Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




Idle Hands Are the Devil's Workshop

Ora et labora!



Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore at certain hours the Brothers should busy themselves with crafts, at other hours in reading Holy Writ.

The Rule of St Benedict of Nursia, from chapter forty-eight


Pray and play: In the Bavarian monastey at Andechs the monks
still observe the Rule of St Benedict.
But this doesn't mean that they are not allowed to play the odd game of cards!


Two books were always displayed at the medieval bishops' synods and meetings of the Reicherat of the Holy Roman Empire: the Bible and the Rule of St Benedict. Promoted actively by Emperor Charlemagne (742—814), the Rule was accepted throughout Europe as a guide for Christian conduct, and still today committed Christians around the world use it as a guide to godly life. The Rule, comprising seventy-three chapters, was originally conceived as a code to govern the everyday lives of monks. Regulating monastic life in astonishing detail, it even admonishes monastery cellarers to serve their fellow monks "the proper amount of food and drink" without "treating them with condescension or keeping them waiting". The humanity which is apparent in every part of the Rule and its quiet, almost democratic, tone guaranteed its success. In fact, it became the model Rule of conduct for monks and monasteries in other Orders too — and, today, the Rule is still observed in a number of recently established Benedictine monasteries in the United States. In Europe, the significance of the Rule and its fruit are far reaching. St Benedict's basic principle of "ora et labora" (prayer and work) represents a deliberate rejection of the otherworldly piety practised by the early ascetics of the deserts. The Rule, in contrast, requires the individual monk to pay more than lip-service to God by serving Him with his hands. Thus many Benedictine monasteries became the leading centres of culture in Europe, in which the art of manuscript illumination and the chronicling of history, the writing of poetry and music, the practice of agriculture and animal husbandry flourished. The best schools and the most modern hospitals of the early and high Middle Ages were run by sophisticated and highly educated monks who wore the habit of St Benedict.

What do we know about St Benedict himself, the "father of monks and educator of the West"? He was born in the Italian town of Nursia in с. 480, and later lived as a recluse in a forest east of Rome. Around 529, St Benedict founded Europe's first monastery at Monte Cassino near Naples, which became the fountain of European monasti-cism and, presumably, the place where the saint died in 547. Today, scholars question the veracity of the various details of his life which have come down to us; some even doubt whether there was a St Benedict at all. Yet, it is certain that the Rule, which bears the name of St Benedict, has powerfully formed European civilisation and culture.


Anonymous, Italian
The Death of St Benedict
11th century
Detail from Cod.Vat. Lat. 1202
Illuminated manuscript
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome


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