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with that view, to a stricter solitude. This divided the monks into two classes, the Cænobites, who lived in community, and the Anchorites, who lived in separate cells. Each separate cell was sometimes bounded by a small inclosure; their general precinct was called a Laura. With such establishments, Ægypt and Libya abounded. The number of these monastic establishments was very great ; almost all of them were destroyed by the Saracens; the few, which remain, are described by Father Sicard, (Missions du Levant, tom. II. p. 29–79. tom. V. p. 122–200.)
Such was the origin of the monastic state. Nothing in sacred biography is more interesting than the accounts of its founders, and their most eminent disciples. These were written by their contemporaries, and have been translated into almost every modern language. Every Roman Catholic recollects, with pleasure, the exquisite delight with which, when he was at school, he perused the Lives of the Venerable Fathers of the Desert, – the name assigned to them by the Roman Catholic church.
Similar establishments of monastic communities, but much fewer in number, were established for the female sex.
ASTIC STATE INTO
III. St. Athanasius introduced the Monastic STATE INTO THE WEST.
III. 1. About two hundred years after its introduction, St. BENEDICT, an Italian monk, framed his religious rule for the government of a convent at Mount Cassino, between Rome and Naples, over which he presided. It was formed on that of St. Pachomius, and contained the same division of time, for prayer and manual labor; the same silence and the same solitude : but there was some relaxation in the
article of diet. St. Pachomius allowed his disciples twelve ounces of biscuit, to be taken by them at two repasts; one early in the afternoon ; the other, late in the evening, with an occasional, but not a very frequent, allowance of cheese, fruit, herbs, and small dried fish. Meat was expressly for: bidden by St. Benedict to be served to his disciples, except in serious illness. They were indulged by him with a daily allowance of half a pint of wine, which his disciples exchanged, in the northern climates, for a proportional allowance of strong beer or cyder. His rule was embraced by all the monks of the west.
Among the benefactors to humanity, none, perhaps, are entitled to a higher rank, than the disciples of St. Benedict. A celebrated Protestant historian, M. Mallet, in his Histoire des Suisses ou Helvetiens, (tom. I. p. 105) expresses his opinion of the services rendered by them to society, in the following terms:
« The christian clergy, like the druids of Gaul, were the only depositaries of knowledge; the only lawyers, physicians, astronomers, historians, notaries ; the only persons acquainted with the belles lettres ; the only persons who could instruct youth; except among them, profound ignorance reigned every where. The monks softened, by their instructions, the ferocious manners of the people, and opposed their credit to the despotism of the nobility, who knew no other occupation than war, and grievously oppressed their subjects and inferiors. On this account, the government of the monks was preferred to theirs. The people sought them for judges : it was an usual saying, That it was better to be governed by a bishop's crosier, than a monarch's sceptre. The monks were engaged in useful employments; they cleared and cultivated desert and savage lands. We find that, in many places, where those
missionaries established themselves, agriculture, next to preaching, was their principal occupation. Where St. Gal built his church he planted a garden, and reared a flock of sheep: he recommended to his disciples to support themselves by the labor of their hands. Was it possible that such men should not be venerated, both during their lives and after their deaths? Can, then, history reckon up such a superabundance of men, who have devoted themselves to the welfare of their neighbours ? At a later period, the monks were corrupted by riches and power: this is the common fate of men; but, at the time of which we are now speaking, they had never been other than respectable.
The monastery of St. Gal had also a school, which by degrees became famous; both laymen and persons, who devoted themselves to the church, flocked to it in crowds; there, they copied; there, several precious works of antient writers were discovered, which must have perished in the general confusion of barbarous ages, without these asylums, where religion still threw out some light. When we consider the profound ignorance of the nations, who invaded the Roman empire, and established themselves on its ruins, their exclusive passion for war, their contempt for the sciences, the arts, and even for writing, one perceives that every thing then occurred to produce in Europe the barbarism which had reigned so long among the Celts, the Scandinavians, and Sarmatians. What was it, which, in this æra of the Roman empire, preserved the human mind from being plunged into the darkness of the greatest barbarism, and from losing the last remains of Greek and Roman lore? For this blessing, mankind is indebted to the Christian religion. Nothing less than the power of religion could subdue those barbarous prejudices, which carried the contempt of the sciences, even to writing. It was
necessary that there should be a sacred book, which made the knowledge of writing indispensable;-a particular class, an order of informed men, bound to study and teach its contents.”
III. 2. In consequence of the general devastation and confusion occasioned in Italy by the Lombards, in Spain by the Saracens, in France by the civil wars among the descend. ants of Charlemagne, and in England by the irruption of the Danes-the Benedictine monks fell from their original fervor into great disorder. St. Odo restored it, with some modification, in his monastery at Cluni ; and several monasteries adopted his reform. They were called the Congregation of Cluni; but, by degrees, the congregation of Cluni itself wanted reform; and the general decline of virtue and piety in the Benedictine order was so great, that in the beginning of the eleventh century, it was difficult to find a single monastery, where even a faint likeness to the state, in which the order had been left by its original founder, was discoverable. But towards the middle of the eleventh century, several eminent men arose in the Benedictine order, who endeavoured to restore it to its ancient purity; and, while each of them added some new statute or custom to the original rule, each of them became the founder of a congregation or secondary order, adhering, in essentials, to the order of St. Benedict, but differing from it in some particular observations. Such are the Carthusians, the Camadules, the Celestines, the monks of Grandmont, the congregation of St. Maur, and the order of Citeaux.
A view of the decay of the true spirit of religion, even in the reformed order of Cluni, moved St. Robert, and twentyone of his monks, to dedicate themselves wholly to God, and to follow, in their convent, the strictest observance of the rules of St. Benedict. Expelled from it, on this ac
count, by their non-conforming brethren, they retired to a wilderness about 16 miles from Dijon, called, from the re. servoirs of water in its neighbourhood, Cistercium. The monks, with their own hands, cut down trees, and built themselves an humble convent of wood. In 1098, they made in it, on the feast-day of St. Benedict, a second profession. Their angelic piety attracted universal respect. Two legates of Pope Pascal the second being at Dijon, and hearing of their great reputation, paid them a visit. They found them dining on parched acorns, hazel-nuts, and wild sorrel. At first the legates were shocked at their extreme poverty; but through their emaciated countenances there appeared such a spirit of peace, humility, and internal conversation with God, as changed the compassion of the legates into admiration. St. Stephen, an Englishman, born near Sherbourne in Dorsetshire, was the third Abbot of Citeaux, and he completed its rule. He professed to establish no more than a rigid adherence to the rule of St Benedict; but to prevent relaxation, he added to it some parti. cular observances. He founded several monasteries, particularly Clairvaux, of which he appointed St. Bernard the first Abbot ; and under his patronage, Rotrou, Count de Perche, founded the Abbey of la Trappe.
III. 3. St. Benedict admitted both the learned and the unlearned into his order. The first recited the divine office in the choir, the second discharged several duties, which regarded the household æconomy, and the other temporal concerns of the monastery. At this time the regular recitation of the divine office was only a practice of monastic discipline; at a subsequent period it was made the general duty of all priests, deacons, and sub-deacons, and became of course the duty of all the religious; who had entered into any of those orders. As it was performed in the choir, it became