Laborare est orate (Five Contributions of the Benedictine Monks to Western Civilization)


Today July 11,  is the feast day of the St. Benedict, patron saint of Europe. Here is a list of five hastily collected contributions of the Benedictine monks to Western Civilization.

The motto of the Benedictine monk is “laborare est orare” which translates “to work is to pray” and they worked…

1. Agriculture

Many of the Europe farmlands once were marshes or swamps that were very difficult to cultivate. However, when a monastery was established in the area the monks took it upon themselves to turn barren lands into productive farmlands.

2. Education

Benedictine monks not only pioneered many forms of agriculture, but also instructed the rest of the population in the newly developed agricultural techniques during the middle and late Middle Ages. Dr. Woods noted in his book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization:

“…every Benedictine monastery was an agricultural college for the whole region in which it was located.”

This provided an incalculable benefit for the populations surrounding the monasteries.

Monastery were not only center for agriculture, but for education and development of the arts. Thanks to Benedictine monks the Carolingian minuscule was established as the new standard for writing. This is perhaps one of the most important advancement of the early Middle Ages because it provided a universal standard way to write manuscripts that more people could understand. For example, it introduced spaces between words, lower case letters and punctuation. This allows easier writing and reading, which in turn served as a catalyst for education.

3. Industries

They fomented Ireland’s Salmon fisheries, corn commerce in Sweden and cheese making in Italy. They also improved cattle breeding and production of wine.

4. Architecture

They contributed to the medieval church architecture. Directed spring waters to Paris and expanded the use of waterpower devises throughout Europe.

5. Inventions

First modern clock (996 AD), Glider (1200 AD), advanced furnaces for the production of metals among many other inventions.

There are many other contributions of the Benedictine monks to Western Civilization. They provided healthcare, food, education and support to the arts to the surrounding population. Preserved cultural identity against Barbarian invasions. It is a understatment that Europe owes progress and survival to the humble Benedicine monks…it is such a pitty that they ignored, nay abandoned  such contributions at the foundation of the European Union Constitution, more on that in future muses…

St. Benedict, pray for us!

Reference: I hastily composed this post thanks to the great post by Oblates Spring, upon which I drow most of the information presented here.

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