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THE TWELVE MONASTERIES. 297
now re-assured by his gentle words, and from that day, while they watched their flocks, he began to instil into their rude and ignorant minds the light of the Christian faith. Gradually their report became spread abroad, pilgrims flocked from all quarters to the valley, and through the disciples who gathered round Benedict, this desolate ravine became the cradle of monastic life in the West.
"The life of Benedict, from infancy to death, is the most perfect illustration of the motives which then worked upon the mind of man. In him meet and combine together all those influences which almost divided mankind into recluses or coenobites, and those who pursued an active life; as well as all the effects, in his case the best effects, produced by this phasis of human thought and feeling. Benedict, it was said, was born at that time, like a sun to dispel the Cimmerian darkness which brooded over Christendom, and to revive the expiring spirit of monasticism. His age acknowledged Benedict as the perfect type of the highest religion, and Benedict impersonated his age.
"How perfectly the whole atmosphere was then impregnated with an inexhaustible yearning for the supernatural, appears from the ardour with which the monastic passions were indulged at the earliest age. Children were nursed and trained to expect at every instant more than human interferences; their young energies had ever before them examples of asceticism, to which it was the glory, the true felicity of life, to aspire. The thoughtful child had all his mind thus pre-occupied; he was early, it might almost seem intuitively, trained to this course of life ; wherever there was gentleness, modesty, the timidity of young passion, repugnance to vice, an imaginative temperament, a consciousness of unfitness to wrestle with the rough realities of life, the way lay invitingly open—the difficult, it is true, and painful, but direct and unerring way to heaven. It lay through perils, but was made attractive by perpetual wonders ; it was awful, but in its awfulness lay its power over the young mind. It learned to trample down that last bond which united the child to common humanity, filial reverence; the fond and mysterious attachment of the child and the mother, the inborn reverence of the son to the father."—Milmatis Latin Christianity.
Twelve monasteries speedily arose amid these peaks and gorges, each only containing twelve monks, for it was an idea of Benedict that a larger number led to idleness and neglect. The names of several of these institutions recall their romantic situations, and they were the scenes of the miracles attributed to the founder and his disciples. 5. Clemente della Vigna was the place whither Maurus and Placidus were brought to Benedict by their parents. It was situated near one of the lakes, and it was there that the sickle of a Gothic monk, which he dropped into the water while cutting weeds upon the bank, swam in answer to the prayers of Maurus, who summoned it by holding the wooden handle over the waves. This monastery was entirely destroyed by the earthquake of 1216. S. S. Cosmo and Datnian was the next to be built, the monastery which was afterwards dedicated to Scholastica. S. Biagio (S. Blaise) was 'the home of the monk Romanus, the friend of Benedict. Its church \va/ consecrated in 1100 by Manfred, Bishop of Tivoli. S. Giovanni delV Acqua was so called because there, as well as in two other houses, water is said to have burst forth from the arid rock to supply the thirsting monks, in answer to the prayers of Benedict.* Santa Maria de Marebotta was afterwards called S. Lorenzo in honour of the holy monk S. Lorenzo Loricato who lived there as a hermit, in the most severe austerity, from 1209 to 1243. At Sant' Angela, Benedict saw the devil, in the form of a black boy, leading away a monk, who had neglected to attend properly the services of the Church. In S. Victor at the foot of the Mountain lived the monk who brought the Easter food to Benedict when he was starving in the cave. S. Andreiu, or Eternal Life, was ruined in a Lombard invasion. 5. Michael the Archangel was built by Benedict beneath the Sacro Speco,
APPROACH TO THE MONASTERIES. 299
but has long since disappeared. Sanf Angelo di Trevi stood near Sta. Scholastica and was incorporated with it. S. Girolamo was rebuilt as late as 1387 in accordance with a bull of Urban VI. S. Donato has entirely disappeared. Gradually all these societies became incorporated in the great monastery dedicated to Scholastica, the holy sister of Benedict, which may be regarded as the mother house of the whole Order, and which was governed by a regular abbot chosen by the General Chapter.
The visits of the numerous Popes who have come hither form landmarks in the story of the place. In 853 Leo IV7., summoned by the Abbot Peter, came to consecrate the altars of the Sacro Speco. In 981 Benedict VII. came to consecrate Sta. Scholastica. In 1052 Leo IX. was summoned to turn out a monk who had unlawfully seized the abbacy—and issued a bull appointing Sta. Scholastica "Caput omnium monasteriorum per Italiam constitutorum." In the thirteenth century the privileges of the monastery were greatly augmented by Alexander IV., who had lived there as a simple monk, and who declared in his diploma that other Benedictine communities had only to look to Sta. Scholastica to receive a perfect model which they should copy. The same affection for the place was evinced by Urban V., who had also been a Benedictine, and who colonized the monastery with German monks, to amend the morals of the brethren, which had then grievous need of it. The last of a long series of papal visits was that of Pius IX. in the first year of his pontificate.
The road which leads from the town to the monasteries (S. Benedetto is about two and a half miles distant) is beautiful,—bordered by ilexes and olives, beneath which there is ever a carpet of tulips, hyacinths, and anemones, in spring. Gorgeous are the views looking back amid the mountain rifts, between which Subiaco rises house above house with the great archiepiscopal castle at the top of its rock. The modem Collegiata, a huge mass of building, seems to block the valley, standing almost over the stream of the Anio, and consisting of a church and palace built by Pius VI., when Cardinal Bishop of Subiaco,—being necessary, because the abbots of Santa Scholastica had been bishops also, until the see was united with a cardinalate. The nearer hills are all aglow with the richest vegetation, olives, chestnuts, and corn, and here and there the tall spire of a cypress. The air is scented by the sweet box, which grows upon the cliffs close to the road, and a freshness always rises from the river which dashes wildly through the abyss of green beneath, rejoicing to be freed from its imprisonment in the walls of cliff beneath S. Scholastica. Here a ruined gothic chapel stands amid thickets of flowers, there a gaily painted shrine, very dear to artists, surmounts the tufa rocks.
When we reach the bridge called " Ponte S. Mauro," by which the road from Olevano crosses the Anio at a great height, a carriage can go no further, and the footpath which ascends to the great monasteries turns off up the gorge to the left. Little chapels at intervals mark the rocky way, which is overhung by wild laburnum and coronilla, and fringed with saxifrage and cyclamen. The first of these chapels commemorates an interesting mediaeval story in which Benedict bore a share. Amongst those who came hither from Rome to share his teaching, were two Roman senators of high rank, Anicius and Tertullus, who brought with them their sons Maurus and Placidus, entreating