Member of the Order of St. Benedict, the confederated autonomous congregations of monks and lay brothers who follow the Benedictine Rule, created by St. Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century. The Rule spread slowly in Italy and Gaul. By the 9th century it was nearly universal in northern and western Europe, where Benedictine monasteries became repositories of learning, literature, and wealth. The order declined during the 12th–15th century, when it was revived with reforms that limited abbots to fixed terms and required monks to make their vows to the congregation rather than a particular house. The Reformation virtually eliminated Benedictines from northern Europe, and they declined elsewhere. In the 19th century another revival strengthened the order in Europe, especially in France and Germany, and led to the establishment of new congregations worldwide.
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Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the autonomous communities of monks founded by him in central Italy, the most notable being Monte Cassino.
Used as a noun, the term denotes their members, the Benedictines. By extension it is sometimes applied to other adherents of the Benedictine spirituality, for example, "Oblates (secular)".
During the subsequent centuries many more Benedictine communities were founded, not only for monks but also for nuns, first throughout Europe and eventually also overseas, which led to the formation, in modern times, of the so-called Order of St Benedict. In addition to those autonomous Benedictine communities, a number of independent monastic orders were founded on the rule of St Benedict and therefore are also considered Benedictines. Such orders include the Congregation of Cluny, the Cistercians, and the Trappists. Benedictine communities are primarily found in the Catholic Church but several Benedictine communities are found among other Christian communities.
The current Abbot Primate of the all global Benedictine Confederation is Notker Wolf. The center of the Confederation is Sant' Anselmo in Rome where every four years the abbots of the Benedictine order from around the world meet for a Confederation Congress.