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According to the holy legislator's provisions each monastery constituted an independent family, self-contained, autonomous, managing its own affairs, and subject to no external authority except that of the local diocesan bishop, whose powers of control were, however, limited to certain specific occasions.
The earliest departures from this system occurred when several of the greater abbeys began sending out offshoots, under the form of daughter-houses retaining some sort of dependence upon the mother abbey from which they sprang.
At the time of the Reformation there were nine Benedictine houses in Ireland and six in Scotland, besides numerous abbeys of Cistercians.
Benedictine monasticism never took such deep root in the eastern countries of Europe as it had done in the West.
Lérins continued through several centuries to supply from its monks bishops for the chief churches of Southern Gaul, and to them perhaps may be traced the general diffusion of St. There, as also in Switzerland, it had to contend with and supplement the much stricter Irish or Celtic Rule introduced by St. In other monasteries it entirely displaced the earlier codes, and had by the end of the eighth century so completely superseded them throughout France that Charlemagne could gravely doubt whether monks of any kind had been possible before St. The authority of Charlemagne and of his son, Louis the Pious, did much, as we shall presently see, towards propagating the principles of the Father of western monachism. Augustine and his monks established the first English Benedictine monastery at Canterbury soon after their arrival in 597.
Into Lithuania and the Eastern Empire the Benedictine Rule never penetrated in early times, and the great schism between East and West effectually prevented any possibilities of development in that direction.Many of the episcopal sees of England were founded and governed by the Benedictines, and no less than nine of the old cathedrals were served by the black monks of the priories attached to them.Even when the bishop was not himself a monk, he held the place of titular abbot, and the community formed his chapter.There, in the very centre of the ecclesiastical world, they remained for upwards of a hundred and forty years, and it seems highly probable that this residence in so prominent a position constituted an important factor in the diffusion of a knowledge of Benedictine monasticism. Augustine, the prior, and his forty companions set forth in 595 on their mission for the evangelization of England, and with them St. " in Downside Review, III (1884).] At their various stopping places during the journey through France the monks left behind them traditions concerning their rule and form of life, and probably also some copies of the Rule, for we have several evidences of its having gradually introduced into most of the chief monasteries of Gaul during the seventh century.It is generally agreed also that when Gregory the Great embraced the monastic state and converted his family palace on Apostle, it was the Benedictine form of monachism that he adopted there. Benedict's idea of the monastic life first emerged from Italy. Lérins, for instance, one of the oldest, which had been founded by St.
The Benedictine Order comprises monks living under the Rule of St. The order will be considered in this article under the following sections: I. It may be divided into various provinces, according to the countries over which it is spread, each provincial head being immediately subject to the general, just as the superior of each house is subject to his own provincial.