation, wandered about as before while 
the rest of the brethren poured out their hearts in 
prayer. The abbot was greatly troubled, and, fearing 
the consequences of the bad example, he again had 
recourse to St. Benedict, who consented to come 
himself and correct the offender. He came there- 
fore to the monastery and, after Lauds, when the 
monks betook themselves to their meditation, he 
saw a little black boy pulling the monk by the end 
of his sleeve. Upon this St. Benedict said to the 
abbot and to Maurus : "Do you not see who it is 
that is drawing the monk out?" They answered 
that they saw nothing. Then he replied : "Let us 
pray that you may also see what kind of leader this 
monk has ". They prayed for two days, after which 
Maurus saw the little black boy, but the abbot was 
not able to do so. The following day, when the 
office and prayers were finished, Benedict left the 
oratory, and finding the monk he gave him the cor- 
rection which, as he says in his Rule, is the best for 
stubborn minds, that is, he chastised him with a rod. 
From that day forward the monk received no further 
molestation from the devil, and was able to remain 
quietly at his prayers with the rest ; so that, St. 
Gregory concludes, " the old enemy was so terrified 
that he never again dared suggest any such cogita- 
tions, as though by the blows, not the monk, but 
himself had been stricken , '. 1 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. iv. 



Among the monasteries founded by St. Benedict, 
there were, as we have already said, three situated 
almost on the summit of the mountain : the monas- 
teries dedicated to St. Jerome and to St. John, and 
a third, the name of which has not been handed 
down to us. In consequence of their position, the 
monks suffered much from want of water and were 
obliged to fetch all they needed from the lake half 
a mile below, the road leading there being exceed- 
ingly steep and dangerous. They therefore com- 
plained to the saint of the laboriousness of their 
task, and the great waste of time entailed by so much 
carrying ; and they begged him to change the situa- 
tion of their monasteries. Benedict, on hearing this, 
consoled them with " sweet words," and promised 
to see what could be done. That same night while 
the monks slept, calling Placid, he bade him accom- 
pany him up the mountain side. Silently in the dead 
of the night, the holy man and the little child wended 
their way to the rocks above ; on arriving there they 
both knelt and prayed. Then Benedict arose and told 
Placid to place three stones on the spot where they 

had prayed, which being done, they returned to their 



monastery. The next morning, as the brethren were 
preparing to go down to the lake as usual, Benedict 
came to them and told them to go to a certain rock 
which he pointed out, and to excavate at a spot where 
they would find three stones, and that God would 
supply them with the water they so much needed. 
Having reached the place he had indicated they 
found the rock already moist ; and on digging a hole, 
a stream of clear water burst forth in such abundance 
that to this day it forms a brook which, rising at the 
top of the mountain, flows down into the valley be- 
neath. The joy and delight of the monks at this 
fresh manifestation of Divine power were unbounded ; 
and the miracle served to increase the love and vene- 
ration they had for their holy Father, by whose 
prayers and merits it had been wrought. 



At this time Italy was overrun by the Goths ; who 
formed the greater part of the army, and were practi- 
cally masters of the country. King Theodoric himself 
was a Goth, and, together with the most of his 
countrymen, adhered obstinately to Arianism ; never- 
theless, many abjured their errors and became faithful 
sons of Holy Church. One of these came to St. 
Benedict, asking to be received into the monastery ; 
and the saint perceiving that the poor barbarian had 
evidently great aptitude for the kingdom of God 
readily acceded to his request. St. Gregory says : 
"A certain Goth, poor of spirit, that gave over the 
world was received by the man of God ". l Near 
the monastery there was a spot intended for cultiva- 
tion, but covered with brushwood and brambles ; 
and thither Benedict sent him, giving him a hatchet 
to clear away the thicket which overhung the lake.. 
Obedient and willing, the poor man set to work with 
all his heart, chopping right and left as though he 
were on a battlefield cutting his way through the 
enemy ; but his zeal was too great, for suddenly 
the head of the hatchet flew off and fell into the 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. vi. 



deepest part of the lake, so that there was no hope 
of recovering it. Frightened at what he had done, 
he hastened to find St. Maurus, who was then prior 
ojLtlae monastery ; and full of contrition he fell on 
his knees before him confessing his negligence and 
mishap. Maurus as soon as possible acquainted 
St. Benedict with what had happened, who went 
himself to the lake and taking the handle from the 
penitent brother cast it into the water. The poor 
Goth viewed this action with the utmost astonish- 
ment, when, lo ! on a sudden the iron head rose to 
the surface as though attracted by a magnet and 
joined itself to the handle. Then Benedict restored 
to him the hatchet, saying : " Continue your work 
and grieve no more ". This was indeed a repetition 
of the miracle which Eliseus worked for his disciples 
when they were building on the banks of the Jordan. 
One of them had the same accident as the Goth, and 
Eliseus repaired it in a similar way. 

Leo the Marsican, in his Cassinese Chronicle, re- 
lates how St. Benedict repeated this miracle after 
his death. He says that when the monks of Monte 
Cassino were once building a church in honour of 
St. Scholastica at Gaeta, one of the workmen let the 
iron part of his tool fall into the sea, an accident 
which would have hindered the work ; but the monks, 
trusting in the merits of their holy founder, and 
mindful of his former power in a like instance, went 
in a boat to the place where the iron had drifted, and 
putting fche handle into the sea iron and handle were 
both again united. 


a.d. 523. 

The miracle by which Maurus saved Placid from 
drowning contains many points of interest, showing 
the loving and continual care that Benedict had for 
his children. It further gives us an insight into the 
occupations of the monks and novices in those early 
days ; and points out the ancient custom of never 
leaving the enclosure without receiving a blessing 
from the abbot. It likewise bears witness to the 
high degree of sanctity attained by the two saints, 
and the holy contest of humility between them as to 
which had deserved so great a miracle. 1 

One day, when St. Benedict was in his cell read- 
ing, Placid, then about eight years of age, went to 
the lake to fetch water, and stooping down to fill 
his pitcher he lost his balance and fell in. Mabillon 
thinks that Benedict must have been in the monas- 
tery of SS. Cosmas and Damian, now St. Scholastica's, 
as from it there was a full view of the lake close at 
hand. St. Placid had only been offered by his father 
shortly before^yet, in spite of his being the son of 
one of the principal Eoman nobles, we see him at 

1 Dom Mege, Vie de St. Benoist, chap. vii. 



once employed in menial labour, in order that thereby 
he might learn to imitate his Lord and embrace for 
His sake all that was lowly and humble. 

The lake into which Placid fell is no longer to be 
seen ; it was an artificial one formed by turning the 
course of the river Anio, but the river has long since 
returned to its natural channel. Now there is a 
deep gorge in place of the lake, and a chapel has been 
built to commemorate the miracle over the spot 
where St. Placid was rescued. It is not known 
whether St. Benedict received a direct revelation, or 
whether he really saw what was passing at the lake ; 
but hastily calling St. Maurus, he told him the child 
was drowning, and bade him run and save him. St. 
Gregory mentions that Placid was carried quite a 
bow-shot from the bank, so that he must have fallen 
in at that spot where the Anio, or some mountain 
torrent, flowed into the lake. Maurus, having asked 
and received a blessing, ran with all possible speed 
to execute the command of his father, having no 
other thought than to obey ; and his obedience, 
triumphing over the laws of nature, caused him to 
walk upon the water as though it had been solid 
earth. St. Bernard says that this miracle was 
greater than the passage of the Eed Sea, for the 
Israelites, being burdened with the spoils of Egypt, 
were unable to walk upon the waves, and it was 
necessary that God should prepare a more stable 
path for them ; but St. Peter and St. Maurus, 
having left all things to follow Christ, were able 
without difficulty to walk upon the waters. 


Having reached the sinking boy, Maurus seized 
him by his hair, and so drew him to the bank. Only 
when both were safe on land did he realise what 
he had done, and felt astonished and frightened. 
Hurrying back, the two boys related to their holy 
father what had occurred ; and he, immediately 
disclaiming any share in the miracle, attributed it 
to the prompt obedience of his disciple. Maurus 
answered that he had merely acted as he was told, 
without knowing in the least what he was doing ; 
and that it was impossible to ascribe to him an act 
of virtue which he had never intended to perform. 
In this manner the two carried on a holy contest of 
humility, neither wishing to have the honour of such 
a miracle ; yet, as neither could be judge in a cause 
in which both were interested, the little Placid 
undertook to decide the matter ; he felt he had a 
word to say, for he had seen something Maurus had 
not. " When I was drawn out of the water," he 
said, " I saw the melotus of our father, and it seemed 
to me that he drew me out." The melotus was a 
large cloak worn by the monks of those days, and 
doubtless God permitted the child to see the cowl of 
his beloved abbot, that he might thereby recognise 
to whose merits he owed his life. 

This is one of the last events recorded of St. 
Benedict's life at Subiaco. 


a.d. 522-533. 

So few facts are related with regard to St. Benedict's 
life of labour and prayer in that wild romantic valley 
of the Anio, from the time he left Vicovaro until he 
had permanently organised his first twelve monas- 
teries, that we have to picture to ourselves the effect 
which may have been produced on the mind of the 
saint by the events happening in the world at large. 
As abbot, he was necessarily obliged to hold inter- 
course with many of the clergy about various affairs ; 
and he was also called upon to entertain those guests 
and pilgrims who, attracted by his reputation for 
sanctity, came to the monastery in great numbers. 
By these means he became acquainted with the 
leading events of the day ; and the vicissitudes and 
difficulties which beset Holy Church caused him to 
redouble his prayers and supplications for her, and to 
labour yet more zealously for the glory of God and 
the salvation of souls. Let us see then what the 
events were which thus affected him. 

In the year 522, when Theodoric the Ostrogoth 
still reigned over Italy, Boetius, of whom we have 

already spoken and who was related to St. Benedict, 



had the joy of seeing his two sons elected consuls. 
On this occasion they drove through Home in a 
triumphal car, accompanied by the senate, and 
afterwards received the congratulation of their 
sovereign and his people. Hitherto Boetius had 
possessed the greatest influence over Theodoric, but 
soon after these honours had been heaped upon his 
sons both he and his family fell into disgrace, on the 
charge of having held secret correspondence with 
the Court of Constantinople. Boetius himself was 
thrown into prison, and while there he wrote his 
famous work on the consolations of philosophy. He 
was a fervent Christian, and had been an intimate 
friend of the three Popes, St. Symmachus, St. Hor- 
misdas and St. John I. Under their guidance he had 
undertaken to reconcile philosophy with the religion 
of Christ, and to prove that one was but the porch 
leading into the other. Upon this man, who has 
been called the Christian Socrates, Theodoric vented 
his barbarous rage, which seemed to revive in him 
in his old age, and after causing Boetius to be cruelly 
tortured, he had his head split open in the year 526. 
Not content with this infamous deed, he had Pope 
John I. thrown into a dungeon, where he died from 
the ill treatment he received. Theodoric only sur- 
vived the martyr three months. His grandson 
Athalaric succeeded him, but in eight years Italy was 
again re-conquered by the Emperor of the East. 
Pope John was succeeded by St. Felix IV., who was 
unanimously elected by both clergy and people, not- 
withstanding Theodoric's endeavours to prevent it. 


In the following year, 527, the Emperor Justin 
was succeeded in the East by his nephew Justinian, 
a great and good man, who is chiefly celebrated for 
the code of laws which he drew up, and which form 
the basis of the jurisprudence of the present day. 
On the feast of the Epiphany, 529, G-retes, King of 
the Heruli, was baptised at Constantinople with 
twelve of his relatives, the emperor acting as god- 
father. Justinian also sent missionaries to all those 
parts of the empire where heathenism still lingered, 
and ordered all pagan temples to be converted into 
Christian churches. He fortified the empire on every 
side and was victorious over all his enemies, until in 
the year 539 a deadly foe presented itself, with which 
he was utterly unable to cope. This was the plague, 
which ravaged the empire for five years and carried 
off entire populations, desolating the most flourishing 
cities ; it was reckoned that one-third of the world's 
inhabitants died during this period. 

In Africa the barbarous Arian persecution came to 
an end at the accession of the Vandal king, Hilderic, 
in 523. This prince had been educated as a Catholic 
at the Court of Constantinople, and his first act 
was to recall those Catholic bishops who had been 
banished by his Arian predecessors. 

St. Felix IV. died in 529, and was succeeded by 
Boniface II. Previous to his death, a famous council 
was held at Aries, over which St. Caesarius presided, 
for the overthrow of the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian 

Boniface only reigned three years, and John II., a 


Koman, was elected in his stead, 532. During his 
pontificate the celebrated monk Dionysius, surnamed 
" Exiguus " (on account of his low stature), drew up 
a new calendar, its special feature being that the 
years date from the birth of Christ instead of from 
Alexander the Great or Diocletian. His mode of 
computation has now been universally adopted. He, 
likewise, was the first to collect and classify all the 
ecclesiastical canons, an undertaking which was hailed 
with enthusiastic applause by the whole Catholic 

At the desire of the emperor, a conference was 
held at Constantinople for the extirpation of the 
Eutychian heresy ; Justinian assisted with the whole 
senate at the last of its sessions, and exhorted the 
erring bishops to return to the truth, but all in vain. 

Two great saints, the Abbots Theodosius and Sabas, 
to whom we have already alluded, were fast approach- 
ing the end of their marvellous lives. Theodosius 
was recalled from exile on the accession of Justinian, 
being then in his ninetieth year, yet none the less 
overflowing with fervour and zeal. Towards the 
close of his life he suffered much, but uttered no 
word of complaint ; as his last hour approached, he 
roused himself once more to give an exhortation to 
his sorrowing children, and then gently and sweetly 
he slept in the arms of his Lord, 11th January, 529, 
being 105 years old. 

Four years later Sabas followed him to his reward. 
He had been sent to the Emperor by the Patriarch 
of Jerusalem to justify and plead the cause of the 


calumniated Catholics of his see ; Justinian granted 
all he asked, and would have loaded him with presents 
for his monasteries, but all these he refused, asking 
only that a hospital should be built at Jerusalem, 
and the monks provided with some stronghold where 
they might take refuge from the incursions of the 
barbarians. Soon after his return from this mission 
he fell dangerously ill, and died on 5th December, 
532. A few days later St. Fulgentius, Bishop of 
Euspa, also won his crown. When he was seized 
with his last illness, the doctors advised several 
remedies for allaying the sharp pain from which he 
was suffering. ''What!" answered the saint, "do 
you wish to prevent a dying man from going to 
receive his reward?" And so he peacefully passed 
away, amidst the tears and sorrow of all around him, 
on 1st January, 533. 




The history of the Franks at this period is sad and 
scandalous, and somewhat intricate. Briefly, it may 
be stated thus : For eight years after the death of 
Clovis, his four sons managed to live more or less 
at peace with one another, partly owing to the in- 
fluence of Clotilde, their saintly mother, and partly 
to the authority of Theodoric, the Ostrogoth King of 
Italy. War having broken out, Thierry, the eldest 
of the brothers, w r as victorious over the Danes, and 
later over Sigismund, King of Burgundy. Clodomir, 
the second son, continued the war against Sigismund, 
whom he put to death, but at last was killed in battle ; 
he left three sons. These were tenderly cared for by 
their grandmother Clotilde, who hoped in time to see 
them in peaceful possession of their inheritance ; but 
two of them speedily fell victims to the ambition of 
their uncles, Clotaire and Childebert. The third, 
Clodoald, having made his escape, became a hermit 
and died a saint, well known to posterity as St. Cloud. 
Clotilde, crushed by her grief, made a pilgrimage to 
the tomb of St. Martin of Tours, and there passed the 
remainder of her life in tears and penance for the 
crimes of her sons ; she died in the odour of sanctity 

in 545. 



Theodoric, King of Italy, having died in 526, Thierry 
seized the opportunity to invade Thuringia, accom- 
panied by his brother Clotaire. Victorious in their 
enterprise, Clotaire led away among his captives the 
beautiful Princess Kadegunde, whom he destined for 
his bride ; but as she was still very young, he placed 
her in a monastery for her education, and here she 
soon gave proof of her eminent virtue. In 538 she 
was forced to marry her captor and her brother's 
murderer ; however, not long after, having discovered 
that Clotaire's former wife still lived, she separated 
herself from him, and built a monastery at Poitiers, 
where she received the veil from St. Medard, and 
having been elected abbess, she governed the abbey 
till her death in 587. 

Meantime Childebert reigned in Paris, and misled 
by a rumour of Thierry's death, he took possession of 
Auvergne, one of the most fruitful provinces of France. 
Thierry was furious at what he deemed an outrage, 
and, as Childebert would not make restoration, a 
most cruel war ensued. Thierry having laid siege 
to Clermont, on which he had sworn to be revenged, 
the bishop, an old man of ninety-two, together with 
all his flock, made a procession round the town sing- 
ing the penitential psalms. The following night 
Thierry had a supernatural dream, which moved him 
to milder sentiments, and peace was concluded. But 
not for long : war ever seemed indispensable to the 
fierce sons of Clovis ; they renewed their attack on 
Burgundy, took the king, Godemar, prisoner, and 
either murdered him or incarcerated him for the 


remainder of his life ; from that time he was never 
again seen or heard of. 

It is with a sense of relief that we leave these 
scenes of violence and bloodshed, and turn our eyes 
to Holy Church, where we see a marked increase of 
faith and a proportionate decrease of heresy and 
unbelief. Saintly bishops governed the flocks com- 
mitted to them ; and numbers of fervent souls retired 
into the desert, or into monasteries, that they might 
serve God with undivided hearts. Churches were 
built and many hospitals and charitable institutions 
were founded. Among the famous bishops of the 
day we notice especially St. Medard and St. Eleu- 
therius, friends and companions in their youth, and 
both successively Bishops of Tournay. St. Eleutherius 
won his crown first, being martyred by the Franks, 
whom he was trying to convert, a.d. 532. St. Medard 
was then Bishop of Noyon, but was elected by the 
acclamation of the people to succeed St. Eleutherius 
in the See of Tournay. He governed both dioceses 
until his death in 545. 

Mention might also be made of Albinus, Bishop of 
Angers ; of Nicetius, Bishop of Treves ; of Agricola, 
Bishop of Chalons, and of Pantagathus, Bishop of 
Vienne ; all renowned for their sanctity and learning. 
In Australia St. Fridolinus founded many religious 
houses about this time ; and St. Marcellus did the 
same in Neustria, and even in Great Britain. In 
533 the great apostle of France, St. Kemigius, went 
to his reward, being ninety-four years old. There is 
a well-founded tradition to the effect that St. Bene- 


diet wrote him a letter on the following occasion : A 
certain Frankish nobleman, who lived at Toulouse, 
had a daughter who was possessed by the devil. 
Exorcisms having been used in vain, the unhappy 
father resolved to take her to the tomb of the Holy 
Apostles at Kome. However, not finding even there 
the cure he sought, and hearing on every side of the 
wonderful miracles wrought by Benedict, he carried 
his afflicted child to Subiaco. Benedict was then 
only twenty-seven years of age, and though his pity 
was roused by the sad state of the young girl so 
furiously tormented by the Evil One, yet his humility 
made him shrink from attempting a cure which would 
carry his fame beyond Italy, even into France. He 
therefore bethought himself to send the poor child to 
St. Kemigius, whose holiness he knew by reputation. 
Thereupon he wrote a very humble and edifying 
letter to him and gave it to the Frank, telling him 
to take his daughter to the archbishop, as he him- 
self was unworthy to obtain from God so great a 
grace. Haeften gives the whole letter, which began : 
" Dominico sacerdoti Kemigio, et frater et conservus 
in Christo Jesu, coenobialis vitae humilis cultor Bene- 
dictus, aeternae benedictionis munus ". He then 
goes on to say : "I rejoice and take so much interest 
in your progress and perfection, most holy priest of 
our Sovereign King, that I believe I possess, in 
your person, the virtues and graces which I have not 
in my own. I therefore send you this possessed child, 
that by the merits of your priesthood and sanctity 
you may drive away the demon, which my sins 


prevent me from doing. Since then I know that you 
possess all virtues in their perfection, I beg that you 
will offer the Holy Victim to obtain the deliverance 
of this girl whom the old enemy holds captive, and 
by this victory procure for me a great joy." St. 
Remigius was greatly touched by the humility of 
this letter, coming as it did from one whose fame as 
a worker of miracles had already reached him ; and 
raising his eyes to heaven, he said : "I give thanks 
to Thee, most merciful Lord, for having so highly 
honoured this age in which I live, as to have given 
to it Thy servant Benedict to spread Thy glory all 
over the world". Then placing the letter on the 
altar, he offered the Holy Sacrifice, at which both 
father and daughter were present, after which he 
proceeded to the prescribed exorcisms. 

At last the devil was constrained to depart ; but 
before leaving, the proud spirit was forced to confess 
who had driven him out, and he cried : " Do not 
exalt yourself, Remigius ! for it is not your com- 
mand which obliges me to go out of this girl, but 
Benedict's humility ". This story is told by Hincmar, 
Flodoardus, Peter the Deacon, and most historians 
of the Benedictine Order. 


a.d. 529. 

St. Benedict had now spent many years in the 
Sabine mountains, and the bright light of his sanctity 
shone with ever increasing lustre. His name was 
everywhere blessed ; all loved him as a father, and 
sought him as a guide ; and persons of every rank 
and condition flocked to him for advice. He appeared 
like a boundless treasure, from which all might draw 
what they needed. St. Gregory sums up his work 
when he says that his miracles and holy life, together 
with the virtues of his monks, enkindled the love of 
Jesus Christ in all hearts ; and their fame being 
dispersed far and near, many gave over the secular 
life, and subdued the passions of their soul under the 
light yoke of our Saviour. But the merits of this 
holy servant of God needed one thing more to crown 
and complete them ; seven beatitudes were already 
his, he was poor in spirit and meek in heart ; he 
mourned for his own sins and those of the world ; 
he thirsted for justice, was merciful and a true peace- 
maker ; now he was called upon to suffer for justice's 
sake, and the opportunity came in the following 

manner : Florentius, the parish priest of a neigh- 



bouring church, began to cherish a feeling of envy 
towards St. Benedict ; and, as this increased, he tried 
to dissuade others from going to visit him ; however, 
finding his efforts fruitless, he resolved to destroy the 
object of his hatred. He could not bear to see the 
numbers who constantly had recourse to him, many 
even embracing his way of life. Above all, he thought 
it intolerable that all this confidence should be placed 
in one who was not a priest. 

The house of Florentius was so near the principal 
monastery at Subiaco that it was only separated from 
it by the lake ; he had therefore continually under 
his eyes what was to him so great a torment, namely, 
the holy life of Benedict and his disciples, as well as 
the concourse of people daily arriving from Borne 
and different parts of the country. St. Gregory says 
that Florentius would gladly have enjoyed a like 
reputation though he had no mind to earn it, and 
so the force of envy burnt stronger and fiercer in 
his soul, until at length it so blinded him that he 
yielded to a most diabolical suggestion. As we have 
already said, it was customary in those days for 
persons to send each other "eulogia," or blessed 
bread, in token of spiritual friendship ; and thus, 
hidden under the guise of a Christian act of courtesy, 
Florentius hoped to strike a mortal blow, for in the 
bread he had placed poison. Like another Judas, 
he played the hypocrite and feigned love and charity 
while his heart fostered hatred. Benedict received 
the loaf with thanks, although he was well aware 
what it contained, either by a Divine inspiration, or 


by his previous knowledge of the donor's character. 
At dinner time when all the monks were in the re- 
fectory, a raven from a neighbouring forest came, as 
was its wont, to receive food from the hands of the 
saint; Benedict threw it the poisoned loaf, saying: 
" In the name of: Jesus Christ take this bread, and 
carry it to a place where no man shall be able to find 
it ". But the raven was in no hurry to obey ; per- 
haps it wanted to show its horror of the indignity 
offered to its holy master, for St. Gregory tells us 
that it opened its mouth, and fluttered about, and 
hopped up and down around the loaf, croaking, as 
much as to say that it was willing to do what it was 
told, but had not the power. Seeing this, Benedict 
repeated his command, saying : " Do not be afraid to 
lift it up, and put it where it cannot be found ". Then 
at last, after much ado, the raven made a supreme 
effort, fixed its beak into the loaf and flew away, 
returning after three hours to receive its accustomed 

Benedict, however, was deeply grieved at the ani- 
mosity of the priest, not so much on his own 
account, as for the sake of the unhappy wretch. 
For a long time he had watched with sorrow his 
downward course. Formerly Florentius must have 
been a good man, or he would never have been 
ordained ; his nephew, too, was deacon in Koine, 
which seems to point to the fact that he came from 
a worthy and respectable family, though, by giving 
way to envy and jealousy, he gradually fell so low 
that nothing was too wicked to satisfy the passion that 


consumed him. From his " solarium," or balcony, he 
narrowly watched all the movements of his enemy, 
as he considered Benedict, anxiously awaiting what 
he thought must be the inevitable result of his gift. 
When he saw that, instead of Benedict being carried 
to his grave as he had hoped, nothing happened at 
all and things went on just as usual his rage-knew 
no bounds. Far from taking to heart what had 
occurred, and thanking God for averting his mad 
crime, the frustration of one plan only made him 
conceive another still more hateful. Finding that 
he could not harm Benedict personally, he deter- 
mined to ruin the souls of his children by exposing 
them to a vile temptation ; with this intent he sent 
some girls to bathe in the Anio, under the very win- 
dows of the monastery, and told them to dance and 
sport together in sight of the monks. Hitherto no 
sign of anger, no word of complaint had passed the 
lips of the saint ; he had rather sought to pacify the 
indignation shown by some of his monks at the in- 
famous conduct of Florentius. So long as persecution 
and insult were directed only against himself he heeded 
not ; but when danger threatened his children, he 
resolved to secure peace for them even at the price 
of leaving Subiaco, remembering those words of 
Our Lord : " Give place unto wrath, for it is written : 
Kevenge to Me ; I will repay V 

We cannot but be struck with the generous way 
in which St. Benedict treated his enemy : he, who 

1 Horn. xii. 19. 


had received the gift of miracles and was venerated 
as the father and benefactor of the whole country 
around, did not hesitate to give place to a man devoid 
of virtue ; to one who was ambitious and despicable, 
and who by his selfishness had alienated from him- 
self any affection that others might have had for him. 
St. Gregory says that, fearing the danger for his 
younger monks whom Florentius had attempted to 
corrupt, and reflecting that it was only done to spite 
himself, he yielded and withdrew ; first, however, he 
put in order all the monasteries that he had built, 
assigning their government to superiors whom he 
selected. Then, choosing a few monks as companions, 
he made preparations for immediate departure. 

The thought of leaving his loved children caused 
him great sorrow ; it was a very real trial to him to 
quit a home where he had spent thirty-six years ; a 
home to which God Himself had brought him, and 
where he had received so many lights and favours ; 
a place he had watered with his tears and often with 
his blood ; which he had sanctified by his unceasing 
prayers and austerities, and which he had filled with 
so many bright examples of virtue in the persons of 
his monks. 

Faustus tells us that so great was his affliction, 
that Our Lord deigned in His compassion to console 
him, and appearing to him in a vision said : "Why 
are you sad, My son? Do you not know that if the 
wicked have persecuted Me, they will persecute you 
also? I desire you to change your abode, and to 
tread other paths, for I have chosen you to spread 


the light of My Gospel. Arise then, and go to Monte 
Cassino ; you will find there a people given up to the 
worship of idols ; Satan reigns over their hearts, and 
they know nothing but what his malice has taught 
them. Strive to instruct them in the truth, and 
convert them to the knowledge of My name. Fear 
nothing ; I shall be with you and will not forsake you. 
Be generous and constant ; I will make you master 
of the fortress and there you will found a monastery 
which will immortalise your name." Comforted 
and encouraged by these Divine promises, Benedict 
prepared to depart, and assembling his sorrowing 
children he addressed to them his parting words, 
saying: "Hearken to me, my brethren and dear 
children, who have been my companions and who 
will one day share with me the glory promised by 
the King of Heaven. If I were to follow my own 
inclinations rather than the Divine ordinance, I should 
never separate myself from you, but should pass the 
remainder of my life in this solitude ; as, however, 
my Lord Jesus Christ has commanded me to go 
to Monte Cassino, there to exterminate idolatry and 
to banish Satan from his throne, we must prefer the 
will of God to our own inclinations, however holy 
they may seem. You know, besides, the evil means 
taken by the priest Florentius to kill me, not only 
endeavouring to poison me, but seeking to destroy the 
souls of my disciples. For this reason I must yield, 
and follow the counsel of the Gospel, ' When they shall 
persecute you in this city, flee into another '.* I must 

1 Matt. x. 23. 


then depart, for the command of Our Lord urges me to 
extend charity towards the whole world and to succour 
all men according to the grace I have received from 
Him. As for you, my children, remain steadfast in 
the observance of the Kule I have given you, and 
live as though I were still among you ; and be assured 
that your reward will be so much the greater, as you 
will have been the more fervent and exact in your 
religious exercises." Then he asked them never to 
forget him in their prayers, and promised ever to 
bear them in his heart. 

At these words, the poor monks, who had had 
no previous warning of his departure, were struck 
with consternation, and while they prostrated for his 
blessing they could not contain their tears. The 
saint hastened away, anxious to put an end to the 
scene which was almost more than he could bear ; 
and in a few minutes he had left the monastery, and 
was wending his way through the rocky precipices 
which surround it. 

And now one of the prophecies J announced by an 

1 1. Thy Order shall flourish until the end of the world. 

2. In the latter ages it will be remarkable for its fidelity to the 
Holy Roman Church, and by its means many will be maintained 
in the Faith. 

3. All who die in thy Order shall be saved : if any of thy children 
begin to live unholy lives, and are not converted, being confounded, 
they will either be expelled from the Order, or they will leave it 
of their own accord. 

4. Any one who persecutes thy Order, and does not repent of 
his sin, shall depart this life by a terrible or premature death. 

5. All who love thy Order shall make a good end. 

— (Ex Cronolog. Arnold. Wion.) 


angel to Benedict was about to be realised, viz., that 
those who inflicted injury on his order should perish 
miserably. A message was brought to Florentius 
telling him that Benedict had been seen to leave the 
monastery with some monks, and that they were 
going to the south of Italy. This filled him with 
exultation, and hastening up to his balcony, from 
which he could view the whole country, he began to 
congratulate himself on what he considered the success 
of his efforts. He thought he had attained the 
object of his desires. Poor wretch ! in one instant 
the balcony gave way, and burying him beneath 
its ruins, sent him thus unprepared before the 
awful judgment seat of Him Whose servant he had 

The news of the catastrophe soon reached the 
monastery, and Maurus and several others at once 
set off to try and overtake their beloved abbot, who 
had only left about three hours before. After a few 
miles they caught up the little party of travellers, 
and Maurus joyfully exclaimed : " Eeturn, my father, 
for the priest who persecuted you is dead ". These 
words struck Benedict to the heart, and he was in- 
consolable to think that his enemy should have been 
called away without time for repentance. He had 
left Subiaco in the hope that the poor unfortunate 
man would cease to offend God, and now he had 
died, and that suddenly. His grief seems to have 
been very great, for St. Gregory says, " sese in gravio- 
ribns lament ationibus dedit "} He was distressed too 

1 Dialogues, chap. viii. 


that Maurus should rejoice, and gave him a severe 
penance for presuming to exult over the death of any 
enemy. Neither would he accede to his request to 
return to Subiaco, but,, dismissing him, continued" 
his journey to Monte Cassino. 




a.d. 529. 

Benedict was now in sight of his third home, a 
mountain which until that time had been the abode 
of demons, and the scene of most abominable rites 
and sacrifices. St. Gregory says that everywhere ^- 
around its summit groves had sprung up dedicated 
to the worship of devils, in which frantic crowds of 
heathens revelled over their sacrilegious sacrifices ; 
soon, however, this spot was to become a holy sanc- 
tuary resounding with God's praises. As we have 
already seen, St. Benedict made his journey thither 
on foot ; truly it was a holy pilgrimage, the mission- 
ary journey of a hero of faith. Gordian, the monk, 
avers that both Maurus and Placid accompanied 
their holy father ; but from St. Gregory's account ~* 
it is evident that Maurus only followed at some later 
date. Many writers also tell us that God sent two 
angels to conduct Benedict on his way, and that 
three ravens accompanied him from Subiaco to 
Monte Cassino. These ravens settled in the trees 
which surrounded the monastery, and in one of his 
sermons St. Peter Damian relates how their descen- 
dants were still living in his time, and daily fetched 
their food from the monks' table. 



If angels conducted Benedict on his way, angels 
also came out to meet him : the guardian angels of 
the poor deluded inhabitants of Monte Cassino. 
Their joy was unbounded, for they knew that this 
blessed saint would drive out the spirits of darkness 
which had so long held possession of the hearts 
which God had entrusted to their keeping; and 
that now, once more, Christ would reign and dwell 
among them. It is not known what route the 
saint chose for his journey, though probably he 
went the direct way, passing through Alatri, Sora, 
Arpino and Atina, a distance of some fifty miles over 
very mountainous country. At Alatri he received 
hospitality in the monastery of St. Sebastian, 
governed at that time by the deacon Servandus, 
and on the following day, as he rested at the town 
of Veroli, he foretold that an abbey would be built 
there, dedicated to St. Erasmus, and traced on the 
ground the plan of the church ; later, this proved to 
be one of the first foundations from Monte Cassino. 

Monte Cassino is situated in the territory now 
known as the " Terra di Lavora," about half-way be- 
tween Naples and Kome, and is one of the grandest 
and most beautiful spots in Italy. It rises abruptly 
to a height of 3,000 feet, and even in the hottest 
season its summit is always cool. In ancient times 
a colony from Eome built on its slope the city 
of Cassinum ; but Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, when 
he had conquered Italy, destroyed it as a stronghold 
which might prove dangerous to his power. Almost 
from its foundation this town formed an episcopal 


see ; and in 483 we read that St. Severus, one of 
its bishops, was present at the Council of Rome. 
With the destruction of the city the bishopric seems 
also to have perished. At the foot of Monte Cassino 
is a very picturesque and fertile plain, known by the 
name of the " Campania felice " ; here also may be 
seen the ruins of the old castle of Aquino, famous 
as the birthplace of St. Thomas. Thomas was only 
five years old when he was sent to Monte Cassino 
to be educated by his uncle Sinnebald, the fifty-sixth 

It is easy to understand how, after the destruction 
of the city, the deserted groves of Monte Cassino 
became well fitted to afford a hiding-place for the 
few remaining heathens of those parts ; and the 
ruins of ancient temples on the top of the mountain, 
hidden from the valley by the thick woods surround- 
ing them, attracted a little band of pagans who took 
up their abode there. But they were not the only 
inhabitants of the mountains ; there was also a 
saintly old hermit who, as Benedict approached, 
received intimation from an angel to go elsewhere 
and make room for a greater servant of God. St. 
Gregory in his third book of Dialogues tells us that 
his name was Marcius (or, as some authors call him, 
Martin), and that he instantly obeyed the angel's 
command and retired to a mountain at a little 
distance. Afterwards he became a disciple of St. 
Benedict, though he never quitted his hermitage. 
On one occasion he chained himself to a rock, upon 
which St. Benedict sent a monk to say to him : "If 



you are God's servant, let the chain of Christ and 
not a chain of iron hold you ! " The good hermit 
forthwith loosed his chain, but he never went farther 
than the chain had formerly permitted him. 

As St. Benedict ascended the mountain with his 
little band, and saw on every side tokens of idolatry 
and superstition, his new home must have appeared 
anything but inviting ; yet, glowing with holy zeal 
to fight the battles of our Lord, he resolved to 
destroy the work of the Evil One, and to erect a 
fortress of peace into which he would gather together 
a silent generation of prayers and singers who would 
draw down by their labours and penance, their tears 
and good works, the grace of God, not only upon 
Monte Cassino, but upon the whole world. Doubt- 
less he already foresaw what this mountain was to 
become, and how the monastery he was about to 
found would be a nursery for saints and illustrious 
men, who would help to support the Church in her 
hour of need. Cardinal Newman, comparing the 
Benedictine Order to a vine, says : " As an exuber- 
ant vine with its running branches and broad leaves 
overspreads the massive structure of a wall, and 
hides all beneath with the richness of its foliage and 
the multitude of its clustering fruits, so was the 
family of St. Benedict. It seemed at one time to 
take possession of the visible Church ; its spirit 
entered into the line of pontiffs, the twelve degrees 
of humility ascended the Holy See and sat upon the 
pontifical throne, and fifty pontiffs of the family of 
St. Benedict reigned over the Church of God." 



Having reached his destination, Benedict did not at 
once begin his task of evangelising. That was not 
his way of setting to work, but after giving directions 
to his monks to build themselves huts as a temporary 
shelter, he retired to a place close to the temple of 
Apollo, the very stronghold of the enemy. There 
he spent forty days in fasting, solitude and prayer, 
like another Jacob wrestling with God to obtain 
grace to fight against this false divinity and to open 
the eyes of the deluded inhabitants. Meantime the 
sight of his venerable countenance and majestic 
figure, and the reputation which had preceded him 
of his miraculous powers, disposed their minds to 
look upon him favourably ; they marvelled more 
and more at the mysterious life he led, and began 
to wish he would speak to them. Then, when 
Benedict felt that the harvest of souls was ripe, 
he came forth from his seclusion to gather it in for 
his Lord. His countenance shone with a heavenly 
light, a reflection of the fire of charity which burnt 
in his heart — charity towards those souls whom 
Christ had redeemed ; and the peasants, seeing this, 
gathered round him and listened awestruck to his 



powerful words. He spoke to them of Him Who 
had brought light into the world, Who was Himself 
the light which enlightens every one who loves not 
darkness. He explained to them the mysteries of 
the true faith, and convinced them of their errors, 
and this not only on one occasion, but, as St. Gregory 
relates, he preached continually. In a short time 
he had made such an impression on the people that 
they themselves assisted him to break their idols 
and to set fire to their groves ; the temple itself he 
purified, and after removing every vestige of idolatry 
transformed it into a Christian church dedicated to 
St. Martin ; and at some little distance, on the very 
spot where the altar of Apollo had stood, he built 
a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Peter 
the Deacon, who was the annalist of Monte Cassino 
in the twelfth century, tells us that these two ora- 
tories were not enclosed within the original monas- 
tery, but later on, when the monastic buildings 
gradually grew and spread, they became part of the 
enclosure. St. Martin's stood nearest the gate ; St. 
John the Baptist's was higher up the mountain. 

St. Benedict was not content with merely pulling 
down the idols and destroying the groves on the 
mountain ; he also preached in the neighbouring 
country, and gave himself no rest until he had up- 
rooted the • last remnant of heathenism in those 
parts. Only one circumstance is mentioned by his 
biographer with regard to his labours among the 
heathens ; and though we would fain know more, 
still from this one event we may gather some idea 


of the malice and spite of the enemy against whom 
he was contending. St. Gregory says that the devil 
could not endure the overthrow of his power, and 
appearing openly to the saint complained with loud 1 
cries of the violence that was being done to him, so 
that the monks could hear his words although they 
could not see him. This happened several times, 
when at last one day, as he could get no response 
from the saint, he was so enraged and furious that 
he cried out : " Maledicte, non Benedicte I what hast / 
thou to do with me, why dost thou trouble me?" 
Afterwards Benedict told his monks that he had 
seen Satan with his bodily eyes, under a horrible 
form, as it were on fire, raging against him with 
flames bursting from his eyes and mouth. 

However, these diabolical persecutions only served 
to increase the zeal and courage of God's servant ; 
and so greatly were his efforts blessed that not only 
were infidels and idolators brought into the bosom 
of Holy Church, but many persons of rank came from 
afar to see and hear him, and were so affected by the 
wonders he performed that numbers of them, leaving 
their friends and possessions, begged to be admitted 
into the company of his disciples. Henceforth Monte 
Cassino and the " terra di lavora " no longer belonged 
to the prince of darkness, but to him who was blessed 
both by grace and name, and who had striven so 
bravely to win it for God. All regarded Benedict as 
their father and benefactor, and in return for what 
he had done for them brought him and his monks 
the necessaries of life and materials for the erection 


of a monastery, thus confirming those words quoted 
in the Holy Eule, " Seek ye therefore first the kingdom 
of God, . . . and all these things shall be added unto 
you" ; l and again, "There is no want to them that fear 
Him". 2 The little mustard seed had now been put into 
the ground ; before long it became a mighty tree, and 
the birds of heaven came and lodged in its branches. 
Of the power and riches gradually attained by the 
Abbey of Monte Cassino we may form some idea 
from the following figures given by Arnold Wion. 
He says the monastery possessed in the thirteenth 
century four bishoprics, two duchies (Gaeta and 
Fondi), two principalities, twenty provinces, thirty- 
six towns, 250 castles, 440 houses, 336 farms, 320 
harbours, 200 mills, 1,662 churches. Bernard Mont- 
faucon, who visited Monte Cassino in November, 
1698, found in the archives a document conceding 
to the abbey the following rights and privileges : 
(1) The abbot could confer a title on any person 
under his jurisdiction ; (2) he might raise an army 
and declare war ; (3) he had power to elect all the 
officials within his territories ; (4) the bishops of the 
kingdom of Naples, the archbishop himself not ex- 
cepted, were to act as his vicar-generals, and con- 
sidered it an honour to do so. Pope Sixtus V., who 
lived after the Council of Trent, confirmed the rights 
of the abbots to call synods and found seminaries 
in their own territories, to give faculties to their 
subordinates, and confer minor orders and the 
Sacrament of Confirmation. 

1 Matt. vi. 33. -Ps. xxxiii. 


It must not, however, be inferred from this mar- 
vellous list of riches enjoyed by Monte Cassino and 
many of the great abbeys in the Middle Ages that 
the individual monk was any the less poor. In some 
monasteries, no doubt, abuses crept in, and the / 
poverty so strictly enjoined by St. Benedict was 
unfortunately ignored ; but these were the exception, 
and such abbeys, becoming speedily corrupted, fell 
into decay. In the greater number the letter of the 
Kule was adhered to which says (chap, xxxiii.) that 
monks are to have nothing whatever of their own, for 
they are " men whose very bodies are not in their / 
own power". Hence, no labour was considered too 
hard or too menial, so much so that in many places 
the monks built their own monasteries and churches, 
though they had ample means to employ workmen 
to do it. Surely, however, the greatest proof of the 
fervour and detachment of St. Benedict's children 
lies in this, that no less than 55,460 are publicly 
venerated as saints ; and who shall count the vast 
number whose lives were hidden with Christ in God, 
and now enjoy the reward of their prayers, their 
penance and their love? 


a.d. 530. 

Having expelled his enemies and obtained peaceable 
possession of the mountain, Benedict next turned his 
attention to the erection of a suitable monastery. 
Such an undertaking, however, was no light task ; 
indeed it is almost incredible how the monks managed 
to dig foundations in the solid rock, or how they 
carried the huge stones up that steep ascent. Never- 
theless, the command of their holy abbot was sufficient 
for them, and they set to work joyfully, labouring 
from early morning till late in the evening, and the 
poor people of the surrounding country did their 
best to help those whom they already esteemed as 
fathers and benefactors. 

The natural difficulties which the monks had to 
cope with in raising a monastery on such a lofty 
eminence were very much increased by the malice 
of the Evil One. When he saw the monks busily 
employed in building a house wherein so many pure 
and holy souls would fight against him and destroy 
his empire, he determined to dispute every foot of 
ground with them ; and if he could not make them 
abandon their undertaking, at least he would trouble 

and hinder them as much as he could in every way. 



So it happened one day that, when the monks were 
clearing the site, they found a large stone lying in 
the way ; this, they thought, would be useful for 
building, and two or three of them went to remove 
it ; but when they tried to lift it, to their amazement 
it remained immovable, as though rooted to the 
ground ; even the combined efforts of the whole 
community could not stir it. Then, guessing how 
matters stood, they sent to fetch the abbot, that by 
his prayers he might expel the enemy. Benedict, 
having reached the spot, knelt and prayed ; then 
rising he blessed the stone, and the monks were able 
to carry it away with the greatest ease. 

The holy man soon after returned to his prayers, 
but remained near the building in case the devil 
should continue to molest his children. Scarcely had 
he left them, when, as they were digging in the place 
where the stone had lain, they came upon a bronze 
figure of Venus, and, without paying much attention 
to it, flung -it into a temporary kitchen close by.. 
Suddenly, however, they saw that this kitchen was 
on fire ; and hastily running to fetch water, they 
threw it upon the flames. Benedict, hearing the 
commotion, went to see what was the matter, and 
the monks cried out to him: "Look, father, the 
kitchen is burning" ; but he answered that he saw 
no fire, and told them to make the sign of the Cross 
on their eyes. When they had done so they per- 
ceived that the whole thing was merely an artifice 
and delusion of the devil to hinder them, and, thus 
undeceived, they joyfully resumed their labours. 



But if they were not wearied, neither was their 
tormentor ; for, being defeated in two attempts, he 
plotted a third and more serious attack. The monks 
after toiling hard had raised the walls to such a 
height as to be almost ready for roofing, when, as 
Benedict was praying in his cell, the devil appeared 
to him and mockingly told him that he was going to 
visit his children at their work. The holy man was 
alarmed at this intelligence, and immediately sent a 
messenger to warn them to be on their guard. No 
sooner, however, had he arrived on the scene, than 
the wall which they were building suddenly gave 
way, crushing in its fall a young novice, called 
Severus, the son of a Eoman senator. The monks 
were greatly distressed and troubled when they saw 
what had happened, not on account of the loss of 
their labour, but because of the accident which had 
befallen their brother. One of them quickly ran to 
tell the abbot, who merely bade him bring the boy to 
his cell ; but the youth was so mangled and crushed 
that there was no way of carrying him, except by 
putting him in a sack. In this manner they brought 
him to the saint, and laid him on the mat where he 
was accustomed to prostrate himself in prayer. Then 
Benedict, having dismissed them all and locked the 
door, implored God to restore life to the bruised 
corpse and not to let His enemy triumph ; presently 
the novice rose up sound and well as he had been 
before the accident. St. Gregory says that the holy 
abbot, in order to confound the devil, sent Severus 
back to his work that he might help to raise again 


the very wall which had crushed him. Thus the 
very thing by which Satan hoped to dishearten the 
monks only served to give them fresh encouragement, 
and to increase the honour and authority of the saint. 
In a short time the labours of the monks were 
crowned with success ; and the monastery stood 
completed on Monte Cassino, a silent though eloquent 
invitation to all who beheld it to taste and see how 
sweet a thing it is to serve God. Meantime, while 
the monks had been engaged in building, Benedict 
had been occupied in putting the finishing strokes to 
his Holy Kule, and in adding some chapters regarding 
the government of the monastery, which had not 
been required at Subiaco when only twelve monks 
lived in each house. 



It would be impossible to write the life of the blessed 
Benedict without mentioning one who was knit to 
him by the closest ties of kindred and natural love ; 
one who, under his guidance, reached the very summit 
of perfection. Her name, Scholastica, well befits 
her, it so exactly describes her life, her virtue, and 
the wonderful gifts bestowed upon her ; for she was 
ever striving to know God more, and to learn from 
Him heavenly wisdom. Venerable Bede and other 
writers tell us that this name was a title of honour, 
and as such was applied to St. Jerome, Palladius 
and other great men, and even to some illustrious 

Benedict and Scholastica were twins, and it would 
seem the only children of their parents. As their 
mother died in giving them birth, they must have 
clung to one another with a very special love. Tra- 
dition says that, when Benedict went to study in 
Kome, Scholastica remained with her father ; but, 
hearing of her brother's flight and of his consecration 
to God, nothing would satisfy the eager longings of 
her heart, except to follow his example ; and her 
father, yielding at length to her entreaties, and more 

generous even than Abraham, gave to God this his 



second and only remaining child. It is generally 
supposed that she lived with some other pious virgins 
until such time as she was able to found a monastery 
under St. Benedict's direction. Whether this be so 
or not, we know for certain that her whole life was 
dedicated to her Divine Spouse and to Him alone ; 
that she was untouched by the poisonous breath of 
the world, and preserved the spotless purity of her 
innocence ; and that, walking always in the fear of 
God, she ever sought after His best and most perfect 
gifts. St. Gregory speaks of her as a " Sancti- 
monialis," which word was only applied to conse- 
crated virgins living in community ; and this seems 
to confirm the tradition that she was already a nun 
before she followed her brother to Monte Cassino. 

The harmony which existed between the souls of 
the brother and sister induced Scholastica, as soon 
as it was practicable, to settle down in the immediate 
vicinity of one who was not only her brother, but 
also her spiritual father and guide. Benedict formed 
and taught the little community and set it on a firm 
basis ; but once it was solidly established, and duty 
no longer required it, he ceased to visit St. Mary's 
of Plumbariola, as the convent was called. Once 
only in the year did he relax this stern rule, and 
meeting his sister at a little house half way between 
the convent and the abbey, he would spend the day 
with her conversing on spiritual subjects. Doubtless 
a brother and sister so devoted as they were would 
gladly have met and conversed frequently, but they 

mutually relinquished even this sweet and innocent 



gratification, in order to seek consolation and sym- 
pathy from God alone. 

With the exception of the remarkable miracle 
which we will relate later, very little is known of St. 
Scholastica ; it is said that she and her nuns lived a 
very austere life — valde austera — and that they were 
full of the sweet odour of sanctity. St. Bertharius, 
an abbot of Monte Cassino who was martyred in 
884, speaks of her as a "virgin of the Lord, who, 
together with other holy virgins, served God ". The 
convent of Plumbariola was destroyed by the Lom- 
bards at the same time as Monte Cassino ; but when 
Kachis, King of the Lombards, took the habit in 
this monastery in the eighth century, his wife Tasia 
and his daughter Ratrudis rebuilt the convent, either 
on the old foundations or close by, and there they 
lived until their death, to the edification of all. 

Yet, though so few facts regarding St. Scholastica 
have come down to us, we know that she made 
herself a saint, and a very great saint, simply by the 
exact observance of her Rule and her perfect fidelity 
to grace ; and notwithstanding the hiddenness and 
uneventfulness of her life, she has left behind her a 
reputation which entitles her to be called " Mother " 
by all the children of St. Benedict, while, as Mabillon 
says, she is in a special manner the leader, teacher 
and guiding star of Benedictine nuns. 



At Monte Cassino the monks daily increased in 
numbers, drawn to the monastic life by the virtue 
and wisdom of the holy founder, and the sanctity of 
his first disciples. The Eule which the saint had 
given them was most carefully observed, " solicite 
servabatur," as St. Gregory expresses it. Benedict 
himself watched with fatherly solicitude the progress 
of the souls entrusted to him, and prayed unceasingly 
for the knowledge necessary to govern them wisely. 
In addition to his other gifts God bestowed upon him 
that of prophecy, so that he was enabled to foretell 
the future, to perceive hidden things, to be present 
with his children even when they were absent, and 
to penetrate the secrets of their hearts. 

It was one of the precepts of his Rule that when 
the monks were sent out on business they should 
never take any food outside the monastery. This 
regulation he enforced with no little severity, seeing 
that he lays down that "those who eat outside the 
monastery, even though invited, are to be excom- 
municated, unless they have the permission from the 
abbot so to do "- 1 It happened one day that two 

1 Rule of St. Benedict, chap. li. 



monks, being sent out on some errand, were detained 
longer than usual ; and going to the house of a 
pious lady partook of the refreshment she offered 
them. Eeturning very late to the monastery, they 
went as usual to the saint to receive his blessing ; 
but' instead of blessing them he asked where they 
had taken food. They, little dreaming that he knew 
the real state of the case, and thinking only that he 
was concerned about their long fast, replied that they 
had not had any. Then the saint said to them : 
" Why do you tell an untruth ? Did you not go into 
the house of such a lady, and eat such and such food, 
and drink so many glasses of wine?" specifying 
what they had taken. The poor monks, thus con- 
victed, fell upon their knees confessing their guilt, 
covered with shame and confusion. In this case St. 
Benedict does not seem to have exacted the penalty 
from them, but to have pardoned them at once ; 
considering that they had been sufficiently humbled 
for their fault, and would not be likely to attempt 
anything of the kind again in his absence, after having 
had such a striking proof of his presence with them 
in spirit. 

In other cases, however, he showed himself more 
strict, as we see in the following example. Not far 
from the abbey there was a village in which many 
had been converted by Benedict's preaching from 
idolatry to the true faith. In this place there were 
also some nuns to whom the monks used some- 
times to go and preach. On one occasion these 
good nuns pressed a monk to accept some hand- 

HIS CtTFT of peophecy. 149 

kerchiefs as a little present ; and he, taking them, 
hid them under his habit for his own use. When 
he returned to the monastery the holy abbot met 
him, and said very severely to him: "How comes 
it, brother, that sin has entered into your bosom ? " 
The monk was much perplexed by these words, 
as in the interval he had forgotten all about the 
trifling incident at the convent. But Benedict soon 
recalled it to his memory, saying : " Was not I 
present when you took those handkerchiefs from the 
nuns, and hid them under your habit for your own 
private use ? " Hearing this, the culprit prostrated 
at his feet, and, throwing away the handkerchiefs, 
did penance for his fault. 

At another time it happened that Benedict, having 
been detained later than usual, came to the refectory 
when it was already dark, and it fell to the lot of the 
weekly servant to hold a light for him while he took 
his supper. The servant that week was the son of 
a lawyer, and, as he was standing there, he began to 
think how unbecoming it was for him to stand and I 
hold a candle and have to perform such menial offices; 
and so he went on to murmur in his heart and to 
persuade himself that he was ill used. No sooner 
had he begun to give way to these evil thoughts 
than the holy abbot, turning to him, said : " Make 
the sign of the Cross on your heart, brother ; what 
are you thinking of ? " and, seeing that these words 
were not sufficient to bend the proud spirit of the 
young monk, he called another brother, and telling 
him to take the light bade the other sit down. Then 


the delinquent realised that Benedict had read his 
thoughts and was thus punishing him for them. 
Afterwards the others asked him what had caused 
their holy father to speak to him in that manner : 
he told them how he had entertained thoughts of 
pride ; and they wondered to see how even their 
secret thoughts were known to the saint. 

This gift of discernment he possessed in such an 
eminent degree that he made use of it even in the 
case of those living outside the monastery. St. 
Gregory tells a story of one of the lay brothers named 
Exhilaratus, who, when he was young, had been 
servant to a nobleman living in the neighbourhood. 
One day he was sent by his master to carry two 
bottles of wine to Benedict as a present. As he was 
on his way he thought he would like to keep one 
bottle for himself, and with this intent hid it in a 
bush. The other he took to the saint who expressed 
his thanks. But just as the servant was departing 
and congratulating himself on having escaped detec- 
tion, Benedict gave him a warning, saying : " Take 
care, my son, not to drink from the bottle hidden in 
the bush ; turn it gently over and see what is in it ". 
The youth, confused and astonished, withdrew in 
silence, and coming to the bush where he had con- 
cealed the wine, he turned the bottle on one side, 
when, to his horror, a snake wriggled out. This 
miracle was the cause of his conversion ; and, as we 
have said, he subsequently became a lay brother. 
At the place where the event happened a chapel was 
built to commemorate it, and afterwards many other 


miracles were wrought there through the intercession 
of the saint. 

One more example may be given of Benedict's 
wonderful prophetic spirit before we leave this 
subject. It is the story of the brother of a monk 
called Valentinian, who was afterwards abbot of the 
Lateran Abbey in Eome, and one of the four from 
whom St. Gregory learnt the events of St. Benedict's 
life. This brother was a devout layman, who used 
to come every year to Monte Cassino to commend 
himself to the prayers of the community. That he 
sought only the good of his soul in this visit we know 
from the fact that he imposed on himself a practice 
of always fasting from the time he left his house 
until he had received the abbot's blessing on his 
arrival at the monastery. On one occasion, as he 
set out on his pious pilgrimage, he was joined by 
another traveller, who carried with him refreshments 
to eat on the way. Some think that this companion 
was the devil in disguise, as Benedict afterwards 
reproached the pilgrim for letting himself be over- 
come by the enemy ; be that as it may, Satan 
certainly made use of this traveller to compass his 
own ends, for after they had gone some distance 
together the stranger said : " Come, let us refresh 
ourselves, lest we faint on the way " ; to which the \ 
other answered : " That I cannot do, for I have 
always made a practice of keeping my fast until I 
see Abbot Benedict ". At this reply the stranger 
said no more, and went on without taking anything 
himself, which seems to show that he was determined 


sooner or later to make his companion eat with him ; 
and in fact before long he made another attempt, but 
the pilgrim adhered to his resolution. At length, 
however, after they had gone a long distance and 
were wearied and parched with walking, they came 
to a pleasant meadow with shady trees and a fresh 
stream of clear water running through it — everything, 
in fact, to tempt them to rest and refresh themselves. 
" See," said the stranger, inviting him for the third 
time, " here is water and a meadow and a delightful 
spot, let us rest and take some food, after which 
we shall be better able to finish our journey." The 
temptation was strong and pressed him on every 
side ; the beauty of the scene, the desire to oblige, 
the pangs of hunger which tormented him, all proved 
too strong for the pilgrim, who in the end consented 
to share a meal with his companion. It was late in 
the evening when he reached the monastery, and he 
went at once to St. Benedict in order to receive his 
blessing ; but he, instead of welcoming him, began 
to take him to task, saying : " What is this, my son ? 
How is it that the wicked spirit, who spoke to you 
through your fellow-traveller, failed the first and 
second time to persuade you, but succeeded the third 
time, and brought you to do all that he wished?" 
The good man was amazed to find that the saint 
knew all that had passed on the road, and fell at his 
feet, reproaching himself for his weakness and begging 
forgiveness. This is a striking example of the efforts 
the devil makes to hinder even a simple act of mor- 
tification, and shows how he studies the dispositions 


of each individual, accommodating himself to each 
case in order to effect his evil ends. We cannot but 
marvel, when we read these events, at the extra- 
ordinary gift possessed by our saint ; and with Peter 
the Deacon we may well exclaim : " The spirit of 
Eliseus was in the holy man, who, when absent, was 
also present to his disciples *\ l 

1 Dialogues, quart, series, chap. xiii. 


a.d. 534. 

In the year 534 a good man, who possessed an 
estate near Terracina, was very desirous of building 
a monastery on his land, and for this purpose he 
set out for Monte Cassino, hoping to obtain from 
the abbot some monks for the foundation. Terra- 
cina was situated about thirty miles distant from 
Rome, and the journey from Monte Cassino took 
about a day and a half. It was not far from the 
Pontine Marshes, in the south of the Campagna. 
These marshes extend to the foot of a beautiful 
range of mountains, opening out upon a magnificent 
view ; on the top of one of these mountain heights 
stands Terracina ; it was founded in very ancient 
times and became a Eoman colony 300 years before 
Christ. The town is now, as formerly, surrounded 
by a number of villas and estates, and it was one 
of these which this pious gentleman offered Benedict 
for the site of a new monastery. The saint having 
acceded to his request, chose some of his monks 
for the new foundation, and appointed one named 
Gregory to be their abbot, and his brother Specio- 
sus to assist him as prior. As they were setting 

out, Benedict said to them : " Go now, and on such 



a day I will come myself, and show you where to 
build the church, the refectory, and other necessary 
offices". Then, having received his blessing, the 
little company started on their way, and arriving at 
Terracina, were received with the greatest delight 
by their good benefactor. They prepared everything 
they could think of for the reception of their vener- 
able father and impatiently awaited his arrival. 
However, during the night preceding the day in 
question, the holy man appeared to the abbot and 
prior while they slept and gave them minute instruc- 
tions as to the position of each portion of the building. 

St. Benedict seems to have possessed an intuitive 
knowledge of architecture, sinGe he himself designed 
all his monasteries, following the style of Vitruvius, 
who .was the great architect in Kome during the J 
reign of Augustus. Benedict's manner of disposing 
the different rooms has come down by an uninter- 
rupted tradition even to our own days, and we find in 
all regular monasteries the same characteristics ; that 
is, the church forms one side of a quadrangle, and 
the refectory is opposite ; the dormitory looks east, \ 
and the guest quarter west ; the chapter-room is under 
the dormitory and a cloister runs all round the inside 
of the quadrangle, while the door of the monastery 
is placed near the great entrance to the church. 

All this, as we have said, was described to the 
abbot and prior in their sleep, and when they awoke 
they mutually related to each other what they had 
seen. However, they did not like to give too much 
credence to a vision, and treating it merely as a 


dream, they continued to expect that St. Benedict 
would keep his promise and come to them in person. 
But time passed and still he did not appear, and 
they were sadly disappointed as they longed to have 
their venerated father among them. At length 
they determined to go to Monte Cassino and find 
out the cause of his delay. When they arrived at 
the abbey and had found the saint they greeted him 
reproachfully, saying: "We expected, father, that 
you would have come to us as you promised, and 
shown us where to build ! " To which he answered : 
" Say you so, good brethren ! Did I not come to 
you? Did I not appear to each of you in your sleep 
and mark out each particular spot where you are to 
build? Go, therefore, and do what I then pointed 
out to you." Hearing this, the monks were, filled 
with astonishment, and returning to Terracina set 
to work to construct a monastery according to the 
directions they had received in sleep. 

The abbot and prior are both honoured as saints. 
St. Gregory tells us that they were two brothers who 
were very rich, but gave all they possessed to the 
poor and became monks at Monte Cassino. After 
they had been for some time at Terracina, Speciosus, 
the prior, was sent to Capua on business ; meantime, 
as the abbot was at dinner with his monks, he was 
suddenly rapt in ecstasy and saw the soul of his 
brother departing out of his body. He immediately 
hurried off to Capua, and found on arriving that his 
brother had died at the very moment he saw his 
soul leaving his body. 



a.d. 536-537. 

From what has been already said it is easy to under- 
stand to what a high degree of sanctity the children 
of St. Benedict had attained ; yet, zealous as they 
all were, we are told that Maurus and Placid far 
excelled the rest. Even as mere youths they seemed 
to have practised the precepts of their holy father 
in a way which gave promise of what they would 
one day be. They had both renounced great riches 
and position for Christ's sake, and in return they 
received from Him the hundred-fold of spiritual 
treasures. Placid was the younger of the two, yet 
he was the first to set an example of that heroic 
love which is obedient unto death ; and to him was 
assigned the privilege of being the proto-martyr of 
his Order. Among the lands which his father Ter- 
tullus had given to St. Benedict were eighteen 
estates (or farms) in Sicily, not far from Messina. 
At first Benedict managed these lands by means of 
secular procurators living on the spot ; but he found 
this plan did not answer, as violent and ambitious 
neighbours tried to usurp them. He resolved there- 



fore to send Placid, who as son of Tertullus would 
be respected, so that having reclaimed the property 
he might found a monastery there. 

Calling the brethren to council, the abbot laid 
before them the necessity of sending some one to 
Sicily to take care of their lands, and proposed 
Placid as most suited for the business. This sug- 
gestion was at once acceded to by all. Benedict 
then turned to Placid, addressing him in most 
touching words which Gordian has preserved for 
us, and which sweetly unite paternal authority and 
tender love: "My son," he said, "prepare yourself 
generously to undertake this journey and this work, 
which Jesus Christ, the sovereign King who was 
obedient unto death, lays upon you through my 
ministry. Kemember His own words, • I seek not 
My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me '- 1 
Let not the length of the way nor the difficulties 
which await you cause you any trouble ; but bear in 
mind that saying of the Apostle, that ' the suffer- 
ings of this time are not worthy to be compared with 
the glory to come,' 2 and that through many tribu- 
lations we go to God. For those who have fought 
valiantly for Christ in this life will receive that 
eternal recompense which ' eye hath not seen, nor 
ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of 
man, what things God hath prepared for them 
that love Him'. 3 May Jesus Christ, the Son of 
God, be always with you, and may He bring you to 

1 John v. 30. 2 Rom. viii. 18. ■ 1 Cor. ii. 9. 


eternal life." The saint then appointed two monks, 
Gordian and Donatus, to accompany Placid, and 
told them to obey him as they obeyed himself. 

Placid and his two companions left Monte Cassino 
on 20th May, 536, seven years before St. Benedict's 
death. During the journey, which they made on 
foot, with the exception of crossing the straits, God 
worked many miracles to manifest the sanctity both 
of Benedict, in whose name they were wrought, and 
of his young disciple. At Capua the travellers visited 
St. Germanus, who received them with the greatest 
joy. Arrived in Sicily, Placid put an end to the dis- 
putes about the lands, those who had claimed them 
at once giving them up to one belonging to such a 
powerful family as that of Tertullus. The monks 
chose for the site of their monastery a spot near 
Messina and close to the sea. Four years after their 
arrival, the church was completed and dedicated to 
St. John the Baptist. The little community soon 
became known, and many postulants were attracted 
to the new monastery, so that in a short time there 
were thirty monks, all zealously striving to surpass 
one another in virtue — Placid ruling and instructing 
them more by his example than his words. 

It happened about the year 540 that Flavia, St. 
Placid's sister, and his two brothers, Victorinus and 
Eutychius, came to Sicily to visit him, Divine provi- 
dence so arranging it that they might have a share 
in his glorious martyrdom. Soon after, the pirate 
Manucha suddenly attacked the island with a fleet 
of 100 ships. He, together with his barbarians, 



brutally tormented Placid and his hoi)'' companions ; 
but finding that no torture or indignity could make 
them deny their Lord and Master, at length put 
them to death. The feast of St. Placid is kept on 
5th October. In an old calendar at Monte Cassino 
which dates back to the eleventh or twelfth century 
there is an entry in letters of gold ; it runs as follows : 
" October 5th. In Sicily, the birthday of the most 
blessed martyr Placid, and his companions Eutychius, 
Victorinus and thirty others." His name is found 
in many of the old litanies still kept in the Vatican, 
and was also in those discovered by Cardinal Bona 
at Monte Cassino. 

The news of the martyrdom soon reached the ears 
of Benedict, and while his loving heart grieved for 
the loss of so many devoted children, and the des- 
truction of so promising a foundation, yet he could 
not but rejoice in their glorious triumph ; and raising 
his eyes to heaven he said : " I give Thee thanks, 
Lord Jesus Christ, Who art the life and salvation 
of all men, for that Thou hast taken to everlasting 
glory my dear son Placid, the fruit of my tears, the 
child nearest my heart ". Then calling the com- 
munity together, he gave a beautiful discourse on 
the joy all ought to feel for the sublime death of 
their brothers. He said : " Since it is the duty of a 
father to rejoice in any advantage which may benefit 
his children, so it is the duty of children to partake 
in the joy of their father. For this reason I have 
called you together to tell you that Placid, my very 
dear son, has gone to Our Lord with the glory and 


crown of martyrdom. Long ago I had in spirit ac- 
companied this pure and innocent victim to heaven, 
as, from the time I received him from his father's 
hands, I knew that he would die in this manner, 
and I give thanks to God, for I have always desired 
to sacrifice to Him the most tenderly loved fruit of 
my heart. And I had nothing more loved, more 
precious than Placid. He has chosen to die for 
Jesus Christ, and he has received a throne on the 
right hand of God. For Jesus Christ died for us all, 
that we may not live for ourselves, but for this 
adorable Saviour. I give thanks then and rejoice / 
in that I have brought up so perfect a disciple, and 
I must not be afflicted at his loss. It was a grace 
which God bestowed on me to give him to me, and 
it is a duty for me to return him again to the Giver. 
God did me a favour in allowing me to train up 
Placid for His service, and now it is just that He 
should take what belongs to Him. Placid has given 
to Jesus Christ a life which is common to us all, but 
he has received in return the crown of martyrdom 
which is the effect of a special grace. Why should 
I grieve that my son has been taken from me, when 
God gave up for my salvation His only begotten 
Son ? Besides, no one is exempted from death ; I 
will not then grieve, because I know that he has 
passed from death to life. And why should I weep 
for you, my Placid ! since you have left this world 
only to be nearer to us? You have not lost your 
former virtue, or anything that we loved in you ; it 

has only become transformed in the glory which 



enfolds you. Blessed are the labours with which 
I trained you, blessed the words with which I 
instructed you, since they have brought forth so 
much fruit. The love you bore to your father Ter- 
tullus was never able to separate you from me, and 
you persevered in the choice you had made, until 
you attained to a blessed and eternal life." 1 

Soon after the martyrdom of Placid and his com- 
panions, Benedict chose a fresh supply from the 
most fervent of his monks, and sent them to Sicily 
to begin the foundation anew. This foundation 
nourished for more than 100 years, when in 669 the 
island was invaded by the Saracens, and it met with 
a similar fate to the first. The monastery was again 
rebuilt by monks from the Lateran monastery, and a 
second time destroyed by the Saracens in 880. After 
this it remained empty and desolate until the Knights 
of St. John settled there in 1136. In 1588, their 
prior, on making excavations in the church, discovered 
the bodies of St. Placid and thirty other martyrs. 
Near the relics they found little phials containing 
their blood ; some had their heads resting on their 
breast, others were headless, and it was evident that 
all had been terribly tortured and maimed. Four of 
the bodies, those of St. Placid, his sister and brothers, 
were in a grave apart, three lying facing north and 
one facing south. The holy relics were translated 
to a more suitable resting place with great honour, 
and the martyrs were then canonised by Sixtus V. 

1 S. Bened., Sermo in mort. Placid. ; Pair, lat, torn. lxvi. 



From the beginning of the world we know that God 
has worked wonderful miracles and signs by means 
of messengers whom He has sent to mankind in 
order to confirm their faith in Him. Our Lord 
Himself has told us that signs shall follow those 
who believe: "In My name they shall cast out 
devils : they shall speak with new tongues : They 
shall take up serpents : and if they shall drink any 
deadly thing, it shall not hurt them : they shall lay 
their hands upon the sick and they shall recover." x 
Obviously this does not mean that all who believe are 
to work miracles, but that in all ages power is given 
to a chosen few to prove the truth of what they teach 
and believe, by performing prodigies impossible in 
the natural order. St. Benedict possessed this power 
in an eminent degree, so that his whole life seems 
replete with wonders ; probably he was endowed 
with this gift of working miracles from the very fact 
that God had chosen him to be a guide and leader 
of men. 

Among the many sick whom he healed there is one 
remarkable instance of a cure of leprosy. A certain 

1 Mark xvi. 17, 18. 



nobleman had a slave named Severus, who was 
afflicted with the very worst form of this disease, his 
whole body being so terribly eaten that he was a mass 
of corruption. All remedies having failed, the noble- 
man, who seems to have been a very good Christian, 
felt great compassion for his slave, and resolved to 
have recourse to Benedict, trusting with great confi- 
dence to the power of his intercession. No sooner 
was the poor sufferer laid at the feet of the saint than, 
to his inexpressible joy, the disease instantly and 
completely disappeared. 

On another occasion a man had been poisoned by 
an enemy ; the poison was not sufficiently strong to 
kill him, yet had so changed the colour of his skin as 
to make him apparently like a leper. This deformity 
grieved him very much, and in his distress he had 
recourse to the saint. His faith was not in vain, for 
one touch from the holy abbot restored him to his 
former health. 

Wonderful, however, as these miracles are, God 
bestowed on His servant a power even greater than 
that of healing the sick, namely, that of raising the 
dead. We have already seen how he exercised this 
power in the case of the young monk crushed by the 
falling wall, and we have another instance of the 
same when he restored life to the dead child of a poor 
labourer. It happened as follows : One day Benedict 
had accompanied the monks to the field to share with 
them their labours. While he was away from the 
monastery, a peasant came to the gate bearing in his 
arms the corpse of his little son. With tears and 


sobs he called loudly for Father Benedict, and, hear- 
ing that he was in the fields, he laid down the lifeless 
body and hastened in search of him. The venerable 
abbot, together with his monks, was already on 
his way home. No sooner had the peasant caught 
sight of him than he began to cry out: "Give me 
back my son ! Give me back my son ! " At this 
Benedict stood still, and gently asked : " Have I 
taken your son ? " to which he answered : " No, holy 
father, but he is dead ; I beseech you for Christ's sake 
to restore him to life ". The saint, hearing what the 
man asked, was troubled and distressed, and turning 
to his brethren, he made as though he would hurry 
away, saying : " Let us be gone, brothers, these are 
not matters for us but for the holy Apostles ; why 
will you lay on me a burden I cannot bear ? " Never- 
theless, the poor father would not be rebuffed, and, 
in the excess of his grief, swore that he would not 
leave the monastery until his petition was granted. 
The power of the saint was so well known that the 
good peasant never doubted for a moment but that 
he could restore life to the child by merely saying 
one short prayer over him, and it was in some 
measure owing to this lively faith that the miracle 
was worked; for at length, touched by the man's grief, 
Benedict relented, and asked him : " Where is your 
son ? " Being led to the place where the little corpse 
lay, he knelt down with all his monks, and raising his 
hands to heaven, said : " Lord, look not upon my 
sins, but on the faith of this man who asks the life 
of his child, and vouchsafe to restore to this body 


the soul Thou hast taken away." Scarcely was the 
prayer finished, when the boy began to tremble and 
quiver in such a way that all noticed it. Then 
Benedict took him by the hand, and raising him 
up, returned him alive and well to his delighted 



Benedict's power of working miracles was not con- 
fined to the body alone ; we have also many instances 
recorded of his expelling the devil from possessed 
persons. Although Christ has conquered the prince 
of darkness, crushed his might and chained him fast 
in hell, yet it is evident that He has not deprived him 
of all his power on earth. The Apostles frequently 
allude to this power and to the artifices and allure- 
ments by which he tempts men to sin ; for God 
allows him this freedom of action in order to try our 
virtue and fidelity, and that he, being repeatedly 
defeated, may be put to shame by Him whom he 
attacks through His creatures. Thus, the holy name 
of Jesus and the sign of the saving Cross are always 
sufficient to put Satan to flight and disarm his 
strength. If we need proof of this, we have but to 
open the history of the Church, which contains so 
many examples of the efficacy of the Cross and the 
name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

By these means it was that our saint obtained 
his numerous victories over the devil, and delivered 
several persons possessed by him. We are told that 
one day when he was going to pray in the chapel of P 

St. John the Baptist, situated on the top of the 



mountain, he met the devil disguised as a doctor, 
and mounted on a mule, with a horn and mortar in 
his hand. The devil greeted him with a mocking 
laugh, and told him he was going to administer 
medicine to the monks. However, Benedict con- 
tinued his way to the oratory as he had intended, 
though he must have had some misgivings, for St. 
Gregory says he soon returned in all haste. Arrived 
at the monastery, he found that Satan had indeed 
been up to mischief, for he had entered into an old 
monk who was drawing water, and casting him on 
the ground, was grievously tormenting him. Seeing 
this, the holy abbot approached, and merely gave the 
monk a blow on the cheek, which was so effectual 
that the evil spirit left him and never again dared to 
molest him. 

Another example of this kind happened, only a 
few years before the saint's death, in the case of a 
young cleric of Aquino who was possessed by the 
devil. The Bishop of Aquino at that time was a 
holy man named Constantius, of whom it is related 
that, when he was dying, he prophesied that he 
would be succeeded in his see by a muleteer, after- 
wards by a fuller, and that then Aquino would have 
no bishop at all. This prediction was verified later, 
for a deacon was chosen in his place, who in his 
youth had been a mule-driver ; he was succeeded by 
a priest who had previously been a maker of cloth, 
during whose episcopate the country was so ravaged 
by sword and pestilence that the see was henceforth 
left vacant. 


Constantius was a friend of Benedict, and being 
very much grieved at the affliction which had 
befallen his young cleric, after he had sent him in^ 
vain to the tombs of many martyrs, determined to 
try a living saint, and sent him to Benedict. St. 
Gregory adds that the holy martyrs would not cure 
the poor youth because they desired to make known 
Benedict's abundant graces. The cleric was led to 
the venerable abbot, who began earnestly to entreat 
our Lord to deliver him, and at the same moment 
the devil took his departure. Benedict, however, was 
not satisfied with this ; and looking deeper into the 
soul of the man he had exorcised, he gave him some 
salutary admonitions and warnings, telling him never 
to eat meat, and as long as he lived never to aspire 
to Holy Orders, for if he did he would again fall 
under the dominion of the Evil One. The cleric went 
away cured, and for a long time obeyed the injunc- 
tions laid upon him. But after some years, when 
he saw all the younger clerics obtaining preferments, 
while he was left in his former position, he thought 
it was no longer needful to observe the commands of 
the saint, all the more so as he was not pledged to 
him by any vow of obedience. Nevertheless, though 
not bound by vow, he ought to have realised that 
the voice of the holy abbot was equally the voice of 
God, since, as St. Gregory says, " How should he 
not know the secrets of God, who kept the com- 
mandments of God, for the Scripture saith : ' He, 
who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit'." 1 So 

1 1 Cor. vi. 17. 


the foolish man went and received ordination ; and 
immediately the devil recovered his former power 
over him, and never ceased to vex and harass 
him until the day of his death. 

There is another remarkable instance of Benedict's 
power over Satan, when by his prayers he forced him 
so to act as to serve and help a soul in danger of 
being lost. We read of a monk at Monte Cassino, 
who, unlike his fervent brethren, was easy-going 
and inconstant. He did not like the restraints of 
religious life, and chafed because he was obliged to 
submit to them. The saint had often taken him to 
task, and warned him of the dangers of such a state 
of mind ; but his words were of no avail, and the 
monk, instead of trying to overcome his discontent 
by humility and prayer, thought only how he could 
manage to leave the monastery ; and, though bound 
by solemn vow, sought to forsake what might have 
been for him the very gate of Paradise. Probably 
the devil led him to believe that if he could get to 
some other monastery more suited to his tastes he 
would be able to serve God better. At last he be- 
came so troublesome that Benedict, wearied with 
his repeated importunities, in anger bade him depart. 
No sooner, however, was he outside the abbey, than 
he met an enormous dragon with its mouth open, 
ready to devour him. The poor monk, petrified 
with terror, called with all his might for help, 
expecting every moment to be destroyed by the 
monster. Hearing his cries, the monks came run- 
ning to see what was the matter, and were astonished 


to find their brother trembling with fright and pale 
as death, without any apparent cause, for the dragon 
had disappeared. Then they brought him to the 
abbot ; and, falling at his feet, the penitent monk 
promised never again to leave the monastery, realis- 
ing that through the prayers of his holy father he 
had been permitted to see in a visible form the 
enemy he was so blindly following to his doom. 



The power of binding and loosing has always been 
exercised in a greater or less degree by those superiors 
of religious houses who have spiritual jurisdiction 
over their subjects. Benedict exercised this right 
in the government and direction of the monasteries 
under him ; but his power was different from that be- 
stowed by Holy Church : in many cases it was truly 
miraculous and given to him by God's special favour. 
We give the following instances in proof of this : — 

Not far from the monastery there were two noble 
ladies living on their own property, although they had 
dedicated themselves to God. At this time pious 
persons were often found who lived a quasi-religious 
life under the guidance of the bishop, or some person 
delegated by him, and yet were not nuns in the 
strict sense of the word. A good layman rendered 
these ladies all the services they required, and 
managed such business as had to be done outside 
their enclosure. Now it happens sometimes, as in 
the present case, that nobility of birth does not 
engender nobility of soul, and even tends to hinder 
the necessary disciplining of the character ; hence 
it came about that the poor servant of these two 
professedly religious ladies was often shocked by 



their violent and unreligious-like speech. At length, 
finding it unbearable, he complained to the holy 
abbot of Monte Cassino of the frequent insults he 
had to put up with. Probably Benedict was in 
some way their superior, as we read that he sent 
them a message telling them to bridle their tongues, 
or he would excommunicate them, hoping by this 
threat and timely warning to impress them with 
the gravity of their fault and the necessity of amend- 
ment. However, they paid no attention to his 
words, and made no effort to cure their bad habit. 
Not long after they both died and were buried in the 
neighbouring church. When Mass was next offered 
there, the nurse of these two sisters happened to 
be present. To her amazement, when the deacon 
according to custom said : "If there be any excom- 
municate let them now depart," she saw their bodies 
rise out of their graves and leave the church. After 
she had witnessed this several times, and was 
wondering what it could possibly mean, she recalled 
the warning they had received, and going in great 
anxiety to the saint, she told him what had occurred, 
begging him to absolve them that they might rest 
in peace. Then Benedict gave her an offering of 
bread and wine, saying : " Go and cause this to be 
offered to God for them, and they shall no longer be 
excommunicated ". From that time the two ladies 
were never again seen to leave the church, and we 
may undoubtedly believe that they had been freed by 
Benedict from the censure he had placed upon them. 
Again God manifested His power in a similar 


way in the case of a boy who had been presented 
to the saint by his parents. One day, overcome 
with home sickness, this novice ran away from the 
monastery without receiving the abbot's blessing. 
When he reached home, he fell down dead at the 
door. Whether this was caused by failure of the 
heart from running too fast, or whether by a super- 
natural intervention, we cannot tell ; be that as it 
may, the sorrowing parents buried their son, but 
were astonished the next day to find the body cast 
out of the grave and lying by the side of it. They 
quickly buried him a second time, and again the 
same extraordinary phenomenon took place. Then 
they hurried off to Benedict and entreated him to 
help them. The saint gave them a consecrated host, 
and bade them lay it on the breast of the corpse. 
After this had been done, the dead boy remained 
quietly in his grave. 

We have other examples in history of placing the 
Blessed Sacrament on the breast of deceased persons, 
especially in the case of bishops ; but after a time 
the custom gave rise to abuses, which caused it to 
be no longer tolerated. These two incidents, related 
by St. Gregory, are touching proofs of the merciful 
love and charity which characterised all Benedict's 
dealings with his fellow-creatures, and we are struck 
more by the mildness and gentleness of the saint 
than by the power which he exercised ; nay, rather 
we might say that it was on account of this very 
meekness that God chose him to be the instrument 
of His Divine might. 



a.d. 533-534. 


a.d. 535. 

While Benedict was planning the erection of new 

monasteries, and the extension of the order, which 

was already bearing such abundant fruit, the 

sounds of distant warfare warned him that for a 

time at least he must be content to perfect his work 

where he had begun it, and to let the bright lustre 

of his virtues shed its light hidden within the 

precincts of his own cloister. The events of the 

time were of such a stirring nature as to occupy 

the attention of the entire world ; and it seemed as 

though each one was more or less concerned in and 

affected by them. Italy itself was soon to become 

one immense battlefield ; a scene almost unparalleled 

in history. War first declared itself in Africa in 530, 

on the occasion of the unlawful dethronement of 

Hilderic, King of the Vandals, by his cousin, Gelimer. 

In vain did the Emperor Justinian endeavour to 

bring the usurper to a sense of his iniquity ; and at 



length, assured by his advisers that the war was 
just and pleasing to God, he made active prepara- 
tions for hostilities. Belisarius, the hero of his age, 
was entrusted with the command of the expedition 
both by sea and land. One day, in the spring of 
533, three hundred and ninety-two warships were 
drawn up in battle array on the Bosphorus, in front 
of the palatial gardens at Constantinople, there to 
be reviewed by the Emperor. Before starting the 
fleet was solemnly blessed by the Patriarch, after 
which the ships set sail amid a scene of extraordinary 
enthusiasm, trumpets sounding, and the crowds 
shouting from the bank and invoking blessings on 
those who were leaving. 

Three months after his departure Belisarius an- 
chored off Caputvada, a cape about five days' sail 
east of Carthage, and there disembarked unmolested. 
Gelimer had shortly before sent the bulk of his army 
under his brother Tzazon to Sardinia, to punish the 
usurper Godas ; so that, even if he had expected the 
arrival of the Greeks, he could not have prevented 
their landing. The first enemy met by the invaders 
appeared in the shape of a great drought, but, by 
a providential discovery, they came upon a hidden 
spring which abundantly sufficed to relieve their 
distress. Syletta, the nearest town, surrendered 
without a blow, and the Greeks pressed on towards 
Carthage. Owing to Belisarius' strict injunctions, 
the army treated the country people with great 
humanity ; and, as no pillaging or violence was 
allowed, the peasants came forward and themselves 


provided the soldiers with what necessaries they 
could procure. Gelimer was at Hermione when 
news reached him of the landing of the invaders, 
upon which he ordered. Hilderic, the king, and 
Hoamar, his nephew, to be strangled in their prison. 
This barbarous cruelty brought about his own de- 
struction, since it disgusted the majority of his 
supporters and so proved more disastrous to him 
than any battle could have been. He had sent his 
brother Amatus to meet his enemies, but he fell 
in the first encounter, and then Gelimer himself 
attacked them. At the outset of the battle fortune 
seemed to favour him ; it was, however, only ap- 
parent, and being seized with a sudden panic he 
fled into the desert. In a short time, on the feast 
of St. Cyprian, patron of the city, Belisarius made 
a triumphal entry into Carthage and was received 
with acclamations by the citizens. He began at 
once to fortify the town, and completed his work 
in three months. 

Meantime Tzazon returned from Sardinia, and, 
with a formidable army of 14,000 men, prepared to 
regain all his brother's dominions. A great battle 
was fought at Tricameron, twenty miles from Car- 
thage ; Belisarius and John of Armenia worked 
prodigies of valour, and with 6,000 cavalry utterly 
routed and put to flight the Vandals. By this 
victory the Greeks became possessors of immense 
booty and riches which had accumulated for cen- 
turies by means of violence and plunder. They 

next advanced on Hippo, which surrendered, and 



Belisarius seized the treasury and crown jewels 
which had been entrusted to the care of the Coun- 
cillor Boniface. Gelimer had fled for refuge to 
what was considered the inaccessible fortress of 
Palma, a town situated on the top of a high 
mountain in Numidia. Here he was seized by 
the invaders, who sought to reduce the stronghold 
by famine ; and at last, fearful of the fortress 
being taken by storm, the Vandal king surrendered 
himself, with the assurance that he should be hon- 
ourably treated by Justinian. Ambassadors then 
began to arrive from all parts of the country, in- 
cluding the islands of Minorca, Majorca, Corsica 
and Sardinia, in order to tender their submission 
to Belisarius ; and thus the whole kingdom was 
restored to the empire. Justinian gave to all the 
right to demand back any property of which they 
had been deprived by the Vandals, provided the 
claim was made within five years. Belisarius' 
conquest was complete ; he therefore hastened to 
resign his command of the expedition, and this the 
more readily as he knew that success almost invari- 
ably entails much jealousy and rivalry. Justinian 
made him sole consul and gave him the honours of 
a Eoman triumph. On Gelimer he bestowed an 
estate in G-alatia, where he settled down with his 
family and ended his days peacefully. This conquest 
seems to have wiped away the Vandals from the 
face of the earth after their kingdom had lasted 
106 years ; their name does not again appear in 


In the year 534 Amalasuntha, 1 who for eight 
years had peacefully governed Italy as regent, saw 
her son Athalaric, aged only sixteen, sink into a 
premature grave, dug for him by his own vices. 
Little as she had loved him, his loss was a great 
affliction to her ; for she realised that with his 
death her own fortune must end, and she foresaw 
that she must become the victim of some ambitious 
noble. Acting on this belief, she entered into nego- 
tiations with the Emperor, suggesting to him that 
he should take this opportunity of reconquering 
those provinces in Italy which had been wrested 
from his predecessors. Unfortunately she repented 
of this step all too soon, and invited Theodatus, the 
unworthy nephew of Theodoric the Great, to share 
her throne and power. Theodatus was an unjust 
and avaricious man, utterly devoid of honour ; he 
threw Amalasuntha into a dungeon, and then caused 
her to be strangled. The murder of the queen by 
this traitor, who always styled her " his most ex- , 
cellent lady and sister," roused universal indignation, 
and decided Justinian to send an expedition at once 
into Italy. By dividing the army he proposed to 
make a simultaneous attack both in Dalmatia and 
Sicily ; the command of one army he gave to Beli- 
sarius, that of the other to Mundus. 
i Towards the end of the year 535 Belisarius had 
made himself master of Sicily without striking a 

1 Amalasuntha was the daughter of Theodoric the Great. The 
name of her first husband was Eutharic. 


single blow ; and the inhabitants of the island were 
only too glad to exchange the rule of the Goths for 
the more peaceful dominion of the empire. Mundus 
was equally successful in Dalmatia, and destroyed 
the greater part of the Gothic army. Theodatus 
trembled for his kingdom and his life, and, deter- 
mined to make peace at any price, he offered to 
give up all pretentions to the throne on condition 
of being allowed an annual pension. In order, 
however, to obtain the best possible terms, he sent 
Pope Agapetus with five bishops to Constantinople, 
where they arrived on 2nd February, 536. Upon 
this there was a temporary truce, but Justinian 
would not hear of peace. While at Constantinople 
Agapetus called a council and deposed Anthimus 
the Patriarch because he had declared himself a 
Eutychian. In his place Mennas was chosen, the 
Pope himself performing the ceremony of his con- 
secration ; this election caused universal satisfaction. 
After a reign of scarcely eleven months Agapetus 
fell ill and died 22nd April, 536 ; his death was 
most keenly felt both in the East and West. He 
confirmed the decrees of the famous Council of 
Carthage, which had drawn up some important 
canons regarding the Church in Africa, but lately 
risen again from its ruins. 

Mennas, the new patriarch, convened a fresh 
council, in which Anthimus and his followers were 
anathematised. When it became necessary to 
proceed to the election of a Pope, Theodatus, 
forgetting his former supplicatory attitude, sent an 


arrogant message to the effect that he would not 
tolerate that any one should hold the dignity except 
a deacon named Silverius. The clergy and people, 
most indignant at this presumptuous command, 
did not hesitate to remonstrate ; nevertheless, as 
Silverius bore an excellent character, they saw no 
reason against him, and elected him. But his 
election was not canonically recognised by a great 
number of the Roman clergy. 

Meantime Belisarius and Mundus continued the 
war in Italy ; the latter, however, in an unlucky 
engagement, lost his life. This disaster filled Theo- 
datus with hope ; but it was premature, for Beli- 
sarius was steadily advancing on Rome. Naples 
had already surrendered to him after twenty days' 
siege, during which a third of its inhabitants were 
killed. Theodatus, terrified and discouraged, sent 
Vitiges to oppose him ; but as the invading army 
continued to advance, a rumour was set afloat to 
the effect that Theodatus had betrayed his nation 
into the hands of Justinian. A court-martial was 
hastily summoned, the king was deposed, and Viti- 
ges the Goth chosen in his stead. Theodatus fled 
to Ravenna, where he was pursued and murdered. 
Vitiges had now nothing to fear, and gave out that 
he intended to govern as Theodoric had done before 

A council of war was then held at Ravenna, and 
it was decided for the army to remain in quarters 
till the spring, and in the interval to muster as large 
a force as possible. During this time Belisarius 


continued his victorious march, and having possessed 
himself of all the cities on the way without striking 
a single blow, arrived at length beneath the walls of 
Rome. The citizens immediately threw open the 
gates to him, and the Gothic garrison beat a hasty 
retreat. His first care was to fortify Rome as much 
as was feasible in so short a space of time, and 
provide it with a provision of corn. He also took 
possession of Narmis, a fortress situated on an im- 
pregnable rock near Spoleto, and here he received 
the submission of Pizas the Goth, who commanded 
a division of the army in the Samnite territory which 
lay on both sides of the Apennines. Whilst the 
fortifications at Rome were daily progressing Vitiges 
collected a large army round Ravenna, and towards 
the end of the winter he had mustered as many as 
200,000 fighting men. Before beginning operations, 
he sent an embassy to Constantinople to negotiate 
for peace ; but this proving fruitless he separated one- 
fourth of his army and sent it into Dalmatia, whilst 
he with the bulk of the troops marched straight 
for Rome. Old authors tell us that rapidly as a 
bird's flight he stood on the Milvian bridge scarcely 
two miles from the city, and, in almost less time than 
it takes to tell, he had possessed himself of the tower 
erected upon it. Rome trembled, but Belisarius re- 
mained undaunted. Not knowing that his guards 
had basely deserted the Milvian tower, he made a 
sally with a thousand horse to test the strength of 
the enemy. Scarcely had he left the city walls 
when he found himself surprised in the rear by a 


large detachment of Gothic cavalry. Apparently his 
last hour had come. But if he had hitherto given 
proofs of his ability as a general, he now showed 
the invincible courage of a soldier. He fought so 
valiantly that all who approached him fell beneath 
his blows, while his heroism inspired his followers 
to renewed efforts. Soon the enemy lay dead in 
heaps about the field, and Vitiges, losing heart, beat 
a retreat. Belisarius followed him for a time, then, 
seeing reinforcements from the enemy's camp ap- 
proaching, he was forced to retrace his steps and 
seek refuge once more in the city. When he reached 
the gates his own people delayed to open them for 
fear of letting in their opponents also ; and now it 
seemed that Belisarius and his little troop must have 
succumbed to a superior force. It was already dark, 
and he and his men were utterly exhausted ; never- 
theless Belisarius fell once more on the foe with a 
coolness which convinced the enemy that relays were 
issuing from the city. Upon this they fled, and the/ 
general contented himself with pursuing them only 
a short way. As he re-entered the city he was re- 
ceived with acclamations by the inhabitants ; and 
after examining the guard and giving the necessary 
orders for the safety of the garrison, he at length 
took food and rest. 

The following day the enemy crossed the Tiber, 
and divided into six encampments on the eastern 
side, between the Praenestian and Flaminian gates. 
Here, for three weeks, they laboured at fortifica- 
tions and prepared war engines and instruments 


of assault. Within the walls the work was not 
less effectual. Directed by able leaders, the citizens 
gave their services and were untiring in their efforts ; 
and, wonderful to relate, they turned a deaf ear 
to the bribes offered them by frequent spies from 
the Gothic camp. At the end of three weeks the 
besiegers sounded the advance, and an enormous 
mass of scaffolding and towers moved towards the 
city. The Romans then began to be discouraged, 
but Belisarius with his usual fearlessness coolly took 
aim at the commander of the first detachment, and 
letting fly an arrow killed him on the spot ; while a 
second arrow put an end to the leader of the next 
troop. This revived the % spirits of his soldiers, who 
regarded it as an omen of victory, and they set to 
/ work to shoot down the beasts who were drawing 
the engines. Vitiges, enraged at the turn affairs had 
taken, hastened to the other side of the city, and 
ordered an assault near the tomb of Adrian, where 
the walls could be more easily scaled. A furious 
contest ensued which continued until nightfall, when 
Vitiges sounded the recall. Taking advantage of this, 
Belisarius made a sally on the retreating foe, and set 
fire to their engines. The day's fight had cost the 
Goths 3,000 men, and Vitiges had no desire to renew 
the experience. He therefore contented himself with 
keeping Borne in a state of siege ; but his army was 
constantly harassed by Belisarius with small detach- 
ments of cavalry that did incredible damage. This, 
added to the fact that pestilence raged in his camp, 
decided the Goth to come to terms, and he again 


treated for peace. Belisarius agreed to a three 
months' armistice, during which Vitiges could nego- 
tiate with the emperor. At the beginning of the 
winter troops arrived from Greece, commanded by 
John, surnamed the Bloodthirsty, to reinforce the 

When the armistice was concluded, Vitiges with- 
drew his garrisons from several fortified towns, which 
Belisarius immediately occupied ; this action Vitiges 
deemed a breach of the armistice, and suspicion was 
awakened on both sides. John, with 2,000 cavalry, 
was sent to Picenum with orders to invade that 
province in the event of Vitiges breaking his promise 
of temporary peace. As the Goths had left their 
wives and all their treasures in this little strip of 
land, the prize proved too tempting ; and without 
waiting for a violation of the treaty, John surprised 
the small Gothic garrison and took possession of 
Rimini, where he distributed the enormous booty he 
had captured. 

At the same time the Milanese and all the in- 
habitants of Liguria sent a pressing invitation to 
Belisarius to come and deliver them from the Gothic 
yoke, which they detested. A thousand men sufficed 
to conquer this province, the most important of all 

To add to the misfortunes of Vitiges, a man by no 
means destitute of a certain greatness of character, 
his wife, Mathasuntha, entered into an alliance with 
John against her husband, inviting and encouraging 
him to seize Ravenna. Vitiges, discouraged and 


indignant at her treachery, made one more desperate 
attempt to take Rome, but his efforts again proved 
fruitless, and the Goths, having burned their tents, 
withdrew in the spring of 538. In one year they 
had lost a third of their army. 



Belisarius, though a man of genuine virtue, was 
weak enough to allow himself to be drawn into an 
infamous intrigue by his wife Antpnia, a woman both 
wicked and crafty, and an abettor in the plots and 
designs of the iniquitous Empress Theodora, the wife 
of Justinian. Theodora had been exceedingly dis- 
pleased with Pope Agapetus for deposing Anthimus, 
and though she did all in her power to persuade 
Pope Silverius, his successor, to receive the Patriarch 
back to communion, it was in vain. Enraged at 
his opposition, she sought means to compass his 
ruin. She fixed upon Vigilius, a deacon who had 
accompanied Agapetus to Constantinople, as a fitting 
instrument for the execution of her plans. She had 
not miscalculated, for he himself aspired to the 
papacy, and was only too ready to assist in the plot. 
Theodora gave him 700 pounds of gold as the price of 
his undertaking ; she also wrote to Belisarius, urging 
him to get rid of the Pontiff and to have Vigilius 
elected in his stead. This letter placed Belisarius 
in a most difficult position, from which Antonia 
sought to save him by a disgraceful forgery. She 
caused a brief to be made out and sent to the Gothic 

king, in which the Pope was made to offer treacherous 



terms of peace and friendship. This she pretended 
had been intercepted by an officer of the bodyguard. 
Belisarius perceived at once that the whole was an 
intrigue ; nevertheless, he summoned Silverius to 
appear before him, and tried to induce him to accede 
to the Emperor's request with regard to the restora- 
tion of Anthimus. Of course, he absolutely refused 
to do this, and at the same time he protested his 
innocence of any treacherous designs. A second 
and a third time the Pope was summoned, with the 
same result ; and at last Antonia, exasperated, called 
out to him : " What have we done to you that you 
should betray us all to the Goths?" Without per- 
mitting him to reply, she caused two hired deacons 
to tear off his pallium, and, throwing a monk's cowl 
over him, to carry him away to prison. The follow- 
ing day Belisarius, having assembled the clergy, 
declared Silverius deposed, and ordered them to pro- 
ceed to a fresh election, recommending Vigilius as 
best qualified for the dignity. The desired election 
took place and, to the scandal of the whole of Chris- 
tendom, Vigilius unlawfully ascended the cbair of 
Peter, '22nd November, 537. 

Silverius meantime was taken to Patara in Lycia. 
The pious and undaunted bishop of that city went 
immediately to the Emperor, and threatened him 
with God's terrible judgments for allowing the Vicar 
of Christ to be thus persecuted, telling him that, 
though there are many kings, there can be, and is, 
but one Pope and ruler over the Church of God. 
Some say that the Emperor took this warning to 


heart, and sent Silverius back to Italy with an order 
commanding Belisarius to reinstate him, and if guilty, 
though still Pope, to make him reside out of Kome. 
Belisarius was now in a greater difficulty than before ; 
but having taken the first downward step, he did 
not long hesitate to take the second. He consulted 
with Vigilius, and agreed to give the Pope into his 
keeping until the case was examined. Vigilius gave 
Silverius in charge to some men chosen by him, and 
sent him to the island of Palmaria. There the stead- 
fast Pontiff underwent the most cruel treatment with 
unflinching fortitude, and finally pronounced a sen- 
tence of excommunication against the usurper of his 
throne. Liberatus says that he died of hunger, 
while Procopius believes that he was assassinated 
at the instigation of Antonia. He died on the 20th 
of June, 538, and is honoured as a saint by the 

Vigilius at length opened his eyes to the enormity 
of his crime, and wished to abdicate and do penance ; 
but the clergy hindered him from this step, and con- 
firmed him in the dignity which hitherto he had 
usurped, and thus from that time he became lawful 
Pope. He at once broke with the schismatics and 
did his utmost to atone for the past by his zealous 
defence of truth and faithful administration of his 



a.d. 538. 

We now come to speak of the terrible famine which 

raged throughout Italy in the year 538, and which is 

intimately connected with St. Benedict's life, as the 

universal distress appealed irresistibly to his great 

and fatherly heart, and was the occasion of several 

miracles wrought by him. 

We can hardly credit the accounts of Procopius 

and other historians when they tell us that in the 

province of Picenum alone 50,000 victims succumbed ; 

and, still more shocking, when they relate deeds of 

cannibalism which excite both horror and pity. For 

instance, we hear of two women who kept themselves 

alive by killing and eating the travellers who came 

to their house ; several were despatched in this 

way, when at last one came who awoke in time to 

avert the deadly weapon, and after hearing from the 

women's own lips the avowal of their crime he 

murdered them both. Herbs were considered the 

greatest luxury ; often the starving wretches who 

sought them fell lifeless at their work and lay un- 

buried where they fell. 


ST. benedict's confidence in god. 191 

This dearth naturally weighed heavily on Benedict 
and his monks, so that frequently they also were in 
want of bare necessaries ; while the misery which 
prevailed gave them ample scope, as we have said, 
for exercising charity. On one occasion the monks, 
coming to the refectory, found there was nothing for 
them to eat except five small loaves, with no prospect 
of more. Sadly they looked at the slender meal, 
for "what were five loaves among so many"? 1 
Benedict, seeing they were disheartened, reproached 
them for their want of confidence ; but, compassion- 
ating their weakness, he encouraged them with the 
promise of a plentiful supply for the following day. 
And his prophecy was verified when, next morning, 
they discovered standing at the monastery gate 200 
measures of meal in sacks, nor could they ever find 
out from whence the gift came. The monks, seeing 
this miracle, gave thanks to God, and never again 
distrusted His holy providence. 

Nevertheless Benedict's charity and generosity 
at this time of sorrow and desolation often tried 
the less perfect faith and confidence of his spiritual 
sons, as we see by the following instance. All the 
provisions of the monastery had been given away 
in alms, with the exception of a little oil in a glass 
jar, when Agapetus, a subdeacon of the neighbour- 
hood, came to beg for succour. Benedict, as St. 
Gregory tells us, was resolved to give away all upon 
earth that he might find all in heaven, and willingly 
acceding to the good man's request, ordered the little 

1 John vi. 9. 


remaining oil to be given to him. The cellarer, 
however, was not at all willing to part with it, and 
delayed in executing the abbot's command. Later 
in the day, the saint inquired whether he had given 
the oil ; to which he replied that he had not, because 
there would be none left for the monks. At this 
Benedict was very angry, and told him to throw the 
vessel out of the window, as he would not have 
anything in the monastery contrary to obedience. 
Now, outside, just under the window, was a steep 
precipice with sharp rocks, so that, but for a miracle, 
the glass jar must inevitably have been broken into 
a thousand pieces ; yet not only was the glass un- 
injured by the fall, but not even a drop of the oil was 
spilt. The saint then sent to have it picked up and 
taken to Agapetus, while in presence of the whole 
community he severely rebuked the disobedient cel- 
larer for his pride and want of faith. In the room 
where this took place there stood a large empty barrel 
with a cover to it, and Benedict, having administered 
the well-merited rebuke, knelt down by it and began 
to pray. All the monks joined him in his prayer, 
though they knew not what to expect : the monastery 
was destitute, and without a direct interposition of 
Providence, starvation stared them in the face; al- 
ready they were suffering the pangs of hunger, 
resulting from their long fast. As they prayed, to 
their astonishment they saw the lid of the barrel 
begin to rise, and they perceived that it was full of oil, 
which was increasing so fast that it began to over- 
flow on to the floor, and only ceased when the holy 


abbot rose from his prayer. Benedict took occasion 
from this miracle to exhort again his disobedient 
and distrustful monk to grow in faith and humility. 

We may here mention another act of kindness 
performed by the saint, though it is not known 
whether it happened daring the year of famine. It 
is the story of a peasant who owed twelve solidi 1 to a 
creditor. Being pressed for payment, he was greatly 
troubled, and knew not where to turn for the money. 
In his distress he resolved to go to Benedict and seek 
help from him. The saint was obliged to confess 
that he also was penniless at the time ; but he com- 
forted the poor man with kindly words and told him 
to come again in two days, and that meantime he 
would pray for him. When the peasant returned on 
the third day, thirteen solidi were found lying in the 
corn bin ; these the abbot gave to him, twelve to pay 
his debt, and the other for his own expenses. 

These examples give us an insight into the charity 
and confidence of our saint, from which we gather 
that his whole life must have been full of similar 
instances of compassionate solicitude for the needs 
of others, with an unshaken trust that God would 
always provide and care for those who placed their 
faith in Him. 

x The solidus weighed, according to Isidore (Etymolog., lib. xvi., 
chap, xxiv.), one-sixth of an ounce, and therefore was also called a 
sextula. St. Gregory, in his Dialogues (lib. i., chap, ix.), gives to the 
same coin, which he calls " solidus," the name " aureus " ; therefore 
it is supposed that it has the value of four florins ; twelve solidi 
were therefore the sum of forty-eight florins. 

" Solidus aureus or sextula, 12s. OJd." (Crabbe's Technological 
Dictionary). — Translator's note. 



a.d. 539. 

The Gothic army in spite of the severe losses it 
had sustained was still sufficiently numerous to be 
exceedingly formidable. Vitiges now tried the plan 
of dividing it : one half he sent to chastise the 
Milanese for their desertion, the other half he des- 
patched to Bimini, which had been seized by " John 
the Bloodthirsty ". Belisarius went to meet this 
last detachment, and was joined by a reinforcement 
of 11,000 men, commanded by Narses. Encouraging 
as this was to the imperial troops, it struck terror 
into the hearts of the Goths, and they fled as chaff 
before the wind ; Vitiges himself hastened to take 
refuge in Bavenna, and the surrounding country fell 
into the hands of the Bomans. The conquest of 
Italy must now have been inevitable, had not discord 
crept into the imperial army. Narses, who had 
risen by his talents from the lowly rank of a slave, 
instead of acting as a subordinate, or at least in 
conjunction with Belisarius, set himself up as his 
rival. The result was disastrous : all who had any 

complaints against Belisarius ranged themselves with 



Narses ; if a council of war was held, it was sufficient 
for Belisarius to suggest one course, and Narses would 
immediately adopt another ; hence it happened that, 
when the former ordered the siege of Urbino, the 
latter with his army went off in the night to conquer, 
as he said, the Aemilian province. 

This state of affairs gave the Goths breathing time. 
As matters stood, Belisarius was unable to send a 
reinforcement to his slender garrison at Milan, con- 
sisting of 300 men, who, under the brave Mundilas, 
had defended the city for over six months. But at 
length the Goths with 10,000 Burgundians having 
renewed the siege, and the town being a prey to all 
the horrors of famine, the little troop was forced to 
open the gates in the spring of 539. Belisarius sent 
what help he could, but it came too late, and Milan 
presented a sad scene of bloodshed and cruelty. 
Every man and male child was put to the sword ; the 
priests were murdered on the altar steps ; churches 
plundered and destroyed, and the women were carried 
off to be sold as slaves. Bishop Datius and his 
attendants managed to escape and reached Constanti- 
nople in safety. This is not the place to discuss 
whether or not he was justified in stirring up the 
Milanese to shake off the Gothic yoke ; by so doing 
he thought to restore the country to a Catholic 
emperor, to whom it had formerly belonged before it 
had been wrested from him by a foreign conqueror. 

On the fall of Milan Narses was recalled to Con- 
stantinople, and Belisarius was once more free to 
command his army unmolested. 


The year 538 had ended with an event too import- 
ant to be passed over in silence, even in the narrow 
limits of this sketch, namely, the consecration of the 
Church of Sancta Sophia, built by the Emperor 
Justinian and consecrated in his presence. For 
seven years 10,000 labourers had worked unceasingly 
at its erection ; every kind of marble had been used 
to cover its walls and to form the eight colossal 
pillars which supported the cupola and the four and 
twenty which supported the galleries. The altar 
was of massive gold raised on six golden pillars and 
inlaid with precious stones. Over the altar rose a 
tabernacle in the shape of a tower, surmounted by a 
golden cupola overshadowed by twelve golden lilies. 
In the centre of these was the cross, set also with 
precious stones and weighing seventy-five pounds. 
With the exception of the doors, no wood was to be 
found in the building, and the great entrance door 
was of silver richly gilt. Besides the sacred vessels, 
which were of purest gold, there were 4,000 golden 
candlesticks and twenty-four missals in covers of 
gold, weighing nearly a hundredweight. Altogether, 
according to many calculations, the cost of that 
magnificent cathedral, together with its furniture, 
must have been about £40,000,000. 



A.i). 540. 


a.d. 541. 

After the fall of Milan Belisarius marched onwards 
towards Kavenna, thinking that if he could but ob- 
tain possession of this city the war would speedily 
come to an end ; but Vitiges, always brave, even 
under defeat, had yet a large and powerful army at 
his disposal, and Kavenna was so strongly fortified 
as to appear invincible. Thence the Goth sent am- 
bassadors to the Persians to obtain their assistance ; 
he likewise ceded Provence and part of Rhetia to the 
Franks, that by so doing he might gain their good- 
will and help, and thus his hopes once more revived. 
In the spring of 539 Theodebert arrived from Aus- 
trasia with 100,000 men, and was welcomed as an 
ally both by the Goths and Romans, who were 
equally deceived. He merely came for the sake of 
booty, and desolated the whole province of Liguria, 
burning every town and village in Aemilia. Famine 
and pestilence alone succeeded in checking his fury, 
and having lost a third of his army, he led the re- 
mainder home again. 



Belisarius at length persuaded Vitiges to come to 
terms ; hostilities ceased, and envoys were sent to 
Constantinople to treat for peace. Justinian decided 
that Vitiges should remain king on one side of the 
river Po, and cede the territory on the other side to 
the empire. These terms Belisarius considered too 
favourable and consequently refused to sign the 
treaty, alleging that the emperor's interest forbade 
him to obey, since Justinian, when he made the 
conditions, evidently did not understand the hopeless 
situation of the enemy. Upon this refusal the Goths 
held a council and determined to offer the crown to 
Belisarius himself, with the understanding that all 
property should be secured to them. Belisarius 
readily vouched for the safety of their property ; as 
to accepting the crown he said that must depend on 
a council to be held in the city. The gates were 
opened, and Belisarius, at the head of his army, 
entered Ravenna ; he treated Vitiges with every 
mark of respect, and kept him in honourable cap- 
tivity. He then took possession of all the fortified 
parts of the city, the treasury, the arsenals and public 
granaries. The kingdom was now conquered ; he, 
however, had no intention of accepting it for himself, 
and when the Goths again offered him the crown he 
steadfastly refused it, saying : " I am the emperor's 
subject, and such I will remain ". 

Matters were in this state when an order came to 
recall Belisarius to Constantinople, there to assist 
Justinian in some difficult transactions. He set sail 
without delay in the year 540, taking with him 

CHOSROES. -.199 

Vitiges, his wife Mathasuntha, and many notable 
Goths as hostages, and the treasures and trophies he 
had collected. Vitiges was kindly treated by Jus- 
tinian ; he renounced Arianism, and was received 
into the communion of the Church ; large possessions 
in Asia were assigned to him, and retiring thither, 
he lived quietly till his death two years later. His 
widow married Germanus, a cousin of the emperor, 
and gave birth to Germanus the younger, who united 
in his person the two oldest and noblest races in the 
world, the Anician and the Amalicean. 

Notwithstanding the imperial success in Italy, the 
year 540 brought an accumulation of disasters to the 
empire. Chosroes, the Persian king, attacked the 
East with a mighty army, and spread terror and 
desolation in his way, devastating and burning 
everything he could not seize, until he arrived before 
Antioch, the chief town of the Eastern empire. 
Boasting of her position and the strength of her 
walls, Antioch defied and dared even to revile her 
enemy ; this exasperated Chosroes and hastened 
his attack ; he discovered a weak place in the forti- 
fications, and, having made a breach, his soldiers 
burst like a torrent into the city. The inhabitants 
fought with desperate courage, but they were over- 
powered by numbers, and all who could not fly were 
massacred. Chosroes gave up the town to pillage, 
reserving the cathedral as his share of the booty ; 
thus the pearl of oriental cities was reduced to a heap 
of ruins. The imperial ambassadors now eagerly 
treated for peace, and paid down £5,000 pounds, with 


a promise of a yearly tribute of £500. With this 
Chosroes retraced his steps, not, however, peaceably, 
as the treaty required, but burning and destroying 
as before. This breach of treaty induced Justinian 
to declare war afresh. 

Added to this calamity was the invasion of the 
Sclaves, who did incalculable damage and pressed 
forward even as far as Constantinople. Earthquakes, 
pestilence and disease likewise demanded their 
tribute ; and the sectarians, especially the Origenists, 
fostered disturbances, doing their utmost to increase 
the Emperor's difficulties. In Italy itself there was 
anything but peace. The Goths, seeing the empire 
pressed on every side, took the opportunity to rebel 
against Alexander, the new governor, who, by his 
avarice, had estranged the hearts of the people ; even 
his own soldiers detested him because he withheld 
their pay. The Goths chose Ildebald for their king. 
In 541 he gave battle to the Komans under Vitalis 
at Treviso in Northern Italy, and gained a decided 
victory. Soon after, first Ildebald and then Eraric, 
his successor, fell victims to jealousy and were 
murdered in 541. 

The Goths, however, nothing daunted by their 
double loss, unanimously elected Baduilla, Ildebald's 
nephew, to fill the vacant throne. He was both 
young and brave, and on account of his rare qualities 
was surnamed Totila (the immortal). He governed 
with a power which eclipsed even that of the great 
Theodoric. Brave and enterprising as a soldier, he 
was no less prudent and circumspect as a leader of 


his people, and won their universal esteem. Un- 
fortunately his Arian tenets made him hard and cruel 
to Catholics, especially the clergy. Totila was no 
longer satisfied to stand on the defensive, but deter- 
mined himself to renew hostilities and to attack the 
Romans. He opened the campaign in the spring of 
542 at the head of 5,000 men. The rival armies met 
between Bologna and Rimini, and Totila won the 
day by means of a clever stratagem. He seized the 
trophies and baggage of his enemies and took many 
prisoners ; these he treated with so much humanity 
that he won them over to his own standard. His 
army daily increased, while discord prevailed among 
the Romans, with the result that he gained victory 
after victory, and in a short time had pushed on as 
far as Naples. Justinian felt that the only resource 
left to him was once more to send Belisarius into the 
field, as the most capable general, to cope with the 
conqueror. The war lasted many years, causing 
untold misery in Italy and degradation to Rome ; 
but the completion of its history does not belong to 
these pages, as it was not concluded until after the 
death of the saint whose life we are studying. 



The turmoil and disturbance created by continual 
warfare could not but cast a gloom over the com- 
munity at Monte Cassino, yet this sorrow was not 
without hope, and it was with great confidence that 
the monks begged of God to restore peace, knowing 
that His Arm is not shortened and that His wonders 
never end. And mingled with the reports of blood- 
shed and crime which daily reached their ears came 
accounts of the heroic deeds and blessed lives of 
many saints who then glorified the Church. In our 
own country St. David, Archbishop of Caerleon in 
Wales, 1 was universally venerated. Trained by 
Paulinus, he preached to the Britons and founded 
twelve monasteries, which became so many schools 
for saints ; subsequently he was elected archbishop 
in spite of his intense reluctance, and he held a 
synod at a place called Victoria, to complete the 
work begun by his predecessor at that of Brevy. 
The Church of Britain is indebted to these two 
synods for many wise regulations and several canons 
relating to her administration and discipline. David 
shone as a bright example of virtue to his flock, and 
died a good and faithful servant of his Lord and 

1 Later he transferred his see to Menevia, now called St. David's. 



Master in the year 544. His soul, carried to heaven 
by angels, was shown to St. Kentigern in a vision. 

His holy friend Bishop Sennan died the same year. 
For a long time he governed not only the extensive 
diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardful, but also a 
monastery which he had founded on the Shannon. 

St. Finian, educated in Wales with St. David, 
re-enkindled the fire of charity in Ireland, chiefly 
by the erection of monasteries and schools from 
which came forth Saints Kieran, Colombkille, Co- 
lumba, Brendan, and others. He was chosen to 
occupy the See of Clonard, and laboured with unre- 
mitting zeal for the salvation of his people. The 
abbey he founded at Clonard flourished until the 
dissolution of monasteries in England. His name 
is one of the most famous among the saints of 
Ireland, after St. Patrick. 

St. Firmin, sprung from a noble race in Narbonne, 
so distinguished himself by his prudence, learning 
and piety, that at the early age of twenty-two he 
was raised to the See of Uzes, and from thence the 
odour of his virtue spread all over Gaul. 

Much might be said of St. Gall, Bishop of Cler- 
mont in Auvergne, who, renouncing the brilliant 
prospects which lay before him, consecrated himself 
to a religious life at Cournon, where he remained 
until he was made bishop in 527. He was especially 
remarkable for patience in bearing injuries, and his 
tender charity towards his persecutors transformed 
many from enemies into friends ; he was endowed 
with a wonderful gift of miracles. 


St. Paternus of Armorica (Brittany) withdrew from 
the world while still a youth, and became a monk in 
Wales. Here his virtue soon attracted the attention 
and admiration of his brethren, and he was chosen 
by them as superior. He accompanied St. David 
to Jerusalem, where the patriarch John III. conse- 
crated him bishop. He was recalled to Brittany 
by King Caradoc, and there governed the See of 
Vannes, "giving many proofs of his eminent sanctity. 

One of the most striking examples of humility 
and mortification of this century is found in the 
person of St. John the Silent. Born at Nicopolis 
in 454, he was early left an orphan with considerable 
possessions. At the age of eighteen he caused a 
church and monastery to be built, into which be 
retired with ten companions. He was made Bishop 
of Colonian in Armenia when scarcely twenty-eight, 
but after nine years he fled from his see into the 
desert. There he lived as a simple monk in the 
laura of the famous Abbot Sabas, his identity being 
unsuspected. After seven years, the abbot, edified 
by his extraordinarily mortified life, determined to 
have him ordained priest, when God revealed to him 
the episcopal character of his spiritual son. After 
that John lived about forty years in yet greater 
seclusion, and died at the age of 104, having never 
ceased to edify others and sanctify himself. 

Besides bishops, there were also at that time 
many abbots remarkable for their sanctity ; among 
others we notice Kieran, an Irishman. Trained to 
the monastic life by St. Finian, he made such won- 


derful progress in perfection as to astonish his master, 
who prophesied that his disciple would compose a 
Kule, which should be used by most of the Irish 
monasteries. This Kule, called "Law of Heaven," 
was very austere. Kieran died in 549, and is 
honoured as patron of Connaught. 

St. Fidolus also nourished at the same period. He 
was a native of Auvergne, and in his youth was 
taken captive by Thierry, King of the Franks ; St. 
Aventine of Champagne, however, obtained his re- 
lease, and brought him up in a monastery he had 
founded. Fidolus surpassed his fellow monks in 
the austerity of his life, spending nearly the whole 
of Lent without food. Later the community un- 
animously chose him for their abbot. 

Contemporary with him was St. Lifard. Having 
held an honourable post in the magistracy at Orleans, 
he forsook the world and retired into solitude, taking 
with him one companion named Urbicius. In a 
wild mountainous spot they constructed a hermitage 
of twisted branches, where they lived in penance 
and unbroken communion with God until Bishop 
Mark of Orleans induced Lifard to be ordained 
priest. He then founded a monastery on the site 
of his former hut, and governed it with such wisdom 
that he was honoured by all as a saint. 

One of the most illustrious men of the time was 
Abbot Hilarius of Galeata. Born in Tuscany in 
476, even as a child he was accustomed to study 
the Epistles of St. Paul and the book of the Gospels. 
Meditating one day on those words, " If any man come 


to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, 
and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his 
own life also, he cannot be My disciple," 1 he was 
much puzzled, and asked an old man what they could 
mean. The old man told him he was too young to 
trouble about such matters, but the boy would not 
be put off, answering that Our Lord said, " Suffer 
children to come to Me ". 2 The old man, perceiving 
from this that he was a child of predilection, ex- 
plained to him carefully the passage which perplexed 
him. Hilarius at once betook himself to a fertile 
spot among the Apennines, where in three years he 
succeeded in erecting a church, underneath which 
was a cavern. There he dwelt, serving God day and 
night by continual prayer and labour. At the age 
of twenty-one he delivered a heathen nobleman of 
Kavenna from a devil, and this miracle had the 
effect of converting both him and his family. Three 
days after, the nobleman's wife died, upon which 
he, with his two sons, laid all their possessions at 
the saint's feet and resolved never to leave him. A 
monastery was accordingly built at Galeata, and 
numbers flocked thither to learn the way of perfection 
under the wise direction of Hilarius. It is related 
that King Theodoric, wishing to erect for himself 
a palace near this monastery, called on the people 
of the surrounding country to assist him, but some 
ill-disposed persons spread a report that the saint 
would not comply with his request. Hearing this 

1 Luke xiv. 26. 2 Luke xviii. 16. 


the king was very angry, and set out for G-aleata to 
vent his rage on the holy abbot ; however, before he 
had gone far his horse became so restive that he 
was unable to proceed and was obliged to send for 
Hilarius to come to him. Scarcely had they met 
when — powerful monarch though he was — he felt 
convinced that he was in the presence of one greater 
than himself and, falling at the saint's feet, begged 
his forgiveness. Hilarius, taking him by the hand, 
made him rise, and, conducting him to the monas- 
tery, so won his heart that thenceforth the king 
became his most staunch friend and benefactor. 
Hilarius died at the age of eighty-two, and, as his 
biographer says, " So many wonderful things are 
told of him, as to seem almost incredible". 

One word must be said of St. Equitius, who lived 
in the province of Abruzzo beyond the Sabine 
mountains. Like St. Benedict, he had been vio- 
lently tempted in his youth, and had used the same 
heroic means to overcome and subdue his passion. 
His heart was on fire with the love of God and his 
neighbour, and many associated themselves to him 
to be trained in the spiritual life. He built several 
monasteries, among them one for women. As he 
was found preaching in the country villages, being 
only a layman, the Pope sent a priest to inquire into 
the matter; but meantime God revealed to His 
Vicar that Equitius had received an immediate call 
from Himself, and from that time he continued his 
preaching unmolested. He died in 540. St. Gregory 
says of him that " he was a passing holy man, who 


for his virtuous life was in great admiration with all 
men ". 

A saintly man called Bernard deserves mention as 
founder of the famous monastery of Noblac, in 
Limousin. He had begun his career as a nobleman 
at the court of Clovis ; subsequently he retired into 
the Abbey of Mici under the Abbots Maximian and 
Laetus. After some time spent in solitude he was 
sent to evangelise his countrymen, and effected 
numerous conversions. 

We cannot close this chapter without adding the 
name of Cassiodorus, the renowned chancellor of the 
Ostrogoths, who founded the monastery of Vivaria. 1 
We might bring many other examples of holiness 
and wisdom before our readers, but sufficient has 
been said to show how saints abounded, even in 
those days of bloodshed and crime. 

1 Viviers, in Calabria. 



Benedict's life was now fast drawing to a close ; 
but, as the sun seems to shine more gloriously when 
about to set, so the gifts with which God had adorned 
His chosen servant appeared rather to increase than 
to diminish as he drew nearer to the grave. Not 
long before his death an event happened which 
recalls that scene in the Old Testament where 
Samson burst the ropes which bound him as if they 
had been so many hairs ; or that miracle of the prison 
at Jerusalem when the chains fell from St. Peter's 
hands at the touch of an angel. 

The occurrence we are about to relate took place 
after Totila had succeeded in restoring the dominion 
of the Goths in Italy. He had a captain named 
Zalla (or, as some authors call him, Galla). This man 
was an Arian, and his hatred for Catholics was such 
that he considered no cruelty too barbarous to inflict 
on any he met ; indeed, no cleric or priest had ever 
been known to escape from him with his life. 
We may well suppose that a man with such a tem- 
perament did not excel in other virtues ; and not the 
least among his vices was an excessive greed for 
gold. One day, having set out as usual to plunder 

and pillage, he met a labourer, and seizing hold of 

(209) 14 


him began to ill-use him, with the hope of obtaining 
any small savings he might have. The poor man, 
terrified by the threats of his tormentor and beside 
himself with pain, thought to get out of the difficulty 
by referring the case to St. Benedict, and said that 
he had entrusted his earnings to the keeping of the 
Abbot of Monte Cassino. Upon this the barbarian 
ceased tormenting him, and binding him fast with a 
rope drove him before his horse to the abbey. 
Benedict was sitting at the gate reading, and so 
absorbed was he in his book that he did not notice 
the approach of his visitors. When the labourer 
caught sight of him he pointed him out to Zalla, 
saying : " That is Father Benedict of whom I spoke ". 
The Goth, thinking to terrify the saint as he had 
terrified so many others, shouted in an insolent 
manner : " Rise, sirrah ! and hand over this fellow' 
property which he tells me you have in your keeping ". 
Benedict, far from being disturbed or cowed by this 
rough speech, merely raised his eyes from his book 
and looked at the ruffian and his prisoner. At the 
same moment the cords which bound the peasant 
fell from him, loosed by Divine power. On beholding 
this Zalla was struck with astonishment and fear ; 
and, dismounting from his horse, he threw himself at 
the saint's feet, imploring his prayers. Surely this 
was the greater miracle of the two : that a man who 
had been the scourge of the country, who had faced 
armies unmoved, whose pride and passions were un- 
governable, should thus be brought to the ground 
and forced to humble himself by one look from a 


servant of God. Meanwhile Benedict continued his 
reading, as if all this commotion was an everyday 
occurrence ; and, calling one of his monks, told him 
to take Zalla and give him some refreshment. The 
Goth, meek as a lamb, followed the brother into the 
monastery, and, having taken some food, he returned 
to the abbot. Benedict then exhorted him to change 
his impious mode of life, and to cease tormenting 
innocent victims ; and, overcome by the saint's 
words, he retired and left the poor labourer in peace. 
Whether his conversion was permanent is not known, 
as his name does not appear again in the Monastic 



Theke was in Campania, not far from Monte Cassino, 
a monastery governed by a deacon named Servandus. 
This abbot had such a veneration and love for 
Benedict that he could not refrain from often visiting 
and conversing with him on spiritual subjects. St. 
Gregory says very beautifully that although these 
privileged souls could not as yet perfectly feed on the 
celestial food of Heaven, yet by means of sweet 
discourses they tasted of its joys and ineffable de- 

On one of these occasions, when it was time to 
go to rest, Benedict mounted to the upper room of 
the tower which flanked the monastery, while Ser- 
vandus remained in the lower one. A staircase 
joined these two rooms, and near the tower was a 
large dormitory in which slept both the monks of 
Monte Cassino and those whom Servandus had 
brought with him. It was late, and all were buried 
in sleep except Benedict, who, kneeling by his window, 
watched and communed with his God. Suddenly a 
brilliant light shone from heaven, so dazzling as to 
change the dark night into the brightest day : then, 
marvellous to relate, he saw in the midst of this 

stream of light the whole world gathered, as it were, 



within one of the sun's rays. While the holy abbot 
gazed on this strange vision with wonder, he saw the 
soul of St. Germanus, Bishop of Capua, which, in 
the form of a globe of fire, was being carried by angels 
to heaven. Desirous that others should witness 
so glorious a sight, he called two or three times as 
loud as he could to Servandus, who, aroused by the 
voice and alarmed at hearing a cry in a time of such 
solemn silence, hastened up the little staircase to 
ascertain the cause ; looking upwards he saw only 
the light which still lingered in the sky, but the 
vision had passed away. Benedict then related to 
his astonished guest all that he had seen, and im- 
mediately sent for Theoprobus, one of his monks in 
whom he placed great confidence, and desired him 
to despatch a messenger to Capua to inquire after 
the bishop. The messenger set out without delay, 
but, on arriving, found that Germanus had died at 
the very same moment at which Benedict had beheld 
his soul being carried to heaven. 

St. Gregory, explaining this wonderful vision, says 
that " though Benedict saw the whole world gathered 
together before his eyes, he did not by this mean to 
express that heaven and earth were contracted into 
a small compass, but that beholding the Creator his 
soul was thereby so enlarged as to comprehend 
without difficulty all things created ". Our minds 
are so small and we meditate so little on God as the 
Creator and Preserver of the universe, that uncon- 
sciously we lose sight of His greatness ; self forms 
the centre round which our thoughts revolve ; our 


hearts become narrow, and our notions contracted. 
But Benedict had spent his whole life contemplating 
the immensity of God and his own nothingness ; he 
realised that he was but an atom in this vast world, 
and the world itself but a fraction of the universe ; 
he knew that God holds, as it were, all creation in 
the palm of His hand, and in Him all creatures 
live and move and have their being. What wonder, 
then, that his bodily eyes should see in a vision the 
truth his soul had long since grasped, namely, that 
in comparison with God our Creator all things created 
are as though they existed not, so insignificant do 
they appear, and, to quote St. Gregory's words again : 
" To the soul which beholds the Creator, all creatures 
seem as nothing ". 



After the supernatural favours recorded in the last 
chapter the soul of this great patriarch and saint was 
ready to be tried once more in the fiery ordeal of 
suffering. This time the blow was to be inflicted, 
not by the hand of man, but by the direct power of 
the Almighty. We many of us know well the pain 
of failing in some cherished plan or desire, and the 
more perfect and unselfish our designs have been, 
the more the heart naturally suffers. This was the 
last cross destined by the appointment of God to try 
the faith and love of Benedict, and to purify his soul 
from the least remaining particles of human attach- 
ment or complacency in his great work. He was 
allowed to see in prayer the fate which awaited his 
beloved monastery, and the events which were to 
happen after the lapse of forty years, with all their 
details and attendant circumstances. Theoprobus, 
coming to look for the saint one day, found him in 
his cell weeping bitterly and groaning with anguish. 
Theoprobus stood by for some time, sympathetic and 
awestruck at the sight of this grief on the part of 
one whom he thought almost above such human 
feelings, but, after a pause of reverent silence, ven- 
tured to ask the cause of such great sorrow. Benedict 



replied : " This monastery which I have built, and all 
I have obtained for the brethren, are, by the judgment 
of God, given over to the heathens, and scarcely could I 
obtain from Him the lives of those who dwell therein". 

The prophecy was fulfilled when, in later years, 
the Lombards invaded Italy. One night, while the 
monks slept, they attacked the abbey and, having 
plundered it, destroyed it, but they were not able to 
find or capture a single monk. Mabillon places the 
destruction of the monastery in the year 580, other 
authors somewhat later. The former opinion seems 
the most probable, from the fact that when St. 
Gregory wrote his Dialogues in 593 he expressly says 
that Valentinian had for many years presided over the 
Lateran monastery which came from Monte Cassino. 

The monks who were thus forcibly expelled from 
their beloved home fled to Rome, and built them- 
selves a monastery near the Lateran Palace. They 
brought with them the Rule which St. Benedict had 
written with his own hand, also the weight for the 
daily allowance of bread, the measure of wine and 
some precious relics in the shape of their holy father's 
clothing and shoes. Some of the monks from Monte 
Cassino went to other monasteries, as in the case of 
the saintly Abbot Antoninus, who governed the Abbey 
of Sorrento, where he became very famous for his 
holy life. Baronius tells us that a few lingered near 
the ruins of Monte Cassino, and jealously guarded 
the tomb where lay the body of their venerated 
founder. The monastery was rebuilt in 718 under 
the pontificate of Gregory III. 


a.d. 542. 

No power can be compared with that conferred by 
grace ; it is an interior and mysterious influence 
which endows its possessor with a dignity and majesty 
that command universal esteem. The saints having 
overcome themselves, likewise overcame the whole 
world, and as grace gained in them more and more 
ascendancy, so, in proportion, did they win the re- 
spect of the great ones of this earth, although the 
reverence in many cases was anything but voluntary 
on the part of those who felt forced to pay it in spite 
of themselves. 

When Benedict was already advanced in years, 
and longing only for the day on which he should be 
set free to go to his heavenly home, God allowed the 
greatness of his soul so to shine exteriorly as to 
confound the pride of an earthly monarch. Totila, 
the mighty conqueror who in one short year had 
possessed himself of the whole of Italy, who acknow- 
ledged no lord and master but himself, felt compelled 
to recognise a dignity in Benedict before which he 
must needs bow. It happened in the year 542 that 

the Gothic king was in the vicinity of Monte Cassino, 


and having heard much of the holy abbot's gift of 
prophecy and discernment, he determined to put it 
to the test. As we have already said, this king was 
an Arian and very bitter against the true Faith, so 
that he was only too anxious to prove that the saint 
was an impostor. With this end in view, he caused 
his sword-bearer, a man named Riggo, to array him- 
self in the royal robes, and instructed him to act as 
though he were the king ; to give more colour to the 
device, he sent his three personal attendants to wait 
upon him. Totila meantime followed at a distance 
with the rest of his retinue. Riggo, attired in his 
borrowed plumes and attended by his gay courtiers, 
rode up the mountain to the abbey gate. Benedict 
was sitting near the gate when the cavalcade ap- 
peared, and no sooner did he perceive their arrival 
than he called out to the leader: " My son, put off 
that apparel, for those clothes are none of thine". 
The soldier, who had never known fear in the thickest 
of the fray, was much troubled at these words ; and, 
heartily ashamed of himself for trying to deceive so 
holy a man, he, together with his comrades, prostrated 
themselves on the ground ; nor did they dare approach 
nearer to the saint, but returning to the king they 
related what had occurred. 

Then Totila went in person to visit the venerable 
abbot, and seeing him in the distance he also was 
afraid to approach, and overcome with awe he fell 
down at his feet. Benedict bade him rise, yet still 
the king remained in his humble attitude, till at last 
the saint took him by the hand and raised him from 


the ground. All who watched this scene saw that 
very strong emotions were conflicting in the heart of 
the mighty warrior, and that the recollection of his 
many deeds of cruelty and wrong caused him to 
tremble before one whom he felt could read his very 
thoughts. Benedict, who knew that the fate of Italy 
rested with Totila, would not allow the opportunity 
to pass, and fearlessly rebuked him for his wicked- 
ness, prophesying the evils which would in conse- 
quence befall him. He said: "You daily commit 
much wickedness, and have done many great crimes, 
but now at last amend your sinful life. You will 
conquer Eome, you will cross the sea, you will reign 
nine years, and you will die in the tenth." The 
prophecy was verified when Totila took Eome in 546, 
crossed to Sicily in 549, remained there a year, and, 
returning to Italy, died in August, 552. 

Hearing these things, the king was terrified, and 
besought the saint to pray for him. From that time 
he was much less cruel, and on some occasions 
showed most unexpected magnanimity and genero- 
sity. For instance, when Naples surrendered to him 
after a long siege, he caused food to be distributed 
to the inhabitants, who were perishing from hunger, 
and presided in person at the distribution, to see that 
the people were properly treated. Even the pagan 
historian Procopius avows himself unable to under- 
stand the change, and relates that when, on account 
of the unsettled state of the weather, the Roman 
garrison was unable to leave Naples by sea, Totila 
provided them with horses, waggons, mules, food, 


and a safe-conduct to Eome. And again, when one 
of his officers insulted a Neapolitan girl, he immedi- 
ately ordered him to be executed, nor would he listen 
to those who begged mercy for him, saying: "An 
unpunished crime draws down the wrath of heaven 
on a whole race ; choose then between the life of 
this criminal and the destruction of our nation, for 
victory is not only the outcome of strength and 
courage, but even more so the reward of moral 
virtue ". 


a.d. 543. 

Towards the close of the year 542 Innocent, Bishop 
of le Mans, having heard of the fervour and sanctity 
of the monks at Monte Cassino, determined, if pos- 
sible, to induce them to make a foundation in his 
own diocese. With this intention he sent an 
embassy to St. Benedict, and entrusted his arch- 
deacon, Flodegar or Odegarius, and his chief steward, 
Arderadus, with the request he wished to make. 
Arrived at Monte Cassino, they were received with 
the proverbial monastic hospitality, and the holy 
abbot, having learnt the object of their journey 
and prayed for guidance in the matter, acceded to 
their petition. He felt that the foundation would 
be an important one, and he resolved to sacrifice 
the son he loved most on earth and to send Maurus 
into France. 

The monks, however, were inconsolable at the 
prospect of losing one who was to them the living 
portrait of their father. Benedict, seeing this, took 
compassion on their sorrow, and assembling them 
together, spoke to them as follows. (His words 

have been handed down to us by the monk 



Faustus, who accompanied St. Maurus to France, 
and was subsequently canonised) : " My children," 
said he, " I confess that your complaints would be 
justifiable if the charity we should have for the 
salvation of our neighbour were not preferable to 
our own private satisfaction. No one can feel more 
than I do the departure of one so dear and useful 
to me as Maurus. My loss is certainly great, yet 
I am obliged to strip myself of my affection for him 
in order not to be wanting in charity to those who 
are to profit by our loss ; hence I must exhort you 
as a father to moderate a sorrow which through the 
malice of our old enemy might become hurtful to 
your souls. I know that the thought of my death, 
which cannot be far distant, is partly the cause of 
your affliction, but remember God will never fail 
you if you leave yourselves in the hands of His 
Divine Providence ; and when I am gone He will 
perhaps give you one more animated with His spirit 
and more capable of guiding you. Do not fear that 
any distance or separation can sever hearts so 
closely united by charity ; for the spiritual eye, 
formed after the image of Him Who created it, is 
not fettered by corporeal conditions." Then turning 
to Maurus and his companions he continued : " As 
for you, my well-beloved sons, who are going into 
a distant land to labour at God's work, take courage 
and strengthen your hearts by remembering the 
holy state of which you have made profession ; and 
be convinced that the more we suffer in this life 
for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, 


the greater will be our reward in Paradise. As 
a last counsel I beseech you not to grieve when 
you hear of my death, because when I have left 
this mortal life I shall be nearer to you and more 
able to be useful to you than at present." 1 Thus 
did Benedict by his sweet words soften the affliction 
of his children. 

Preparations for departure were soon made, and 
on the 10th of January, 543, the monks again 
assembled to bid a last farewell to Maurus and 
the four who had been chosen to accompany him ; 
their names were Faustus, Simplicius, Anthony 
and Constantine. As the travellers prostrated at 
the feet of their holy father he blessed them, and 
raising them pressed them once more lovingly to 
his heart, saying : " My sons, this enterprise you 
are undertaking for the love of our Lord is a very 
important one, therefore I am confident that He 
Himself will give you the strength you need. If 
when God calls me out of this world I have any 
power with Him, rest assured that the help of my 
prayers will never fail you." Then he gave St. 
Maurus a copy of the Rule which he had written 
with his own hand and signed with the humble 
words, " Codex peccatoris Bencdicti " ; also the weight 
for the daily allowance of bread, and a small vessel 
which contained the measure of their drink. 

Maurus and his companions, together with the 
French clerics who had come to fetch them, having 

1 S. Bened. Semi, indiscessu Mauri et Soc; Pair. laL, torn. lxvi. 


set out on their journey, spent the first night in 
a house belonging to the monastery ; there they 
found everything prepared for their reception, as 
Benedict had sent two monks on in advance of 
them. The following morning two other monks 
came from Monte Cassino, Honoratus and Felicis- 
simus, a cousin of St. Maurus, bringing with them 
a letter from the abbot, together with some relics, 
among others a piece of the true Cross, with which 
Maurus afterwards worked many miracles. The 
letter ran as follows : " Eeceive, my son, this last 
token of the tender love of your father, and keep 
what I send you as a perpetual memorial, not only 
as a mark of the love which unites our hearts, but 
as a support and protection to you and your brethren 
in the dangers you will have to encounter in your 
perilous journey. It has been revealed to me that 
you will receive your eternal reward after sixty 
years of religious life. The forty years that still 
remain to you will not be without trials, and you 
will have great difficulties in the foundation of your 
monastery. The devil will spare neither strength 
nor address in order to ruin your enterprise, because 
he foresees that it will be as much for his confusion 
as for the glory of God. But you will overcome 
him through the Divine mercy, which will make you 
triumph over his malice, by giving you a more 
suitable spot for your monastery than we could 
have hoped for. I pray God to fill you with His 
grace and to bless your journey and bring it to a 
happy end." This letter was treasured by Maurus 


all his life, and at his request laid with him in his 
tomb after his death. 

No sooner had the little colony of monks arrived 
in Gaul than the trials predicted by their holy father 
began. First they received the news of the death 
of Innocent, the bishop who had sent for them. 
This seemed like a death-blow to the young founda- 
tion, inasmuch as the new bishop was not at all 
eager to receive them, and could not give them any 
place to settle in. However, Florus, a wealthy 
nobleman of Theodebert's court, hearing of their 
arrival, undertook to build a monastery for them 
on his own property, where in course of time he 
himself became a monk. According to Benedict's 
prophecy Maurus governed the Abbey of Glanfeuil 
for nearly forty years. Two years before his death 
he retired into a hermitage and ended his life in the 
practice of heroic penance, 15th January, 583. 




M I 1 

HE Jg l&W 

IS 1 iy 

1 *H 

I 1 

Last Meeting of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica. 



After Maurus' departure, Benedict knew that his 
work on earth was done and his days already num- 
bered. He sighed yet more ardently for his heavenly 
home, and prayed unceasingly that he might be 
be dissolved and go to his Lord. Scarcely a month 
after the travellers had left, Benedict received a 
message from his sister Scholastica, begging him to 
come to a little house, not far from the monastery 
at the foot of the mountain, where once a year the 
brother and sister were accustomed to spend the day 
together conferring on spiritual matters. He went, 
therefore, to the place appointed, together with some 
of his monks, and passed the whole day with her 
in praising God and in holy conversation. Both 
Benedict and Scholastica now stood on the very 
brink of eternity ; and their hearts dilated and over- 
flowed with joyful expectancy when they spoke to- 
gether of the delights of the Paradise which awaited 
them. Towards evening, as was their wont, they 
broke their fast, and while they supped they continued 
to converse of heavenly things. Scholastica was so 
transported with Benedict's inspired and soul-stirring 
words that she would fain have prolonged his stay 

with her ; so, as evening wore on, she said : " I pray 



you, brother, remain with me this night and let us 
continue till morning to speak of the joys of heaven ". 
Benedict, however, would not hear of such a proposal, 
urging that no consideration could justify his spending 
the night outside the monastery. Thus, refused by 
him, Scholastica turned to God, and leaning her head 
on the table made her prayer, imploring her Divine 
Spouse with many tears to vouchsafe to give her the 
pleasure which her brother had refused her. Hitherto 
the sky had been so clear that no cloud was to be 
seen ; but scarcely had she raised her head from her 
hands than a terrific clap of thunder rent the air, 
accompanied by such torrents of rain that it was 
absolutely impossible for any one to venture out. 
St. Gregory tells us that in one and the same moment 
as Scholastica lifted her head her petition was granted. 
Benedict, seeing that on account of the storm he and 
his monks would be unable to return home, was very 
much troubled at the thought of such a breach of 
monastic discipline ; and, addressing his sister in a 
reproachful tone, he said : " God forgive you, sister, 
what have you done ? " to which she sweetly 
answered : "I asked you and you would not hear me, 
I asked my Lord and He has deigned to grant my 
petition ; now, therefore, if you can depart, in God's 
name return to your monastery and leave me here 
alone". Thus, though unwillingly, Benedict was 
forced to tarry, and, resuming their conversation, they 
watched all night and mutually edified and comforted 
one another. 

Louis of Granada, in his treatise on the love of 


God, mentions the storm obtained by St. Scholastica's 
prayer, and exclaims : " What a proof of the love of 
this holy soul ! She never doubted that her Beloved 
would vouchsafe to grant her request, for she knew 
that God does the will of those who fear Him. 1 " 
And St. Gregory in one brief sentence pronounces 
her panegyric when he says that her prayers prevailed 
over the wishes of her brother, " because she loved 
the most ". Truly no more sublime praise could have 
been bestowed. We have in the foregoing pages 
tried to give a faint idea of the exceeding greatness 
of Benedict's love for God : a love which absorbed 
his whole soul; therefore, to say that Scholastica's 
love for her Divine Spouse surpassed his proves the 
height of perfection to which she had risen. No 
wonder that this world could no longer detain a soul 
such as hers : already the voice of her Beloved sounded 
in her ears : " Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and 
come ! " Her weary exile was at an end. In three 
short days her chains would be broken, the gates of 
Paradise would open to receive her, and angels would 
come to conduct her to her everlasting home. 

1 Pa. cxliv. 19. 


a.d. 543. 

The following day, 8th February, 543, Scholastica 
and Benedict parted to meet no more on earth, and 
returned to their respective monasteries. Scholastica, 
consumed by the fire of charity which burned in her 
heart, languished with love ; and her frail body could 
no longer contain the soul which craved to be set 
free that it might fly to the object of its love. At 
length on the 10th of February the voice of the 
Bridegroom was heard calling for His spouse to cele- 
brate with Him the heavenly nuptials. 

At the hour of her death Benedict was in his cell, 
when, raising his eyes, he saw the soul of his sister 
ascending to heaven in the form of a dove. For one 
moment, we may believe, nature asserted itself, and 
a cry of anguish escaped from his lips; yet it was 
but a passing shadow, and the vision of her sweet 
innocence, added to her great glory, filled him with 
such inexpressible joy and thankfulness that he burst 
forth into hymns and psalms of praise. Then sum- 
moning his monks, he told them the glad tidings and 
bade them fetch the holy body from St. Mary's of 

Plombariola and bring it to the abbey, m order that 

ST. scholastica's death. 233 

he might bury it in the grave prepared for himself. 
This custom of burying nuns in the church of the 
monks was very common. We read that in the 
desert of Scete, when a nun died, her sisters brought 
the body to the bank of the river which separated the 
two monasteries, and that the monks then crossed 
the river, carrying palm branches and singing psalms, 
and brought the body with great joy to their own 
church, where the burial took place. 

St. Gregory ends this chapter by saying that as 
the souls of Benedict and Scholastica were always 
one in God while they lived, so their bodies continued 
together after death. 1 Truly no brother and sister 
had been more united to each other than these two. 
Born on the same day, their early years had been 
spent together, while they emulated one another in 
the practice of every virtue. Both had embraced a 
monastic life, both had lived under the same Rule ; 
the same aspirations, the same longings had filled 
the hearts of both, even the manner of their death 
was identical, for they both died consumed with the 
fire of Divine love. " Lovely, and comely in their 
life, even in death they were not divided." 2 

The remains of the holy virgin being brought to the 
monastery were laid to rest in the oratory of St. 
John the Baptist. We may well picture to ourselves 
that funeral on a fresh spring morning : how the 
tears that welled up into the eyes of those present 

ltl Ut quorum mens una semper in Deo fuerat, eorum quoque 
corpora nee sepultura separet " (Vita S. Bened., c. xxxiv.). 
2 2 Kings i. 23. 


were rather tears of rejoicing at the happiness of one 
so dear, than sorrow for her loss. Benedict's grand 
faith must have been inspiring and infectious as he 
stood by the grave, his venerable countenance aglow 
with celestial joy and triumph. Unmindful of his 
own loss he could only think and speak of the gain 
for one who had been joined to him by a triple tie, 
one who had been at once his spiritual child, his 
sister in Christ and in holy religion, and his twin 
and dear associate in virtue through life. 



a.d. 543. 

The earthly tie which had bound the brother and 

sister so closely together was now broken, but even 

death could not sever the link which united their 

souls. It seemed to Benedict that Scholastica had 

never been nearer to him than now, and many a 

time he would cry out to her, " My sister, fetch me 

too, that with thee I may sing the canticle of the 

Lamb". As the monks watched day by day his 

waning strength they could not but feel that their 

father must soon take leave of them. If Benedict 

had always lived with the constant thought of death 

before him, he now looked for it and longed for it 

with an ever increasing desire ; and he had not long 

to wait. God, who had made known to him the 

secrets of so many hearts, revealed to him also the 

time of his release. In the year which was to be his 

last he foretold the day of his death to some of the 

monks of his own monastery, and also to others who 

were at a distance. These last are generally supposed 

to have been St. Maurus and his companions ; 

indeed, the opinion is confirmed by the fact that 



Faustus, in his life of St. Maurus, relates how Maurus 
told the day of Benedict's death to St. Komanus at 
Fontrouge. Benedict enjoined silence with regard 
to this prophecy on those monks who dwelt with 
him, and to whom he gave his confidence. To those 
who were absent he gave a token by which they 
should know the exact time of his release. 

On the 15th of March he had his grave opened. 
Scarcely had this been done than he was seized by 
a violent fever which consumed the little life still 
remaining in him. Day by day his illness gained 
ground and he grew more feeble, until at length on 
the sixth day, calling his brethren, he bade them 
carry his wasted form to the church, there to receive 
for the last time the sacred Body and Blood of Our 
Lord Jesus Christ. Standing in the oratory, sup- 
ported by his sorrowing children, he died as he had 
lived, his hands uplifted to heaven in prayer ; and 
his great soul, unfettered and unstained, found its 
rest at last in the bosom of the eternal God. On 
the day of his most happy death two monks, one in 
the monastery and the other far distant, had the 
self-same vision concerning him. They saw a path 
spread with garments and shining with innumerable 
lamps which reached from the saint's cell in an 
easterly direction even up to heaven. In the far 
distance a man of venerable aspect was standing. He 
asked them if they knew who had passed that way ; 
and when they said they did not, he replied : " This 
is the way by which Benedict the beloved servant of 
God ascended up to heaven ". 


The great patriarch of Western monks died on the 
Saturday before Passion Sunday, 21st March, 543, at 
nine o'clock in the morning. St. Peter Damian says : 
" Escorted by angel choirs singing hymns of praise, 
he passed into the Eternal Kingdom. Who can 
express or conceive the sublime welcome he received 
from all the heavenly citizens ! What wonder that 
he went to the dwelling of angels since, even in this 
mortal life, he was worthy to hold familiar intercourse 
with them." 1 St. Bernard declares that Benedict's 
glorious death is a pledge of the glory to be attained 
by the whole of his Order. He says : " He who was 
in all things truly blessed (Benedictus) and filled 
with the Holy Spirit has erected for us a ladder, the 
top of which rests in heaven, as we know from the 
vision seen after his glorious death. What is this 
path that leads from his cell to Paradise but the 
Order which the holy man founded and the Rule of 
life which emanated from him ? By this same path 
the beloved of God ascended, for he could not teach 
otherwise than he himself had lived." 2 And St. 
Peter Damain, already quoted, speaks in the like 
manner when he says : " We may piously believe that 
the ladder which once appeared and reached from 
Monte Cassino to heaven is still strewn with garments 
and lit with lamps ; and as it was once trodden by the 
leader, so now the innumerable army of his followers 
cannot fail to follow the same path to glory after 

1 Sermo viii. in Vig. S. Bened. 

2 Serm. de S. Bened. 


death, if in this exile they have walked faithfully in 
the footsteps of their holy founder." J 

The monks laid their beloved father to rest beside 
his sister in the grave he had prepared for himself in 
the oratory of St. John the Baptist. This oratory 
stood formerly outside the precincts of the monastery 
church. The tomb now lies under the high altar, in 
a crypt which is reached by two flights of steps. On 
one side of the gate which closes this crypt is the 
inscription : — 

Quisquis es, ingredere et Benedicti corpus honora 
Corde humili, flexo poplite, mente pia. 

And on the other side : — 

Aede sub hac celebri Scholastica virgo quiescit 
Quam tibi futuram solicitato prece. 

1 Opusc. 36, chap. xvi. 



" He who soweth in blessings, shall also reap of 
blessings " ; 1 and " then will He render to every man 
according to his works ". 2 Who can estimate Bene- 
dict's works, or the blessings that he sowed ? His 
whole life had been given to God ; while yet a mere 
child he had left all that the world holds dear, and 
like a second John the Baptist had fled into the 
wilderness. He had preserved his heart unsullied 
amid the licence and corruption of Kome ; he had 
fought and won a hard battle against flesh and blood, 
and by continual mortification had mastered his body. 
When called upon to be a guide and teacher to others 
he did not refuse this difficult vocation ; and with 
the direction of souls he accepted the heaviest burden 
God could have laid upon him. He had to endure 
the persecutions of the wicked ; but he gave place to 
anger, and repaid with blessings those who did him 
an injustice. God gave him the mission of an 
apostle and entrusted him with the work of uprooting 
the last remnants of paganism ; and we have seen 
how he fulfilled his task. Though pressed by famine 
and want no word of complaint ever passed his lips, 
but he was ever willing to share his last morsel with 

1 2 Cor. ix. 6. 2 Matt. xvi. 27. 



the needy and to deprive himself of bare necessaries 
for their relief. When God's honour demanded it 
he did not hesitate to reprove Totila, the most dreaded 
monarch of his age. 

These things are historical facts, and have been 
recorded as such. But what of those other countless 
deeds of virtue, seen only by the eye of God, recorded 
only by the angels? Yea, truly, no man could 
number these, no book contain their record ! And 
now Benedict is enjoying his reward ; that reward 
which is none other than God Himself. He gazes 
upon the beatific vision, and by reason of his great 
glory it is clearer to him than to others who, like 
him, have won their crown, but a crown less perfect. 
Around him is gathered the innumerable ring of his 
brethren, monks and nuns who, by means of his Holy 
Eule, have attained to heavenly bliss. St. Odo says : 
"If the multitude of his subjects form the glory of 
a king, what must we think of that sovereign who 
is surrounded by so numerous an army of monks ? 
What king has ever ruled in so many different parts 
of the universe? or has ever collected around him 
such countless legions from every nation under 
heaven, as those whom Benedict rules and commands 
— souls of every age, race, rank and condition, who 
have voluntarily dedicated themselves to the militia 
of Christ?" 1 

To realise more fully the glory enjoyed by this 
great saint, we have but to read the Bevelations of 

1 Sermo de S. Bened, 


St. Gertrude. On his feast day, while she was 
assisting at Matins, she beheld in spirit Benedict, 
standing in the presence of the ever-peaceful Trinity 
radiant with glory. His countenance was full of 
majesty and beauty, his habit shone radiantly, while 
bright and living roses seemed to spring forth from 
his limbs, each one producing another, and these 
again others, the last surpassing the first in fragrance 
and beauty, so that the holy father, blessed by grace 
and by name, ''gratia et nomine Benedictus," being 
thus adorned, gave the greatest pleasure to the ador- 
able Trinity and the heavenly court, who rejoiced 
with him because of his beatitude. St. Gertrude ex- 
plains this vision as follows : " The roses which thus 
sprang forth from him signified the exercises which 
he had used to subjugate his flesh to the spirit, and 
all the holy actions he had performed, and also those 
of all whom he had drawn by his persuasions, or 
induced by his example, to leave the world and live 
under regular discipline, because by following him 
in this royal road they had attained, or will yet 
attain, to the port of the celestial country and to life 
eternal. Each of these souls is a subject of particular 
glory to this great patriarch, for which the saints 
praise God and congratulate Him continually." St. 
Gertrude likewise saw that St. Benedict carried a 
sceptre which was embellished on each side with 
precious stones of great brilliancy. As he held it in 
his hand, the side which was turned towards him 
emitted a glorious light, which indicated the happi- 
ness of those who embraced his Rule and amended 



their lives, and on their account God overwhelmed 
him with inconceivable joy. On the side which was 
turned towards God, the Divine justice shone forth 
which had been magnified in the condemnation of 
those who had been called to his holy Order, but who 
had rendered themselves unworthy of it, and therefore 
had been condemned to eternal flames ; x for it is 
just that those whom God calls to the holiest orders 
should be the most severely punished, if they live 
therein an evil life. 

1 Revelations of St. Gertrude, part iv., chap. xx. 



As in life God had endowed Benedict with the power 
of working miracles, so after death the saint's arm 
was not shortened, and many wonderful cures took 
place through his intercession. St. Gregory says : 
"He continueth even to this very time to work 
miracles, if the faith of those who pray to him require 
it ". He then goes on to relate how a certain mad 
woman had experienced his help. She had lost the 
use of her reason, and day and night she wandered 
about among the mountains and valleys, the woods 
and the fields, only resting when overcome by exhaus- 
tion. It chanced one day that in her aimless wan- 
derings she came to Benedict's cave. Without 
knowing where she was, or the sanctity of the spot, 
or any of the associations connected with it, she 
entered the holy sanctuary and, being tired and weary, 
fell asleep. When she awoke she had perfectly re- 
covered her senses, and her cure was so effectual 
that she was never again affected by any symptoms 
of madness. St. Gregory probably mentions this 
miracle because it was worked spontaneously and 
unasked ; yet we cannot but regret that he did not 
leave us some other examples. 



Leo the Marsican relates how, in the time of 
Charlemagne, a certain Englishman who was hoth 
deaf and dumb made a pilgrimage with some others 
to the tomb of the holy Apostles. From thence they 
made their way to Monte Gargano, and on the road 
came to Monte Cassino. Entering the church they 
venerated the relics of St. Benedict, and then pre- 
pared to continue their pilgrimage. But the deaf 
and dumb man remained fixed to the spot, and, by 
his gestures, they understood that he saw a vision. 
Carried away by his feelings of devotion and confi- 
dence he cried to Benedict to assist him ; and rising 
from his prayers he was able to speak and under- 
stand, not only his mother-tongue, but also Latin 
and Italian. 

The same author gives us another miracle worked 
through the intercession of the saint in the time of 
the holy Abbot Bertharius, who governed the monas- 
tery of Cassino from 857-884. This abbot caused a 
small town to be built at the foot of the mountain, 
which he named Eulogumenopolis, or Benedict's 
town. Among those engaged in the work was a 
mason, who, owing to a severe illness, had lost the 
power of speech for seven years. It happened on 
one occasion that this poor man, overcome with 
fatigue, fell asleep behind a pillar in the church while 
the monks were chanting Matins. As he slept Bene- 
dict appeared to him, and touched him gently on the 
head with his staff, saying, " Art thou come hither to 
sleep? Get up, and strike the ground three times." 
At this the man awoke, and, having done as the saint 


commanded, he suddenly recovered his speech and 
in a loud voice began to praise and bless God and 
His holy servant who had thus cured him. 

Miracles continued to occur, not only in Italy, 
but also in other countries, especially at the Abbey 
of Fleury in France, which boasted of having a portion 
of the saint's body. An account of these miracles 
are given in a book written by the monk Adrevald 
in the year 870, and in the eleventh and twelfth cen- 
turies Aimoinus and Kudolph Tortarius, both monks 
of Fleury, continued to chronicle the wonders that 
took place ; the dumb spoke, the lame walked, the 
blind saw, calamities were averted, and conversions 
were obtained. 

In the eleventh century devotion to the saint 
received a new impetus, and many people came to 
Monte Cassino to visit his tomb ; again miracles 
were multiplied, an account of them being carefully 
kept by Leo the Marsican, Peter the Deacon and the 
Abbot Desiderius. St. Henry the Emperor, being 
afflicted by a very painful disease, saw the saint in a 
vision, and obtained from him his cure. From that 
moment his only wish was to devote the remainder 
of his life to God as a monk in the Abbey of St. 
Vanne at Verdun ; but by the advice of the hoi} 
Abbot Kichard he sacrificed his desire for the good 
of his subjects. 



At the period of which we write there was no 
formal process of canonisation : the vox populi was 
looked upon as the vox Dei, and a saint was recog- 
nised as such by the consent of the bishop and the 
acclamation of the people. 

Benedict was at once universally venerated as a 
saint, and his name inserted both in the Eoman 
and Greek martyrologies ; the Greeks, however, 
keep his festival on the 14th of March. 

In the second book of his Dialogues St. Gregory 
gives a most perfect and finished eulogium of this 
blessed servant of God. He says : "Benedict was 
a man of venerable life, blessed by grace and name 
. . . one filled with the spirit of all the just . . . 
a bright light placed upon a candlestick ... a 
teacher of virtue and a model of righteousness". 
Pope Zacharias (741-752) calls him "the morning 
star, the friend of God, a father of blessings, a 
wonder-worker, one raised to the height of angelic 
glory, and a faithful and wise administrator ". 

Pope Stephen III., who came to Monte Cassino 
with the kings Pepin and Carloman and their sons 
Carl and Carloman, when brought into the presence 

of the saint's relics, filled with holy enthusiasm, 



exclaimed aloud before many bishops and a large 
concourse of the faithful : " Hail thou disciple of 
Christ ! Hail thou friend of the Divine Bridegroom ! 
Hail thou preacher of the truth and teacher of 
nations ! Hail thou universal shepherd of monks ! 
Pillar of the faith, 1 am thine ! Thine also these 
bishops ; thine the clergy ; thine the people of 
Eome ; thine these patricians ; thine the Lateran 
basilica ; thine this monastery where thou dwellest 
body and soul. Protect the Holy See, defend the 
Roman Empire and these renowned patricians who 
lie humbly prostrate before thee. Intercede for us 
all, and may we enjoy thy clemency in time and 
eternity." 1 

St. Bernard invokes St. Benedict as the master, 
leader and legislator of monks ; a great and fruitful 
tree ; a perfect model, whose holiness strengthens 
us and whose love instructs us ; one beloved by God 
and men, blessing us not only by his presence, but 
by his continual thought of us, and feeding the flock 
of Christ by his life, teaching and intercession. 

Our Blessed Lady appeared on one occasion to 
St. Bridget, and said to her: "The holy abbot 
Benedict increased the gift of grace which he had 
received, in that he despised all transient things and 
made his flesh subservient to the spirit, preferring 
nothing to Divine love. The world was dead to him, 
and he thought only of God." 

Baronius calls St. Benedict the great patriarch of 

1 Anastas bibliotliec. in Chron. MS. Caasin, 


monks, the jewel of the Western Church, a little 
sapling from which forests of fruitful trees [have 
sprung and filled the whole Church ; a bright light 
which shone with so much lustre, even in the period 
of terrible darkness, as to enlighten the entire world. 

And lastly, we would quote the words of Odo, the 
renowned abbot of Cluny. He says : " Christian 
piety honours a saint in proportion as he is glorified 
by God. Hence it is that Benedict is revered in 
such a very special way ; and that Holy Church 
considers him as one raised up by God in a wonder- 
ful manner, and placed by Him amongst the most 
exalted of the fathers and amongst the pillars of the 
faith and promoters of discipline. The grace of the 
Holy Ghost adorned him with both virtues and 
miracles, and these in so high a degree as to make 
him in all things worthy to be the leader of a chosen 
band." 1 

No wonder, then, that devotion to the saint quickly 
spread all over Christendom. Princes and peoples, 
priests and laymen, learned and unlearned, all vied 
with one another in doing him honour ; and in less 
than two centuries after his death there was no 
corner of the Western Church where his intercession 
was not invoked, and no Christian province which 
did not boast of Benedictine abbeys, from whence 
the Laus perennis arose daily as a sweet smelling 
incense to the throne of the Lamb. 

1 Sertn. de S. Bened. 




Plato declares that those who have fallen as brave 
champions in the fight are to be honoured as guardian 
spirits, and their tombs treated with respect and venera- 
tion. With far greater truth might the same be said of 
those who have fought and won a great battle for the 
faith. Holy Church has always reverenced the relics of 
her martyrs as most precious treasures ; and we know 
how in the days of persecution Christians would risk 
their very lives in order to obtain possession of these and 
save them from desecration. Though at first this venera- 
tion was only shown to the bodies of the martyrs, it 
gradually extended itself to the remains of confessors 
and holy virgins, because sanctity does not consist in 
martyrdom, but rather in charity. This veneration was 
also increased by the fact that God allowed miracles to 
be worked at their shrines and often permitted their 
bodies to remain incorrupt, in many cases causing a 
sweet fragrance to emanate from their relics. However, 
it sometimes happened that, in times of war and invasion, 
these relics have been scattered or irretrievably lost, 
and it would seem that God permits this in order to 
show that devotion is not to be confined merely to the 
bodies of His saints, but that He wishes them to be 
equally honoured whether their relics have been pre- 



served or not. If, then, a dispute has arisen as to whether 
the body of St. Benedict is at Monte Cassino or at Fleury, 
there is no reason why the controversy should lead to 
strife and contention. God honours Benedict not only at 
Monte Cassino and Fleury, but in every place where His 
servant is reverenced and loved. Besides, Monte Cassino, 
whether it possesses the holy body or not, is in itself a 
relic of the saint ; and even if Fleury did not take away 
the treasure they coveted, at least we cannot but admire 
the zeal which prompted them to send an embassy to 
Monte Cassino for the purpose. As a life of the saint 
would be incomplete without some account of the contro- 
versy which has agitated so many minds as to where 
his blessed body really is, we will briefly relate both 
sides of the question, without however attempting to 
solve the difficulty. 

In early days we find Adrevald supporting the claims 
of Fleury ; Leo the Marsican and Peter the Deacon those 
of Monte Cassino. Later, again, we have John Bosco, 
Charles Saussy, Simon Millet, Hugh Menard, le Conte 
and Mabillon siding with Fleury ; and Matthew Lauret, 
Abbot of San Salvador in Castile, and Angelo della Noce, 
Abbot of Monte Cassino, both taking the opposite view. 
Anthony Yepez and Arnold Wion are both of opinion 
that the relics were removed to Fleury, but restored 
again to Monte Cassino at a later date ; Baronius, Hens- 
chenius and others remain undecided, and Bollandus 
inclines to the French side. We will first relate what 
the monks of Fleury say, and then give the Cassinese 

According to Adrevald, who first wrote fully on the 
subject, Mummolus, Abbot of the Monastery of Fleury, 
which was founded in the year 644, having read St. 


Gregory's life of St. Benedict, and understanding the 
sad plight of the monastery at Monte Cassino since its 
destruction by the Lombards in 580, was filled with a 
desire to possess himself of the precious relics buried 
amongst its ruins. In order to accomplish this he chose 
a monk named Aigulph, a man both pious and intelligent. 
Whilst he was making preparations for the journey, two 
delegates arrived at Fleury on their way to Monte Cassino 
to execute a commission for the Bishop of le Mans. This 
bishop, Borcarius, had been admonished in a vision to try 
to procure the relics of St. Scholastica for a convent he 
was founding. The cautious delegates, however, did not 
reveal the real object of their journey, and consented to 
take Aigulph as their travelling companion and fellow- 
pilgrim. Having reached Eome, they occupied them- 
selves in visiting the holy places, and while so engaged 
Aigulph, unable to brook the delay and eager to accom- 
plish his mission, slipped away from his companions and 
hurried on to Monte Cassino. Arrived there, he carefully 
explored the ruins, but without result. He then had 
recourse to prayer ; and as he knelt, an old man with a 
venerable countenance approached him. They exchanged 
a few words of greeting, and Aigulph determined to make 
the old man his confidant, and, if possible, obtain assist- 
ance from him. The old man told him to notice the 
direction of a bright ray of light which he would see at 
dawn, saying that it would guide him to the object of 
his search. Aigulph followed his directions, and quickly 
discovered the precious tomb ; at first he was somewhat 
perplexed, as a heavy stone closed the coffin and he had 
no means of lifting it ; but perceiving that the sides were 
formed of stones joined with mortar, he patiently loosened 
them, and thus was enabled to obtain possession of the 


two bodies he so much coveted. These he carefully laid 
in a basket he had brought. 

He had just completed his work when his former 
travelling companions appeared on the scene, and seeing 
that he had already taken the relics they had come in 
search of, they were reluctantly obliged to make known 
to him the object of their mission. Both parties mutu- 
ally agreed to leave the decision as to who should 
eventually keep the treasures till they reached Fleury ; 
recognising the necessity of carrying away the bodies 
in all haste over the frontier, before the news of their 
theft reached the ears of Pope St. Martin I. This they 
succeeded in doing, though they were closely followed 
by a troop of soldiers sent by the pontiff in pursuit of 
them as soon as he discovered what they had done. 

These holy men were so overjoyed at having the sacred 
relics in their possession that it never seemed to occur 
to them that their pious theft was, to say the least of 
it, very unjustifiable and contrary to the wishes of the 
Sovereign Pontiff; however, it may be that tradition 
has somewhat exaggerated the true state of the case. 
When the travellers arrived at a village near Orleans, 
named Bonney, two striking miracles were wrought 
through the intercession of the saint : a blind man re- 
covered his sight, and a cripple who could scarcely crawl 
was restored to health and strength. They reached 
Fleury on 11th July, and the monks, coming in proces- 
sion to meet them, bore their treasure in triumph to the 
church amid universal rejoicing. Aigulph was loath to 
allow the body of St. Scholastica to be separated from 
that of St. Benedict ; but he was at length obliged to 
submit to the decision of higher authorities, and St. 
Scholastica was taken to le Mans. Such, in short, is 


the history of the translation, and though it is impossible 
to vouch for the details of this story, or to separate the 
bare truth from that which is legendary, still there is 
little doubt as to the truth of the main facts. The 
authority of Aigulph and the miracles which took place 
at Fleury tend to prove the identity of the relics ; while 
Paul Warnefried, secretary to Charlemagne and subse- 
quently a monk at Monte Cassino, adds his testimony to 
the translation. He says : " The Franks from le Mans, 
while they feigned to pass the night by the venerable 
body, took away the bones both of the saint and his 
sister, and brought them to France, where two separate 
monasteries were built, one in honour of St. Benedict, 
the other of St. Scholastica ". But he adds, for his own 
consolation and that of his fellow-monks at Monte 
Cassino : " Although the bones have been taken from us, 
nevertheless, it is certain that the blessed mouth once 
overflowing with the nectar of all sweetness, and the 
eyes which ever gazed heavenwards, and all those por- 
tions of the sacred body which have fallen into dust 
remain with us". Probably after the removal of the 
relics the grave was examined, and it was found that 
many of the smaller bones, teeth and fleshy portions of 
the bodies had been left ; at least, this seems implied 
by the words just quoted, which were written 120 years 
after the translation, and coming from a Cassinese monk 
they are a very important testimony. 

A feast was very soon instituted to commemorate the 
translation of the holy relics, and in Venerable Bede's 
Marlyrology we find the words, " Quinto Idus Julii : depo- 
sitio S. Benedicti Abbatis". It is likewise found in 
Wandelbert's Martyrology, published in 842, and is men- 
tioned by Pope John III. in a brief to the Abbot of Fleury. 


Next we will state the theory maintained by Yepez 
and Arnold Wion, to the effect that the relics were restored 
to Monte Cassino during the pontificate either of Pope 
Zachary or Stephen III. This seems more than impro- 
bable, since it is not even mentioned by Paul Warnefried 
and others who lived after these two Popes, and wrote 
about the translation of the relics. If they believed that 
the bones had been restored they would have written in 
a very different strain. 

Let us now return to the Cassinese side of the question. 
The monks of Monte Cassino, who maintain that they 
are still in possession of their holy founder's body, rest 
their conviction on the testimony of Leo the Marsican and 
Peter the Deacon. The former, in his Chronicle, speaks 
of the rebuilding of the great church at Monte Cassino, 
which took place under Abbot Desiderius, who ruled the 
monastery from 1065 till 1071 ; he was afterwards raised 
to the pontificate and took the name of Victor III. Leo 
relates that, as the builders were excavating, they came 
suddenly on the tomb of St. Benedict, and that the abbot 
immediately gave strict orders that no one was to touch 
it or take any portion of the precious relics. He then 
caused the tomb to be re-covered and adorned with costly 
stones, the whole being closed with a lid of Parian marble 
of exquisite workmanship. This evidence, as it stands, 
does not prove much ; but Peter the Deacon, who wrote 
in 1110, many years later, gives further details as follows. 
He says : "At the discovery of the tomb, a wonderful 
perfume emanated from the relics, an earthquake shook 
the mountain, and two possessed persons were cured. 
As the monks watched all night by the tomb, Brother 
George, the sacristan, proposed that they should raise the 
stone and look into the grave ; this being done, they found 

APPENDIX r. 257 

in it two divisions and two bodies lying with their heads 
towards the choir, and their feet towards the altar of St. 
John the Baptist. Brother George, in spite of the abbot's 
prohibition, took a tooth from one of the bodies, but he 
was seized with such a violent pain that he was forced 
to restore it." Peter then relates how Abbot Desiderius 
invited cardinals to come and visit the relics, and showed 
them the entire bodies of the two saints. 

The question now arises as to how far Peter's evidence 
may be relied on. It seems incredible that such astonish- 
ing facts, if they really happened, should not have been 
mentioned either by Leo the Marsican or by Abbot 
Desiderius himself, especially as the latter wrote two 
books of Dialogues concerning the miracles wrought in 
his time through the intercession of the saint. We can 
only assume, with Abbot Angelo della Noce, that Peter 
was a man of lively imagination, who wrote chiefly from 
hearsay ; and we may well believe that during the inter- 
vening years facts had been considerably coloured. In 
consequence, his evidence is of little or no value. We 
are inclined to give more weight to Leo's account of 
St. Henry's vision. This emperor was staying at Monte 
Cassino when St. Benedict appeared to him and told him 
to lay aside all doubts as to his body being really there, 
in proof of which he promised to cure him of the painful 
disease from which he suffered. This promise was verified, 
as we have already seen. However, it does not follow, 
even from this, that all the relics are at Monte Cassino : 
no one doubts that a portion of them still remain there ; 
and, after all, a dead body has no organised whole ; it is 
simply an aggregate of inanimate component parts of 
which one portion is not of more value than another, 
since both flesh and bones gradually crumble into dust. 



Leo also relates two other visions in which St. Benedict 
appeared, respectively, to Pope Urban II. and a monk 
named Adam, saying : " From this place both Scholastica 
and myself will rise again on the last day". Yet even 
this does not prove that some of the relics were not 
removed to Fleury. 

The Bull of Pope Urban II. forbidding the celebration 
of the feast of the " Translation " would, if genuine, have 
been the strongest testimony, but Baronius has incontro- 
vertibly proved it a forgery, and shows that the feast has 
always been celebrated, not only at Fleury, but in many 
other monasteries. The heat of the quarrel somewhat 
abated in the eleventh century, when Oderisius, Abbot of 
Monte Cassino, wrote a most affectionate letter to the 
Abbot of Fleury. Mabillon gives it as follows : " We 
have determined with great affection and sincere love to 
write in a friendly manner to your lordship, in order that 
our monasteries may be but one, and that we may be 
ever united by a spiritual and inviolable love. For there 
is a very special reason why our brotherhood and yours 
should love each other above the rest, namely, that we 
both rejoice in being possessors of the incomparable trea- 
sure of St. Benedict's relics ; and although our possession 
has been proved by miracles, signs and revelations, yet, if 
you also have become possessed of some portions of the 
relics, we still remain debtors to each other by a singular 
and special love." 

The strife began afresh towards the middle of the 
seventeenth century. Men of recognised authority dis- 
puted, without coming to a satisfactory conclusion on 
either side. About the year 1760 Angelo della Noce, 
Abbot of Monte Cassino, caused excavations to be made 
under the high altar, when a tomb was discovered con- 


taining bones, but no inscription was to be found, or any 
sign by which to identify them as the precious relics. 
Angelo published these facts in order to refute Mabillon, 
whose sympathies were with Fleury. Still Mabillon was 
not convinced, owing to the absence of any inscription ; 
and concluded that they might be the bones of some other 
Cassinese abbot. There the matter rests ; and it seems 
most probable, after weighing well the argument, that the 
greater part of the sacred relics are at Fleury, while the 
dust and smaller portions remain in their original resting 

After the first translation, the holy bones were frequently 
carried about for safety during the Norman invasion in 
the eleventh century ; for a long time they remained at 
Orleans, but finally returned again to Fleury. On 20th 
March, 1107, in presence of Louis VI., then crown prince, 
the Bishops of Orleans and Auxerre, and a large assembly 
of priests, monks and laymen, the relics were removed 
from the copper case where they had hitherto rested, and 
placed in a gold and silver chdsse adorned with precious 
stones. Later in the year Philip of France died, and at 
his own express desire, and on account of his great 
veneration for St. Benedict, he was buried at Fleury. 
During his lifetime he had made many rich offerings to 
the shrine. 

In 1217 the relics were placed under the high altar 
amid great rejoicings, in presence of many distinguished 
prelates. In 1364 Urban V., having built a church at 
Montpellier in honour of Our Lady and St. Benedict, 
received from Fleury a portion of the saint's head and 
one of his arm bones for the spiritual enrichment of the 
same. When in 1561 Odet of Coligny, Cardinal and 
Abbot of Fleury, allowed himself to be blinded by the 


false doctrines of Calvin, he had the audacity to carry off 
all the gold and precious stones from the reliquaries 
which contained the holy bones. These last were only 
preserved through the efforts of the Prior Fulbert, who 
placed them in a wooden chest, where they remained till 
27th May, 1581, when they were transferred to a gilded 
reliquary by Prior Pothin. In the following century 
the zeal of the newly erected Congregation of St. Maur 
directed its energies to raising the necessary funds for pro- 
curing a more suitable shrine for the precious treasure. 
Gaston Bourbon, uncle to Louis XIV., was the first 
benefactor of the undertaking, and many followed his 
example ; with the result that a silver tomb richly gilt 
was constructed, three and a half feet long, and two feet 
wide, the whole surmounted by a silver head containing 
the saint's skull. The holy relics were solemnly installed 
therein, 3rd May, 1653, by John, Bishop of Caen, during 
a general chapter of the Maurist Congregation. 

Belies of the saint are also to be found in the Church 
of St. Denis at Paris ; this church received one of the 
arm bones from Fleury in 1393. A bone was also given 
to the Valladolid Congregation in 1594 at the request of 
Henry III. of Castile. A part of the jawbone is kept at 
the monastery of St. Peter at Chartres, and a rib bone 
at St. Theodore's near Eheims. A bone was also sent 
to Monte Cassino by Abbot Medon. 



I. Vita S. Benedicti Abbatis — auctore S. Greg or io 
Magno, Papa. — St. Gregory wrote four books of Dialogues 
about certain men who, shortly before his time, had been 
famous in Italy for the holiness of their lives. The 
second book is filled with the life of St. Benedict. The 
author worked at this with a special predilection, show- 
ing thereby the preference and appreciation he had for 
that saint. In this book of Dialogues miracles are re- 
lated which excite the ridicule of modern sceptics ; but 
miracles have happened, and always will happen, to 
witness to the truth of the teaching and authority of 
Christ and His saints. St. Gregory's narrative was not 
taken merely from hearsay or idle rumour, but w T as 
founded on the testimony of men who were disciples 
of the saint, eye-witnesses of all they affirm, and the 
veracity of whose statements cannot be called in ques- 
tion. In his prologue St. Gregory says : " All the 
notable things and acts of his life I could not learn ; but 
those few which I mind now to report, I had by the 
relation of four of his disciples, to wit, of Constantinus, 
a most rare and reverend man, who was next abbot after 
him; of Valentinus, who many years had the charge of 
the Lateran abbey ; of Simplicius, who was the third 
general of his order ; and, lastly, of Honoratus, who is 



now abbot of that monastery in which he first began his 
holy life ".' 

St. Gregory's biography of the saint has a very special 
value which none have ever denied. It consists of a pro- 
logue and thirty-eight chapters ; the style is colloquial. 
St. Gregory speaks, while Peter, his disciple, asks oc- 
casional questions and receives suitable explanations 
where the meaning might be obscure. 

Pope Zacharias translated the Dialogues into Greek, 
and in 779 an Arabic edition was published. St. 
Gregory's life of St. Benedict has been copiously com- 
mented upon by many learned men, among whom we 
may mention : — 

1. Matthew Lauretus, a monk of Montserrat, subse- 
quently Abbot of San Salvador. In the year 1616 he 
published at Naples a book of commentaries on the Cas- 
sinese Chronicles. This book begins with a commentary 
on St. Gregory's life of St. Benedict. 

2. Simon Millet, a monk of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in 
Paris. He wrote a still more detailed work on the same 

3. Angelo della Noce, Abbot of Monte Cassino, and 
subsequently Archbishop of Eossana. He brought out 
a new book of commentaries on the Cassinese Chronicles, 
also beginning with a commentary on St. Gregory's life 
of the saint. 

4. Angelus Quirinus, a Cassinese monk, who became 
Cardinal-Bishop of Brescia. He was made librarian at 
the Vatican, and published the text of the Greek life, 
carefully noting the differences found in earlier editions ; 
to this work he added some poems, epilogues and homilies 
in honour of St. Benedict. 

1 Dialogues, quart, series. Prologue. 


5. Philip James, Abbot of St. Peter's in the Black 
Forest. After carefully studying all the commentaries 
then extant, he, with great diligence and discernment, 
selected the best, and having added some Latin poems, 
published the whole in 1782. 

II. Cabmen de S. Benedicto — auctore Marco, ejus 

discipulo. — Unfortunately we know nothing of this author 

beyond the fact that, according to Paul the Deacon, he 

was a disciple of the saint (de gest. Longob.). The 

poem consists of thirty-three distichs, and treats chiefly 

of St. Benedict's journey from Subiaco to Cassino, the 

abolition of idolatry from the mountain, and the perfection 

of the monks in the monastery there erected. Speaking 

of himself the poet says : — 

Hue ego cum scelerum depressus fasce subissem, 
Depositum sensi pondus abesse rnihi. 
Credo quod et felix vita f ruar insuper ilia, 
Oras pro Marco si Benedicte tuo. 

III. Carmen de S. Benedicto — auctore Paulo diacono. 
— This poem consists of only fifty-six trochaics ; never- 
theless it contains all the principal facts of the saint's 
life : it might well be called " mirabile compendium vitae 
S. Benedicti". 

IV. Vita S. Mauri — auctore S. Ferns to ejus aequali. — 
The life in its present form is the work of Odo, Abbot of 
Fosse (Saint-Maure-sur-Marne), near Paris. Under this 
abbot, the relics of St. Maurus were translated from 
Glanfeuil (Saint-Maure-sur-Loire) to Fosse. Odo, in his 
history of the translation, relates that the monks flying 
from Glanfeuil for fear of the Normans, and carrying 
with them the relics of St. Maurus, came to the river 
Saone on their way to Burgundy. There they fell in by 
chance with some pilgrims returning from Borne, and 


among these was a certain cleric, who had in his posses- 
sion a very old manuscript containing lives of St. Bene- 
dict, and of his disciples Maurus, Simplicius, Honoratus, 
Theodorus and Valentinian. Odo bought the manuscript 
for a considerable sum, and set to work to transcribe the 
life of St. Maurus. The facts and the miracles he left 
unchanged, but he endeavoured to "make the style some- 
what more readable. He would, however, have done 
better if he had not changed the incultus sermo, as he 
calls it, and had given the manuscript word for word. 
As it is, there are several errors as to dates, and he 
calls the bishop who had invited St. Benedict to make 
a foundation in his diocese Bertigraimus instead of 
Innocent. Nevertheless, the publication has proved 
invaluable to Church history. 

Kuinart proves that this manuscript was originally 
the work of the monk Faustus, alleging the following 
reasons : — 

First, that the author writes of facts in a way which 
would have been impossible for any one not an eye- 
witness, and that the style is very ancient. 

Second, Odo's own testimony, who, being a man of 
great piety, conscientiousness and discretion, calls God 
to witness that he has altered no facts. 

Third, that Adrewald, a monk of Fleury, speaks of St. 
Maurus' life written by Faustus, as of a work everywhere 
recognised. Adrewald was Odo's contemporary. 

Faustus wrote in the most simple style. In his book 
he mentions his own person, saying that as a child of 
seven years old he had been offered by his parents to St. 
Benedict, and had lived fourteen years at Monte Cassino 
with St. Maurus ; after which he had accompanied Maurus 
to France, where he remained with him till his death ; 


he then returned to Monte Cassino in 584, and had 
written the life of the saint at the command of Abbot 
Theodore, dedicating his book to Pope Boniface. Leo 
the Marsican thinks this was Boniface III., who only 
governed the Church eight months ; but Mabillon says 
it was Boniface IV. his successor. Besides jbhe preface, 
the life only contains ten chapters. 

V. Carmina de S. Benedicto — auctore S. Berthario. — 
St. Bertharius was nineteenth Abbot of Monte Cassino. 
He wrote both an elegy and a poem in honour of St. 
Benedict. His language is fluent and harmonious, his 
thoughts sublime, his descriptions most touching and 
true to life, but the poetic value of the whole necessarily 
suffers from the way in which he enumerates every event 
of the saint's life. At this period the Saracens were 
ravaging Italy, and destroying with fire and sword every- 
thing which came in their way. As they approached 
Monte Cassino, Bertharius fled with his monks to the 
monastery of S. Salvator at the foot of the mountain. 
The barbarians, after setting fire to the monastery 
of Cassino, followed them to S. Salvator and martyred 
Bertharius before the altar of St. Martin, 22nd October, 


lasticae — auctore Adrevaldo. — The author of this work 
is called Adalbert by Kudolph Tortarius of Fleury, who 
mentions him in his poem on the miracles of St. Benedict ; 
but Aimoinus speaks of him as iVdrevald, whence both 
Sigebert of Gemblours and Trithemius infer that the two 
names belong to the same person. Mabillon is of the-^ 
same opinion. Aimoinus says that Adrevald was a very 
eloquent man ; otherwise we have few details concerning 
him. Of himself he writes that he was still pf youth 


when Louis the Pious was king. From his writings one 
cannot fail to perceive his evident sanctity. His history 
of the translation contains only three chapters, but it is 
important inasmuch as it is the foundation on which the 
monks of Fleury lay their claim to the relics of St. Benedict. 


Adrevaldo. — To the history of the translation just quoted 
Adrevald added an account of St. Benedict's miracles 
written in the year 870. The book contains five chapters, 
and a supplement taken from the writings of the monk 
Adelerius, his contemporary. 

VIII. Miraculorum S. Benedicti libri nvo—auctore 
Aimoino monacho Floriacensi. — Aimoinus was born of 
noble parents at Villefranche in Perigord, 965. He be- 
came a monk at Fleury, and lived successively under the 
rule of the abbots Amalbert, Oibold and Abbo. Abbo 
was not only his spiritual father, but also his master and 
instructor. In 1004 he went in the suite of this abbot 
to Beole, where he had the sorrow of witnessing the 
assassination of his much loved father and guide. He 
only survived him four years. Besides two books con- 
cerning the miracles of St. Benedict, he wrote a history 
of the Franks in four books (extending from 253-654) 
dedicated to St. Odo. In the year 1005 he wrote the 
life of St. Abbo, and shortly before his death he com- 
posed a sermon for the festival of St. Benedict. To 
Aimoinus we owe the fullest known account of St. 
Benedict's miracles. 

IX. Miracula S. Benedicti — auctore Budolpho Tor- 
tario monacho Floriacensi. — Eudolph lived in the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries. Besides a voluminous work treating 
of St. Benedict's miracles, he composed a poem on the 
same subject. 


X. Carmen de miraoulis S. Benedicti — auctore 
Giraldo, monacho Floriacensi. — This poem contains 257 
distichs. It was found at Rome in the library of Queen 
Christina of Sweden. Of the author little is known ; he 
lived in the eleventh century. In the year 1095 we hear 
of him as a monk at Fleury, where he was still living in 

XI. Chronica sacri monasterii Cassinensis — auctore 
Leone Ostiensi, continuatore Petro diacono, monacho Gassin- 
etisi. — Leo's chronicles embrace the period between 542 
and 1078 ; they are in three volumes. Peter the Deacon 
has added a fourth. Leo is sur named " the Marsican," 
after Marsia, his birthplace ; this little town no longer 
exists, but formerly it was situated on a summit of the 
Apennines east of Subiaco. At fourteen years of age he 
became a monk at Monte Cassino, and enjoyed for some 
time the guidance of Abbot Desiderius, who became 
eventually Pope Victor III. Under Abbot Oderisius he 
was ordained deacon, and made librarian of the monastery. 
The same abbot imposed on him the task of writing the 
Cassinese Chronicles. Baronius says that in this work 
he proves himself a most reliable and trustworthy his- 
torian, and Ciaconius speaks of him as one both learned 
and saintly ; while Angelo della Noce is loud in praise of 
his eloquence, sound judgment, knowledge, faith and love 
of truth. In 1101 Leo was created Cardinal-Bishop of 
Ostia. The year of his death is unknown ; he was still 
alive in 1115, as he affixed his signature to a Bull of Pope 
Paschal II. 

Peter the Deacon, who continued the chronicle, was 
the son of a Roman named Egidius, and grandson of the 
patrician Gregory ; he was born in 1110, and was sent to 
Monte Cassino as an alumnus when only five years old. 


In 1131 the Abbot Oderisius II. was compelled by his 
enemies to go into exile, where he was followed by Peter ; 
but after the deposition of the Abbot Bgidius they returned, 
and during the pontificate of Alexander III. Oderisius 
again governed the monastery. Peter's chronicle is not 
to be compared with Leo's, inasmuch as his lively imagi- 
nation and hasty judgment often led him astray. He 
continues the Chronicles up to 1140. He also wrote de 
viris Ulustribm Gassinensibus — de disciplina Cassinensi — 
hiitorica relatio do corpore S. Benedlcti — Acta SS. Giiiui- 
zonis ct Januarii — vita S. Adelmarii, and other treatises. 

XII. Acta SS. Placidi et fratrum ejus Eutychii, 


Martyrum— <XMc£ore Gordiano. — This manuscript, pre- 
sumably written by a disciple of St. Benedict and a com- 
panion of St. Placid, was brought to light in the twelfth 
century. Peter the Deacon and Abbot Octavius Cajetan 
tell us that it was discovered by an aged Greek priest 110 
years old, who brought it from Constantinople to Salermo, 
translating and writing it out in his own style. A certain 
Stephen Aniciensis, a man otherwise unknown, also 
boasted of the work as his. The many erroneous state- 
ments and contradictions render the book practically 
worthless, except that it proves that either an account 
of St. Placid's martyrdom did exist from which the above- 
mentioned acts were taken, or else that there must have 
been a well-known tradition about it current among the 
people. The book is very voluminous. 

XIII. Sol occidentis, magnus Pater Benedictus — 
auctore Alphonso de S. Victore. — Alphonsus was a Bene- 
dictine gifted with splendid talents ; he was chosen by 
Philip IV. to fill the office of court preacher, and subse- 


quently became Bishop of Zamora. The above-mentioned 
work consists of two volumes, and was published at 
Madrid in 1645. 

XIV. Laudbs S. Patris nostri Benedicti Abbatis — 
auctore Carol. Stengelio Abb. — Charles Stengelus, Abbot 
of Anhusano, wrote very fully and with great taste. He 
gathered the Laudes, as he calls them, from Haeften's 
Disquisition, and divides his work into three volumes; it 
was published in 1647. 

XV. Vie de S. Benoit, par Bernard Planchette, Paris, 
1652. — This life is in three volumes, and dedicated to the 
Queen of France. 

XVI. Vita S. Benedicti . . . didactica — auctore Ar- 
senio Sulger, Priore Zwifaltersi. Typis monast. S. Galli, 

XVII. Vita S. Benedicti . . . moraliter exposita ab 
Ignatio Glavenau, monacho Admontensi. Saiisb., 1720. 

XVIII. Gloria SS. Benedicti in terris adornata a 
Tkoma Aquino Erhard, monacho Wessofontano, 1719. 

XIX. Besides the above-mentioned works there are 
also the Annals of Yepez, Baronius, Mabillon, Bucellin, 
Arnold Wion's Lignum vitae, and the learned Prolegomena 
of Haeften, Abbot of Afflighem. 




480. Peace is concluded between the Emperor Zeno and 

Huneric, King of the Vandals. 
The Goths make further conquests in Gaul. 

481. Clovis, a youth of fifteen, succeeds his father as King 

of the Franks. 

Pherozes, King of the Persians, and thirty of his 
sons, killed in a battle against the Nephtalites. 

Theodoric the Goth begins his conquests in Mace- 
donia and Thessalia. 

482. The Emperor Zeno's edict regarding the Henotikon 

only causes greater disturbances. 

483. A conference between Catholics and Arians, under 

King Huneric. 

484. Great persecution in Africa ; more than 40,000 Chris- 

tians suffer martyrdom. 

485. Death of Huneric. 

486. Clovis defeats Syagrius, the Roman commander, near 

Soissons, and makes himself master of Soissons, 
Rheims, Troyes, Beauvais, Amiens and the 
whole of Belgium. 

487. Gundamund, King of the Vandals, recalls Eugenius, 

Bishop of Carthage, from banishment. 
Boetius sole consul. 




The Emperor Zeno leaves to Theodoric the conquest 
of Italy. 

489. The Ostrogoths advance on Italy. 

490. Theodoric is victorious over Odoacer, King of Italy, 

both at Milan and Verona. 

491. Odoacer is again defeated near the river Adda. 
Death of Zeno. Anastasius I. succeeds him. 

493. Clovis marries Clotilde. 

Theodoric concludes a peace with Odoacer, and then 
treacherously murders him. Theodoric becomes 
sole master of Italy, and establishes the Gothic 
rule in that country. 

494. Pope St. Gelasius writes an apology for the Catholic 

faith to the emperor. 

495. Clovis defeats the Alemanni at Tolbiac. He is 

baptised with 3,000 Franks, and is surnamed 
" the most Christian king and eldest son of the 
Church ". 

497. Germanus of Capua and Cresconius of Todi are 

sent to Constantinople to put an end to the 
schism and restore union between the two 

498. Opposition of the anti-Pope Lawrence. 
The Arabs invade Palestine and Syria. 

499. Gondebaud, King of Burgundy, assists at a conference 

between the Christians and Arians. 

500. Theodoric enters Eome amid extraordinary rejoicings. 

502. The Persians invade Armenia, and seize Theodosio- 

Clovis conquers Brittany. 

503. Conquest of Amida by the Persians at the cost of 

30,000 lives. 



504. War between Clovis and Alaric II., King of the Goths. 

505. Thrasimund, King of the Vandals, renews the perse- 

cution in Africa, and exiles over 200 bishops 
Anastasius makes peace with Persia. 

506. The Emperor Anastasius causes great disorder in the 

Eastern Church. 

507. Clovis defeats the Goths at Poitiers, and becomes 

king over nearly the whole of France. 

508. He makes Paris the capital of his kingdom. Siege 

of Aries. 

509. Many Christians are martyred at the siege of Aga- 

rener in Palestine. 
Peace is concluded between Clovis and Theodoric. 

510. Vitalian revolts against the Emperor Anastasius. 
Clovis endeavours to rid himself of all dangerous 

rivals among his relations. 

511. Death of Clovis. 

Anastasius attempts to deprive the Church of her 
inalienable rights. 

512. Eebellion at Constantinople. 

The Eutychians put to death 300 Maronite monks. 

513. Plague of grasshoppers and faminenn Palestine. 

514. Vitalian again threatens to revolt if Anastasius per- 

sists in his persecution. 
Cassiodorus consul at Eome. 

515. The orthodox monks of the East persecuted by 

Severus, leader of the Eutychians. 
Macedonia invaded by Northern tribes. 
518. Anastasius is killed by lightning. Justin I. succeeds 

The decrees of the Council of Chalcedon solemnly 

accepted by the new emperor and his subjects. 



By an edict, heretics are excluded from civil and 

military service. 
519. After thirty-five years of separation, the Eastern 

Church is once more united to Borne, on Easter 

Sunday, 28th March. 
John, Patriarch of Constantinople, for the first time 

styles himself Patriarcha " oecumenicus ". 
Eutharic, son-in-law to Theodoric, makes a solemn 

entry into Borne as consul. 
523. Sigismund, King of Burgundy, is defeated by one of 

Clovis' sons, and having been delivered over to 

Clodomir is murdered, together with his wife 

and children. 
Death of Thrasimund, King of the Vandals. 
The Manicheans are banished from the empire. 

525. Boetius and Symmachus, his father-in-law, are 

murdered by Theodoric' s command. 

526. Pope John I. dies in prison. 

Death of Theodoric. Alliance between Athalaric, 
his son and successor, and the Emperor Justin. 

527. Death of Justin I. He is succeeded by Justinian. 

528. Fearful earthquake at Antioch, Laodicea and Seleucia. 
Justinian recovers the churches which had fallen 

into the hands of heretics. 

529. Publication of the famous code of laws drawn up by 

Tribonian and his colleagues at the emperor's 
command, and called the "Justinian Code". 

530. Gelimer dethrones Hilderic, King of the Vandals. 
Closing of the Pagan schools at Athens. 

531. Continuous war between Justinian and the Persians. 

Death of Cobad ; conclusion of the war. 
Beginning of the terrible plague which lasted fifty 



years, and spread in different forms over all the 

known world. 

532. Dionysius publishes his famous cycle. 
Kebellion at Constantinople, 30,000 lives lost. 

533. Belisarius' expedition into Africa. 

534. He subdues the whole country and exterminates 

the Vandals. 

Death of King Athalaric, the Goth. Theodatus 
succeeds him. 

Gundomar, King of Burgundy, is captured and his 
kingdom incorporated into that of the Franks. 

Belisarius conquers Sardinia, Corsica, Ceuta, Ma- 
jorca and Minorca. 

535. He conquers Italy. 

536. Also Naples and Eome. 

Death of Theodatus. Vitiges is elected king. 

537. Expulsion of Pope Silverius. 

538. Belisarius and Narses are victorious in Upper Italy. 

Terrible famine throughout that country. 

539. King Vitiges is taken by Belisarius as prisoner to 


540. Ildebald is chosen king of the Goths. 

541. Totila succeeds him and is successful against the 


542. Totila reconquers all the cities taken by Belisarius. 
Plague at Constantinople. 

543. Totila besieges Eome. 




481. At Laodioea, in favour of Stephen III., Patriarch 
of Alexandria. 

484. At Rome, under Felix III., on which occasion the 

legates Vitalis and Misenus were excommuni- 
cated, Peter Mongus of Alexandria and Acacius 
of Constantinople condemned, and Zeno's 
" Henotikon " rejected, 28th July. 

485. At Rome, for the purpose of condemning Peter the 

Fuller, Patriarch of Antioch. 

492. At Constantinople, under the Patriarch Euphemius, 
for the ratification of the decrees of the Council 
of Chalcedon. 

495 or 496. At Constantinople, when the bishops unjustly- 
deposed the Patriarch Euphemius, and elected 
Macedonius at the bidding of the Emperor 

496. At Rome, when Misenus the legate was absolved 
from excommunication. 

496. At Rome, when a list was drawn up of the Canoni- 
cal books, the (Ecumenical Councils, and the 
Fathers of the Church beginning with St. 

499. At Rome, 1st March, several decrees were made, to 

prevent abuses at the election of popes. 



500. A conference was held at Lyons, for the refutation 

of the Arians, at which many of the heretics 
were converted. 

501. At Rome, to put an end to the contest between Pope 

Symmachus and the anti-Pope Lawrence. 

502. At Rome (synodus palmaris), in defence of Pope 

511. At Orleans, 10th July, when some points of Church 
discipline were settled. 

518. At Constantinople, 15th July, when the four 

(Ecumenical Councils were solemnly accepted, 
St. Leo's name placed on the diptychs, and 
Severus of Antioch condemned. 

519. At Constantinople, John the Patriarch sought a 

reconciliation with the Pope, and Rome and 
Constantinople were again united. 
525. At Carthage, 5th February, in thanksgiving for 
the peace enjoyed by the Church, and for the 
settlement of some questions of discipline. 

529. At Orange, against the Semi-Pelagians. 

530. At Valence, also against the Semi-Pelagians. 

531. At Rome, when Pope Boniface II. drew up a decree 

empowering him to appoint his own successor ; 

this he withdrew at a subsequent council, when 

he understood that it was contrary to Canon 

533. At Orleans, 23rd June, against simony and other 

535. At Carthage, called " de Justinianaea," to recover 

from the Emperor Justinian the property stolen 

from the African Church. This was restored 
■ 1st August. 



536. At Constantinople, presided over by Pope St. 

Agapetus, when Anthimus was deposed and 

Mennas elected. 

541. At Gaza, for the deposition of Paul, Patriarch of 

Alexandria, on account of many accusations 
brought against him. 

542. At Antioch, for the condemnation of the errors of 


543. At Constantinople, when the emperor's edict con- 

demning the Origenists was solemnly approved. 



Taken from the " Groundivork of Christian Literature," 
by Dr. T. Busse. 

1. Euthalius — an Egyptian bishop, who published two 

works (490-497). The first consisted of a treatise 
on the life and Epistles of St. Paul ; the second 
was a book on Catholic literature, with a biogra- 
phical account of the various authors quoted ; 
this last he dedicated to the Eutychian Patriarch, 
Athanasius II. 

2. Malchus — of Philadelphia, in Syria, who wrote a 

Byzantine history extending from 474-480 ; of 
this work the only fragment that remains is 
the Eclogae legationum. 

3. Aeneas of Gaza — a platonic philosopher, converted 

to Christianity in 484, who wrote a dialogue on 
the immortality of the soul and the resurrection 
of the body ; twenty-five of his letters are extant. 

4. Denis of Antioch — first a pagan philosopher, after- 

wards a Christian, who has left us forty-five letters. 

5. Victor — a bishop in Mauritania, an ardent defender 

of the faith against the Arians under Genseric 
(429-478), who wrote, Liber de poenitentia — Trac- 
tatus de consolatione. 



6. Vigilius — Bishop of Tapsus in Africa, present at the 

Council of Carthage, and afterwards exiled. He 
was in the habit of writing under an assumed 
name, and used his pen against the heresies of 
Sabellius, Photinus, Arius, Nestorius and Euty- 
ches ; he also wrote twelve books de Trinitate. 

7. Victor — Bishop of Vita in Africa, exiled by Huneric 

in 484, who wrote a history of the Vandal perse- 
cution : a very important work. 

8. Titian — Bishop of Trevigo, who wrote the life of 

Vindemialis, a holy confessor, who assisted at 
the Council of Carthage in 484 ; also the life 
of St. Florentius. 

9. Gennadius — a priest at Marseilles, who continued 

the Catalogus scriptorum of St. Jerome, and wrote 
some other books. 

10. Pope Gelasius — who wrote Liber sacramentorum — 

De dnabus in Christo naturis, adv. Eutychiatios 
et Nestorianos — Dicta adv. Pelag. haeres. — and 
Decretum contra Manichaeos. 

11. Possessor — an African bishop, who sent Pope Hor- 

misdas the Belatio de libro Fausti Bhegiensis. 

12. Eugippius — Abbot of a monastery near Naples named 

Lucullanum, who wrote in the year 511 a bio- 
graphy of St. Severin, his spiritual guide, and 
apostle of Austria. 

13. Paschasius— a Koman deacon, who wrote an epistle 

to Eugippius and Libri II. de Spiritu Sancto. 

14. Magnus Felix Ennodius — Bishop of Pavia, 510-521, 

who was sent to Constantinople by Pope Hor- 
misdas, as his legate, to put an end to the schism 
(515). He wrote 296 letters, a life of St. Anthony 
of Lerins, a eulogy of King Theodoric, an apology 


for Pope Symmachus, thirty orations, "twenty-one 
poems, 151 epigrams, and the life of his prede- 
cessor, Epiphanius. 

15. Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus Boetius — 

born 455, made consul 510, imprisoned 524, and 
put to death 526 ; he wrote several theological 
and philosophical works, the most celebrated being 
De consolatione philosophiae, libri V. 

16. Dionysius surnamed Exiguus — an abbot in Rome, 

who was the first to count the years from the 
birth of Christ instead of from Alexander the 
Great, as the Greeks were accustomed to do, 
or from the persecution of Diocletian, as the 
Western Christians did. His chronology is now 
universally adopted. He also made a collection 
of all the ecclesiastical canons and decrees ; he 
compiled the Dionysian cycle, and wrote two 
treatises de ratione Paschae — also Epistola ad 
Eugippium presb. — Vita S. Pachomii, and a 
translation of the Paschal letters of Proterius 

17. Adrian- — who wrote Isagoge in scripturis Sanctis, 

a very useful Greek work. 

18. Magnesius Aurelius Cassiodorus — born 470. He 

became " Comes rerum privatarum, et sacrarum 
largitionum," under King Odoacer ; in the reign 
of Theodoric he was made prefect and consul 
(514). On the accession of King Vitiges he re- 
tired from Court and built a monastery at Vivarese, 
near his native town, where he died in 465. He 
wrote a history of the world, a calculation regard- 
ing the time for celebrating Easter, an explanation 
of the Psalms, an instruction as to the reading of 


Holy Scripture, grammatical and other treatises, 
and also left many letters. 

19. Epiphanius Scholasticus — who wrote a Historia 

tripartita, in twelve volumes, and a collection of 
synodical letters. Some have attributed to him the 
Latin translation of Flavius Josephus' Archaeology. 

20. Theodore — a lector at Constantinople, who wrote 

Hist. eccl. eclogae in Greek ; the work consists 
of two volumes. 

21. Ruricius — Bishop of Limoges, who wrote Episto- 

larum libri II. 

22. Sedatus — Bishop of Beziers ; he left Epistolarum 

libri III. ad Buriciwn, and a homily for the feast 
of the Epiphany. 

23. Remigius— Bishop of Rheims (461-533), Apostle of 

the Franks ; his writings consist of Epistolae IV., 
a Testamentum, and other small treatises. 

24. Avitus — Bishop of Vienne, who presided over the 

Council against the Arians (500) ; he wrote eighty- 
four letters, two homilies and some poems. 

25. Viventius — Archbishop of Lyons (516) ; Ep.adAlcim. 

Avitum — Epistola tractoria, and an oration de- 
livered at the Council of Epaone (517). 

26. Faustus — a priest and disciple of St. Severin, abbot, 

who wrote his life (524). 

27. Caesarius — Bishop of Aries, renowned for sanctity, 

learning, zeal and long-suffering; his writings are: 
Homil. XL. — Homil. XIV. — Sermones CVI1. — 
Begulae ad Monachos, etc. 

28. Cyprian — Bishop of Toulon and disciple of St. 

Caesarius, whose life he wrote in two volumes. 

29. Aegidius — Abbot of Narbonne, author of Libellus 

pro privilegiis eccl. Arelat. 


30. Tetradius — of Chalons, a priest at Lerins, who wrote, 

in 540, Begulae monachorum et sanctimonialium, 
dictated by St. Caesarius. 

31. Procopius— -of Gaza, a rhetorician, who after his 

conversion to Christianity wrote Commentarius in 
Octoteuchum — Commentarius in Isaiam — Scholia 
in IV. libr. Beg. et II. Chron. — Epistolas LX. 

32. Hesychius — of Milet, surnamed "w illustris," 

who under the Emperors Anastasius, Justin and 
Justinian wrote a history of the world in six 
volumes and a Greek work de viris illustrious. 

33. Agapetus — the Deacon, instructor to the Emperor 

Justinian, who wrote in Greek Scheda regia, re- 
garding the duties of Christian rulers. 

34. Fulgentius — Bishop of Euspa 508-533. His works 

are very numerous, Liber responsionum ad X. ob- 
jections Arianorum — Libri III. ad Trasimundum 
regem — Lib. III. ad Moninum — Lib. II. de remiss, 
pecc. ad Euthymium — Tract, de grat. et incarn.— 
Lib. III. de ver. praedest. — Lib. X. adv. Fabianum 

35. John Maxentius — defender of the refractory monks 

of Scete. He caused great disturbance by the 
sentence : "Unus ex trinitate crucifixus est ". He 
wrote several works against the Nestorians and 
Pelagians, also a creed addressed to Pope Hor- 
misdas, and the opinions of the monks of Scete. 

36. Fulgentius Ferrandus — a deacon at Carthage and 

a disciple of his namesake the Bishop of Euspa, 
whose life he wrote ; also the author of a work 
on the Three Chapters and a Breviatio Canonum. 

37. Laurence the Mellifluous — Archbishop of Milan ; 

has left several orations. 


38. Faustus — a disciple of St. Benedict. He wrote a 

life of St. Maurus, whom he had accompanied to 

39. Aurelian — Bishop of Aries and Vicar- Apostolic of 

Gaul. He founded two monasteries in 547, and 
wrote for them Instituta regulae ad monachos et 

40. Avator of Liguria — a poet sent as ambassador to 

the Emperor Theodoric in 534. He was made 
Cornea privatorum at the Court of the Ostrogoth, 
which post he renounced to receive the sub-dia- 
conate, and died 556. He put the Acts of the 
Apostles into verse. 

41. Jornandes — the Goth, who after his conversion be- 

came a monk, and some affirm that he subse- 
quently became a bishop under the Emperor 
Justinian. He wrote a history of the Goths, 
and De regnorum et temporum successione. 



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Return to desk from which borrowed. 
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 

JAN 13 194B 

DEC 2 91955 LU 

DEC 2 6 1962 
DEC a 6 ^ 2 

kfcC'D LD 

H0V5 '64-11 M 



LD 21-100m-9,'47(A5702sl6)476 


NOV* 81971' 





TB 305 I i 

5 3 Q l