1902 Encyclopedia > Abbey > Benedictine Abbeys: Benedict of Nursia; Benedictine Monasteries.

(Part 4)

(B) Benedictine Abbeys

Benedict of Nursia

Monasticism in the West owes its extension and development to Benedict of Nursia (born A.D. 480). His rule was diffused with miraculous rapidity from the parent foundation on Monte Cassino through the whole of Western Europe, and everycountry witnessed the erection of monasteries far exceeding anything that had yet been seen in spaciousness and splendour.

Benedictine Abbeys

Few great towns in Italy were without their Benedictine convent, and they quickly rose in all the great centres of population in England, France, and Spain. The number of these monasteries founded between A.D. 520 and 700 us amazing. Before the Council of Constance, A.D. 1415, no fewer than 15,070 abbeys had been established of this order alone. The Benedictine rule, spreading with the vigour of a young and powerful life, absorbed into itself the older monastic foundations, whose discipline had too usually become disgracefully relaxed. In the words of Milmas (Latin Christianity, vol. i. p. 425, note x.), "The Benedictine rule was universally received, even in the older monasteries of Gaul, Britain, Spain, and throughout the West, not as that of a rival order (all rivalry was of later date), but as a more full and perfect rule of the monastic life." Not only, therefore, were new monasteries founded, but those already existing were pulled down, and rebuilt to adapt them to the requirements of the new rule.

The buildings of a Benedictine abbey were uniformly arranged after one plan, modified where necessary (as at Durham and Worcester, where the monasteries stand close to the steep bank of a river), to accommodate the arrangement to local circumstances.

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