An anonymous and heterogeneous collection, in two parts, of spiritual precepts and practical legislation governing monastic life. The whole constitutes a regula monachorum or rule for monks that was undoubtedly in actual practice in one or more monastic establishments, as indicated by its bulk: a prologue of 57 lines (in the only complete MS, Paris, Bib. Nat. lat. 12205), and a thema of 314 lines and 95 chapters, many of which exceed 100 lines each. It was most probably compiled in the early part of the sixth century in the region south of Rome (present day Latium).
The Regula Magistri (RM) is a document of great value to the student of monastic institutions and early liturgical observance of the benedictines. Although St. Benedict is nowhere mentioned in the RM, it is of particular interest to note that certain passages are identical, word for word, with the benedictine rule. Hence there arose a great deal of controversy as to which of the two rules is the more ancient. In all probability, both are derived independently from still earlier sources. It should be noted that some of the material appearing in the RM seems to have little relevance to the cenobitic life, and may well be derived from primitive, Eastern, ascetic sources, e.g., the account of the gyrovagi or wandering monks in ch. I, "De generibus monachorum." There are also many echoes of John cassian, who introduced Eastern practice into southern Gaul in the early 5th century. The above Paris MS, is, itself, not later than c. 700, i.e., earlier than any MS we possess of the Benedictine Rule. Furthermore, there are extracts of the RM in Paris, Bib. Nat. lat. 12634, which may date from an even earlier period.
The RM may be studied in the diplomatic edition prepared by H. Vanderhoven and F. Masai, in collaboration with P. B. Corbett, Aux Sources du monachisme Bénédictin I, Publications de Scriptorium III (Brussels-Paris 1953), which has extensive prolegomena (5–123). For a comparison of the the RM and the Benedictine Rule, see T. Fry, ed., The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes (Collegeville, Minnesota 1981);G. Penco, S. Benedicti Regula introduzione, testo, apparati, traduzione e commento (Florence 1958); and A. de Vogüé, La Communauté et l'abbé dans la Règle de Saint Benoît (Bruges 1961). On the language of the RM, see P. B. Corbett, The Latin of the Regula Magistri (Louvain 1958).
Bibliography: m. alamo, "La Règle de Saint Benoît éclairée par sa source, la Règle du maître," Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 34 (1938) 740–55. j. pÉrez de urbel, "Le Maître et Saint Benoît," ibid. 756–64. h. vanderhoven, "S. Benoît a-t-il connu la Règle du Maître?" ibid. 40 (1944–45) 176–87. b. capelle, "Le Maître antérieur à S. Benoît?," ibid., 41 (1946) 66–75. a. genestout, "La Règle du Maître et la Règle de S. Benoît," Revue d'ascétique et de d'archéologie 21 (1940) 51–112. j. froger, "La Règle du maître et les sources du monachisme Bénédictin," ibid. 30 (1954) 275–88. f. masai, "La Règle de S. Benoît et la Regula Magistri," Latomus 6 (1947) 207–29. m. cappuyns, "L'Auteur de la Regula Magistri: Cassiodore," Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 15 (1948) 209–68. p. blanchard, "La Règle du maître et la Règle de Saint Benoît," Revue Bénédictine 60 (1950) 25–64. b. steidle, ed., Regula Magistri, Regula S. Benedicti: Studia monastica (Studia anselmiana 44; 1959). a. de vogÜÈ, La Règle du maître, 2 v. (Paris 1964), Latin text and French tr. l. eberle, The Rule of the Master (Cistercian Studies Series 6, Kalamazoo, Michigan 1977).
[p. b. corbett/eds.]