November 30, 2015
From October 5 to 12
th, Father Hugh Assenmacher and I had the privilege of accompanying forty-five pilgrims on a Swiss Benedictine Pilgrimage, visiting monasteries and shrines in Switzerland related to the monastic heritage of Subiaco Abbey. The climax of the pilgrimage was Mass in the Mary Chapel at the Abbey of Einsiedeln, the mother Abbey in our tradition, where all the pioneer monks prayed before being sent to the Arkansas mission.
A surprise highlight of the pilgrimage, which had not been foreseen in the early planning, was an opportunity to view the premier early manuscript of the Rule of St. Benedict, copied in 820 and preserved in the library of the supressed ancient monastery of St. Gall in the city of St.-Gallen in northeast Switzerland.
In 787 Charlemagne, at that time King of the Franks, made a visit to St. Benedict’s monastery at Montecassino, Italy, and asked that an exact copy be made of their manuscript of the Rule (which was not the original, for that had disappeared). This new copy was eventually sent to Charlemagne at Aachen to be used as the basis for monastic reforms in his jurisdiction.
The Rule of Benedict was formally established in the Empire by the Synod of Aachen in 817. Within three years, the Abbot of Reichenau Monastery in Switzerland sent two of his monks to Aachen to make a copy of Charlemagne’s manuscript. Later one of the copyists became the abbot of St. Gall and took the manuscript with him from Reichenau to St. Gall, where it remains today and where by a special permission of the curator, we were able to have it displayed for us on our recent pilgrimage.