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First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…
FOLIO CXLIIII recto

Benedict (Benedictus), an Italian abbot, and father of all the people in the monasteries, at this time assembled all the scattered monks, and by inspiration from the Holy Spirit introduced order into their lives. He was born of a noble family in the country town of Nursius (Norica), highly celebrated for its privileges, but chiefly because of Saint Benedict. There he spent his life observing good morals and indisposed to worldly pleasures. He was sent to Rome to study the liberal arts and letters; but when he noted that many persons were misled into error through these arts, he drew back the foot he had set forward into the world. In his zeal to please the Lord alone, he scorned the study of letters, left his father’s house, estate and possessions, and lived unknown for some time with the hermits in the wilderness. He came to a place forty miles from Rome, and there he lived in a small cave for three years, unknown to anyone except a monk named Romanus. There he led a strict and hard life, subject to many temptations; but about all this he remained silent. In addition to his virtue this most holy man was endowed with the spirit of prophecy by which he revealed many future events and hidden things. Then Totila, the king of the Ostrogoths, heard of this man’s virtue and strength, he desired to learn something of his piety; so he put on the clothes of a servant, and clothed his servant in regal robes. But Benedict, in his wisdom, recognized the king clad in the apparel of a servant, invited him into the monastery, and thus prophesied his future: You will reign nine years, and die in the tenth; and the king held him in high esteem. Benedict also gave many other proofs of his holiness, particularly concerning a glass in which the brethren had mixed poison intended for him. Over this he made the sign of the cross, and the glass broke. Finally he died in the Year of Salvation 536.

The Order of the Benedictine Brothers had its origin not far from the city of Aquinas in the Abruzzi, on Mount Cassino, where formerly the city of Cassina was located, and where later the universally renowned monastery of Cassino was later built. After the erection of this monastery Saint Benedict gave the inmates a fundamental Rule by which to live wisely, whereas previously many of these people had lived in isolation. After this saint had lived as a hermit for a long time, and had distinguished himself by his virtue and miracles, many people gathered about him in the service of God; and he soon built twelve monasteries and provided them with inhabitants. And he gathered about him many disciples by whose aid he conquered almost all the world. Out of this holy man’s illustrious Order emanated many pious and learned men. Although he first gave his Rule to the Black Monks alone, it was subsequently adopted by others. From his Order are said to have come 24 popes, 173 cardinals, 1464 archbishops, 15,070 distinguished abbots, and as Pope John XXII writes, 5,555 canonized and elevated monks.

Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict, was given over to God from childhood. Her brother usually visited her once a year. On one occasion, after they had spent the day together in praising God and discussing holy matters until evening, and Benedict had received his meal and was about to return to his monastery, his sister, the pious nun, bade him to stay awhile longer and to speak to her of the joys of heavenly life. And when he told her that he did not wish to be absent from his cell, there ensued in response to Scholastica’s prayers such a downpour and storm, that with his brethren, he was not able to pull his feet out of the mired earth. And so they consumed the entire night in holy conversation and spiritual intercourse. On the following day Benedict returned to his monastery, and when, after the expiration of three days, he opened his eyes in his cell, he saw his sister’s soul, in the form of a dove, ascending to heaven.

Benedict (Benedictus) was born of a noble family in the little town of Norica, in the Duchy of Spoleto, about 480. He was sent to Rome to study literature and science, and gave hopes of becoming a distinguished pleader. But, while yet a boy, he became disgusted with the profligacy of his fellow-students, and the evil example about him drove him to the opposite extreme. The religious enthusiasm of such men as Jerome and Augustine led him into a hermitage at the age of 15. Leaving Rome, he fled to a wilderness about forty miles away, and there he met the hermit Romanus, who supplied him with food during the three years that Benedict spent in a cavern. During his solitary life he was subjected to many temptations. Soon the fame of the young man extended through the neighborhood, and shepherds and four villagers brought their sick to his cavern to be healed. A neighboring society of hermits asked him to become their head. Knowing something of the morals and manners of this community, Benedict at first refused. He only yielded after much persuasion, and in the hope of reforming the abuses which had crept into their monastery. But the strictness of his life filled these perverted men with envy and alarm, and while he was there, one of the men attempted to poison him in a cup of wine. Benedict, on the cup being presented to him, blessed it as usual, making the sign of the cross. The cup instantly fell from the hands of the traitor, was broken, and its contents spilled on the ground, a scene often represented in Benedictine convents. Benedict thereupon arose, and telling the monks they must provide themselves another superior, he left them and returned to his solitary cave at Subiaco, where he dwelt alone. But now Subiaco was no longer a “desert,” for it was crowded with the huts and cells of those whom the fame of Benedict’s sanctity, his virtues, and his miracles, had gathered about him. To introduce order and discipline into the community, he directed them to construct twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed twelve disciples, with a superior over them. Many had come from Rome and other cities, among them two Roman senators, Anitius and Tertullus, bringing their infant sons Maurus and Placidus, with the earnest request that Benedict educate them in the ways of salvation. And he took them under his special care. The community increased in number and renown, and in brotherly charity and holiness of life. Of course there were temptations and jealousies, but these were overcome by Benedict.

In a consecrated grove, near the summit of Mount Cassino, stood a temple to Apollo, who was still worshipped, for paganism had not yet been completely banished from Italy. Benedict traveled to the neighborhood of the Mount, and preached Christ to the people. And they were converted, broke the image, threw down the altar, and burned the grove. On this spot Benedict built two chapels, one in honor of St. John the Baptist, model of the contemplative life; the other in honor of St. Martin of Tours, for the active religious life. Then, higher up on the mountain he laid the foundation of that celebrated monastery which has ever since been regarded as the parent institution of their Order. Here was promulgated the famous Rule which became the general law of the monks of Western Europe, and which gave monasticism its definite form. To the rule given the cenobites of the East (poverty, chastity, and obedience), Benedict added: (1) Manual labor for seven hours per day; (2) the vows were to be made perpetual.

Toward the close of his long life Benedict was consoled for many troubles by the arrival of his sister, Sholastica, who had already devoted herself to a religious life, and now took up her residence in a retired cell about a league and a half from the convent. She emulated her brother’s piety, and although it does not appear that she took vows, she was generally considered the first Benedictine nun. When she followed her brother to Mt. Cassino, she drew about her a small community of pious women; but nothing more is recorded of her, except that her brother visited her once a year. On one occasion, legend says, after they had conversed on spiritual matters until late in the evening, and Benedict was about to depart, his sister entreated him to remain awhile longer; but he refused. She prayed heaven to interfere and make it possible for her brother to stay longer; and immediately a furious storm came about, delaying Benedict’s departure until late in the evening. It was a last meeting, for Scholastica died two days later; and in his cell Benedict beheld her soul ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.

The miracles attributed to Benedict are numerous. In the year 540, he was visited by Totila, king of the Goths, who prostrated himself at his feet, entreating his blessing. Benedict reproved him for his cruelties in Italy; and from that time on the ferocious Goth showed more humanity than he had previously. Shortly after this visit Benedict died of a fever that had seized him while attending the poor of the neighborhood. He died on March 21, 543.

ILLUSTRATIONS
1.

Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order of monks, is represented by a full length woodcut. He is clad in a cap and voluminous habit, a crosier in his right hand, a book in his left. Upon the book rests the poisoned cup offered him by one of the brethren. In it writhes a serpent.

2.

Monastery of Cassino, founded by Benedict, is represented by a woodcut which covers almost a quarter of a page. The architecture of the buildings within the monastery walls is nondescript. This is the first woodcut of a monastery to appear in the Chronicle, and is later repeated for like institutions.

3.

Scholastica, sister of Benedict, represented by a small woodcut here used for the first time. She appears in the garb of a nun, book in hand. She raises the forefinger of her right hand, as though in blessing.