Monasticism.—Monasticism or monachism, literally the act of “dwelling alone” (Greek, monos, monazein, monachos), has come to denote the mode of life pertaining to persons living in seclusion from the world, under religious vows and subject to a fixed rule, as monks, friars, nuns, or in general as religious. The basic idea of monasticism in all its varieties is seclusion or withdrawal from the world or society. The object of this is to achieve a life whose ideal is different from and largely at variance with that pursued by the majority of mankind; and the method adopted, no matter what its precise details may be, is always self-abnegation or organized asceticism. Taken in this broad sense monachism may be found in every religious system which has attained to a high degree of ethical development, such as the Brahmin, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Moslem religions, and even in the system of those modern communistic societies, often anti-theological in theory, which are a special feature of recent social development especially in America. Hence it is claimed that a form of life which flourishes in environments so diverse must be the expression of a principle inherent in human nature and rooted therein no less deeply than the principle of domesticity, though obviously limited to a far smaller portion of mankind. This article and its two ensuing sections, EASTERN MONASTICISM and WESTERN MONASTICISM, deal with the monastic order strictly so called as distinct from the “religious orders” such as the friars, canons regular, clerks regular, and the more recent congregations. For information as to these see Religious Orders. and the article on the particular order or congregation required.
I. ITS GROWTH AND METHOD
Any discussion of pre-Christian asceticism is outside the scope of this article, but readers who wish to study this portion of the subject may be referred to Part I, of Dr. Zockler’s “Askese and Monchtum” (Frankfort, 1897), which deals with the prevalence of the ascetic idea among races of the most diverse character. So too, any question of Jewish asceticism as exemplified in the Essenes or Therapeutae of Philo’s “De Vita Contemplativa” is excluded, but for this reference may be given to Mr. F. C. Conybeare’s volume “Philo about the Contemplative Life” (Oxford, 1895), by which the authenticity of the work has been reinstated after the attacks of Dr. Lucius and other scholars. It has already been pointed out that the monastic ideal is an ascetic one, but it would be wrong to say that the earliest Christian asceticism was monastic. Any such thing was rendered impossible by the circumstances in which the early Christians were placed, for in the first century or so of the Church‘s existence the idea of living apart from the congregation of the faithful, or of forming within it associations to practice special renunciations in common was out of question. While admitting this however it is equally certain that monasticism, when it came, was little more than a precipitation of ideas previously in solution among Christians. For asceticism is the struggle against worldly principles, even with such as are merely worldly with-out being sinful. The world desires and honors wealth, so the ascetic loves and honors poverty. If he must have something in the nature of property then he and his fellows shall hold it in common, just because the world respects and safeguards private ownership. In like manner he practices fasting and virginity that thereby he may repudiate the licence of the world.
Hereafter the various items of this renunciation will be dealt with in detail, they are mentioned at this stage merely to show how the monastic ideal was foreshadowed in the asceticism of the Gospel and its first followers. Such passages as I John, ii, 15-17: “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the concupiscence thereof. But he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever”—passages which might be multiplied, and can bear but one meaning if taken literally. And this is precisely what the early ascetics did. We read of some who, driven by the spirit of God dedicated their energies to the spread of the Gospel and, giving up all their possessions passed from city to city in voluntary poverty as apostles and evangelists. Of others we hear that they renounced property and marriage so as to devote their lives to the poor and needy of their particular church. If these were not strictly speaking monks and nuns, at least the monks and nuns were such as these; and, when the monastic life took definite shape in the fourth century, these forerunners were naturally looked up to as the first exponents of monachism. For the truth is that the Christian ideal is frankly an ascetic one and monachism is simply the endeavor to effect a material realization of that ideal, or organization in accordance with it, when taken literally as regards its “Counsels” as well as its “Precepts” (see Asceticism; Evangelical Counsels).
Besides a desire of observing the evangelical counsels, and a horror of the vice and disorder that prevailed in a pagan age, two contributory causes in particular are often indicated as leading to a renunciation of the world among the early Christians. The first of these was the expectation of an immediate Second Advent of Christ (cf.4 Cor., vii, 29-31; I Pet., IV, 7, etc.). That this belief was widespread is admitted on all hands, and obviously it would afford a strong motive for renunciation since a man who expects this present order of things to end at any moment, will lose keen interest in many matters commonly held to be important. This belief however had ceased to be of any great influence by the fourth century, so that it cannot be regarded as a determining factor in the origin of monasticism which then tool: visible shape. A second cause more operative in leading men to renounce the world was the vividness of their belief in evil spirits. The first Christians saw the kingdom of Satan actually realized in the political and social life of heathendom around them. In their eyes the gods whose temples shone in every city were simply devils and to participate in their rites was to join in devil worship. When Christianity first came in touch with the Gentiles the Council of Jerusalem by its decree about meat offered to idols (Acts, xv, 20) made clear the line to be followed. Consequently certain professions were practically closed to believers since a soldier, schoolmaster, or state official of any kind might be called upon at a moment’s notice to participate in some act of the state religion. But the difficulty existed for private individuals also. There were gods who presided over every moment of a man’s life, gods of house and garden, of food and drink, of health and sickness. To honor these was idolatry, to ignore them would attract inquiry and possibly persecution. And so when, to men placed in this dilemma, St. John wrote, “Keep yourselves from idols” (I John, v, 21) he said in effect “Keep yourselves from public life, from society, from politics, from intercourse of any kind with the heathen”, in short “renounce the world”.
By certain writers the communistic element seen in the Church of Jerusalem during the first years of its existence (Acts, iv, 32) has sometimes been pointed to as indicating a monastic element in its constitution, but no such conclusion is justified. Probably the community of goods was simply a natural continuation of the practice, begun by Jesus and the Apostles, where one of the band kept the common purse and acted as steward. There is no indication that such a custom was ever instituted elsewhere and even at Jerusalem it seems to have collapsed at an early period. It must be recognized also that influences such as the above were merely contributory and of comparatively small importance The main cause which begot monachism was simply the desire to fulfil Christ’s law literally, to imitate Him in all simplicity, following in His footsteps whose “kingdom is not of this world”. So we find monachism at first instinctive, informal, unorganized, sporadic; the expression of the same force working differently in different places, persons, and circumstances; developing with the natural growth of a plant according to the environment in which it finds itself and the character of the individual listener who heard in his soul the call of “Follow Me”.
2. Means to the End.
—It must be clearly understood that, in the case of the monk, asceticism is not an end in itself. For him, as for all men, the end of life is to love God. Monastic ascetism then means the removal of obstacles to loving God, and what these obstacles are is clear from the nature of love itself. Love is the union of wills. If the creature is to love God, he can do it in one way only; by sinking his own will in God‘s, by doing the will of God in all things: “if ye love Me keep my commandments”. No one understands better than the monk those words of the beloved disciple, “Greater love bath no man than this that a man lay down his life”, for in his case life has come to mean renunciation. Broadly speaking this renunciation has three great branches corresponding to the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
There are few subjects, if any, upon which more sayings of Jesus have been preserved than upon the superiority of poverty over wealth in His kingdom (cf. Matt., v, 3; xiii, 22; xix, 21 sq; Mark, x, 23 sq.; Luke, vi, 20; xviii, 24 sq., etc.), and the fact of their preservation would indicate that such words were frequently quoted and presumably frequently acted upon. The argument based upon such passages as Matt., xix, 21 sq., may be put briefly thus. If a man wish to attain eternal life it is better for him to renounce his possessions than to retain them. Jesus said, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God“, the reason being no doubt that it is difficult to prevent the affections from becoming attached to riches, and that such attachment makes admission into Christ’s kingdom impossible. As St. Augustine points out, the disciples evidently understood Jesus to include all who covet riches in the number of “the rich”, otherwise, considering the small number of the wealthy compared with the vast multitude of the poor, they would not have asked, “Who then shall be saved”? “You cannot serve God and Mammon” is an obvious truth to a man who knows by experience the difficulty of a whole-hearted service of God; for the spiritual and material good are in immediate antithesis, and where one is the other cannot be. Man cannot sate his nature with the temporal and yet retain an appetite for the eternal; and so, if he would live the life of the spirit, he must flee the lust of the earth and keep his heart detached from what is of its very nature unspiritual. The extent to which this voluntary poverty is practiced has varied greatly in the monachism of different ages and lands. In Egypt the first teachers of monks taught that the renunciation should be made as absolute as possible. Abbot Agathon used to say, “Own nothing which it would grieve you to give to another”. St. Macarius once, on returning to his cell, found a robber carrying off his scanty furniture. He thereupon pretended to be a stranger, harnessed the robber’s horse for him and helped him to get his spoil away. Another monk had so stripped himself of all things that he possessed nothing save a copy of the Gospels. After a while he sold this also and gave the price away saying, “I have sold the very book that bade me sell all I had”.
As the monastic institute became more organized legislation appeared in the various codes to regulate this point among others. That the principle remained the same however is clear from the strong way in which St. Benedict speaks of the matter while making special allowance for the needs of the infirm, etc. (Reg. Ben., xxxiii). “Above everything the vice of private ownership is to be cut off by the roots from the monastery. Let no one presume either to give or to receive anything without leave of the abbot, nor to keep anything as his own, neither book, nor writing tablets, nor pen, nor anything whatsoever, since it is unlawful for them to have their bodies or wills in their own power”. The principle here laid down, viz., that the monk’s renunciation of private property is absolute, remains as much in force today as in the dawn of monasticism. No matter to what extent any individual monk may be allowed the use of clothing, books, or even money, the ultimate proprietorship in such things can never be permitted to him. (See Poverty; Mendicant Friars; Vows.)
If the things to be given up be tested by the criterion of difficulty, the renunciation of material possessions is clearly the first and easiest step for man to take, as these things are external to his nature. Next in difficulty will come the things that are united to man’s nature by a kind of necessary affinity. Hence in the ascending order chastity is the second of the evangelical counsels, and as such it is based upon the words of Jesus, “If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters yea and his own soul also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke, xiv, 26). It is obvious that of all the ties which bind the human heart to this world the possession of wife and children is the strong-est. Moreover the renunciation of the monk includes not only these but in accordance with the strictest teaching of Jesus all sexual relations or emotion arising therefrom. The monastic idea of chastity is a life like that of the angels. Hence the phrases, “angelicus ordo”, “angelica conversatio”, which have been adopted from Origen to describe the life of the monk, no doubt in reference to Mark, xii, 25. It is primarily as a means to this end that fasting takes so important a place in the monastic life. Among the early Egyptian and Syrian monks in particular fasting was carried to such lengths that some modern writers have been led to regard it almost as an end in itself, instead of being merely a means and a subordinate one at that. This error of course is confined to writers about monasticism, it has never been countenanced by any monastic teacher. (See Celibacy of the Clergy; Chastity; Continence; Fast; Vows.)
“The first step in humility is obedience without delay. This befits those who count nothing dearer to them than Christ on account of the holy service which they have undertaken. with-out doubt such as these follow that thought of the Lord when He said, I came not to do my own will but the will of Him that sent me” (Reg. Ben., v). Of all the steps in the process of renunciation, the denial of a man’s own will is clearly the most difficult. At the same time it is the most essential of all as Jesus said (Matt., xvi, 24), “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. The most difficult because self-interest, self-protection, self-regard of all kinds are absolutely a part of man’s nature, so that to master such instincts requires a supernatural strength. The most essential also because by this means the monk achieves that perfect liberty which is only to be found where is the Spirit of the Lord. It was Seneca who wrote, “parere deo libertas est”, and the pagan philosopher’s dictum is confirmed and testified to on every page of the Gospel. In Egypt at the dawn of monasticism the custom was for a young monk to put himself under the guidance of a senior whom he obeyed in all things. Although the bond between them was wholly voluntary the system seems to have worked perfectly and the commands of the senior were obeyed without hesitation. “Obedience is the mother of all the virtues”: “obedience is that which openeth heaven and raiseth man from the earth”: “obedience is the food of all the saints, by her they are nourished, through her they come to perfection”: such sayings illustrate sufficiently the view held on this point by the fathers of the desert. As the monastic life came to be organized by rule, the insistence on obedience remained the same, but its practice was legislated for. Thus St. Benedict at the very outset, in the Prologue to his Rule, reminds the monk of the prime purpose of his life, viz., “that thou mayest return by the labor of obedience to Him from whom thou hadst departed by the sloth of disobedience”. Later he devotes the whole of his fifth chapter to this subject and again, in detailing the vows his monks must take, while poverty and chastity are presumed as implicitly included, obedience is one of the three things explicitly promised.
Indeed the saint even legislates for the circumstance of a monk being ordered to do something impossible. “Let him seasonably and with patience lay before his superior the reasons of his incapacity to obey, without showing pride, resistance or contradiction. If, however, after this the superior still persist in his command, let the younger know that it is expedient for him, and let him obey for the love of God trusting in His assistance” (Reg. Ben., lxviii). Moreover “what is commanded is to be done not fearfully, tardily, nor coldly, nor with murmuring, nor with an answer showing unwillingness, for the obedience which is given to superiors is given to God, since He Himself hath said, He that heareth you, heareth Me” (Reg. Ben., v). It is not hard to see why so much emphasis is laid on this point. The object of monasticism is to love God in the highest degree possible in this life. In true obedience the will of the servant is one with that of his master, and the union of wills is love. Wherefore, that the obedience of the monk’s will to that of God may be as simple and direct as possible, St. Benedict writes (ch. ii) “the abbot is considered to hold in the monastery the place of Christ Himself, since he is called by His name” (see Obedience; Vows). St. Thomas, in chapter xi of his Opusculum “On the Perfection of the Spiritual Life“, points out that the three means of perfection, poverty, chastity, and obedience, belong peculiarly to the religious state. For religion means the worship of God alone, which consists in offering sacrifice, and of sacrifices the holocaust is the most perfect. Consequently, when a man dedicates to God all that he has, all that he takes pleasure in, and all that he is, he offers a holocaust; and this he does preeminently by the three religious vows.
3. The Different Kinds of Monks
It must be clearly understood that the monastic order properly so-called differs from the friars, clerks regular, and other later developments of the religious life in one fundamental point. The latter have essentially some special work or aim, such as preaching, teaching, liberating captives, etc., which occupies a large place in their activities and to which many of the observances of the monastic life have to give way. This is not so in the case of the monk. He lives a special kind of life for the sake of the life and its consequences to himself. In a later section we shall see that monks have actually undertaken external labors of the most varied character, but in every case this work is extrinsic to the essence of the monastic state. Christian monasticism has varied greatly in its external forms, but, broadly speaking, it has two main species (a) the eremitical or solitary, (b) the cenobitical or family types. Saint Anthony (q.v.) may be called the founder of the first and Saint Pachomius (q.v.) of the second.
(a) The Eremitical Type of Monasticism
This way of life took its rise among the monks who settled around St. Anthony’s mountain at Pispir and whom he organized and guided. In consequence it prevailed chiefly in northern Egypt from Lycopolis (Asyut) to the Mediterranean, but most of our information about it deals with Nitria and Scete. John Cassian (q.v.) and Palladius (q.v.) give us full details of its working and from them we learn that the strictest hermits lived out of ear-shot of each other and only met together for Divine worship on Saturdays and Sundays, while others would meet daily and recite their psalms and hymns together in little companies of three or four. There was no Rule of Life among them but, as Palladius says, “they have different practices, each as he is able and as he wishes”. The elders exercised an authority, but chiefly of a personal kind, their position and influence being in proportion to their reputation for greater wisdom. The monks would visit each other often and discourse, several together, on Holy Scripture and on the spiritual life. General conferences in which a large number took part were not uncommon. Gradually the purely eremitical life tended to die out (Cassian, “Conf.”, xix) but a semi-eremitical form continued to be common for a long period, and has never ceased entirely either in East or West where the Carthusians and Camaldulese still practice it. It is needless here to trace its developments in detail as all its varieties are dealt with in special articles (see Anchorites; Saint Anthony; Orders of Saint Anthony; Camaldolese; Carthusian Order; Hermits; Laura; Monasticism; (Eastern) Stylites; Saint Paul the Hermit).
(b) The Cenobitical Type of Monasticism
This type began in Egypt at a somewhat later date than the eremitical form. It was about the year 318 that St. Pachomius, still a young man, founded his first monastery at Tabennisi near Denderah. The institute spread with surprising rapidity, and by the date of St. Pachomius’s death (c. 345) it counted eight monasteries and several hundred monks. Most remarkable of all is the fact that it immediately took shape as a fully organized congregation or order, with a superior general, a system of visitations and general chapters, and all the machinery of a centralized government such as does not again appear in the monastic world until the rise of the Cistercians and Mendicant Orders some eight or nine centuries later. As regards internal organization the Pachomian monasteries had nothing of the family ideal. The numbers were too great for this and everything was done on a military or barrack system. In each monastery there were numerous separate houses, each with its own praepositus, cellarer, and other officials, the monks being grouped in these according to the particular trade they followed. Thus the fullers were gathered in one house, the carpenters in another, and so on; an arrangement the more desirable because in the Pachomian monasteries regular organized work was an integral part of the system, a feature in which it differed from the Antonian way of life. In point of austerity however the Antonian monks far surpassed the Pachomian, and so we find Bgoul and Schenute endeavoring, in their great monastery at Athribis, to combine the cenobitical life of Tabennisi with the austerities of Nitria.
In the Pachomian monasteries it was left very much to the individual taste of each monk to fix the order of life for himself. Thus the hours for meals and the extent of his fasting were settled by him alone, he might eat with the others in common or have bread and salt provided in his own cell every day or every second day. The conception of the cenobitical life was modified considerably by St. Basil. In his monasteries a true community life was followed. It was no longer possible for each one to choose his own dinner hour. On the contrary, meals were in common, work was in common, prayer was in common seven times a day. In the matter of asceticism too all the monks were under the control of the superior whose sanction was required for all the austerities they might undertake. It was from these sources that western monachism took its rise; further information on them will be found in the articles St. Basil the Great; Rule of Saint Basil; Saint Benedict of Nursia; Saint Pachomius; Saint Palladius.
4. Monastic Occupations
It has already been pointed out that the monk can adopt any kind of work so long as it is compatible with a life of prayer and renunciation. In the way of occupations therefore prayer must always take the first place.
(a) Monastic Prayer
From the very outset it has been regarded as the monk’s first duty to keep up the official prayer of the Church. To what extent the Divine office was stereotyped in St. Anthony’s day need not be discussed here, but Palladius and Cassian both make it clear that the monks were in no way behind the rest of the world as regards their liturgical customs. The practice of celebrating the office apart, or in twos and threes, has been referred to above as common in the Antonian system, while the Pachomian monks performed many of the services in their separate houses, the whole community only assembling in the church for the more solemn offices, while the Antonian monks only met together on Saturdays and Sundays. Among the monks of Syria the night office was much longer than in Egypt (Cassian, “Instit.”, II, ii; III, i, iv, viii) and new offices at different hours of the day were instituted. In prayer as in other matters St. Basil’s legislation became the norm among Eastern monks, while in the west no changes of importance have taken place since St. Benedict’s rule gradually eliminated all local customs. For the development of the Divine office into its present form see the articles, Breviary; Canonical Hours; and also the various “hours”, e.g. Matins; Lauds. etc.; Liturgy. etc. In the east this solemn liturgical prayer remains today almost the sole active work of the monks, and, though in the west many other forms of activity have flourished, the Opus Dei or Divine Office has always been and still is regarded as the preeminent duty and occupation of the monk to which all other works, no matter how excellent in themselves, must give way, according to St. Benedict’s principle (Reg. Ben., xliii) “Nihil operi Dei praeponatur” (Let nothing take precedence of the work of God). Alongside the official liturgy, private prayer, especially mental prayer, has always held an important place; see Prayer; Contemplative Life.
(b) Monastic Labors
The first monks did comparatively little in the way of external labor. We hear of them weaving mats, making baskets and doing other work of a simple character which, while serving for their support, would not distract them from the continual contemplation of God. Under St. Pachomius manual labor was organized as an essential part of the monastic life; and, since it is a principle of the monks as distinguished from the mendicants, that the body shall be self-supporting, external work of one sort or another has been an inevitable part of the life ever since.
(i) Agriculture, of course, naturally ranked first among the various forms of external labor. The sites chosen by the monks for their retreat were usually in wild and inaccessible places, which were left to them precisely because they were uncultivated, and no one else cared to undertake the task of clearing them. The rugged valley of Subiaco, or the fens and marshes of Glastonbury may be cited as examples, but nearly all the most ancient monasteries are to be found in places then considered uninhabitable by all except the monks. Gradually forests were cleared and marshes drained, rivers were bridged and roads made; until, almost imperceptibly, the desert place became a farm or a garden. In the later Middle Ages, when the Black Monks were giving less time to agriculture, the Cistercians reestablished the old order of things; and even today such monasteries as La Trappe de Staoueli in N. Africa, or New Nursia in W. Australia do identically the same work as was done by the monks a thousand years ago. “We owe the agricultural restoration of a great part of Europe to the monks” (Hallam, “Middle Ages“, III, 436); “The Benedictine monks were the agriculturists of Europe” (Guizot, “Histoire de la Civilisation”, II, 75); such testimony, which could be multiplied from writers of every creed, is enough for the purpose here (see Cistercians).
(ii) Copying of MSS.—Even more important than their services to agriculture has been the work of the monastic orders in the preservation of ancient literature. In this respect too the results achieved went far beyond what was actually aimed at. The monks copied the Scriptures for their own use in the Church services and, when their cloisters developed into schools, as the march of events made it inevitable they should, they copied also such monuments of classical literature as were preserved. At first no doubt such work was solely utilitarian, even in St. Benedict’s rule the instructions as to reading and study make it clear that these filled a very subordinate place in the disposition of the monastic life. Cassiodorus was the first to make the transcription of MSS. and the multiplication of books an organized and important branch of monastic labor, but his insistence in this direction influenced western monachism enormously and is in fact his chief claim to recognition as a legislator for monks. It is not too much to say that we today are indebted to the labors of the monastic copyists for the preservation, not only of the Sacred Writings, but of practically all that survives to us of the secular literature of antiquity (see Manuscripts; Cloister; Scriptorium).
(iii) Education.—At first no one became a monk before he was an adult, but very soon the custom began of receiving the young. Even infants in arms were dedicated to the monastic state by their parents (see Reg. Ben., lix) and in providing for the education of these child-monks the cloister inevitably developed into a schoolroom (see Oblati, Oblatae, Oblates). Nor was it long before the schools thus established began to include children not intended for the monastic state. Some writers have maintained that this step was not taken until the time of Charlemagne, but there is sufficient indication that such pupils existed at an earlier date, though the proportion of external scholars certainly increased largely at this time. The system of education followed was that known as the “Trivium” and “Quadrivium” (see Seven Liberal Arts), which was merely a development of that used during classical times.
The greater number of the larger monasteries in western Europe had a claustral school and not a few, of which St. Gall in Switzerland may be cited as an example, acquired a reputation which it is no exaggeration to call European. With the rise of the universities and the spread of the mendicant orders the monastic control of education came to an end, but the schools attached to the monasteries continued, and still continue today, to do no insignificant amount of educational work (see Seven Liberal Arts; Cloister; Education; Schools).
(iv) Architecture, painting, sculpture and metal work.—Of the first hermits many lived in caves, tombs, and deserted ruins, but from the outset the monk has been forced to be a builder. We have seen that the Pachomian system required buildings of elaborate plan and large accommodation, and the organized development of monastic life did not tend to simplify the buildings which enshrined it. Consequently skill in architecture was called for and so monastic architects were produced to meet the need in the same almost unconscious manner as were the monastic schoolmasters. During the medieval period the arts of painting, illuminating, sculpture, and goldsmiths’ work were practiced in the monasteries all over Europe and the output must have been simply enormous.
We have in the museums, churches, and elsewhere such countless examples of monastic skill in these arts that it is really difficult to realize that all this wealth of beautiful things forms only a small fraction of the total of artistic creation turned out century after century by these skillful and untiring craftsmen. Yet it is certainly true that what has perished by destruction, loss and decay would outweigh many times over the entire mass of medieval art work now in existence, and of this the larger portion was produced in the workshop of the cloister (see Architecture; Ecclesiastical Art; Religious Painting; Illumination; Reliquaries; Shrine; Sculpture).
(v) Historical and patristic work.—As years passed by the great monastic corporations accumulated archives of the highest value for the history of the countries wherein they were situated. It was the custom too in many of the larger abbeys for an official chronicler to record the events of contemporary history. In more recent times the seed thus planted bore fruit in the many great works of erudition which have won for the monks such high praise from scholars of all classes. The Maurist Congregation of Benedictines (q.v.) which flourished in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the supreme example of this type of monastic industry, but similar works on a less extensive scale have been undertaken in every country of western Europe by monks of all orders and congregations, and at the present time (1910) this output of solid scholarly work shows no signs whatever of diminution either in quality or quantity.
(vi) Missionary work.—Perhaps the mission field would seem a sphere little suited for monastic energies, but no idea could be more false. Mankind is proverbially imitative and so, to establish a Christianity where paganism once ruled, it is necessary to present not simply a code of morals, not the mere laws and regulations, nor even the theology of the Church, but an actual pattern of Christian society. Such a “working model” is found preeminently in the monastery, and so it is the monastic order which has proved itself the apostle of the nations in western Europe.
To mention a few instances of this—Saints Columba in Scotland, Augustine in England, Boniface in Germany, Ansgar in Scandinavia, Swithbert and Willibrord in the Netherlands, Rupert and Emmeran in what is now Austria, Adalbert in Bohemia, Gall and Columban in Switzerland, were monks who, by the example of a Christian society which they and their companions displayed, led the nations among whom they lived from paganism to Christianity and civilization. Nor did the monastic apostles stop at this point but, by remaining as a community and training their converts in the arts of peace, they established a society based on Gospel principles and firm with the stability of the Christian faith, in a way that no individual missionary, even the most devoted and saintly, has ever succeeded in doing.
It must be clearly understood however, that monasticism has never become stereotyped in practice, and that it would be quite false to hold up any single example as a supreme and perfect model. Monasticism is a living thing and consequently it must be informed with a, principle of self motion and adaptability to its environment. Only one thing must always remain the same and that is the motive power which brought it into existence and has maintained it throughout the centuries, viz., the love of God and the desire to serve Him as perfectly as this life permits, leaving all things to follow after Christ.
—G. ROGER HUDDLESTON.
II. EASTERN MONASTICISM BEFORE CHALCEDON (A.D. 451)
Egypt was the Motherland of Christian monasticism. It sprang into existence there at the beginning of the fourth century and in a very few years spread over the whole Christian world. The rapidity of the movement was only equaled by the durability of its results. Within the lifetime of St. Anthony the religious state had become what it has been ever since, one of the characteristic features of the Catholic Church, with its ideals, and what may be termed the groundwork of its organization, determined. But this was not all. The simple teaching of the first Egyptian monks and hermits fixed once and forever the broad outlines of the science of the spiritual life, or, in other words, of ascetic theology. The study, therefore, of early monasticism possesses a great deal more than a merely antiquarian interest. It is concerned with a movement the force of which is in no way spent and which has had a very large share in creating the conditions which obtain at the present day.
The first chapter in the history of monasticism is the life of St. Anthony which has already been described (see Saint Anthony). The inauguration of the monastic movement may be dated either about 285, when St. Anthony, no longer content with the life of the ordinary ascetic, went into the wilderness, or about 305, when he organized a kind of monastic life for his disciples. Ascetic is the term usually employed by writers on monasticism for those who in pre-monastic days forsook the world so far as they were able. Of the three Evangelical counsels, chastity alone can be practiced independently of external circumstances. Naturally, therefore (beginning with the sub-Apostolic age), we hear first of men and women leading the virgin life (cf. I Clem., xxxviii; Ignat., “ad Poly-carp.”, c. v; Hermas, “Sim.”, IX, 30).
The Apologists pointed triumphantly to such (Justin, “Apol.”, I, xv; Athenagoras, “Legat.”, xxxiii; Minucius Felix, “Octay.”, xxxi). Voluntary poverty, in the complete renunciation of all worldly possessions, could be difficult till there were monasteries, for persons with wealth to renounce would not, generally speaking, have been brought up so as to be capable of earning their own livelihood. Still we have the examples of Origen, St. Cyprian, and Pamphilus to show that the thing was done. A full practice of the last Evangelical counsel (obedience) could only be realized after the monastic ideal had taken root and passed beyond the purely eremitical stage. The ante-Nicene ascetic would be a man who led a single life, practiced long and frequent fasts, abstained from flesh and wine, and supported himself, if he were able, by some small handicraft, keeping of what he earned only so much as was absolutely necessary for his own sustenance, and giving the rest to the poor. If he were an educated man, he might be employed by the Church in some such capacity as that of catechist. Very often he would don the kind of dress which marked its wearer off as a philosopher of an austere school.
In Egypt, at the time when St. Anthony first embraced the ascetic life, there were numbers of ascetics living in huts in the neighborhood of the towns and villages. When St. Anthony died (356 or 357), two types of monasticism flourished in Egypt. There were villages or colonies of hermits—the eremitical type; and monasteries in which a community life was led—the cenobitic type. A brief survey of the opening chapters of Palladius‘s “Lausiac History” will serve as a description of the former type.
Palladius was a monk from Palestine who, in 388, went to Egypt to drink in the spirit of monasticism at the fountainhead. On landing at Alexandria he put himself in the hands of a priest named Isidore, who in early life had been a hermit at Nitria and now apparently presided over a hospice at Alexandria without in any way abating the austerity of his life. By the advice of Isidore, Palladius placed himself under the direction of a hermit named Dorotheus who lived six miles outside Alexandria, with whom he was to pass three years learning to subdue his passions and then to return to Isidore to receive higher spiritual knowledge. This Dorotheus spent the whole day collecting stones to build cells for other hermits, and the whole night weaving ropes out of palm leaves. He never lay down to sleep, though slumber sometimes overtook him while working or eating. Palladius, who seems to have lived in his cell, ascertained from other solitaries that this had been his custom from his youth upwards. Palladius‘s health broke down before he completed his time with Dorotheus, but he spent three years in Alexandria and its neighborhood visiting the hermitages and becoming acquainted with about 2000 monks. From Alexandria he went to Nitria, where there was a monastic village containing about 5000 solitaries. There was no kind of monastic rule. Some of the solitaries lived alone, sometimes two or more lived together. They assembled at the church on Saturdays and Sundays. The church was served by eight priests of whom the oldest always celebrated, preached, and judged, the others only assisting. All worked at weaving flax. There were bakeries where bread was made, not only for the village itself, but for the solitaries who lived in the desert beyond. There were doctors. Wine also was sold.
Strangers were entertained in a guesthouse. If able to read, they were lent a book. They might stay as long as they liked, but after a week they were set to some kind of work. If at the ninth hour a man stood and listened to the sound of psalmody issuing from the different cells, he would imagine, says Palladius, that he was caught up into paradise. But, though there was no monastic rule at Nitria, there was municipal law, the outward symbol of which was three whips suspended from three palm trees, one for monks who might be guilty of some fault, one for thieves who might be caught prowling about, and the third for strangers who misbehaved. Further into the desert was a place called Cells, or Cellia, whither the more perfect withdrew. This is described by the author of the “Historia monachorum in. Egypto”. Here the solitaries lived in cells so far apart that they were out out of sight and out of hearing of one another. Like those of Nitria, they met only on Saturdays and Sundays at church, whither some of them had to travel a distance of three or four miles. Often their death was only discovered by their absence from church.
In strong contrast with the individualism of the eremitical life was the rigid discipline which prevailed in the cenobitical monasteries founded by St. Pachomius. When, in 313, Constantine was at war with Maxentius, Pachomius, still a heathen, was forcibly enlisted together with a number of other young men, and placed on board a ship to be carried down the Nile to Alexandria. At some town at which the ship touched, the recruits were overwhelmed with the kindness of the Christians. Pachomius at once resolved to be a Christian and carried out his resolution as soon as he was dismissed from military service. He began as an ascetic in a small village, taking up his abode in a deserted temple of Serapis and cultivating a garden on the produce of which he lived and gave alms. The fact that Pachomius made an old temple of Serapis his abode was enough for an ingenious theory that he was originally a pagan monk. This view is now quite exploded.
Pachomius next embraced the eremitical life and prevailed upon an old hermit named Palemon to take him as his disciple and share his cell with him. It may be noted that this kind of discipleship, which, as we have already seen, was attempted by Palladius, was a recognized thing among the Egyptian hermits. Afterwards he left Palemon and founded his first monastery at Tabennisi near Denderah. Before he died, in 346, he had under him eight or nine large monasteries of men, and two of women. From a secular point of view, a Pachomian monastery was an industrial community in which almost every kind of trade was practiced. This, of course, involved much buying and selling, so the monks had ships of their own on the Nile, which conveyed their agricultural produce and manufactured goods to the market and brought back what the monasteries required. From the spiritual point of view, the Pachomian monk was a religious living under a rule more severe, even when allowance has been made for differences of climate and race, than that of the Trappists.
A Pachomian monastery was a collection of buildings surrounded by a wall. The monks were distributed in houses, each house containing about forty monks. Three or four houses constituted a tribe. There would be from thirty to forty houses in a monastery. There was an abbot over each monastery, and provosts with subordinate officials over each house. The monks were divided into houses according to the work they were employed in: thus there would be a house for carpenters, a house for agriculturists, and so forth. But other principles of division seem to have been employed, e.g., we hear of a house for the Greeks. On Saturdays and Sundays all the monks assembled in the church for Mass; on other days the Office and other spiritual exercises were celebrated in the houses.
“The fundamental idea of St. Pachomius’s Rule”, writes Abbot Butler, “was to establish a moderate level of observance (moderate in comparison with the life led by the hermits) which might be obligatory on all; and then to leave it open to each—and to indeed encourage each—to go beyond the fixed minimum, according as he was prompted by his strength, his courage, and his zeal” (“Lausiac History”, I, p. 236). This is strikingly illustrated in the rules concerning food. According to St. Jerome, in the preface to his translation of the “Rule of Pachomius”, the tables were laid twice a day except on Wednesdays and Fridays, which, outside the seasons of Easter and Pentecost, were fast days. Some only took very little at the second meal; some at one or other of the meals confined themselves to a single food; others took just a morsel of bread. Some abstained altogether from the community meal; for these bread, water, and salt were placed in their cell.
Pachomius appointed his successor a monk named Petronius, who died within a few months, having likewise named his successor, Horsiesi. In Horsiesi’s time the order was threatened with a schism. The abbot of one of the houses, instead of forwarding the produce of the work of his monks to the head house of the order, where it would be sold and the price distributed to the different houses according to their need, wished to have the disposal of it for the sole benefit of his own monastery. Horsiesi, finding himself unable to cope with the situation, appointed Theodore, a favorite disciple of Pachomius, his coadjutor.
When Theodore died, in the year 368, Horsiesi was able to resume the government of the order. This threatened schism brings prominently before us a feature connected with Pachomius’s foundation which is never again met with in the East, and in the West only many centuries later. “Like Ctteaux in a later age”, writes Abbot Butler, “it almost at once assumed the shape of a fully-organized congregation or order, with a superior general and a system of visitation and general chapters—in short, all the machinery of a centralized government, such as does not appear again in the monastic world until the Cistercian and the Mendicant Orders arose in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries” (op. cit., I, 235).
A word must be said about Schenoudi, or Schnoudi, or Senuti. Shortly after the middle of the fourth century, two monks, Pgol and Pschais, changed their eremitical monasteries into cenobitical ones. Of the latter we know scarcely anything. Schenoudi, when a boy of about nine years old, came under the care of his uncle Pgol. Both Pgol and Schenoudi were reformers—the Pachomian Rule was not strict enough for them.
Schenoudi succeeded his uncle Pgol as head of the White Monastery of Athribis and, till his death (about 453), was not only the greatest monastic leader, but one of the most important men, in Egypt. He waged war against heretics; he took a prominent part in the rooting out of paganism; he championed the cause of the poor against the rich. He once went in person to Constantinople to complain of the tyranny of government officials. On one occasion 20,000 men, women, and children took refuge in the White Monastery during an invasion of the savage Blemmyes of Ethiopia, and Schenoudi maintained all the fugitives for three months, providing them with food and medical aid. On another occasion he ransomed a hundred captives and sent them home with food, clothing, and money for their journey (Leipoldt, “Schenute von Atripe”, 172, 173). Schenoudi’s importance for the history of monasticism is small, for his influence, great as it was in his own country, did not make itself felt elsewhere. There were two barriers: Upper Egypt was a difficult and dangerous country for travellers, and such as did penetrate there would not be likely to visit a monastery where hardly anything but Coptic was spoken. According to Abbot Butler, “Schenoudi is never named by any Greek or Latin writer” (op. cit., II, 204). He has been rediscovered in our own time in Coptic MSS. A description of the ruins of the White Monastery will be found in Curzon’s “Monasteries of the Levant”, ch. xi. There are photographs of the outer wall and the ruins of the church in Milne’s “Hist. of Egypt under Roman Rule”.
In part II of Butler’s “Lausiac History” is a map of Monastic Egypt. A glance at this map and the notes accompanying it brings forcibly before the mind an important fact in monastic history. With the exception of a single Pachomian monastery at Canopus, near Alexandria, the cenobitic monasteries are in the South, and confined to a relatively small area. The eremitical monasteries, on the contrary, are everywhere, and especially in the North. These latter were thus far more accessible to pilgrims visiting Egypt and so became the patterns or models for the rest of the Christian world. It was the eremitical, not the cenobitical, type of monasticism which went forth from Egypt.
Monasticism at a very early date spread along the route of the Exodus and the desert of the Forty Years’ Wandering. The solitaries had a special predilection for Scriptural sites. At every place hallowed by tradition, which Sylvia visited (A.D. 385), she found monks. The attraction of Mt. Sinai for the solitaries was irresistible, in spite of the danger of captivity or death at the hands of the Saracens. In 373 a number of solitaries inhabited this mountain, living on dates and other fruit, such bread as they had being reserved for the Sacred Mysteries. All the week they lived apart in their cells; they gathered together in the church on Saturday evening and, after spending the night in prayer, received communion on Sunday morning. Forty of them were massacred in 373, and on the same day another group of solitaries at Raithe (supposed to be Elim) were killed by a second band of barbarians. These events were described by eye-witnesses (Tillemont, “H. E.”, VII, 573-80). The same kind of life was being led at Mt. Sinai, and a similar experience was undergone some twenty years later when St. Nilus was there.
St. Hilarion, who for a time had been a disciple of St. Anthony, propagated monasticism of the eremitical type first in the neighborhood of his native city Gaza and then in Cyprus. His friend St. Epiphanius, after practising the monastic life in Egypt, founded a monastery near Eleutheropolis in Palestine somewhere about 330 or perhaps a little later.
In Jerusalem and its neighborhood there were numerous monasteries at a very early date. To name only a few, there was the monastery on the Mount of Olives, from which Palladius went forth on his tour of the Egyptian monasteries; there were two monasteries for women in Jerusalem, built by the older and younger Melania respectively. At Bethlehem St. Paula founded three monasteries for women and one for men about A.D. 387. There was, besides, in Bethlehem the monastery where Cassian some years before began his religious life. The lauras, which were very numerous, formed a conspicuous feature in Palestinian monasticism. The first seems to have been founded before 334 by St. Chariton at Pharan, a few miles from Jerusalem; later on, two more were founded by the same saint at Jericho and at Suca.
St. Euthymius (473) founded another celebrated one in the Valley of Cedron. Near Jericho was the laura ruled over by St. Gerasimus (475). Some details concerning the rule of this laura have fortunately been preserved in a very ancient Life of St. Euthymius. It consisted of a cenobium where the cenobitic life was practiced by novices and others less proficient. There were also seventy cells for solitaries. Five days in the week these latter lived and worked alone in their cells. On Saturday they brought their work to the cenobium, where, after receiving Holy Communion on Sundays, they partook of some cooked food and a little wine. The rest of the week their fare was bread, dates, and water. When some of them asked to be allowed to heat some water, that they might cook some food, and to have a lamp to read by, they were told that if they wished to live thus they had better take up their abode in the cenobium (Acta SS., March, I, 386-87).
Antioch, when St. John Chrysostom was a young man, was full of ascetics and the neighboring mountains were peopled with hermits. So great was the impulse driving men to the solitary life that at one time there was an outcry, amounting almost to a persecution, among Christians as well as pagans against those who embraced it. This was the occasion of St. Chrysostom’s treatise against the opponents of monasticism: in the first book he dwelt upon the guilt incurred by them; the second and third were addressed respectively to a pagan and a Christian father who were opposing the wish of their sons to embrace the monastic state. The pathetic scene between the saint and his mother, which he describes in the beginning of the “De sacerdotio”, must be typical of what took place in many Christian homes. He himself so far yielded to his mother’s entreaties that he contented himself with the ascetic life at home till her death. Palestine and Antioch must suffice as examples of the rapid spread of monasticism outside of Egypt. There is abundant evidence of the same phenomenon in all the countries between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia; and Mesopotamia, according to St. Jerome, whose testimony is amply borne out by other writers, rivalled Egypt itself in the number and holiness of its monks (Comm. in Isaiam, V, xix).
We now come to a name second only in importance to St. Anthony’s for the history of eastern monasticism. St. Basil the Great before embracing the monastic state made a careful study of monasticism in Egypt, Palestine, Coelesyria, and Mesopotamia. The result was a decided preference for the cenobitical life. He founded several monasteries in Pontus, over one of which he himself for a time presided, and very soon monasteries, modeled after his, spread over the East. His monks assembled together for “psalmody” and “genuflections” seven times a day, in accordance with the Psalmist’s “Septies in die laudem dixi tibi” (Ps. cxviii, 164): at midnight (“Media nocte surgebam “—Ibid., 62), at evening, morning, and midday (Ps. lv, 18), at the third hour, the hour of Pentecost, and at the ninth, the sacred hour of the Passion. To complete the tale of seven, the midday prayer was divided into two parts separated by the community meal (Sermo “Asceticus”, Benedictine edition, II, 321). St. Basil’s monastic ideal is set forth in a collection of his writings known as the “Asceticon”, or “Ascetica”, the most important of which are the “Regulae fusius tractatw”, a series of answers to questions, fifty-five in number, and the “Regulae brevius tractatae”, in which three hundred and thirteen questions are briefly replied to. It must not be supposed that the “Regulae” form a rule, though it would be possible to go a good way towards constituting one out of them. They are answers to questions which would naturally arise among persons already in possession of a framework of customs or traditions. Sometimes they treat of practical questions, but as often as not they deal with matters concerning the spiritual life. What is on the whole a good description of them will be found in Smith and Cheetham, “Dict. of Christ. Antiquities”, II, 1233 sqq.
It would not be easy to exaggerate St. Basil’s influence upon eastern monasticism: he furnished the type which ultimately prevailed. But two points of the utmost importance, as marking the difference between Eastern and Western monasteries, must be kept in mind. (I) He did not draw up a rule, but gave, what is far more an elastic thing, a model or pattern. (2) He was not the founder of a religious order. No Eastern, except St. Pachomius, ever was. An order, as we understand the term, is a purely Western product. “It is not enough”, says a writer who certainly does not underrate St. Basil’s influence, “to affirm that the Basilian Order is a myth. One must go further and give up calling the Byzantine monks Basilians. Those most concerned have never taken to themselves this title, and no Eastern writer that I know of has ever bestowed it upon them” (Pargoire in “Dict. d’Archeologie chretienne”, s.v. “Basile”). In a word, every monastery is an order of its own. With St. Basil Eastern monasticism reached its final stage—communities of monks leading the contemplative life and devoting themselves wholly to prayer and work. The cenobitical life steadily became the normal form of the religious calling, and the eremitical one the exceptional form, requiring a long previous training.
We must now speak of the grounds upon which St. Basil based his decision—a decision so momentous for the future history of monasticism—in favor of the cenobitical life. Life with others is more expedient because, in the first place, even for the supply of their bodily needs, men depend upon one another. Further, there is the law of charity. The solitary has only himself to regard; yet “charity seeks not itself”.
Again, the solitary will not equally discover his faults there being no one to correct him with meekness and mercy. There are precepts of charity which can only be fulfilled in the cenobitical life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not all given to all men, but one is given to one man and another to another. We cannot be partakers in the gifts not bestowed on ourselves if we live by ourselves. The great danger to the solitary is self-complacency; he is not put to the test, so that he is unable to learn his faults or his progress. How can he learn humility when there is no one to prefer before himself? Or patience when there is no one to yield to? Whose feet shall he wash? To whom shall he be as a servant? (Reg. fus. tract., Q. vii.) This condemnation of the eremitical life is interesting because of what might almost be called its tameness. One would expect at least a lurid picture of the dangers which the solitary ran, delusions, melancholy culminating in despair, terrible moral and spiritual falls, the abandonment of the religious calling for the life of vice, and so forth. But instead of such things we have little more than what amounts to disadvantages and the risk of somewhat flat and commonplace kinds of failure, against which the common life afforded the best protection. Clearly St. Basil found very little that was tragic during the two years he was investigating monasticism in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and elsewhere.
It might be supposed that so uncompromising a verdict against the eremitical life would stir up a fierce conflict. As a matter of fact, it did nothing of the kind. Palestine, towards the end of the fourth century, began to supersede Egypt as the center of monasticism, and in Palestine the laura and the cenobium were in perfect harmony. That of St. Gerasimus, with its cenobium already referred to, may be taken as a typical example. St. Basil’s authority was equal to St. Anthony’s among the leaders of Palestinian monasticism; yet they took it as a matter of course that life in the laura was the most perfect, though under ordinary circumstances it should not be entered upon before an apprenticeship had been served in a cenobium. The paradox is not so great as it may at first sight appear. The dweller in the laura was under an archimandrite or abbot and so was not exposed to the dangers of the purely eremitical state. (A number of passages from the Lives of St. Euthymius, St. Theodosius, and others bearing upon the above subject have been brought together by Holl, “Enthusiasmus and Bussgewalt beim Griechischen Moncthum”, Leipzig, pp. 172 sqq.)
At the Council of Chalcedon, monasticism had so become a recognized part of the life of the Church that it was especially legislated for. Monasteries were not to be erected without the leave of the bishop; monks were to receive due honor, but were not to mix themselves up with the affairs of Church or State. They were to be subject to the bishop, etc. (can. iv). Clerics and monks were not to serve in war or embrace a secular life (can. vii). Monasteries were not to be secularized (can. xxiv).
Solitary spots, according to St. Basil, should be chosen as sites for monasteries. Nevertheless, they soon found their way into cities. According to Marin (“Les Moines de Constantinople“, Paris, 1897, 330-898), at least fifteen monasteries were founded at Constantinople in the time of Constantine the Great; but Besse (Les Moines d’Orient, 18) affirms that the three most ancient ones only dated back to the time of Theodosius (375-95). In 518 there were at least fifty-four monasteries in Constantinople. Their names and those of their rulers are given in a petition addressed by the monks of Constantinople to Pope Hormisdas in 518 (Martin, ibid., 18).
—FRANCIS JOSEPH BACCHUS.
III. EASTERN MONASTICISM
The first home of Christian monasticism is the Egyptian desert. Hither during persecution men fled the world and the danger of apostasy, to serve God in solitude. St. Anthony (270-356) is counted the father of all monks. His fame attracted many others, so that under Diocletian and Constantine there were large colonies of monks in Egypt, the first laurai. St. Athanasius’s (d. 373) friendly relations to the Egyptian monks and the refuge he found among them during his second (356-362) and third (362-363) exiles are well known incidents of his life. The monks lived each in his own hut, providing for their simple needs with their own hands, united by a bond of willing submission to the direction of some older and more experienced hermit, coming together on Saturday and Sunday for common prayer, otherwise spending their time in private contemplation and works of penance. Celibacy was from the beginning an essential note of monasticism. A wife and family were part of the “world” they had left.
Poverty and obedience were to some extent relative, though the ideal of both was developing. The monk of the desert was not necessarily a priest; he formed a different class from the clergy who stayed in the world and assisted the bishops. For a long time this difference between monks and clergy remained; the monk fled all intercourse with other people to save his soul away from temptation. Later some monks were ordained priests in order to administer sacraments to their brethren. But even now in the East the priest-monk (ieromonachos) is a special person distinct from the usual monk (monachos), who is a layman.
St. Anthony’s scarcely less famous disciple Pachomius (d. 345) is believed to have begun the organization of the hermits in groups, “folds” (mandrai) with stricter subjection to a leader (archimandrites); but the organization was vague. Monasticism was still a manner of life rather than affiliation to an organized body; any one who left wife and family and the “world” to seek peace away from men was a monk. Two codified “Rules” are attributed to Pachomius; of these the longer is translated into Latin by St. Jerome, a second and shorter one is in Palladius, “Hist. Lausiaca” XXXVIII. Sozomenos gives a compendium of the “Rule of Pachomius” (II. E., III, xiv). Neither of these rules is authentic, but they may well contain maxims and principles that go back to his time, mixed with later ones. They are already considerably advanced towards a regulated monastic life. They order uniformity in dress, obedience to a superior, prayers and meals at fixed times in common; they regulate both ascetic practices and handwork.
About the same time as St. Anthony in Egypt, Hilarion flourished at Gaza in Palestine (see St. Jerome, “Life of St. Hilarion” in P.L., XXIII, 29-54). He stands at the head of West Syrian monasticism. In the middle of the fourth century Aphraates speaks of monks in East Syria (Wright, “The Homilies of Aphraates“, London, 1869, I, Horn. 6 and 18). At the same time we hear of them in Armenia, Pontus, and Cappadocia. Epiphanius, for instance, who in 367 became Bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, had been for thirty years a monk in Palestine. At the time of St. Basil (330-379), therefore, there were already monks all over the East. As soon as he was baptized (357) he determined to be a monk himself; he spent two years traveling “to Alexandria, through Egypt, in Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia” (Ep. 223), studying the life of the monks. Then in 358 he formed the community at Annesos in Pontus that was to be in some sort a new point of departure for Eastern monasticism. He describes the life at Annesos in a letter to St. Gregory Nazianzen (Ep. 2). Its principles are codified in various ascetic works by him, of which the chief are the two “Rules”, the longer (Oroi kata platos, P.G., XXXI, 905-1052) and the shorter (oroi kat epitomen, 1051-1306). (See Rule of Saint Basil.)
2. To the great Schism
Gradually nearly all Eastern monasteries accepted the Rules of St. Basil. Their inner organization evolved a hierarchy of officials among whom the various offices were distributed; the prayers, meals, work, punishments were portioned out according to the ascetic works of St. Basil, and so the whole monastery arrived at a working order.
That order obtains still. In its inner life Eastern monasticism has been extraordinarily stationary. There is practically no development to describe. Its history from the fourth century down to our own time is only a chronicle of the founding and endowment of new monasteries, of the part taken by monks in the great religious controversies and in one or two controversies of their own, of the emperors, empresses, patriarchs, and other great persons who, freely or under compulsion, ended their career in the world by retiring to a monastery. Two ideas that constantly recur in Eastern theology are that the monastic state is that of Christian perfection and also a state of penance. Eusebius (d. c. 340) in his “Demonstratio evangelica” distinguishes the two kinds of life of a Christian, the less perfect life in the world and the perfect life of monks.
The idea recurs continually. Monks lead the “angelic life”, their dress is the “angelic habit”; like the angels they neither marry nor give in marriage, and like them the chief object of their existence is to sing the praises of God (in the Divine office). Not incompatible with this is the other idea, found in St. Basil and many others, that their state is one of penance (metanoia). Symeon of Thessalonica (d. 1429) counts the monks simply as “penitents” (metanoountes). The most perfect life on earth, namely, is that of a man who obeys the command to “do penance, for the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh”.
The organization and life of a Byzantine monastery before the schism is known to us by the decrees affecting it made by various councils, laws in the “Corpus iuris” (in the “Codex” and the “Novellw’7), the lives of eminent monks, of which the “Synaxarion” has preserved not a few, and especially by the ascetic writings of monks, letters, sermons, and so on, in which they give advice to their colleagues. Of such monastic writers St. John Damascene (d. c. 754), George Hamartolos (ninth century), and especially St. Theodore of Studion (d. 826) are perhaps the most valuable for this purpose. At the head of each independent monastery (laura is the common name in Greek) was the superior. At first (e.g., by Justinian: “November”, V, vii; CXXIII, v and xxxiv) he is called indifferently abbas, archimandrites, egoumenos. Later the common name is egoumenos only. The archimandrite has become a person of superior rank and takes precedence of a hegumenos. Goar thinks that archimandrite meant the superior of a patriarchal monastery, that is, one immediately subject to the patriarch and independent of the jurisdiction of the ordinary. The title then would correspond to that of the Western “Abbas nullius”.
Marin (Les Moines de Constantinople, pp. 87-90), admitting this, demonstrates from examples that there was an intermediate period (from about the sixth to the ninth centuries) during which the title archimandrite was given as a purely personal honor to certain hegumenoi without involving any exemption for the monastery. A further precedence belonged to a “great archimandrite”. The election and rights of the hegumenos are described by St. Basil in his two Rules, by Justinian (Novel., CXXIII, xxxiv), and Theodore of Studion (Testamentum, in P.G., XCIX, 1817-1818). He was elected by the monks by a majority of votes; in cases of dispute the patriarch or ordinary decided; sometimes lots were cast. He was to be chosen for his merit, not according to the time he had already spent in the monastery, and should be sufficiently learned to know the canons. The patriarch or bishop must confirm the election and institute the hegumenos. But the emperor received him in audience and gave him a pastoral staff (the rabdos). The ceremony of induction is given in the “Euchologion” (Goar’s edition, Venice, 1730, 395-390). He then remained abbot for life, except in the event of his being deposed, after trial, for some canonical offense.
The hegumenos had absolute authority over all his monks, could receive novices and inflict punishments; but he was bound always by the rule of St. Basil and the canons, and he had to consult a committee of the more experienced monks in all cases of difficulty. This committee was the sunaeis that in many ways limited the autocracy of the superior (St. Basil’s Rule, P.G., XXXI, 1037). The hegumenos in the Byzantine time, after Justinian, was generally, but not quite always, a priest. He received the confessions of his monks [there are instances of those who were not priests usurping this office (Marin, op. cit., 96)] and could ordain them to minor Orders, including the sub-diaconate. Under the abbot there was a hierarchy of other officials, more or less numerous according to the size of the laura. The deutereuon took his place in case of his absence or sickness, the oikonomos had charge of all the property, the kellapios looked after the food, the epistemonarchos saw to the regular performance of services in the church, the kanonarches guided the singers during the Divine office. These officials, who usually formed the synaxis, acted as a restraint on the authority of the hegumenos. Numerous lesser offices, as those of infirmarian, guest-master, porter, cook, and so on, were divided among the community. The monks were divided into three orders, novices, those who bear the lesser habit and those who have the great habit. Children (the Council in Trullo of 692 admits profession as valid after the age of ten years), married men (if their wives are willing), even slaves who are badly treated by their masters or in danger of losing their faith, could be received as novices. Justinian ordered novices to wear lay clothes (Novel., V, ii), but soon the custom was introduced that after a probation of about six months (while they were postulants) they should have their hair cut (tonsure) and receive a tunic (chiton) and the tall cap called kalimauchion. The service for this first clothing is in the “Euchologion” (Goar, pp. 378-380).
After three years’ noviceship the monk received the lesser habit or mandyas (to micron schema manduas). He is again tonsured in the form of a cross, receives a new tunic, belt, cap, sandals, and the monastic cloak (manduas). For the rite, see Goar, pp. 382-389. The mandyas is the “angelic habit” that makes him a true monk; it is at this service that he makes his vows. An older form of the “sacrament of monastic perfection” (musterion monachikes teleioseos), that is, of the profession and reception of a monk, is given by Dionysius Areopagita (c. 500), “de Eccles. Hierarch.”, VI, ii (P.G., III, 533). The monk is “ordained” by a priest (Iereus; he always calls bishops Ierarchai), presumably the abbot. Standing he recites the “monastic invocation” (ten monastiken epiklesin), evidently a prayer for the grace he needs. The priest then asks him if he renounces everything, explains to him the duties of his state, signs him with the cross, tonsures him and clothes him in the habit, finally celebrates the holy Liturgy, and gives him Communion. From the time of his profession the monk remains inseparably attached to the monastery. Besides the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience he makes a vow of perseverance in the religious exercises of the particular laura he has chosen. Normally he can no more change to another than go back to the world. He should moreover never go out at all. In theory all monks are “enclosed” (St. Basil, P.G., XXXI, 635-636); but this rule has never been taken very literally. Monks traveled about, with the consent of their superiors and with the excuse that they were engaged in business of the laura or of the Church in general.
But there still remained a further step. After having proved their perseverance for some years monks were accustomed to ask, as a reward for their advancement in the ascetic life, for the “great habit” (to mega kai aggelikon schema). This was simply a larger and more dignified cloak, suitable for the veterans of the monastery. Gradually its reception became a regular ceremony and the wearers of the great habit began to form a superior class, the aristocracy of the laura. St. Theodore of Studion objected strongly to this distinction: “As there is only one baptism”, he says, “so is there only one habit” (P.G., XCIX, 1819). It is true that there is no real place for such a higher rank in the monastic system. At the reception of the first habit the monk makes his solemn vows for life and becomes a full monk in every sense. However, in spite of opposition, the custom grew. The imposition of the great habit repeats very much the ceremony of the lesser one and forms a kind of renewal of vows (Goar, 403-414); it is from the older monks who have gone through this rite and are honorably distinguished by their long cloaks that the dignitaries of the laura are chosen. Another gradual development was the formation of a class of priest-monks. At first no monks received any ordination; then one or two were made priests to administer sacraments to the others, then later it became common to ordain a monk priest. But it has never become the rule that all choir-monks should be ordained, as it became in the West. On entering monasteries people changed their name. The monk was to abstain from flesh-meat always; his food was fruit and vegetables and on feast-days fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. Wine was allowed. The chief meal, the only full meal in the day, was served at the sixth hour (midday); on the frequent fast days, including every Wednesday and Friday and the four fasting-times, it was put off till the ninth hour. Later in the evening, after the apodeipnon (compline), the remains of the meal were again spread in the refectory and any who wished, chiefly the younger members, might partake of a light supper (cf. Marin, op. cit., p. 121).
The monk’s main occupation was the daily chanting of the long Byzantine office in church. This took up a great part of the day and the night. There were moreover the olonuktika offices, which on the eves of great feasts lasted all night. The rest of the time was spent in manual work, digging, carpentry, weaving, and so on, portioned out to each by the abbot, of which the profit belonged to the monastery (St. Basil, P.G., XXXI, 1016, 1017, 1132, etc.; Marin, op. cit., 132-135). Men who already know an innocent and profitable craft may continue to exercise it as monks. Some practiced medicine for the good of the community. Nor were the study of theology and the arts of calligraphy and painting neglected. Monasteries had libraries, and monks wrote theological works and hymns. In St. Theodore’s time the Studion monastery was famous for its library and the beautiful handwriting of its monks (Theodore, “Orat.”, XI, 16; in P.G., XCIX). There was a scale of punishments ranging from special fasts and prayers or the apeulogia—that is, privation of the abbot’s blessing—to the aphorismos or solitary confinement and excommunication from all common prayers and the sacraments. The punishment for fornication was excommunication for fifteen years (cf. the “Epitimia” ascribed to St. Basil in M. P., XXXI, 1305-1314). A monk who had proved his constancy for many years in the community could receive permission from the hegumenos to practice the severer life of a hermit. He then went to occupy a solitary cell near the laura (St. Basil’s Rule, P.G., XXXI, 1133). But he was still counted a member of the monastery and could return to it if he found solitude too hard. At the court of the Patriarch of Constantinople was an official, the Exarch of the monks, whose duty it was to supervise the monasteries. Most other bishops had a similar assistant among their clergy.
Celibacy became an ideal for the clergy in the East gradually, as it did in the West. In the fourth century we still find St. Gregory Nazianzen’s father, who was Bishop of Nazianzos, living with his wife, without scandal. But very soon after that the present Eastern rule obtained. It is less strict than in the West. No one may marry after he has been ordained priest (Paphnutius at the first Council of Nicaea maintains this; see the discussion in Hefele-Leclercq, “Histoire des Conciles”, Paris, 1907, I, pp. 620-624; the first Canon of the Synod of Neocaesarea in 314 or 325, ib., p. 327, and Can. Apost., xxvi. The Synod of Elvira about 300 had decreed absolute celibacy for all clerks in the West, Can. xxxiii, ib., pp. 238-239); priests already married may keep their wives (the same law applied to deacons and subdeacons: Can. vi of the Synod in Trullo, 692; see “Ethos d’Orient”, 1900-1901, pp. 65-71), but bishops must be celibate. As nearly all secular priests were married this meant that, as a general rule, bishops were chosen from the monasteries, and so these became, as they still are, the road through which advancement may be attained. Besides the communities in monasteries there were many extraordinary developments of monasticism. There were always hermits who practiced various extreme forms of asceticism, such as binding tight ropes round their bodies, very severe fasting, and so on. A singular form of asceticism was that of the Stylites (vrvXiraL), who lived on columns. St. Symeon Stylites (q.v.) began this practice in 420.
From the time of Constantine the building and endowment of monasteries became a form of good work adopted by very many rich people. Constantine and Helen set the example and almost every emperor afterwards (except Julian) followed it (Marin, “Les moines de Constantinople“, chap. i). So monasteries grew up all over the empire. Constantinople especially was covered with them (see the list, ib., 23-25). One of the chief of these was Studion (Stoudion) in the southwestern angle of the city, founded by a Roman, Studius, in 462 or 463. It was occupied by so-called “sleepless” (akoimetoi) monks who, divided into companies, kept an unceasing round of prayer and psalm-singing day and night in their church. But they were not a separate order; there was no distinction between various religious orders. St. Theodore, the great defender of images in the second Iconoclast persecution, became Hegumenos of Studion in 799 (till his death in 826). His letters, sermons and constitutions for the Studite monks gave renewed ideals and influenced all Byzantine monasticism. During this period a great number of decrees of synods, ordinances of patriarchs, emperors, and abbots, further defined and expanded the rule of St. Basil. Many Eastern synods draw up among their canons laws for monks, often merely enforcing the old rule (e.g. the Synod of Langres in the middle of the fourth century, Can., xix, etc.). St. John Chrysostom (cf. Montalembert, “Histoire des Moines d’Occident”, Paris, 1880, I, 124), the Patriarch John the Faster (d. 595: Pitra, “Spicilegium Solesmense”, Paris, 1852, IV, 416-444), the Patriarch Nicephoros (d. 829: ib., 381, 415), and so on, down to Photius (Hergenrother, “Photius”, Ratisbon, 1867, II, 222-223), added to these rules, which, collected and commented in the various constitutions and typika of the monasteries, remain the guide of a Byzantine monk. Most of all, St. Theodore’s “Constitutions of Studion” (P.G., XCIX, 1703-1720) and his list of punishments for monks (ib., 1734-1758) represent a classical and much copied example of such a collection of rules and principles from approved sources. St. Basil’s mother and sister had formed a community of women at Annesos near the settlement of the men. From that time convents of nuns spread throughout the Byzantine Church, organized according to the same rule and following the same life as that of the monks with whatever modifications were necessary for their sex. The convents were subject to the jurisdiction of the bishop or patriarch. Their spiritual needs were provided for by a priest, generally a priest-monk, who was their “ghostly father” (pneumatikos pater). The abbess was called egoumenissa.
Lastly, during this period the monks play a very important part in theological controversies. The Patriarch of Alexandria, for instance, in his disputes with Constantinople and Antioch could always count on the fanatical loyalty of the great crowd of monks who swarmed up from the desert in his defense. Often we hear of monks fighting, leading tumults, boldly attacking the soldiers. In all the Monophysite troubles the monks of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and the capital were able to throw the great weight of their united influence on the one side or the other. During the Acacian schism (482-519), while the whole Byzantine Church broke communion with Rome only the “sleep-less” monks of Studion remained Catholic. On the whole, the monks were generally on the Catholic side. During the Iconoclast persecution they were so determined against the overthrow of the holy pictures that the Iconoclast emperors made the abolition of monasticism part of their program and persecuted people for being monks just as much as for worshipping images (see Iconoclasm). Especially the great Studion monastery at Constantinople had a tradition of unswerving orthodoxy and loyalty to Rome. They alone kept communion with the Holy See in the Acacian schism, they were the leaders of the Image-worshippers in Iconoclast times, and their great abbot St. Theodore (d. 826) was one of the last defenders of union and the pope’s rights before the great schism.
3. From the schism to modern times
The schism made little difference to the inner life of the Byzantine monasteries. Like the lower clergy and the people they quietly followed their bishops, who followed the patriarchs, who followed the Ecumenical patriarch into schism. After that their life went on as before, except that, having lost the advantage of intercourse with the West, they gradually drifted into the same stagnation as the rest of the Orthodox Church. They lost their tradition of scholarship, they had never done any work in parishes, and so they gradually arrived at the ideal that the “angelic life” meant, besides their immensely long prayers, contemplation and fasting, doing nothing at all. In the eighteenth century, when an attempt was made to found monastic schools, they fiercely resented such a desecration of their ideal. During the early Middle Ages the Orthodox remained immeasurably behind the Catholic monks, who were converting western Europe and making their monasteries the homes of scholarship. The chief event of this period is the foundation of the Athos monasteries, destined to become the center of Orthodox monasticism. When St. Athanasius of Athos founded the great Laura there, there were already cells of hermits on the holy mountain. Nevertheless he is rightly looked upon as the founder of the communities that made Athos so great a center of Orthodoxy (see Mount Athos; also Kyriakos, Ekklesiastike istoria, Athens, 1898, III, 74-78; “Ethos d’Orient”, II, 321-31).
In the tenth and eleventh centuries the famous monasteries called the Meteora (Meteora) in Thessaly were built on their inaccessible peaks to escape the ravages of the Slays. The Turkish conquest made little difference to the monks. Moslems respect religious. Their Prophet had spoken well of monks (Koran, Sura V, 85) and had given a charter of protection to the monks of Sinai; but they shared fully the degradation of the Orthodox Church under Moslem rule. The Turkish conquest sealed their isolation from the rest of Christendom; the monasteries became the refuge of peasants too lazy to work, and the monk earned the scorn with which he is regarded by educated people in the East. Eugenios Bulgaris (d. 1800), one of the chief restorers of classical scholarship among the Greeks, made a futile attempt to found a school at Athos. The monks drove him out with contumely as an atheist and a blasphemer, and pulled his school down. Its ruins still stand as a warning that study forms no part of the “angelic” life.
4. Monasticism in the present Orthodox Church
The sixteen independent Churches that make up the Orthodox communion are full of monasteries. There are fewer convents. One great monastery, that of Mount Sinai, follows what professes to be the old rule of St. Anthony. All the others have St. Basil’s rule with the additions, expansions, and modifications made by later emperors, patriarchs, and synods. There is no distinction of religious orders as in the West, though many lauras have customs of their own. All monks are “Basilians” if one must give them a special name. A monk is monachos, a priest-monk ieromonachos. A monastery is mone, or laura. The novice (archarios) wears a tunic called rasos with a belt and the kalimauchion of all the clergy, he is often called rasophoros. After two years (the period is sometimes shortened) he makes his (solemn) vows and receives the small habit (manduas). Technically he is now a mikroschemos, though the word is not often used. After an undefined time of perseverance he receives the great habit (koukoulion) and becomes megaloschemos. The popular Greek name for monk is “good old man” (kalogeros). The election, the rights and duties of the hegumenos and other dignitaries remain as they were before the schism. The title “archimandrite” appears to be given now to abbots of the more important monasteries and also sometimes as a personal title of distinction to others. It involves only precedence of rank.
Most monasteries depend on the local metropolitan. In the Orthodox states (Russia, Greece, etc.) the Holy Synod has a good deal to say in their management, confirms the election of the abbot, controls, and not unfrequently confiscates their property. But certain great monasteries are exempt from local jurisdiction and immediately subject to the patriarch or Holy Synod. These are called stauropegia. One Orthodox monastery (Mount Sinai) of which the abbot is also “Archbishop of Sinai“, is an autocephalous Church, obeying only Christ and the Seven Councils. The Genikoi kanonismoi of the Ecumenical patriarch-ate contain a chapter about monasteries (pp. 67 sq.). They are divided into three classes, those with more than twenty, more than ten or more than five monks. Only those of the first class (more than twenty monks) are bound to sing all the Divine office and celebrate the holy Liturgy every day. Monasteries with less than five monks are to be suppressed or incorporated in larger ones. Monastic property accumulated in the East as in the West. Many quarrels between the Church and State have arisen from usurped control or even wholesale confiscation of this property by the various Orthodox governments. The first Greek Parliament in 1833 (at Nauplion) suppressed all monasteries in the new kingdom that had less than six monks. In 1864 Cusa confiscated all monastic property in Rumania, of which much belonged to the monasteries of Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, and Athos. In 1875 Russia confiscated three-fifths of the property in Bessarabia belonging to the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre. Of the rest it paid itself one-fifth for its trouble and applied two-fifths to what it described euphemistically as pious purposes in Russia. Many monasteries have farms called metochia in distant lands. Generally a few monks are sent to administer the metochion of which all the revenue belongs to the motherhouse. The most famous monasteries in the southern part of the Orthodox Church are Mount Sinai, the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, the Meteora in Thessaly, Sveti Naum on the Lake of Ochrida and, most of all, Athos. The national quarrels in the Orthodox Church have full development at Athos. Till lately the Greeks succeeded in crushing all foreign elements. They drove the Georgians from Iviron, the Bulgars from Philotheos, Xenophon, and St. Paul’s. Now they are rapidly losing ground and influence; the Slays are building large Sketai, and Russia here as everywhere is the great danger to the Greek element. The Russians have only one laura (Panteleimon or Russiko) but with its huge Sketai it contains more monks than all the Greek lauras together. All the Athos monasteries are stauropegia; only the Patriarch of Constantinople has any jurisdiction. For ordinations the hegumenoi invite the neighboring Metropolitan of Heraclea. The monasteries have also the dignity of “Imperial” lauras, as having been under the protection of former emperors.
5. Monasticism in Russia
The writer is indebted to Mr. C. Faminsky of the Russian Embassy Church at London for the following account and the Russian bibliography. There have been monks in Russia since Christianity was first preached there in the tenth century. Their great period was the fourteenth century; their decline began in the sixteenth. Peter the Great (1661-1725) at one time meant to suppress the monasteries altogether. In 1723 he forbade new novices to be received. Under Catherine II (1761-1796) a more prosperous era began; since Alexander I (1801-1825) monasteries flourish again all over the empire. The latest census (1896) counts 495 monasteries and 249 convents of nuns. These are divided into 4 lauras (in Russia the name means a certain precedence and special privileges); 7 stauropegia (subject directly to the Holy Synod and exempt from the ordinary’s jurisdiction), 64 monasteries attached to bishops’ palaces. The rest are divided into three classes. There are 73 of the first class (which have at least 33 monks or, if convents, 52 nuns), 100 of the second (17 monks or nuns) and 191 of the third (12 monks or 17 nuns). There are further 350 monasteries not classified. Catherine II introduced the practice of drawing up official lists of the monasteries. She found 1072 monasteries in her empire of which she abolished 496 and classified the rest. In Russia, as at Athos, monasteries are either coenobic (obshejitel’nyie) or idiorhythmic (neobshejitel’nyie); but these latter are not in favor with the Holy Synod which restores the coenobic rule wherever possible. Some monasteries are supported by government (shtatnyie), others have to support themselves. The three classes mentioned above concern the amounts received by the supported monasteries. The stauropegia are: Solovetsky, at Archangel, Simonoff, Donskoyi, Novospassky, and Saikonospassky at Moscow, Voskresensky or New Jerusalem, Spaso-Yakovlesky. The census of 1896 counts 42,940 monks and 7464 nuns in the empire. The most famous Russian monasteries are Kieff (Kievsky Laura) founded in 1062 by a St. Anthony, the largest of all; the Troitzky Laura near Moscow, founded by St. Sergius in 1335 and now the home of the first “Ecclesiastical Academy” (Seminary) in the empire; the Metropolitan of Moscow is its hegumenos. The Pochaievsky Laura, founded in the thirteenth century and famous for its miraculous eikon of the Blessed Virgin; Solovetsky, founded in 1429; Surieff (in the government of Novgorod) founded in 1030; Tikhvinsy (in Novgorod); Volokolamsky (in the Moscow government) founded by St. Joseph of Volokolamsk in 1479, which has an important library and has often been used as a state prison, and Kyrilla-Bilesersky (in Novgorod) founded by St. Cyril in 1397.
6. Monasticism in the lesser Eastern Churches
Little need be said of these Churches. All had fully developed monasticism according to St. Basil’s idea before they went into schism, and all have monks and nuns under much the same conditions as the Orthodox, though, naturally, in each case there has been some special development of their own. The Nestorians once had many monasteries. Joseph Simon Assemani in the eighteenth century counts 31 (“Bibl. Orientalis”, III, Rome, 1725, xiv, §2). Since the fourteenth century the discipline has become so relaxed that monks can easily get dispensed from their vows and marry (Badger, “The Nestorians and their Rituals”, London, 1852, II, p. 179). They now have neither monasteries nor convents; but there are monks and nuns who live in their own houses or wander about. The Copts have many monasteries arranged almost exactly like those of the Orthodox (Silbernagl, “Verfassung u. gegenwartiger Bestand samtl. Kirchen des Orients”, Ratisbon, 1904, 291-293). The Abyssinian monasteries are very flourishing (ib. 299-302). There are in Abyssinia also people called debterats, regular canons who say the office in common and obey a superior called nebrait, but may marry. The Nebrait of Aksum is one of the most powerful members of the Abyssinian Church and the leader of the national party against the foreign (Coptic) metropolitan. The Syrian Jacobites once had a great number of monasteries. Down to the sixth century there were still Stylites among them. They now have only nine monasteries in the present reduced state of their Church, most of them also residences of bishops. The Jacobite monk fasts very strictly. To eat meat is a crime punished as equal to adultery (Silbernagl, op. cit., 313-315). The Armenian Church, as being considerably the largest and most flourishing of these lesser Eastern Churches, has the largest number of monks and the most flourishing monastic state. Armenian monks follow St. Basil’s rule, but are much stricter in the matter of fasting. The novitiate lasts eight years. It is a curious contrast to this strictness that the abbot is often not a monk at all, but a married secular priest who hands on his office to his son by hereditary right. Most Armenian bishops live in monasteries. Etchmiadzin, the residence of the Katholikos, is theoretically the center of the Armenian Church. The Armenians have the huge monastery of St. James, the center of their quarter of Jerusalem, where their Patriarch of Jerusalem lives, and the convent of Deir asseituni on Mount Sion with a hundred nuns. Armenian monks do not as a rule become bishops; the bishops are taken from the unmarried Vartabeds, that is, the higher class of secular priests (doctors). In all the other Eastern Churches bishops are monks. All use their monasteries as places of punishment for refractory clergy.
7. Uniate Monks
The only difference union with Rome makes to Eastern monks is that there is in the Uniate Churches a certain tendency to emulate the Latin religious orders. As this generally means a disposition to do something more than recite the Divine office, it may be counted an unmixed advantage. Uniate monks, like all the uniate clergy, are admittedly better educated than the schismatics; some of them at least attend Western schools or seminaries of Latin religious in the East. It is a Latinizing tendency that makes them often use special names for their order and even evolve into something like separate religious orders. Thus most Uniate Byzantine monks call themselves “Basilians“, as the Latins use “Benedictine” or “Franciscan”. Among the Melchites the two great congregations of Salvatorians and Shuwerites (see Melchites) are practically different orders. The Uniate Armenians have the famous Mechitarist Congregation, really a special religious order founded by Mechitar (1676-1749). The Mechitarists have the monastery of San Lazaro at Venice, and a branch separated from the others in 1774 have a house at Vienna. By their schools, missions, and literary activity they have always done great things in educating and converting their countrymen. The Catholic Chaldees have three monasteries, Rabban Hormuzd, Alkosh, and Mar Yurgis in Mesopotamia. The Maronite Church from the beginning has been specially a monastic Church. It was first formed by the schism of the monks of St. John Maro, in the Lebanon, from the Patriarch of Antioch.. Since their union with Rome they have formed separate orders. Till 1757 there were two such orders, those of St. Isaias and of St. Antony. The St. Antony monks then split again into two congregations, the Aleppians (monks of Aleppo) and Baladites (baladiye, country monks). Clement XIV sanctioned this separation in 1770. All follow the rule of St. Antony. For the rest the Uniate monks of each Church have the same rule and customs as the corresponding schismatics. Certain details have been revised and abuses eliminated by the Roman authorities. There are Uniate monasteries wherever there are Uniate Christians. Uniate bishops are by no means always monks as there are many of unmarried secular priests. One may note especially the Uniate Byzantine monks in southern Italy and in the great monastery of Grottaferrata outside Rome.
IV. WESTERN MONASTICISM
1. Pre-Benedictine Period
The introduction of monasticism into the West may be dated from about A.D. 340 when St. Athanasius visited Rome accompanied by the two Egyptian monks Ammon and Isidore, disciples of St. Anthony. The publication of the “Vita Antonii” some years later and its translation into Latin spread the knowledge of Egyptian monachism widely and many were found in Italy to imitate the example thus set forth. The first Italian monks aimed at reproducing exactly what was done in Egypt and not a few—such as St. Jerome, Rufinus, Paula, Eustochium and the two Melanias—actually went to live in Egypt or Palestine as being better suited to monastic life than Italy. As however the records of early Italian monasticism are very scanty, it will be more convenient to give first a short account of early monastic life in Gaul, our knowledge of which is much more complete.
The first exponent of monasticism in Gaul seems to have been St. Martin, who founded a monastery at Liguge near Poitiers, c. 360 (see Liguge; Saint Martin of Tours). Soon after he was consecrated Bishop of Tours; he then formed a monastery outside that city, which he made his customary residence. Although only some two miles from the city the spot was so retired that Martin found there the solitude of a hermit. His cell was a hut of wood, and round it his disciples, who soon numbered eighty, dwelt in caves and huts. The type of life was simply the Antonian monachism of Egypt (see above, Monasticism Eastern) and so rapidly did it spread that, at St. Martin‘s funeral two thousand monks were present. Even more famous was the monastery of Abbey of Lerins (q.v.) which gave to the Church of Gaul some of its most famous bishops and saints. In it too the famous Abbot John Cassian (q.v.) settled after living for seven years among the monks of Egypt, and from it he founded the great Abbey of St. Victor at Marseilles. Cassian was undoubtedly the most celebrated teacher that the monks of Gaul ever had, and his influence was all on the side of the primitive Egyptian ideals. Consequently we find that the eremitical life was regarded as being the summit or goal of monastic ambition and the means of perfection recommended were, as in Egypt, extreme personal austerities with prolonged fasts and vigils, and the whole atmosphere of ascetical endeavor so dear to the heart of the Antonian monk (see John Cassian; France; Saint Caesarius of Arles; Abbey of Lerins. etc).
(b) Celtic Monasticism (Ireland, Wales, Scotland)
Authorities are still divided as to the origin of Celtic monasticism, but the view most commonly accepted is that of Mr. Willis Bund which holds it to have been a purely indigenous growth and rejects the idea of any direct connection with Gallic or Egyptian monasticism. It seems clear that the first Celtic monasteries were merely settlements where the Christians lived together—priests and laity, men, women, and children alike—as a kind of religious clan. At a later period actual monasteries both of monks and nuns were formed, and later still the eremitical life came into vogue. It seems highly probable that the ideas and literature of Egyptian or Gallic monachism may have influenced these later developments, even if the Celtic monasticism were purely independent in origin for the external manifestations are identical in all three forms. Indeed the desire for austerities of an extreme character has always remained a special feature of Irish asceticism down to our own time. Want of space forbids any detailed account of Celtic monasticism in this place but the following articles may be referred to: (for Ireland) Armagh, Bangor, School of Clonard, Clonfert, Clonmacnoise, Lismore, Bobbio, LUXEUIL, Saints Patrick, Carthage, Columbanus, Comgall; (for Wales) Llancarvan, BANGOR, SAINTS ASAPH, David, Dubric, Gildas, Kentigern; (for Scotland) School of Iona, LINDISFARNE, ABBEY OF, SAINTS NINIAN, COLUMBA, AIDAN. Undoubtedly, however, the chief glory of Celtic monasticism is its missionary work, the results of which are to be found over all northwestern Europe. The observance, at first so distinctive, gradually lost its special character and fell into line with that of other countries; but, by that time, Celtic monasticism had passed its zenith and its influence had declined.
Like the other countries of western Europe, Italy long retained a purely Eastern character in its monastic observance. The climate and other causes however combined to render its practice far harder than in the lands of its origin. In consequence the standard of observance declined, and it is clear from the Prologue to St. Benedict’s Rule that by his day the lives of many monks left much to be desired. Moreover there was as yet no fixed code of laws to regulate the life either of the monastery or of the individual monk. Each house had its own customs and practices, its own collection of rules dependent largely on the choice of the abbot of the moment. There were certainly in the West translations of various Eastern codes, e.g. the Rules of Pachomius and Basil and another attributed to Macarius. There were also St. Augustine’s famous letter (Ep., ccxi) on the management of convents of nuns, and also the writings of Cassian, but the only actual Rules of Western origin were the two by St. Caesarius for monks and nuns respectively, and that by St. Columbanus, none of which could be called a working code for the management of a monastery. In a word monachism was still waiting for the man who should adapt it to Western needs and circumstances and give to it a special form distinct from that of the East. This man was found in the person of St. Benedict (480-543).
2. The Spread of St. Benedict’s Rule
Full details of St. Benedict’s legislation, which had such immense effect on the monasticism of Western Europe, will be found in the articles Saint Benedict of Nursia. and Rule of Saint Benedict. It is sufficient here to point out that St. Benedict legislated for the details of the monastic life in a way that had never been done before either in East or West. It is clear that he had acquainted himself thoroughly with the lives of the Egyptian fathers of the desert, with the writings of St. Basil, Cassian, and Rufinus; and in the main lines he has no intention of departing from the precedents set by these great authorities. Still the standard of asceticism aimed at by him, as was inevitable in the West, is less severe than that of Egypt or Syria. Thus he gives his monks good and ample food. He permits them to drink wine. He secures a sufficient period of unbroken sleep. His idea was evidently to set up a standard that could and should be attained by all the monks of a monastery, leaving it to individual inspiration to essay greater austerities if the need of these were felt by any one. On the other hand, probably as a safeguard against the relaxations mentioned above, he requires a greater degree of seclusion than St. Basil had done. So far as possible all connection with the world outside the monastery is to be avoided. If any monk be compelled by duty to go beyond the monastery enclosure he is forbidden on his return to speak of what he has seen or heard. So too no monk may receive gifts or letters from his friends or relatives without permission of the abbot. It is true that guests from without are to be received and entertained, but only certain monks specially chosen for the purpose may hold intercourse with them.
Perhaps, however, the chief point in which St. Benedict modified the preexisting practice is his insistence upon the stabilitas loci. By this special Vow of Stability he unites the monk for life to the particular monastery in which his vows are made. This was really a new development and one of the highest importance. In the first place by this the last vestige of personal freedom was taken away from the monk. Secondly it secured in each monastery that continuity of theory and practice which is so essential for the family which St. Benedict desired above everything. The abbot was to be a father and the monk a child. Nor was he to be more capable of choosing a new father or a new home than any other child was. After all St. Benedict was a Roman, and the scion of a Roman patrician family, and he was simply bringing into the monastic life that absolute dependence of all the members of a family upon the father which is so typical of Roman law and usage. Only at the selection of a new abbot can the monks choose for themselves. Once elected the abbot’s power becomes absolute; there is nothing to control him except the Rule and his own conscience which is responsible for the salvation of every soul entrusted to his care.
The Rule of St. Benedict was written at Monte Cassino in the ten or fifteen years preceding the saint’s death in 543, but very little is known of the way in which it began to spread to other monasteries. St. Gregory (Dial., II, xxii) speaks of a foundation made from Monte Cassino at Terracina, but nothing is known of this house. Again the traditions of Benedictine foundations in Gaul and Sicily by St. Maurus and St. Placid are now generally discredited. Still the Rule must have become known very soon, for by the death of Simplicius, the third Abbot of Monte Cassino, in line from St. Benedict, it is referred to as being generally observed throughout Italy (Mabillon, “Annal. Bened.”, VII, ii). In the year 580 Monte Cassino was destroyed by the Lombards and the monks fled to Rome, taking with them the autograph copy of the Rule. They were installed by Pelagius II in a monastery near the Lateran Basilica. It is almost certain that St. Gregory the Great who succeeded Pelagius II introduced the Benedictine Rule and observance into the monastery of St. Andrew which he founded on the Coelian Hill at Rome, and also into the six monasteries he founded in Sicily. Thanks to St. Gregory the Rule was carried to England by St. Augustine and his fellow monks; and also to the Frankish and Lombard monasteries which the pope’s influence did much to revive. Indirectly too, by devoting the second book of his “Dialogues” to the story of St. Benedict’s life and work, Gregory gave a strong impetus to the spread of the Rule. Thus the first stage in the advance of St. Benedict’s code across Western Europe is closely bound up with the name of the first monk-pope.
In the seventh century the process continued steadily. Sometimes the Benedictine code existed side by side with an older observance. This was the case at Bobbio where the monks lived either under the rule of St. Benedict or of St. Columbanus, who had founded the monastery in 609. In Gaul at the same period a union of two or more rules was often to be found, as at Luxeuil, Solignac, and elsewhere. In this there was nothing surprising, indeed the last chapter of St. Benedict’s rule seems almost to contemplate such an arrangement. In England, thanks to St. Wilfrid of York, St. Benedict Biscop and others, the Benedictine mode of life began to be regarded as the only true type of monachism. Its influence however was still slight in Ireland where the Celtic monasticism gave way more slowly. In the eighth century the advance of Benedictinism went on with even greater rapidity owing principally to the efforts of St. Boniface. That saint is known as the Apostle of Germany although the Irish missionaries had preceded him there. His energies however were divided between the two tasks of converting the remaining heathen tribes and bringing the Christianity of the Irish converts into line with the Roman use and obedience. In both these undertakings he achieved great success and his triumph meant the destruction of the earlier Columban form of monasticism. Fulda, the great monastery of St. Boniface’s institution, was modeled directly on Monte Cassino in which Sturm the abbot had resided for some time so that he might become perfectly acquainted with the workings of the Rule at the fountain head, and in its turn Fulda became the model for all German monasteries. Thus by the reign of Charlemagne the Benedictine form of monasticism had become the normal type throughout the West with the sole exception of some few Spanish and Irish cloisters. So completely was this the case that even the memory of earlier things had passed away and it could be gravely doubted whether monks of any kind at all had existed before St. Benedict and whether there could be any other monks but Benedictines.
At the time of Charlemagne‘s death in 814 the most famous monk in western Europe was St. Benedict of Aniane, the friend and counselor of Louis the new emperor. For him Louis built a monastery near his imperial palace at Aix, and there Benedict gathered thirty monks, chosen from among his own personal friends and in full sympathy with his ideas. This monastery was intended to be a model for all the religious houses of the empire, and the famous Assembly of 817 passed a series of resolutions which touched upon the whole range of the monastic life. The object of these resolutions was to secure, even in the minutest details, an absolute uniformity in all the monasteries of the empire, so that it might seem as if “all had been taught by one single master in one single spot”. As might have been expected the scheme failed to do this, or even anything approaching thereto, but the resolutions of the Assembly are of high interest as the first example of what are nowadays called “Constitutions”, i.e. a code, supplementary to the Holy Rule, which shall regulate the lesser details of everyday life and practice. The growth of the Benedictine monasticism and its development during the period known as the “Benedictine centuries” will be found treated of in the article Benedictine Order. but it may be stated broadly that, while it had of course its periods of vigor and decline, no serious modification of St. Benedict’s system was attempted until the rise of Cluny in the early part of the tenth century.
3. The Rise of Cluny
The essential novelty in the Cluniac system was its centralization. Hitherto every monastery had been a separate family, independent of all the rest. The ideal of Cluny, however, was to set up one great central monastery with dependent houses, numbered even by the hundred, scattered over many lands and forming a vast hierarchy or monastic feudal system under the Abbot of Cluny. The superior of every house was nominated by the Abbot of Cluny, every monk was professed in his name and with his sanction. It was in fact more like an army subject to a general than St. Benedict’s scheme of a family with a father to guide it, and for two centuries it dominated the Church in Western Europe with a power second only to that of the papacy itself. (See Cluny; Berno, St.; Odo, St.; Hugh the Great.) Anything indeed more unlike the primitive monasticism with its caves and individualism than this elaborate system with the pomp and circumstance which soon attended it could hardly be imagined, and the instinct which prompted men to become monks soon began to tell against a type of monasticism so dangerously liable to relapse into mere formalism. It must be understood however that the observance of Cluny was still strict and the reaction against it was not based on any need for a reform in morals or discipline. The abbots of Cluny during the first two centuries of its existence, with the sole exception of Pontius (1109) who was soon deposed, were men of great sanctity and commanding ability. In practice however the system had resulted in crushing all initiative out of the superiors of the subordinate monasteries and so, when a renewal of vigor was needed there was no one capable of the effort required and the life was crushed out of the body by its own weight. That this defect was the real cause why the system failed is certain. Nothing is more remarkable in the history of Benedictine monasticism than its power of revival by the springing up of renewed life from within. Again and again, when reform has been needed, the impetus has been found to come from within the body instead of from outside it. But in the case of Cluny such a thing had been rendered practically impossible, and on its decline no recovery took place.
4. Reaction against Cluny
The reaction against Cluny and the system of centralization took various forms. Early in the eleventh century (1012) came the foundation of the Camaldolese by St. Romuald. This was a hark back to the ancient Egyptian ideal of a number of hermits living in a “laura” or collection of detached cells which were situated some considerable distance apart (see Camaldolese). A few years later (1039) St. John Gualbert founded the Order of Vallombrosa which is chiefly important for the institution of “lay brothers”, as distinct from the choir monks, a novelty which assumes high importance in later monastic history (see Lay Brothers; Vallombrosa). In 1074 came the Order of Grammont which however did not move to the place from which its name is derived until 1124 (see Grammont; Saint Stephen of Muret.). Far more important than these was the establishment in 1084 of the Carthusians by St. Bruno, at the Grand Chartreuse near Grenoble, which boasts that it alone of the great orders has never required to be reformed (see Carthusian Order; La Grande Chartreuse; St. Bruno (Carthusian).). In all these four institutes the tendency was towards a more eremitical and secluded form of life than that followed by the Benedictines, but this was not the case in the greatest of all the foundations of the period, viz. the Cistercians.
The Cistercians derived their name from Meaux near Dijon where the Order was founded about 1098 by St. Robert of Molesme. The new development differed from that of Cluny in this that, while Cluny established one scattered family of vast size, Meaux preserved the idea that each monastery was an individual family but united all these families into one “Order” in the modern sense of an organized congregation. The Abbot and House of Citeaux was to be preeminent for ever over all the monasteries of the order. The abbots of all other monasteries were to assemble at Meaux in general chapter every year. The purpose of this was to secure in every monastery a complete uniformity in the details of observance, and this uniformity was to be made even more certain by a yearly visitation of each house. The Abbot of Citeaux possessed the further right of visiting any and every monastery at will, and though he was not to interfere with the temporalities of any house against the wishes of the abbot and brethren, in all matters of discipline his power was absolute. This elaborate system was set forth in the famous document known as the “Carta Caritatis” and in it for the first time the expression “Our Order” is used in the modern sense. Previously the word, as used in the phrase “the monastic order” had denoted the mode of life common to every monastery. In the “Carta Caritatis” it is used to exclude all monastic observance not exactly on the lines of the “new monastery”, i.e., Citeaux, and subject to it. The monasteries of the Cistercians spread over Europe with surprising rapidity and from the color of their habit the monks were called the “White Monks”, the older Benedictines and Cluniacs being known as the “Black Monks” (see Cistercians; Abbey of Citeaux; St. Robert of Molesme; St. Bernard of Clairvaux.).
The impetus given by these new foundations helped to revitalize the Benedictine monasteries of the older type, but at the same time a new influence was at work upon western monasticism. Hitherto the monastic ideal had been essentially contemplative. Certainly the monks had undertaken active work of many kinds but always as a kind of accident, or to meet some immediate necessity, not as a primary object of their institute nor as an end in itself. Now however religious foundations of an active type began to be instituted, which were dedicated to some particular active work or works as a primary end of their foundation. Of this class were the Military Orders, e.g., the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights; numerous Institutes of canons, e.g., Augustinians, Premonstratensians, and Gilbertines; the many Orders of friars, e.g. Carmelites, Trinitarians, Servites, Dominicans, and Franciscans or Friars Minor. Of these and the multitudinous modern foundations of an active character, as distinct from a contemplative or monastic one, this article does not profess to treat; they will be found fully dealt with in the general article Religious Orders and also individually in separate articles under the names of the various orders and congregations. It must be recognized however that these active institutions attracted a vast number of vocations and to that extent tended to check the increase and development of the monastic order strictly so called, even while their fervor and success spurred the older institutes to a renewal of zeal in their special observances.
The Fourth Council of Lateran in 1215 passed certain special canons to regulate monastic observance and prevent any falling away from the standard set up. These directions tended to adapt the best features of the Cistercian system, e.g. the general chapters, to the use of the Black monks, and they were a great step in the path which later proved so successful. At the time however they were practically ignored by the monasteries on the Continent, and only in England was any serious effort made to put them into practice. The consequence was that the English monasteries of Black monks soon formed themselves into one national congregation, the observance throughout the country became largely uniform, and a far higher standard of life obtained than was common in continental monasteries at the same period. The system of periodical general chapters ordered by the Lateran Council was maintained. So too was the subjection of all monasteries to the diocesan bishops as a normal state of affairs; indeed only five abbeys in all England were exempt from episcopal jurisdiction. There were of course individual failures here and there, but it is clear that, from the date of the Council of Lateran up to the time of their destruction, the English Benedictine houses maintained on the whole a good standard of discipline and preserved the affectionate respect of the great majority of the laity in every rank of life.
5. Period of Monastic Decline
On the Continent the period succeeding the Fourth Lateran Council was one of steady decline. The history of the time tells of civil disturbance, intellectual upheaval, and a continual increase of luxury among ecclesiastics as well as laymen. The wealth of the monasteries was tempting and the great ones both in Church and State seized upon them. Kings, nobles, cardinals, and prelates obtained nominations to abbeys “in commendam” and more often than not absorbed the revenues of houses which they left to go to ruin. Vocations grew scarce and not infrequently the communities were reduced to a mere handful of monks living on a trifling allowance doled out to them none too willingly by the layman or ecclesiastic who claimed to be their commendatory abbot. Efforts to check these evils were not wanting especially in Italy. The Sylves-trines, founded by St. Sylvester de Gozzolini about the middle of the thirteenth century, were organized on a system of perpetual superiors under one head, the Prior of Monte Fano, who ruled the whole congregation as general assisted by a chapter consisting of representatives from each house (see Sylvestrines). The Celestines, founded about forty years later by St. Peter Morone (Celestine V), were organized on much the same plan but the superiors were not perpetual and the head of the whole body was an Abbot elected by the General Chapter for three years and ineligible for reelection for nine years after his previous term of office (see Celestines; Pope Saint Celestine V). The Olivetans, founded about 1313 by Bernardo Tolomei of Siena, mark the last stage of development. In their case the monks were not professed for any particular monastery, but, like friars, for the congregation in general. The officials of the various houses were chosen by a small committee appointed for this purpose by the general chapter. The abbot-general was visitor of all monasteries and “superior of superiors”, but his power was held for a very short period only. This system had the very great advantage that it rendered the existence of commendatory superiors practically impossible, but it secured this at the cost of sacrificing all family life in the individual monastery which is the central idea of St. Benedict’s legislation. Further, by taking the right of election away from the monastic communities, it concentrated all real power in the hands of a small committee, a course obviously open to many possible dangers (see Olivetans).
6. Monastic Revival
In the great wave of reform and revival which characterized the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the older institutions of Benedictines once more gave proof of their vitality and a spontaneous renewal of vigor was shown throughout Europe. This revival followed two main lines. In the Latin countries the movement pursued the path marked out by the Olivetans. Thus in Italy all the monasteries of Black monks were gradually united together under the name of the Congregation of St. Justina of Padua, afterwards called the Cassinese Congregation (see under Benedictine Order). Similar methods were adopted in the formation of the Congregations of St. Maur and St. Vannes in France, in the two Congregations of Spanish Benedictines, and in the revival of the English Congregation. In Germany the revival took a different path; and, while keeping closer to the traditions of the past, united the existing monasteries very much in the manner ordered by the Fourth Council of Lateran in 1215. The Union of Bursfeld is perhaps the best example of this method. An example of reform in the seventeenth century was the work of Abbe de Rance in instituting the Cistercian reform at La Trappe. In this his object was to get as close as possible to the primitive form of Benedictine life. No one can question his sincerity or the singleness of his intentions, but de Rance was not an antiquary and had not been trained as a monk but as a courtier. The result was that he interpreted St. Benedict’s rule with the most absolute literalness, and thus succeeded in producing a cast-iron mode of life far more rigid and exacting than there is any reason to believe St. Benedict himself either desired to or did beget. The upheaval of the French Revolution and the wars which followed it seemed likely to give a death blow to Western monachism and in fact did destroy monasteries by the hundred. But nothing perhaps is more noteworthy, in all the wonderful revival of Catholicism which the last hundred years have seen, than the resuscitation of monastic life in all its forms, not only in Europe, but also in America, Africa, Australia, and other distant lands whose very existence was unknown to the founders of Western monachism. Details of this revival will be found in the articles on the various orders and congregations referred to above.
No mention has been made in this article of the question of women under Monasticism. Broadly speaking the history of contemplative nuns, as distinct from nuns of the more recent active orders, has been identical with that of the monks. In almost every instance the modifications, reforms, etc., made by the various monastic legislators have been adopted by convents of women as well as by the monks. In cases where any special treatment has been thought necessary, e.g. the Carthusian Nuns, a separate section of the article on the order or congregation in question has been dedicated to the subject. These sections should be referred to in all cases for detailed information. (For practical details of the monastic Iife and the actual working of a monastery see the articles Monasticism; Monastery; Abbey; Abbot; Abbess; Obedientiaries; Saint Benedict of Nursia; Nuns.)
G. ROGER HUDLESTON