Saint Scholastica from the San Luca Altarpiece
Nursia, Umbria, Italy
|Died||10 February 543|
near Monte Cassino
|Venerated in||Catholic Church|
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Attributes||nun with crozier and crucifix; nun with dove flying from her mouth|
|Patronage||Patroness of Benedictine women's communities; school; tests; books; reading; convulsive children; nuns; invoked against storms and rain; Le Mans|
Scholastica (c. 480 - 10 February 543) is a saint of the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. She is honored in the Episcopal Church's calendar of saints. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia. Her feast day is 10 February.
According to the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, Scholastica was born c. 480 in Nursia, Umbria, of wealthy parents and with a twin brother St Benedict, Anicius Eupropius and his wife Claudia Abondantia Reguardati. While Gregory states that Scholastica was Benedict's sister, a later tradition, says she was his twin. Whether this is meant biologically or allegorically (spiritually) or both is not clear. Gregory the Great says she was dedicated to God from a young age. She and her brother Benedict were brought up together until the time he left to pursue studies in Rome.
A young Roman woman of Scholastica's class and time would likely have remained in her father's house until marriage (likely arranged) or entry into religious life. But wealthy women could inherit property, divorce, and were generally literate. On occasion several young women would live together in a household and form a religious community.
Benedictine tradition holds that Scholastica established a hermitage about five miles from Monte Cassino and that this was the first "Benedictine" convent. However, it has been suggested that it is more likely that she lived in a hermitage with one or two other religious women in a cluster of houses at the base of Mount Cassino where there is an ancient church named after her (Monastero di Santa Scolastica). Ruth Clifford Engs notes that since Dialogues indicates that Scholastica was dedicated to God at an early age, perhaps she lived in her father's house with other religious women until his death and then moved nearer to Benedict.
The most commonly told story about her is that she would, once a year, go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshiping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.
One day they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict indicated it was time for him to leave, Scholastica, perhaps sensing that the time of her death was drawing near, asked him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions. Not wishing to break his own Rule, Benedict refused, insisting that he needed to return to his cell. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside of the guest house in which they were staying. Benedict asked, "What have you done?", to which she replied, "I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can; leave me and return to your monastery." Benedict was unable to return to his monastery, and they spent the night in discussion.
Three days later, from his cell, he saw his sister's soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove. Benedict had her body brought to his monastery, where he had it laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself.
What is known of Scholastica derives from the Dialogues of Gregory the Great. Pearse A. Cusack argues that she is a literary invention on the part of Gregory to demonstrate that love supersedes law. Early calendars and place names in the area around Monte Cassino suggest that she did exist. Gregory names as his sources four of Benedict's contemporaries. Caesarius of Arles, wrote Regula virginum (Rule for Virgins), the first rule drawn up for women living in community, for his sister, Caesaria. 
Scholastica is the foundress of the women's branch of Benedictine Monasticism.
She was selected as the main motif for a high value commemorative coin: the Austria EUR50 'The Christian Religious Orders', issued 13 March 2002. On the obverse (heads) side of the coin Scholastica is depicted alongside Benedict. In iconography, Scholastica is often represented as an abbess, in a black habit and holding a book or a dove.