Benedict was of a noble family in Nursia, near Rome, and had a twin sister, Scholastica, also a saint and co-founder with him.
Sent to Rome for his education, Benedict abhorred the licentiousness of his companions in the city and secretly left Rome. He found his way to the village of Enfide, where, far from the din, he realized that he was called to a life of solitude.
Climbing higher to a rugged, wild place called Subiaco, he met a hermit, Romanus, who giving him a habit of sheepskin, initiated him in the hermitical life in a cave high up in the mountain.
In this desolate place, Benedict spent three years in total solitude, once a day lowering a basket to Romanus who brought him bread and kept the secret of his whereabouts.
As the fame of the sanctity and the miraculous powers of the young recluse spread, disciples gathered. Benedict set up a system of twelve wooden monasteries, containing each twelve monks headed by a superior, himself directing all from his cave.
Once these communities where established, Benedict moved on to Monte Cassino. At the site of a big temple, he built two chapels, and around the sanctuary there gradually arose the greatest abbey the world has ever known.
Profiting from the experience at Subiaco, Benedict now no longer placed those who flocked to him in separate houses but gathered them in one establishment, ruled over by priors and deans under his general supervision. Here he also built guest rooms, for as Monte Cassino was nearer Rome, not only laymen but dignitaries came to consult with the holy founder.
It was most certainly at this period that Benedict composed his rule of monastic life, which was to influence all of Europe.
At Mount Cassino, famous for his sanctity and miracles, Benedict far from confining his care to his monks alone, extended it to the population in the surrounding country. He relieved the distressed, healed the sick, distributed alms, nourished the poor, and is said to have raised the dead on more than one occasion.
The great saint, who had foretold so many things, also foretold his own death. He notified his disciples, and bid them dig a grave six days before the end. As soon as his burial site was ready, he was struck with a fever and on the last day received Holy Communion. Then, lovingly supported by his spiritual sons, he expired, standing on his feet in his chapel, his hands uplifted to heaven.