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their fellow-mortals-lived on bitter left the city he was followed by a herbs and putrid water, exposed faithful nurse, Cyrilla by name, who themselves to the inclemency of the had brought him up from childhood, winter and the burning heats of sum- had tended him in his sojourn at Rome, mer.
and now, though lamenting his mental Such was the rise and working of derangement, as she regarded it, reasceticism, which brought out so solved not to leave her youthful charge many anchorites and hermits. Few to himself, but to watch over him and things in the history of human suffer. wait upon him in his chosen seclusion. ing can parallel the lives of these For some time this life went on, St. men.
Benedict becoming more and more atAs regards conventual life, that is, tached to his hermitage, and the nurse, the assemblage of those who minis- despairing of any change, begged his tered in the church under one roof, food from day to day, prepared it sharing all things in common, that for him, and watched over him with may be traced back to the apostles a mother's tenderness. A change and their disciples, who were con- then came over the young enthusiast, strained to live in this way, and, and he began to feel uneasy under therefore, we find that wherever they her loving care. It was not the true established a church, there they also hermit life, not the realization of that established a sort of college, or grand idea of solitude with which his common residence, for the priests of soul was filled ; and under the impulse that church. This is evident from of this new emotion he secretly fled the epistles of Ignatius, nearly all from the protection of his foster-mothof which conclude with a salutation er, and, without leaving behind him the addressed to this congregation of slightest clue to his pursuit, hid himself disciples, dwelling together, and styled among the rocks of Subiaco, or, as it a “collegium." His epistle to the was then called, Sublaqueum, about Church at Antioch concludes thus, forty miles distant from Rome. At “I salute the sacred College of this spot, which was a range of bleak, Presbyters” (Saluto Sanctum Pres- rocky mountains with a river and lake byterorum Collegium). The Epistle below in the valley, he fell in with one ad Philippenses, “ Saluto S. Epis- Romanus, a monk, who gave him a moncopum et sacrum Presbyterorum astic dress, with a hair shirt, led him Collegium"-So also the epistles to to a part on the mountains where the Philadelphians, the Church at there was a deep, narrow carern, into Smyrna, to the Ephesians, and to the which the sun never penetrated, and Trallians.
here the young anchorite took up his But when St. Benedict was sent as abode, subsisting upon bread and waa lad to Rome, tho inclination toward ter, or the scanty provisions which the severer form of ascetic life, that Romanus could spare him from his of anchorites and hermits, had received own frugal repasts; these provisions an impulse by the works of the great the monk used to let down to him by fathers of the church, already alluded a rope, ringing a bell first to call his to; and the pensive student, buried in attention. For three years he pursued these more congenial studies, became this life, unknown to his friends, and imbued with their spirit, and was soon cut off from all communication with fired with a romantic longing for a the world; but neither the darkness hermit life. At the tender age of fif- of his cavern nor the scantiness of his teen, unable to endure any longer the fare could preserve him from troubles. dissonance between his desires and his He was assailed by many sore temptasurroundings, he fled from Rome, and tions. took refuge in a wild, cavernous spot One day that solitude was disturbed in the neighboring country. As he by the appearance of a man in the garb of a priest, who approached his liness. An event then occurred which cave and began to address him; but forms the second cognizance by which Benedict would hold no conversation the figure of St. Benedict may be rewith the stranger until they had prayed cognized in the fine arts. Endeatogether, after which they discoursed vors had been made to induce him to for a long time upon sacred subjects, relax his discipline, but to no purwhen the priest told him of the cause pose; therefore they resolved upon of his coming. The day happened to getting rid of him, and on a certain be Easter Sunday, and as the priest day, when the saint called out for was preparing his dinner, he heard a some wine to refresh himself after a voice saying, “ You are preparing a long journey, one of the brethren ofbanquet for yourself, whilst my ser- fered him a poisoned goblet. St. vant Benedict is starving ;" that he Benedict took the wine, and, as was thereapon set out upon his journey, his custom before eating or drinking found the anchorite's care, and then anything, blessed it, when the glass producing the dinner, begged St. Bene- suddenly fell from his hands and dict to share it with him, after which broke in pieces. This incident is imthey parted. A number of shepherds, mortalized in stained-glass windows, too, saw him near his cave, and as he in paintings, and frescoes, where the was dressed in goat-skins, took him at saint is either made to carry a broken first for some strange animal ; but goblet, or it is to be seen lying at his when they found he was a hermit, feet. Disgusted with their obstinacy they paid their respects to him hum- he left them, voluntarily returned to bly, brought him food, and implored his cavern at Subiaco, and dwelt his blessing in return.
there alone. But the fates conspired The fame of the recluse of Subiaco against his solitude, and a change spread itself abroad from that time came gradually over the scene. through the neighboring country ; Numbers were drawn toward the many left the world and followed his spot by the fame of his sanctity, and example; the peasantry brought their by-and-bye huts sprang up around sick to him to be healed, emulated him; the desert was no longer a deeach other in their contributions to sert, but a colony waiting only to be his personal necessities, and under- organized to form a strong communtook long journeys simply to gaze ity. Yielding at length to repeated upon his countenance and receive his entreaties, he divided this scattered benediction. Not far from his cave settlement into twelve establishments, were gathered together in a sort of with twelve monks and a superior in association a number of hermits, and each, and the monasteries were soon when the fame of this youthful saint after recognized, talked about, and reached them they sent a deputation proved a sufficient attraction to draw to ask him to come among them and men from all quarters, even from the take up his position as their superior. riotous gaieties of declining Rome. It appears that this brotherhood had We will mention one or two incibecome rather lax in discipline, and, dents related of St. Benedict, which knowing this, St. Benedict at first re- claim attention, more especially as fused, but subsequently, either from being the key to the artistic mysteries some presentiment of his future des of Benedictine pictures. It was one tiny, or actuated simply by the hope of the customs in this early Benedicof reforming them, he consented, left tine community for the brethren not bis lonely cell, and took up his abode to leave the church immediately after with them as their head.
the divine office was concluded, but In a very short time, however, the to remain for some time in silent hermits began to tire of his discipline mental prayer. One of the brethren, and to envy him for his superior god- however, took no delight in this holy
exercise, and to the scandal of the Benedict nearly fell a victim to jealwhole community used to walk coolly ousy. A priest named Florentius, out of the church as soon as the envying his fame, endeavored to psalmody was over. The superior poison him with a loaf of bread, but remonstrated, threatened, but to no failed. Benedict once more left his purpose; the unruly brother persisted charge in disgust; but Florentius, in his conduct. St. Benedict was being killed by the sudden fall of a appealed to, and when he heard the gallery, Maurus sent a messenger circumstances of the case, said he after him to beg him to return, which would see the brother himself. Ac- he did, and not only wept over the cordingly, he attended the church, fate of his fallen enemy, but imposed and at the conclusion of the divine a severe penance upon Maurus for office, not only saw the brother walk testifying joy at the judgment which out, but saw also what was invisible had befallen him. The incident of to every one else-a black boy lead- the poisoned loaf is the third artistic ing him by the hand. The saint then badge by which St. Benedict is to be struck at the phantom with his staff, known in art, being generally painted and from that time the monk was no as a loaf with a serpent coiled round longer troubled, but remained after it. These artistic attributes form a the service with the rest.
very important feature in monastic St. Gregory also relates an incident painting, and in some instances beto the effect that one day as a Gothic come the only guide to the recognimonk was engaged on the border of tion of the subject. St. Benedict is the lake cutting down thistles, he let sometimes represented with all these the iron part of his sickle, which was accompaniments—the broken goblet, loose, fall into the water. St. Maur, the loaf with the serpent, and in the one of Benedict's disciples—of whom background the figure rolling in the we shall presently speak-happened briers. St. Bernard, who wrote to be standing by, and, taking the much and powerfully against heresy, wooden handle from the man, he held is represented with the accompanying it to the water, when the iron swam to incident in the background of demons it in miraculous obedience.
chained to a rock, or being led away As we have said, the monasteries captive, to indicate his triumphs over grew daily in number of members heretics for the faith. Demons and reputation ; people came from placed at the feet indicate Satan and far and near, some belonging to the ihe world overcome. Great preach highest classes, and left their children ers generally carry the crucifix, or, if at the monastery to be trained up a renowned missionary, the standard under St. Benedict's protection. and cross. Martyrs carry the palm. Amongst this number, in the year A king who has resigned his dignity 522, came two wealthy Roman sena- and entered a monastery has a crown tors, Equitius and Tertullus, bring- lying at his feet. A book held in ing with them their sons, Maurus, the hand represents the gospel, unless then twelve years of age, and Pla- it be accompanied by pen and inkcidus, only five. They begged ear- horn, when it implies that the subject nestly that St. Benedict would take was an author, as in the case of Ancharge of them, which he did, treated selm, who is represented as holding in them as if they had been his own his hands his work on the incarnation, sons, and ultimately they became with the title inscribed, “Cur Deus monks under his rule, lived with him Homo," or it may relate to an inciall his life, and after his death became dent in the life, as the blood-stained the first missionaries of his order in book, which St. Boniface holds, enforeign countries, where Placidus won titled “De Bono Mortis," a work he the crown of martyrdom. Again, St. was devotedly fond of, always car
ried about with him, and which was Benedict, with the keen perception of found after his murder in the folds of genius, saw in the monasticism of his bis dress stained with his blood. But time, crude as it was, the elements of the highest honor was the stigmata a great system. For five centuries it or wounds of Christ impressed upon had existed and vainly endeavored to the bands, feet, and side. This ar- develop itself into something like an tistic pre-eminence is accorded to St. institution, but the grand idea had Francis, the founder of the order never yet been struck out—that idea which bears his name, and to St. which was to give it permanence and Catharine, of Siena. A whole world strength. Hitherto the monk had reof history lies wrapped up in these tired from the world to work out his artistic symbols, as they appear in the own salvation, caring little about any. marvellous paintings illustrative of thing else, subsisting on what the dethe hagiology of the monastic orders votion of the wealthy offered him which are cherished in half the pic- from motives of charity ; then, as ture galleries and sacred edifices of time advanced, they acquired possesEurope, and form as it were a living sions and wealth, which tended only testimony and a splendid confirma to make them more idle and selfish. tion of the written history and tradi- St. Benedict detected in all this the tions of the church.
signs of decay, and resolved on reAlthough, at the period when we vivifying its languishing existence by left St. Benedict reinstalled in his of- starting a new system, based upon a fice as superior, Christianity was rule of life more in accordance with rapidly being established in the coun- the dictates of reason. He was one try, yet there were still lurking about of those who held as a belief that to in remote districts of Italy the re- live in this world a man must do mains of her ancient paganism. Near something—that life which consumes, the spot now called Monte Cassino but produces not, is a morbid life, in Tas a consecrated grove in which fact, an impossible life, a life that must stood a temple dedicated to Apollo. decay, and therefore, imbued with the St. Benedict resolved upon clearing importance of this fact, he made labor, away this relic of heathendom, and, continuous and daily labor, the great fired with holy zeal, went amongst foundation of his rule. His vows the people, preached the gospel of were like those of other institutionsCarist to them, persuaded them at poverty, chastity, and obedience-but length to break the statue of the god he added labor, and in that addition, and pull down the altar; he then as we shall endeavor presently to bomed the grove and built two chapshow, lay the whole secret of the wonels there the one dedicated to St. drous success of the Benedictine OrJohn the Baptist and the other to St. der. To every applicant for admisMartin. Higher up upon the moun- sion, these conditions were read, and tain he laid the foundation of his cele- the following words added, which brated monastery, which still bears were subsequently adopted as a forhis name, and here he not only gath- mula : “ This is the law under which ered together a powerful brother thou art to live and to strive for salhood, but elaborated that system vation; if thou canst observe it, enter; which infused new vigor into the mo- if not, go in peace, thou art free.” No nastic life, cleared it of its impurities, sooner was his monastery established established it upon a firm and healthy than it was filled by men who, attractbasis, and elevated it, as regards his ed by his fame and the charm of the own order, into a mighty power, new mode of life, came and eagerly which was to exert an influence over implored permission to submit themthe destinies of humanity inferior only selves to his rule. Maurus and Plato that of Christianity itself. St. cidus, his favorite disciples, still re
mained with him, and the tenor of his but death will overtake you on the life flowed on evenly.
tenth, when you will be arraigned beAfter Belisarius, the emperor's fore a just God to give an account of general, had been recalled, a number your deeds.” Totila trembled at this of men totally incapacitated for their sentence, besought the prayers of the duties were sent in his place. Totila, abbot, and took his leave. The prewho had recently ascended the Gothic diction was marvellously fulfilled ; in throne, at once invaded and plundered any case the interview wrought a Italy; and in the year 542, when on change in the manner of this Gothic his triumphant march, after defeating warrior little short of miraculous, for the Byzantine army, he was seized from that time he treated those whom with a strong desire to pay a visit to he had conquered with gentleness. the renowned Abbot Benedict, who When he took Rome, as St. Benedict was known amongst them as a great had predicted he should, he forbade prophet. He therefore sent word to all carnage, and insisted on protecting Monte Cassino to announce his in- women from insult; stranger still, in tended visit, to which St. Benedict re- the year 552, only a little beyond the plied that he would be happy to re- time allotted him by the prediction, ceive him. On receiving the answer he fell in a battle which he fought he resolved to employ a stratagem to against Narses, the eunuch general of test the real prophetic powers of the the Greco-Roman army. St. Beneabbot, and accordingly, instead of go- dict's sister, Scholastica, who had being himself, he caused the captain of come a nun, discovered the wherethe guard to dress himself in the im- abouts of her lost brother, came to perial robes, and, accompanied by Monte Cassino, took up her residence three lords of the court and a numer- near him, and founded a convent upon ous retinue, to present himself to the the principles of his rule. She was, abbot as the kingly visitor. How- therefore, the first Benedictine nun, ever, as soon as they entered into his and is often represented in paintings, presence, the abbot detected the prominent in that well-known group fraud, and, addressing the counterfeit composed of herself, St. Benedict, and king, bid him put off a dress which the two disciples, Maurus and Placi. did not belong to him. In the utmost dus. alarm they all fled back to Totila and It appears that her brother was in related the result of their interview ; the habit of paying her a visit every the unbelieving Goth, now thoroughly year, and upon one occasion stayed convinced, went in proper person to until late in the evening, so late that Monte Cassino, and, on perceiving the Scholastica pressed him not to leave; abbot seated waiting to receive him, but he persisting, she offered a pray. he was overcome with terror, could er that heaven might interpose and go no further, and prostrated himself prevent his going, when suddenly a to the ground.* St. Benedict bid him tempest came on so fierce and furious rise, but as he seemed unable, assisted that he was compelled to remain unhim himself. A long conversation til it was over, when he returned to · ensued, during which St. Benedict re- his monastery. Two days after this proved him for his many acts of vio- occurrence, as he was praying in his lence, and concluded with this pro- cell, he beheld the soul of his beloved phetic declaration : “ You have done sister ascending to heaven in the form much evil. and continue to do so ; you of a dove, and the same day intelliwill enter Rome; you will cross the gence was brought him of her death. sea; you will reign nine years longer, This vision forms the subject of many
of the pictures in Benedictine nun* "Quem cum a longe sedentem cerneret, non neries. One short month after the ansus accedere sese in terram dedit." -St. Greg. Dial., lib. ii., c. 14,
decease of this affectionate sister, St.