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The Benedictines in the Middle Ages

The Benedictines in the Middle Ages

James G. Clark
Series: Monastic Orders
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Benedictines in the Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    The men and women that followed the sixth-century customs of Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.547) formed the most enduring, influential, numerous and widespread religious order of the Latin middle ages. Their liturgical practice, and their acquired taste for learning, served as a model for the medieval church as a whole: while new orders arose, they took some of their customs, and their observant and spiritual outlook, from the ‘Regula Benedicti’. The Benedictines may also be counted among the founders of medieval Europe. In many regions of the continent they created, or consolidated, the first Christian communities; they also directed the development of their social organisation, economy, and environment, and exerted a powerful influence on their emerging cultural and intellectual trends. This book, the first comparative study of its kind, follows the Benedictine Order over eleven centuries, from their early diaspora to the challenge of continental reformation. Dr James G. Clark teaches in the Department of History at the University of Bristol.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-947-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-x)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The men and women that followed the sixth-century customs of Benedict of Nursia (c. 480–c. 547) formed the most enduring, influential, numerous and widespread religious order of the Latin Middle Ages. Their mode of life superseded the monastic codes of the early Christian fathers and before the close of the eleventh century it was the dominant form of monastic observance practised in the west. At this date their principal monasteries in France, Italy, Germany and the Low Countries held as many as 200 professed members, and there were the beginnings of a Benedictine presence on the eastern boundary of...

  8. CHAPTER ONE The Making of a European Order
    (pp. 5-59)

    In medieval Europe the Benedictines represented the archetype of a religious order, the exponents of an apparently timeless tradition from which all forms of monastic life had descended. This perception became sharply focused in the period of their political, ecclesiastical and cultural pre-eminence, but it masked the centuries in which a plural clerical and monastic culture prevailed. The Regula Benedicti (RB) was not the first monastic code of the medieval west, and, in the formative years of European Christianity, there were others, such as the Celtic customs of Columban of Bangor (c. 543–615), that played a greater role in...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Observance
    (pp. 60-129)

    The Benedictines were defined by the Regula Benedicti. Other medieval orders drew inspiration from the example of charismatic founders, from spiritual charters, and from a succession of congregational (episcopal and papal) constitutions, but none of them was bound to a single code. The RB gave a complete account of the monastic vocation, from the rejection of the world (RB, prologue) to the final reunion with God (‘ad patriam caelestem’: RB, lxxiii). Remarkably, for a text whose transmission and translation was uninterrupted for a millennium the RB also retained its coherence; from the time it first came together as a sequence...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Society
    (pp. 130-188)

    Benedict called upon his followers to forsake society, but those that adopted his rule fashioned a life that acknowledged and assimilated the economic, social and cultural ways of the world. In the medieval mind the monastery was conceived as a city, certainly a centre of worship, but also a focus of material, social and political commerce. The Benedictines were the monks of society (‘qui iuxta homines habitant’), a counterpoint to the monks outside society, ‘away from all disturbance’ (‘a turbis omnino segregati’), the archetype of early monasticism to which the reformed orders aspired.¹ The social integration of the black monks...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Culture
    (pp. 189-254)

    The profile of the Benedictines in economic and social life was matched by their cultural power. From early times the Black Monks cultivated a commitment to learning not only in the clerical fields of scripture and theology but also in the secular arts which they, together with the courts of Charlemagne and Otto, were responsible for recovering from the ruins of antiquity. In the formative centuries of medieval Christendom it was principally Benedictine scholars that set the pattern not only for the exposition and transmission of Christian doctrine but for the use of language, practice of reading (ruminatively, silently) and...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE The Later Middle Ages
    (pp. 255-315)

    Benedictine monasticism flowered when European society was in its infancy. The order, self-sufficiency and stability of the cenobium captured the imagination of peoples for whom a settled existence, and even subsistence, remained elusive. The early Benedictine monastery was not only a refuge but also an essential building block of the medieval community, a surrogate economic and social unit and, in the absence of an institutional church or state authority, a source of spiritual and temporal governance. Yet as the order neared the apex of its influence, and a pope (Gregory VII, 1073–85) widely credited as Benedictine announced a new...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Reformations
    (pp. 316-341)

    The dissolution of monasteries has always been overshadowed by the political and popular dramas of the European Reformation. Indeed, the perceived ease of the suppressions – which began in Saxony and Hesse the 1520s and ended (for the sixteenth century at least) in the States of Holland in 1584 – has encouraged the view that the experience of the religious orders represented only a brief epilogue to a story that ended long before 1517, one that could be connected only coincidentally with the sixteenth-century spirit of reform. Successive waves of revisionism have reinforced this view, recasting Europe’s Reformation on the one hand...

  14. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 342-353)
  15. Index
    (pp. 354-374)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 375-375)