world). He evidently thought that once these potential loopholes were closed, the oblate would be compelled to resign himself to the religious life.

The diffusion of Benedict's Rule

The traditional view ofthe diffusion ofBenedict's Rule was that it was brought to Rome in the wake of the Lombard destruction of Monte Cassino in the 570/80s, was used by Pope Gregory I (sed. 590-604) in his own monastery on the Caelian Hill, and from Rome was then sent to England in 596 with Gregory's mission to the Anglo-Saxons. However, in the 1950s, the work of Hallinger and Ferrari21 fundamentally challenged this scenario and it became clear that the Rule was not known in Rome until the eighth century. Gregory's letters, which frequently deal with monastic questions and problems, make no mention of either Benedict or his Rule. Had he been aware of the Rule, it is likely that he would have referred to it, as it would have been of considerable help to him in his struggles to maintain order, stability and discipline in Italian monastic life in the wake of the Lombard invasions. As it was, he had to find his own independent solutions. The Rule is mentioned in two works traditionally attributed to Gregory, the Dialogues and also the Commentary on I Kings, but the authenticity of the former has been questioned on a number of grounds (see above) and the latter is now revealed as the work of a twelfth-century abbot, Peter of Cava. Neither text can be taken as evidence of the early diffusion of the Benedictine Rule. For that, we need to turn to the history of Irish monasticism on the continent and in particular to the monasteries founded by Columbanus.

Columbanian monasticism and the Frankish aristocracy

Part of monasticism's contribution to the spread of Christianity in Ireland had lain in its development and administration of a distinctive penitential system. The traditional continental practice ofpenance had involved public confession, social stigma and civil disabilities: once the status of penitent was entered into, it lasted for the rest of the individual's life. Sporadic attempts by one or two prominent churchmen to make the system slightly less unattractive never

21 Guy Ferrari, Early Roman monasteries; Kassius Hallinger, 'Papst Gregor der Grosse und der heiliger Benedikt'; see also Ottorino Porcel, 'San Gregorio Magno y el monachato' and Adalbert de Vogue, 'L'auteur du Commentaire des Rois".

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