(O. S. B.; Ordo sancti Benedicti). Monastic order founded on Rule of Benedict* of Nursia, father of W monasticism. This rule was based on earlier rules, and while strict in some respects, was, in gen., quite moderate. In addition to the 3 usual obligations of poverty, celibacy, and obedience it required manual labor of the monks and provided for daily reading and for convent libraries. Favored by Rome, the Benedictines absorbed the adherents of rival rules; by 811 only traces of rivals remained. Thereafter, for centuries, the Benedictine remained the normal monastic type. During the palmy days of the order (8211200) its influence controlled the civilization of the entire Christian west. The Benedictines repaid with usury the favor extended them by the papacy. But the riches gathered by the monasteries brought into the order widespread corruption and immorality, which were only partly and temporarily checked by Cluniac, Cistercian, and other reforms. Inner decline and attacks from without reduced the 37,000 Benedictine houses of the 14th c. to only 50 in the early 19th c.
Benedict's sister, Scholastica, est. a convent, but it is doubtful whether that was the beginning of the Benedictine nuns. Certainly many women early adopted Benedict's rule, though they were not strictly enclosed. Benedictine nuns came to Ger. with Boniface.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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