Scholastica was Benedict’s twin sister, and both were born in Norcia, probably around the year 480. They came from a wealthy family that is said to have lived more or less on the site of the cathedral of Norcia, named after her more famous brother. That cathedral was damaged in the earthquake that shook Umbria in the summer and it finally collapsed, completely, on the morning of 30 October 2016.
Scholastica is the saintly protector of convulsive children and those threatened by storms, so perhaps it is fitting that her memory should now be evoked in the name of all those who’ve been affected by this latest natural disaster.
St Gregory the Great gives an account of Scholastica’s last meeting with her brother shortly before her death in c. 542/3. That meeting probably took place in Piumarola (often recorded as Piombarola) where a building, known as the Church of the Colloquy, was erected in the eighth century (possibly already on the site of an earlier church?). This church appears to have been destroyed by the Saracens in 893, and the site was later bombed in 1939 (Herbert Bloch, Monte Cassino in the Middle Ages, Harvard University Press, 1988, pp. 647-649).
Her twin brother’s Rule spread across Europe in the monastic reforms of the tenth century. In England, St Aethelwold (bishop 963-984) introduced it to Winchester in 964, after translating the Latin Rule into Old English (Donald Scragg, Edgar King of the English, 959-975: New Interpretations, Boydell & Brewer, 2014, p.219). By 966 Aethelwold had expelled the canons from the “New Minster” and replaced them with a community of monks living in accordance with the Rule. Later, Aethelwold formally presented the Rule to King Edgar at a meeting of England’s monastic leaders summoned in 970. It confirms that the king was the protector of monks and the queen of nuns, linking monasteries to the crown.
Elfrida (Aelfthryth), became the first queen of England to be officially crowned when Edgar was inaugurated as king for the second time in Bath in 973, a decade after their marriage (probably in 964/5).
Further north still, in Edinburgh, there is a tenuous link to St Scholastica through St Margaret, the sister of Edgar Aetheling (who was proclaimed but never crowned king in 1066 because of other momentous events).
On returning from exile, Margaret married Malcolm III and founded a Benedictine abbey in Dunfermline, where they are both buried. Scholastica’s influence is not recorded but Benedictine nunneries were later founded in North Berwick and Kilconquhar, among other places in Scotland.