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The Benedictine Monks Even before the first rays of daylight permeated the cloister the medieval monk would rise and silently enter the oratory of the church the darkness pierced by candle flames the silence broken by footsteps Taking the places assigned to them by rank the monks would begin chanting Nocturnes praying for God to renew the day Medieval monks lived an exacting life From two in the morning to seven at night the monks day consisted of solemn prayer contemplation reading and physical labor 1 Though there were many religious orders to which a monastic might attach himself one of the first and most enduring was the Benedictine The Benedictine monks were a very important part of medieval Catholicism St Benedict was born into a wealthy family in Nursia Italy in the 5th century As a pious man he sought to escape the corruption of the world around him by becoming a hermit with Romanus a monk who admired his devotion in the mountains of Subiaco As his renown grew he was asked by the monks of Vicovaro to be their abbot and Benedict reluctantly agreed But as a strict authoritarian Benedict had his own ideas on how an abbey should be run The monks were so displeased by his austerity that they tried to poison him--but as legend goes Benedict made the sign of the cross over his poisoned cup and the cup shattered A forgiving man he left the monastery without anger and retreated back to the mountains to found 12 small monasteries It was in one of these communities Monte Cassino that he developed his famous Regula or Rule a relatively brief treatise regulating the life prayer food clothing and even temperament of his monks 3 The Rule is simple straightforward and eloquent Each stage of becoming a monk and maintaining that life and temperament is described including what to eat Let everyone except the sick who
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