Around the year 500, Benedict, a young nobleman born in Nursia in Italy, retired from the world to lead a solitary life. After a few years living as a hermit, he became abbot and founded a monastery, then several more.
With an influx of disciples, Benedict founded around the year 529 the monastery of Monte Cassino. In order to structure the life of the growing community, he wrote a document which drew its inspiration from the “Rule of the Master,” from the Holy Scriptures as well as various other Christian sources.
This short treatise, which would later be called the “Rule of Saint Benedict,” organized the life of the monks and guided their spirituality. He therefore fixed the broad lines of monastic self-sufficiency: obedience, silence, poverty and humility, then divided the monks' lives between "lectio divina" (studies and meditation) and manual work.
Benedict introduced, alongside the master-disciple relationship, a horizontal relationship based on charity between the brothers. This explains its success: it was adapted to the weaknesses and capacities of men and did not claim to make monks into exceptional beings.
Over time, respect for the Rule slackened in monasteries of all kinds, and it was then that Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious, tasked one of his relatives, Benoît d'Aniane - the apostle of the strict observance - to instruct all the monasteries of the Aquitaine kingdom. The Rule of Benedict of Nursia was then revised by Benedict of Aniane, who fixed the obligation for all communities to follow the rule of Benedict of Nursia with the intention of emphasizing worship and prayer at the expense of evangelization and culture.
Louis the Pious, in 817 therefore ratified Benedict's project and imposed the Benedictine Rule on all the monasteries of his Empire and returned to the monks the power to elect their abbot. Around the year 1000, the expansion of the Benedictine rule was completed: it was applied in almost all the monasteries in the West.
The Benedictine Order was reformed several times. The intention was always to restore rigorous respect for the rules of life and to preserve the spirit of the founders, the Apostles.