|St Scholastica Altar, Austria, 1765|
Today is the feast of St Scholastica (480-543), twin sister of St Benedict, and foundress and patroness of Benedictine nuns. The martyrology entry is:
"On Monte Cassino, St. Scholastica, virgin, whose soul was seen by her brother, St. Benedict, abbot, leaving her body in the form of a dove, and ascending into heaven."
Almost everything we know about St Scholastica, as for so many Italian saints of the era, comes from St Gregory the Great's Dialogues. In them, she outshines her brother in holiness, able to call on God's help in the form a storm to prolong her visit when St Benedict is being overly stuffy about sticking to the rules! St Gregory also records St Benedict's vision of her entry into heaven in the form of a dove.
Tradition holds that she established a convent at Piumarola in Italy, living under the same Rule as used at nearby Monte Cassino. A useful reconstruction of some aspects of the social context in which she lived can be found here. It is worth noting that scholars have found early calendars and place-names in the Monte Cassino region which do offer some independent evidence of a modest nature for the historical reality of St Scholastica.