Benedictines are monks and nuns following the rules of Saint Benedict of Nursia. A Benedictine habit has a tunic and a scapular and then a cowl with a hood is worn over these. Early Benedictine's probably wore white, because that is the natural color of undyed wool; now, black has become the standard color (hence Benedictines being called "black monks").
The first twelve Benedictine monasteries were founded near Rome during the 6th century; St. Benedict founded these, the most famous of which is the abbey at Monte Cassino. At the time, Benedictine monasticism was not terribly ascetic or strict; after all, it required that monks be given adequate food, clothing, and shelter (as opposed to being beggars). The Benedictine order was the most important one in western Europe until the mendicant orders of the 13th century.
The schedule of prayers and life in a Benedictine monastery:
Names of prayers, which were often sung or chanted, are in italics
2:00 am: Nocturn
5:30 am: Lauds
7:00 am: Prime
7:00 am-9:00 am: Morning work- assigned tasks
9:00 am: Terce
9:30 am- 11:30 am: Manual labor, again assigned
11:30 am: Sext
Lunch: eaten in silence while someone reads from Psalms
3:00 pm: None (neil pointed out to me that I should clarify: this is a Latin word, not an English one)
3:30 pm- 6:00 pm: various tasks, such as tending crops, tailoring, working in the scriptorium, baking bread for the inhabitants of the monastery as well as beggars and pilgrims
6:00 pm: Vespers
6:30 pm- 8:00 pm: free time, often used for reading or meditation
8:00 pm- Compline
8:30 pm- 2:00 am: Sleep
Some statistics shamelessly swiped from Encarta
Gregory I was the first of 50 Benedictines who have occupied the papal throne; some others were Leo IV, Gregory VII, Pius VII, and Gregory XVI. St. Augustine, the disciple of Gregory the Great who took the Benedictine rule to England late in the 6th century, became the first of a long list of Benedictine archbishops of Canterbury. As early as 1354 the order had provided 24 popes, 200 cardinals, 7000 archbishops, 15,000 bishops, 1560 canonized saints, and 5000 holy persons worthy of canonization, a number since increased to 40,000, and it had included 20 emperors, 10 empresses, 47 kings, 50 queens, and many other royal and noble persons. The order had 37,000 monks in the 14th century; in the 15th century it had 15,107 (as a result of the Black Death). The Reformation left not more than 5000, but this number has since increased to about 11,000 men and 25,000 women. During the 20th century, the order has spread in the United States, and several large abbeys and a number of smaller monasteries, totaling about 30, are currently maintained there; most of them have schools or colleges attached to the monastery.