Saint Benedict (480 – 547) was born in Nursia, north central Italy, into a noble family. He had a twin sister called Scholastica who from childhood vowed herself to God and is also a canonized saint.
While he was still a child, his family moved to Rome where he attended the local schools. He left the city, however, before turning 20, repulsed by the moral depravity surrounding him. Along with his childhood nurse, he settled in Enfide, modern day Affile. Here, St Benedict performed his first miracle, restoring a cookware which she had broken. The attention brought to him by this miracle drove him to seek greater solitude and he went to live by himself in a cave where he spent his time in prayer, fasting and manual labour. His strict lifestyle offended the lax religious with whom he came into contact and twice they attempted to kill him by poisoning. Once, by giving him a glass of poisoned wine to drink. When he blessed the cup, before drinking, it shattered leaving him unharmed. In the other instance, he was given a poisoned loaf of bread. When he blessed it, a crow swooped down onto the table, grabbed the bread and flew away with it.
With time, other devout men, wishing to lead a similar life, joined Saint Benedict. His fame for holiness spread throughout the region and as the number of his followers grew he left his eremitical life to found monasteries on Mount Subiaco to house them. He also wrote a rule for them which is followed to this day by Benedictine monks around the world. In 530, he founded the great Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino, which lies on a hilltop between Rome and Naples. In the spring of 547, soon after his sister’s death and sensing his own approaching death, St Benedict had a grave dug and gave instructions to his followers that he should be buried there along with his sister. He died six days later, on March 21, and was buried according to his directions. Today he is venerated as one of the patron saints of Europe and of monastic life.