Benedictines carry on a monastic tradition that stems from the origins of the Christian monastic movement in the late third century. They regard Saint Benedict as their founder and guide even though he did not establish a Benedictine Order as such. He wrote a Rule for his monastery at Monte Cassino in Italy and he foresaw that it could be used elsewhere. Monte Cassino was destroyed by the Lombards about A.D. 577 and was not reestablished until the middle of the eighth century. Meanwhile the Rule found its way to monasteries in England, Gaul, and elsewhere. At first it was one of a number of rules accepted by a particular monastery but later, especially through the promotional efforts of Charlemagne and his son Louis, it became the rule of choice for monasteries of Europe from the ninth century onwards.
The early medieval monasteries of Europe, those for men and women, followed the Rule of Benedict with local adaptations needed in different climes and cultures. They continued, however, the tradition of community life with its common prayer, reading, and work. Some of the monasteries were founded as centers of evangelization of peoples; others carried on a program of education, art and architecture, and the making of manuscripts. Many monasteries were centers of liturgy and learning in the midst of chaotic times and shifting kingdoms.