Thursday, September 4, 2014


St. Benedict of Aniane

Feast day: February 11. feast day formerly on February 12.

Born in Languedoc, France, 750/747;
Death: 821  at Cornelimuenster, Aachen, Germany, February 11,

Benedict of Aniane Responsible for a revival of Frankish monasticism in VIII/IX Centuries, St. Benedict of Aniane was the scion of a noble Visigoth family and served as cupbearer to Pepin III and Charlemagne before becoming a monk  770/773 at St.Seine near Dijon. Benedict became a hermit on his family estate and lived on the banks of the Aniane, where several other solitaries joined him. Benedict compiled all known monastic rules in Codex regularum and composed Concordia regularum to demonstrate the universality of the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia, his namesake. Benedict of Aniane may have compiled also the supplement to the Gregorian sacramentary usually attributed to Alcuin of York. At the request of King Louis I the Pious, Benedict convoked and led the synod of Aachen in 817, which determined that all monasteries in Louis' kingdom should follow the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia. Implementation of this decree was not totally successful.

 The son of the Visigoth Aigulf, count or governor of Maguelone, Witiza was cup-bearer to King Pepin and Charlemagne and served in the army of Lombardy. About age 20 he made a resolution to seek the kingdom of God with his whole heart. For three years more he served at the court while mortifying his body.

 In 774, having narrowly escaped drowning in the Tesin near Pavia while trying to save his brother during a military campaign in Lombardy, Italy, he made a vow to quit the world entirely. Witiza became a Benedictine monk at Saint-Seine near Dijon, France, where he took the name Benedict and was appointed cellarer. He spent two and one half years there living on bread and water, sleeping on the bare ground, often praying throughout the night, and going barefoot even in winter. He received insults with joy, so perfectly had he died to self. God bestowed upon him the gift of tears and an infused knowledge of spiritual things.

 When the abbot died he refused the abbacy offered him there because he knew his brothers were unwilling to reform. In 779 Benedict returned to his estate at Languedoc, where he lived as a hermit near the brook of Aniane ,Coriere, attracted numerous disciples including the holy man Widmar, and in 782 built a monastery and a church. The monks employed themselves in manual labor and copying manuscripts. They lived on bread and water except on Sundays and great feast days when they added wine or milk if they received any in alms. The results of his austere rule combining those of Benedict, Pachomius, and Basil were disappointing, so he adopted the Benedictine Rule and the monastery grew. From here his influence spread. He reformed and inaugurated other houses.

 When Bishop Felix of Urgel proposed that Christ was not the natural, but only the adoptive son of the eternal Father Adoptionism, Benedict opposed this heresy and assisted in the synod of Frankfurt in 794. He also employed his pen to refute this heresy in four treatises, which were published in the miscellanies of Balusius.

 Throughout the Frankish empire monasticism had suffered from the dual evils of lay ownership and the attacks of the Vikings. Monastic discipline had decayed regardless of the efforts of 8th and 9th century emperors who had legislated in favor of the Rule of Saint Benedict as the fundamental and stable code of conduct throughout their domains.

 Benedict of Aniane and Emperor Louis the Pious cooperated with each other to mutual benefit. The emperor, who built the abbey of Maurm√ľnster as a model abbey for Benedict in Alsace and then Cornelimunster initially called Inde near Aachen Aix-la- Chapelle, Germany, made Benedict director of all the monasteries in the empire. The monk instituted widespread reforms, though because of opposition they were not as drastic as he had wanted.

 And Benedict supported the emperor, first by moving closer to his throne at Aachen. Then, at Aachen, he presided over a meeting of all the abbots of the empire in 817-a turning point in Benedictine history. During the meeting Benedict's Capitulare monasticum, a systematization of the Benedictine Rule was approved as the rule for all monks in the empire. He also compiled the Codex regularum, a collection of all monastic regulations, and Concordia regularum, showing the resemblance of Benedict's rule to those of other monastic leaders.

 The legislation emphasized the fundamental guidelines of the Benedictine Rule, stressing individual poverty and chastity with obedience to a properly constituted abbot, who was himself a monk. Under imperial pressure for uniformity in food, drink, clothing, and the Divine Office which can be compared with Charlemagne's insistence on the Roman Rite, there was also some attempt to impose monastic observance in less important details. Benedict insisted upon the liturgical character of monastic life, including a daily conventual Mass and additions to the Divine Office. He also stressed the clerical element in monasticism which led to the development of teaching and writing as opposed to manual labor in the field. This innovative systematizing and centralization fell into desuetude after the death of Benedict and his patron Louis, but it had lasting effects on Western monasticism. The influence of his reforms can be seen in the reforms of Cluny and Gorze. For this reason, Benedict is considered the restorer of Western monasticism and is often called the 'second Benedict.'

 Benedict died with extraordinary tranquility and cheerfulness at about age 71 and was buried in the monastery church, where his relics remain and are attributed with the working of miracles .

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