Coat of arms of the 

Order of Saint Benedict.

By Tom-L

The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict (Latin: Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a monastic religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of their religious habits. They were founded in 529 by Benedict of Nursia, a 6th-century monk who laid the foundations of Benedictine monasticism through the formulation of his Rule.

Despite being called an order, the Benedictines do not operate under a single hierarchy but are instead organized as a collection of autonomous monasteries. The order is represented internationally by the Benedictine Confederation, an organization set up in 1893 to represent the order's shared interests. They do not have a superior general or motherhouse with universal jurisdiction but elect an Abbot Primate to represent themselves to the Vatican and to the world.

The monastery at Subiaco in Italy, established by Benedict of Nursia c. 529, was the first of the dozen monasteries he founded. He later founded the Abbey of Monte Cassino. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to found an order, and the Rule of Saint Benedict presupposes the autonomy of each community. When Monte Cassino was sacked by the Lombards about the year 580, the monks fled to Rome, and likely that this constituted an important factor in the diffusion of knowledge of Benedictine monasticism. 

Copies of Benedict's Rule survived; around 594, Pope Gregory I spoke favourably of it. The Rule is subsequently found in some monasteries in southern Gaul, along with other rules used by abbots. Gregory of Tours says that at Ainay Abbey, in the sixth century, the monks "followed the rules of Basil, Cassian, Caesarius, and other fathers, taking and using whatever seemed proper to the conditions of time and place", and doubtless the same liberty was taken with the Benedictine Rule when it reached them. In Gaul and Switzerland, it gradually supplemented the much stricter Irish or Celtic Rule introduced by Columbanus and others. In many monasteries, it eventually entirely displaced the earlier codes.

By the ninth century, however, the Benedictine had become the standard form of monastic life throughout Western Europe, except Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, where the Celtic observance still prevailed for another century or two. Mainly through the work of Benedict of Aniane, it became the rule of choice for monasteries throughout the Carolingian empire.

Monastic scriptoria flourished from the ninth through the twelfth centuries. Sacred Scripture was always at the heart of every monastic scriptorium. As a general rule, those of the monks who possessed skill as writers made this their chief if not their sole active work. An anonymous writer of the ninth or tenth century speaks of six hours a day as the usual task of a scribe, which would absorb almost all the time available for active work in the day of a medieval monk.

In the Middle Ages, monasteries were often founded by the nobility. Cluny Abbey was founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine, in 910. The abbey was noted for its strict adherence to the Rule of Saint Benedict. The abbot of Cluny was the superior of all the daughter houses through appointed priors.

One of the earliest reforms of Benedictine practice was initiated in 980 by Romuald, who founded the Camaldolese community. The Cistercians branched off from the Benedictines in 1098; they are often called the "White monks".

The dominance of the Benedictine monastic way of life began to decline towards the end of the twelfth century, which saw the rise of the Franciscans and Dominicans. Benedictines took a fourth vow of "stability", which professed loyalty to a particular foundation. Not being bound by location, the mendicants were better able to respond to an increasingly "urban" environment. This decline was further exacerbated by appointing a commendatory abbot, a lay person appointed by a noble to oversee and protect the monastery goods. Often, however, this resulted in the appropriation of the assets of monasteries at the expense of the community which they were intended to support.

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Broederhugo at Dutch Wikipedia 

L'ordre de Saint-Benoît, plus connu sous le nom d'ordre des Bénédictins, est une fédération de monastères occupés par des moines ou des moniales, les Bénédictins ou Bénédictines y suivant la règle de saint Benoît résumée par la maxime « Ora et labora ». Cet ordre monastique fondé vers 529 par saint Benoît de Nursie, considéré traditionnellement comme le plus ancien de l'Église catholique, regroupe des organisations monastiques plus ou moins autonomes qui ont marqué profondément le monde occidental par leur contribution essentielle dans l'économie, la culture et la liturgie de l'Europe médiévale.

Ce n'est pas le plus ancien ordre de l'Occident chrétien car la règle des moines de saint Augustin, celle introduite par saint Martin pour la fondation de l'abbaye Saint-Martin de Ligugé, celle introduite par Jean Cassien pour l'abbaye Saint-Victor de Marseille et la laus perennis introduite en 515 à l'abbaye de Saint-Maurice d'Agaune sont antérieures à sa fondation, mais c'est celui qui a connu le plus large succès.

Le monachisme bénédictin connaît une première apogée avec le rayonnement de l'ordre de Cluny puis celui de Cîteaux. Les nombreuses difficultés qui affectent les ordres monastiques dès la fin du xiiie siècle suscitent de lentes réformes monastiques qui débutent au xve siècle avec la création d'une nouvelle institution bénédictine, la congrégation.

Après plusieurs périodes de fort déclin, notamment la défection pendant la Réforme protestante et la suppression des congrégations par la Révolution, le monachisme bénédictin connaît une phase de reconstruction au xixe siècle et est entièrement réorganisé en 1893 par le pape Léon XIII à l'origine de la création de la Confédération bénédictine.

The Rule of Saint Benedict is also used by several religious orders that began as reforms of the Benedictine tradition, such as the Cistercians and Trappists. These groups are separate congregations and not members of the Benedictine Confederation.

Although Benedictines are traditionally Catholic, some latter-day communities that follow the Rule of Saint Benedict. For example, some have adopted the Rule of Benedict of an estimated 2,400 celibate Anglican religious (1,080 men and 1,320 women) in the Anglican Communio. Likewise, such communities can be found in  Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutheran Church.