French    German    Spain    Italian    Arabic    Chinese Simplified    Russian

Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

Back     Printer Friendly Version  

Monday, February 26, 2024

Bookmark and Share

The Monks who built Western Civilisation

The 'Enlightenment' can't hold a candle to these men and women.

by Ferdinand III


Map of Cistercian and Clunaic Monasteries c 1200 1300 - OnePeterFive

Anathema to the ‘Enlightenment’, or to those who self-proclaimed their own greatness and ‘light’ using in their entirety, the ideas, concepts, culture, science, maths and even social wealth from the medieval-era as a foundation, is the story of Catholic monks and how they saved, built and extended civilisation.  Nothing can be more repugnant to the so-called ‘rationalists’, or ‘positivists’ than the rational, positive fact that it was the Catholic Church who saved and created Western civilisation.  Every single facet of the modern world was formed in the medieval. 


The monks are largely to thank for this.  As Christ stated, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and, all these things shall be added unto you.’  The history of monasticism is that story.  Dating from the 3rd century, individual Catholic men and women committed themselves as consecrated virgins, to lives of prayer and sacrifice, looking after the poor and sick and tending to the moral rottenness of society at large.  Saint Paul of Thebes and Saint Anthony of the desert, who lived during the mid-3rd century until the 4th, are early examples of this ascetism.  Saint Anthony’s sister was a consecrated nun.  Anthony retreated to the desert to achieve spiritual perfection and acolytes flocked to him forming a community, called ‘cenobitic’ monasticism. 


Eastern monasticism greatly influenced the Western, whose founder, Saint Benedict of Nursia established 12 small communities of monks at Subiaco, and after, the iconic monastery at Monte Cassino.  In about 529, the composed the famous rule of Saint Benedict, universally adopted in some form, by all succeeding cenobitic communities.  All were equal, a sustainable peasant-level standard of living was maintained, work and education emphasised, and charitable efforts mandatory, including poor relief and hospice care.  The purpose of the monastery was to cultivate a spiritual life, and to work out salvation in an environment under a suitable regime, which imitated in part, the life of Christ.


As time went on, the monks became the beacons of learning, progress, industry and welfare.  By the beginning of the 1300s, the Benedictine order had supplied 24 Popes, 200 cardinals, 7000 archbishops, 15000 bishops, and 1500 saints.  It could boast some 37000 monasteries across Europe.  A great many of the European great, good, not-so-good but wealthy and powerful had joined the order between 500 and 1300, including some 20 emperors, 10 empresses, 47 kings, and 50 queens.  The Benedictine impact on the general culture was colossal.


Not only were the monks the great saviours of classical writing and the arts, transcribing and safeguarding texts from the pagan, ancient world that would have been lost, they were the leaders in the practical arts.  The agricultural restoration of Europe and its ‘agricultural revolution’ which starts in the 10th or 11th centuries, is due to the work of the monks. 


The monks, including Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans Cistercians and Benedictines, converted wildernesses, cleared forests, drained marshes, pursued the breeding of sheep, cattle and pigs; and innovated technology and soil management.  Every monastery was a veritable agricultural college and engine for the region surrounding it.  Standards of living rapidly improved, health and diets were augmented, and trade was facilitated.  Roads, bridges, markets were all constructed in domains around a Benedictine monastery. 


Manual labour expressly demanded by the rule of Saint Benedict played a central role in the monastic life.  Tasks and hard work were the channels of grace and opportunities for penance and self-mortification.  Draining swamps, long viewed as sources of disease, not only benefitted the region, it led to the development of drainage, dikes and water management.  Fertile agricultural land was developed from these enormous efforts across the width and breadth of Europe.


Into these agricultural fields the monks poured new crops, industries, or production methods which were unique and innovative.  They reared cattle, horses, and brewed beer and raised bees and fruit.  In some regions the corn trade was exclusively built by the monks.  In Italy they created cheese making, in Ireland salmon farming, in many locations great vineyards.  Reservoirs of water, used during droughts, were built.  Peasants learnt irrigation and the breeding of husbandry from the monks.


Technological sophistication was deployed in building and architecture.  Water and wind powered mills and systems spread across Europe thanks to the monks.  Machinery thus became embedded in European life and pursued as an integral part of a developing economy and society.  Waterpower was used to crush grain, sieve flour, full cloth, and tan textiles.  By the 12th century, the Cistercians alone had some 742 monasteries across Europe, all of them famous and linked in this technological revolution.  Iron and mineral development was financed and worked by the monks, blast furnaces were created by the 11th century and smithing was everywhere. Advanced metallurgy was transforming Europe by the 11th century.


Unlike the pagan worlds of antiquity, mechanisation and machinery flourished in the medieval era, on an enormous scale.  There was great progress in science where Aristotle is finally overthrown through observational evidence, and real physics, unknown to the ancients is developed by the 13th century.  We can add in universities, the 7 core courses of study, maths, optics including the invention of eyeglasses, polyphony and music, string instruments such as the violin or cello, standardisation of writing and art, mechanical clocks, stained glass, the chimney and hundreds of other innovations, all propelled forward by monks. 


It is unlikely that any of the egotistical self-obsessed ‘geniuses’ of the Enlightenment could have invented any of the above. 

Article Comments:

Related Articles:

Catholic Legacy

4/14/2024:  The Cathedral School at Chartres

4/7/2024:  The Church and the rise of 'Science'

3/31/2024:  The Shroud of Turin and the physical appearance of Jesus Christ

3/24/2024:  The Scholastics and Rationalism

3/10/2024:  The Church and Medieval Universities

3/3/2024:  The Monks and the medieval industrial revolution

2/26/2024:  The Monks who built Western Civilisation

2/18/2024:  The Carolingian Renaissance or was it the Dark Ages?

2/14/2024:  The Catholic Church, a light in the darkness of pagan barbarism.

2/4/2024:  The Indispensable Catholic Church