The rule of seven for dating
An exact diplomatic reprint (not in facsimile) of this codex was published at Monte Cassino in 1900, so that the text of this manuscript, certainly the best individual text of the Rule in existence, can be studied without difficulty.
Various other manuscripts go back to Charlemagne's manuscript, or to its original at Monte Cassino, which was destroyed by fire in 896, and thus the text of the so-called autograph may be restored by approved critical methods with quite unusual certainty, and could we be certain that it really was the autograph, there would be no more to say.
This work holds the first place among monastic legislative codes, and was by far the most important factor in the organization and spread of monasticism in the West. Benedict wrote his Rule are not known, nor can it be determined whether the Rule, as we now possess it, was composed as a single whole or whether it gradually took shape in response to the needs of his monks.
For its general character and also its illustration of St. Somewhere about 530 however, may be taken as a likely date, and Monte Cassino as a more probable place than Subiaco, for the Rule certainly reflects St. The earliest chronicler says that when Monte Cassino was destroyed by the Lombards in 581, the monks fled to Rome, carrying with them, among other treasures, a copy of the Rule "which the holy Father had composed"; and in the middle of the eighth century there was in the pope's library a copy believed to be St. It has been assumed by many scholars that this was the copy brought from Monte Cassino ; but though this is likely enough, it is not a certainty.
Several copies of the Rule were made from it, one of which survives to this day; for there can be no doubt that the present Codex 914 of the St.
Gall Library was copied directly from Charlemagne's copy for the Abby of Reichnau.
The manuscripts, from the tenth century onwards, and the ordinary printed editions, give mixed texts, made up out of the two earliest types.
But as already pointed out, it is not quite certain that it was St.
Benedict's autograph, and the case is complicated by the circumstance that there is in the field another type of text, represented by the oldest known manuscript, the Oxford Hatton manuscript 42, and by other very early authorities, which certainly was the text most widely diffused in the seventh and eighth centuries. Benedict's first recension and the "autograph" his later revision, or whether the former is but a corrupted form of the latter, is a question which is still under debate, though the majority of critics lean towards the second alternative.
Benedict's own life, see the article SAINT BENEDICT. Be that as it may, this manuscript of the Rule was presented by Pope Zachary to Monte Cassino in the middle of the eighth century, a short time after the restoration of that monastery.
Here, however, it is treated in more detail, under the following heads: I. Charlemagne found it there when he visited Monte Cassino towards the end of the century, and at his request a most careful transcript of it was made for him, as an exemplar of the text to be disseminated throughout the monasteries of his empire.