Go to main contentGo to footer

The contemplative spirits: St. Benedict of Nursia

The 7th Heaven of Saturn hosts the contemplative spirits, those who in life was influenced by the planet that, according to medieval tradition, facilitates contemplation and prayer. In Paradise, they manifest themselves as luminous spheres that move along a golden staircase rising to infinity, which symbolizes contemplation as a means to ascend to God. The most luminous is the spirit of St. Benedict of Nursia, considered the founder of monasticism in the West, which arises in close relation to the Rule of Benedict ("ora et labora"), centered on the relationship between the monk and the life of his community. In his wandering in the lands of centre Italy, he founded innumerable religious communities and monasteries, including, the famous one in Montecassino, where he died. Benedict too, like Thomas and Bonaventure, after having illustrated the episodes of his life to Dante, ends by dwelling on the degenerations and vices of the monks belonging to his order, guilty of having deviated from the spirit of his Rule, abandoning theirselves to corruption and thirst for wealth.

“If thou couldst see
Even as myself the charity that burns
Among us, thy conceits would be expressed;
But, that by waiting thou mayst not come late
To the high end, I will make answer even
Unto the thought of which thou art so chary.
That mountain on whose slope Cassino stands
Was frequented of old upon its summit
By a deluded folk and ill-disposed;
And I am he who first up thither bore
The name of Him who brought upon the earth
The truth that so much sublimateth us.
And such abundant grace upon me shone
That all the neighbouring towns I drew away
From the impious worship that seduced the world.
These other fires, each one of them, were men
Contemplative, enkindled by that heat
Which maketh holy flowers and fruits spring up.
Here is Macarius, here is Romualdus,
Here are my brethren, who within the cloisters
Their footsteps stayed and kept a steadfast heart.”

Paradise, XXII, 31-51.

Video Stories

The Newsletter of the Uffizi Galleries

Subscribe to keep up to date!