Rule of St. Benedict Influence on Medieval Monasteries

Around 530 C.E., after living in solitude for a number of years, St. Benedict wrote his rule that would change the monastic world forever. It established a stable and obedient lifestyle for all monks living in the medieval era. The Rule of St. Benedict (RB) designs a life for "cenobites…those who belong to a monastery, where they serve under a rule and an abbot."# The three main concepts of the rule are: 1- a monk joins and stays in one particular community, 2- a monk places himself under a superior and listens to the needs of others and the word of God, and 3- a monk begins his quest for God, which happens to be through a de-individualized life of work, prayer, sharing of possessions and celibacy. The RB also describes the place where this all occurs: "the workshop where we toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and the stability in the community."# Benedict suggests that the architectural order of the monastery where his rule will be enforced has to be harmonious with the life he describes. And many monasteries achieved that during their creation, such as the Abbey Church in Fontenay. Fontenay's program helps to create efficiency in the implementation of the RB upon the monks by placing significant spaces adjacent to each other. In addition, specific features of the plan give the monks all they need in order to live properly. Furthermore, Fontenay strips itself of ornamentation and superfluous elements to get back to the true values of the RB. As a result of these three aspects of the monastery, a correlation between both orders develops.
Any monastery following the RB has to be a claustra, or a space where the monks are enclosed. Not only does the building physically enclose the monk within its walls, it intends to do so mentally as well so the monk can be focused on his search for the love of God, for "the love of Christ must come before all else."# Monks live a …

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