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HIST 0210/RELI 0210 Medieval Monasticism

This course examines medieval monasticism in religious and historical context. From origins in late antiquity, monasticism became one of the central expressions of medieval Christianity.   The ‘long twelfth century’ was an especially important period, as international  monastic orders such as the Carthusians and Cistercians developed for the first time. Monks and nuns sought to renounce the temptations of the material world by withdrawing into lives of poverty and celibacy.  They were distinct from wider Christian society, yet also focal points for lay devotion,  Major monasteries became important centres of political and economic power.  Many of the most important intellectual figures of the middle ages were monks or nuns.  Students are able to use the numerous sources (in translation) produced by and about medieval monasticism, as well as the rich modern scholarship on the subject. 

Sample Topics

  • ‘I and God alone’: The Desert Fathers
  • The Rule of St Benedict
  • Tenth-Century Reform: Cluny and Others
  • Monasticism for Women
  • A New Israel? Bernard and the Cistercians
  • The Twelfth-Century Explosion
  • ‘To follow as paupers the pauper Christ’: the Mendicants
  • Late Medieval Monasticism & its Critics
You never know what you'll find
One afternoon, I left St. Michael's Hall with the desire for a cookie and thought I'd pick one up before heading back to the Bodleian. The shop around...
Gabrielle Linnell, Spring Semester 2012, Wellesley College