In comparison with the Rule of Augustine (of 13 chapters, and written about the year 397), the Rule of Benedict (73 chapters) was much more detailed.
Here was monastic community more structured than what Augustine had modelled while at the same time being responsible for the ministry and administration of the Church in Hippo.
Although located in the countryside rather than in the desert a monastery following the Rule of Benedict was meant to be "away" from the distractions and turbulence of daily living.
It was to be "enclosed" in a world of prayer, order and moderation in all things.
Benedict established the monastery at Monte Cassino, where a Benedictine monastery still exists.
It is the oldest continuously inhabited monastic community in Europe.
The Rule of Saint Benedict became the Rule adopted by almost all monastic communities in Europe.
(Exceptions were the Greek and Eastern Orthodox Christian Church, and the Celtic Christian Church in Ireland, which also allowed married monks. A few separate communities lived the Rule of Saint Augustine.)
It was the custom of most these early monasteries, whether Roman, Orthodox, or Celtic, to only have around twelve members.
When another twelve had joined, they would be sent off to begin a second monastery. In later centuries, however, some individual monasteries changed this practice and had hundreds of monks.
As well as these cenobite monks (i.e., living in community), eremitical ("hermit") monks still existed.
For example, in the ninth century, Orthodox hermit monks (eremitic anchorites) began living on Mount Athos in Macedonia. In the year 963, Athanasios built there the great larva monastery that is still in use.
There were hermit monks too in isolated areas of Tuscany in northern Italy in the thirteenth century. These were the source from which the Order of Hermits of Saint Augustine arose, first in the Augustinian "Little Union" 1244, and more so in Grand Union of 1256.
With these men, and with others fifty years before them, the cenobitic (i.e., based on community) form of the monastic movement adapted with a pastoral need recognised by the Church, and evolved into the mendicant movement.
Fifty years earlier, Saint Francis of Assisi had given up his possessions and went about preaching the Gospel and helping the poor people of Umbria.
At the same time Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170 – 1221 AD) founded the Order of Preachers ("Dominicans"). In common with the Franciscans, they were monks who actively went about preaching, rather than only remaining in monasteries.
This return to the "biblical monasticism" described in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles was obviously quite different to the Benedictine style of monasticism.
The new terms, "friars," and "mendicant order" were used when referring to these new communities.
(Continued on the next page.)