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MEDIEVAL MONASTICISM There is little doubt that the monastic ideal exercised a powerful influence on the communities in which monasteries were found It has been estimated that there were around 340 religious houses and about 15000 men and women in religious orders in the last quarter of the twelfth century in England and Wales Rievaulx and the other surviving Yorkshire abbeys are testimony to the major building work then under way in that part of the European community Abbots such as Ailred became influential 52figures in the church Coleman 1993 Italian abbots were automatic members of kings councils simply because of their station their influence and their service Though not the first monastery founded to serve Christian beliefs and not even the first founded by St Benedict Monte Cassino was founded in 529 by Saint Benedict of Nursia on the site of an Apollonian temple northwest of Naples and was to become the best known Monte Cassino became the home of the Benedictine Order and was for many centuries the leading monastery in western Europe It was destroyed by Lombardsin 590 by Saracens in 884 and by earthquake in 1349 and was rebuilt each time The present buildings are in the style of the 16th and 17th centuries Judged by the standards of the time the Benedictine rule imposed no great amount of austerity or asceticism It required the provision of adequate food clothing and shelter for the monks Depending on the season of the year and the festival celebrated the monks each day devoted a period of four to eight hours to celebrating the Divine Office and one period of seven or eight hours to sleep the remainder of the day was divided about equally between work usually agricultural and religious reading and study The abbot was given full patriarchal authority over the community but was himself subject to the rule and was required to consult the members of the community on important
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