St Benedict was born in Umbria, in modern-day Italy, in around 480 AD. At the age of about 20 he went to study in Rome, but soon moved to Enfide on the outskirts of the city. One day he met a monk and, on his advice, became a hermit and lived in a cave near Subiaco for three years. Later, he founded twelve local communities of monks, before establishing the great monastery of Monte Cassino, on a hilltop between Rome and Naples. His great achievement was to write the Rule of St Benedict, a guide for monastic living, which was both spiritual and practical.
There is no evidence that Benedict intended to create a formal order of monks, and in fact Benedictines are different from other Western religious orders, in that each community (or “house”) is autonomous. In modern times though, houses have formed themselves into 19 different “congregations” worldwide. The oldest of these is the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC).