In 530 AD, in Montecassino, south of Rome, Benedict of Nursia founded the oldest Western European Catholic monastic order. The great migration of nations completely changed the face of Europe: Ancient Rome fell, many Germanic tribes settled in Italy. Cities were devastated, works of art and culture looted or destroyed. Swords of ruthless winners and terrible epidemics claimed many lives. Contemporaries wrote that culture was finally defeated by nature. In Western Europe, there is only one cultural force left - monasticism.
Order of Saint Benedict
The future reformer of Western European monasticism, St. Benedict was born in 480 in Nursia, in Spoleto, in a notable Umbrian family. He studied for several years in Rome, at the age of 15 he went into the desert, where he lived in a secluded cave for three years, thinking. Revered by his fellows, at the age of 30, Benedict was elected the priest-abbot by the monks of a cave-like Vicovar monastery. The hard, ascetic management did not like the monks, who could not spend almost 24 hours in prayers and works. Benedict left the superiors and again settled in a cave. In the suburbs of Subiaco, comrades-in-arms gathered around him, whom he resettled in kinoviyah, designed for twelve monks.
Benedict of Nursia. Fragment of fresco of the monastery of St. Mark
Benedict thought a lot about the reorganization of monastic life. A contemplative ascetic eastern retreat in western countries with a more severe climate did not seem to him an ideal of serving the Lord. He created a special charter for Western monks, which reached our time through one and a half millennia: “We need to establish a school to serve the Lord. Creating it, we hope not to install anything cruel, nothing heavy. If, nevertheless, a fair reason would require to enter there something somewhat more severe, in order to curb the vices and preserve mercy, do not let fear immediately cover you and do not run away from the road of salvation, which at first cannot be narrow ... but Moving along the monastic life, the life of faith, the heart expands, and you run along the road of the commandments of God with the ease of unspeakable love. So, never leaving our teacher, zealous in the monastery in teaching him until his death, we share the sufferings of Christ with patience in order to earn a place in His Kingdom. Amen".
The first monastery according to the Benedictine charter was founded in 530 in Montecassino. In it, Benedict of Nursia lived and reigned until the end of his life in 543.
By the middle of the 6th century, Benedictine monks had become the most numerous in Europe. The monasteries were merged into the Benedictine Order, which soon became very revered in Europe.
Order of the Cistercians
The Cistercian or Bernardine Order was founded in 1098 by a nobleman from Champagne, Robert Molemsky, who as a young man entered one of the Benedictine monasteries, but since the life there was not consistent with his aspirations for selflessness, he and several comrades retired to a deserted place Sito, near Dijon, and founded his monastery there. From this monastery and formed the Cistercian Order.
The rules of the order were borrowed by Robert from the ancient Benedictine charter. This is a complete removal from the world, a renunciation of all luxury and amenities, a strict ascetic life. Pope Paschal II approved the order, but due to too strict rules at first there were few members in it. The number of Cistercians began to increase only when the famous Bernard Klervosky joined the order. With the severity of his life and the convincing gift of eloquence, Bernard gained such respect from his contemporaries that he was considered holy during his lifetime, and not only the people, but also the popes and princes obeyed his influence.
Saint Bernard Klervosky. Alfred Wesley Wishart, 1900
Respect for the theologian was transferred to his order, which began to grow rapidly. After the death of Bernard Klervosky, the Cistercians (Bernardine) multiplied throughout Europe. The Order acquired great wealth, which inevitably entailed a weakening of monastic discipline, placing Bernardine monasteries on the same level as other Western abbeys.
The Carmelite Order was founded in Palestine by the Calabrian crusader Berthold, who with several friends settled on Mount Carmel in the middle of the 12th century and lived there in the image of ancient Eastern devotees. At the beginning of the XIII century, the patriarch Albert of Jerusalem made a monastic charter, distinguished by special severity - the Carmelites had to live in separate cells, constantly pray, observe strict posts, including completely abandon meat, and spend considerable time in complete silence.
Patriarch Albert of Jerusalem
In 1238, after the defeat of the crusaders, the Order was forced to emigrate to Europe. There, in 1247, the Carmelites received a less strict charter from Pope Innocent IV and became part of the mendicant orders. In the XVI century, the Order was especially famous in its female half, under the abbess of the Carmelites Teresa of Avila.
The founder of the order was Francis, the son of a merchant from Assisi. He was a man with a tender loving heart, striving from the earliest years to devote himself to serving God and society. The words of the Gospel about the embassy of the apostles to a sermon without gold and silver, without a staff and a scrip, determined his vocation: Francis, having taken the vow of perfect poverty, became in 1208 a wandering preacher of repentance and love for Christ. Soon, several students gathered around him, with whom he formed the order of smaller brothers or minosits. Their main vows were perfect apostolic poverty, chastity, humility and obedience. The main occupation is the preaching of repentance and love for Christ. Thus, the order took the task of helping the church in saving the souls of men.
Francis of Assisi. Image on the wall of the monastery of St. Benedict in Subiaco
Pope Innocent III, to whom Francis appeared, although he did not approve his order, but allowed him and his comrades to do preaching and missionary work. In 1223, the order was approved by the bull of Pope Honorius III, and the Franciscans received the right to preach everywhere and make confession.
However, the female half of the order was formed. In 1212, the girl Clara from Assisi gathered around herself several pious women and founded the order of the Clarice-girls, whom Francis gave the charter in 1224. After the death of Francis of Assisi, his order spread throughout all the countries of Western Europe and numbered thousands of monks in its ranks.
The Dominican Order was founded at the same time as the Franciscan Spanish priest and canon Dominic. At the end of the XII - the beginning of the XIII centuries, many heretics appeared in the Roman Church, who settled in the southern region of France and created a great disturbance there. Dominic, passing through Toulouse, met with apostates and decided to establish an order for their conversion. Pope Innocent III gave him permission, and Honorius III approved the statute. The main occupation of the order was to be the conversion of heretics, but Honorius granted the order the right to preach and make confession.
In 1220, Dominic made a significant change in the statutes of the order and, following the example of the Franciscans, he introduced begging to the vows of the brethren. The difference between the orders was that for the treatment of heretics and the affirmation of Catholicism, the Dominicans, taking the scientific direction, acted among the upper classes. After the death of Dominic in 1221, the order spread throughout Western Europe.
Saint Dominic. Santa Sabina Monastery