Monte Cassino

Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine order of monks, was born in Nursia in Italy around AD 480. His parents were wealthy, and they sent him to school in Rome. As a student, however, he was shocked by the behaviour he saw in the city of Rome.

In about the year 500 he decided to leave the city and go out into the hills, where he lived a life of prayer. He found a cave at Subiaco, where he lived as a hermit. A local Christian brought him food, which he lowered into the cave in a basket. Gradually people came to hear of Benedict, and because they admired his holy way of life they joined him in a community.

Benedict was the Abbot, or leader of this group of monks. In time, however, some of the monks grew tired of Benedict's strict way of life, and they tried to poison him. He went back to his life in a cave. Later, he founded twelve monasteries of twelve monks each, and put an Abbot in charge of each monastery. There were still some people in the locality who were jealous of Benedict, so about the year 525 he moved to Monte Cassino, a hill to the south of Rome, where he founded a new monastery in 529.

Old Monte Cassino

He lived there until his death around the year 547. During his time at Monte Cassino he completed his Rule for monks, which became the most important set of guidelines for the life and worship of monks in the Middle Ages. The Rule has been slightly adapted over the centuries, but it is still followed by monks and nuns now. Benedict had a twin sister, Scholastica, who formed a community of women called nuns and lived nearby, following the same way of life as Benedict. She died shortly before him.



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