Monastic Rule of St Benedict.
The Rule of Benedict of Nursia (6th century), intended to guide monks in their community life, gives indications on their diet in chapters 39 to 41. They must follow an ideal of poverty and humility. Temperance is a key word that the saint justifies with an extract from the New Testament: "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down by the excesses of eating and drinking" (Gospel according to Luke 21:34).
The Rule of Saint Benedict prohibits the consumption of meat by quadrupeds because it is assimilated to violence, blood and sexuality, fuelled by red meat; monks are only allowed to eat it in case of illness. Their daily life consists of two meals made up of bread, a little wine and purees or soups. Most of their diet is based on vegetables, legumes, fruits and eggs.
This late 11th century manuscript is a compilation of several texts, including the Rule of Saint Benedict. It was written by two copyists in tiny late Carolinas. The first word of the Rule (Avscvlta) begins with an initial decorated with vegetable branches in ink; it presents a typology called "arrow" - hollow letter and pointed twists. It is painted with minium, a lead oxide that gives it its red colour and contrasts with the rust brown of the text body.
This manuscript, generously lent by the Stiftsbibliothek of Einsiedeln, is on display at the Château de Chillon™ from 14 September 2018 to 28 April 2019 as part of the temporary exhibition "Mouthwatering! Drinking and eating in the Middle Ages".
Regula S. Benedicti
End of the 11th century