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date: 27 January 2020

Benedictine monksfree

  • Joseph Dyer

Benedictine monks and nuns live in communities guided by the Rule of Benedict (c530) as interpreted by the customs of each monastery and under the authority of the abbot or abbess. They make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but they also vow ‘stability’ – that they will reside in the abbey of their profession until death. Monasteries also founded priories, which have a lower judicial status. In the Middle Ages, male Benedictines were also known as ‘black monks’ from the colour of their tunic, scapular, and choir robe (cuculla).

It is improper to speak of a Benedictine ‘order’, especially in the Middle Ages, since each monastery that followed the Rule of Benedict maintained a degree of independence, based on specific customs (consuetudines) that varied from house to house. When monastic confederations like Cluny came to be established, they were often based on similarity of observance as much as on geographical contiguity. Benedictines sensu stricto can be distinguished from monastics like the Cistercians who take their origins from reform movements that sought to recover the primitive practice of the Rule and its balanced life of prayer, spiritual reading, and work. There were also eremitical movements that laid less stress on the community life that was so important to Benedict. Benedictine monasticism needs to be distinguished from orders (all of later foundation) that follow the Rule of Augustine. These include Augustinians, Norbertines/Praemonstratensians, and Dominicans, the latter one of the ‘mendicant’ orders of the 13th century.

The importance of Benedictine monasticism for the history and culture of Europe can hardly be exaggerated. Monks evangelized pagan populations, developed agriculture, created efficient economic and managerial models, constructed buildings of stone, practiced the art of healing, cultivated the decorative arts, encouraged learning by establishing schools, and preserved the literary and intellectual heritage of antiquity. Virtually on the point of extinction several times in its history due to factors internal and external – more often the latter than the former – Benedictine monasticism always managed to rebound and rejuvenate itself.

1. Benedictine monasticism.

The monastic rule drawn up by Benedict of Nursia was only one of a number of competing observances (e.g., the rule of the Irish abbot Columban, d 615) that circulated from the 6th to the 8th century – the era of the ‘mixed rule’ (regula mixta), when each monastic foundation drew on a variety of legislative sources, written and unwritten. Every monastery needed a regula and an abbot-superior. The Rule of Benedict, written c540, may have come to Rome after the destruction of Monte Cassino by the Lombards (c577), when the Cassinese monks are said to have fled to Rome for safety, perhaps bringing a copy of the Rule with them, but that cannot be confirmed. How or whether the Rule of Benedict was accepted in Rome, it is impossible to say. It has been suggested that the Rule arrived in England with the monks sent there on a missionary journey by Pope Gregory the Great (d 604) in 596. Benedict Biscop (d 690), founder of the monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow, probably knew about the Rule, but Bede is not explicit about its observance at Jarrow. The earliest copy of the Rule of Benedict (GB-Ob ms. Hatton 48), an interpolated version, was written in England c700.

The mission to England seems to be the first instance of a kind of monastic endeavour – the conversion of pagan peoples – that Benedict had not anticipated in the Rule. Monks from England began the evangelization of northern Europe. St Willibrord (d 739) spread the Gospel in present-day Holland establishing a cathedral-monastery at Utrecht and a missionary base at Echternach. St Boniface (Winfrid; d 754) followed him, preaching in Germanic lands. He established a monastery at Fulda (743) later becoming archbishop of Mainz. His nephew, St Willibald (d 786 as bishop of Eichstätt), continued his work in the German mission. Many abbeys famous in the history of monasticism (Kremsmünster, Tegernsee, Metten, Benediktbeuren, St Peter [Salzburg], St Emmeram [Regensburg]) were established at this time in Bavaria and Austria.

The Rule of Benedict became known in Merovingian Gaul, where Bishop Chrodegang of Metz (d 766) borrowed from it for his Regula canonicorum intended for the secular clergy of his cathedral, and he imposed it as the exclusive rule for the monasteries he founded at Gorze and Lorsch. Charlemagne (d 812), who laid great store in the principle of unanimity, initiated a campaign to make the Rule of Benedict the norm of monastic life within his realm. His son, Louis the Pious (d 840), who shared his father’s desire for a unified monastic observance, found an energetic ally in Benedict of Aniane (d 821), a Visigothic aristocrat who had already established a community that followed the Rule of Benedict and promoted its observance in southern Gaul. A council of abbots over which he presided that met at Aachen in 816 drew up directives to supplement the Rule of Benedict with the aim of instituting a single monastic consuetudo throughout the Carolingian empire, but Benedict of Aniane died a few years after the reform council and the goal was never realized. Benedict also compiled a collection of older monastic legislation, the Concordia regularum. The (idealized) ‘Plan of St Gall’ (c830), which shows a large double-apsed church surrounded by monastic buildings of every description (never realized), can reasonably be related to this campaign of monastic renewal (Horn and Born, C1979).

The chaotic conditions of the later 9th century that followed the collapse of the Carolingian empire were not propitious to the survival of tranquil cloisters. Vikings in search of plunder targeted monasteries along the rivers of France and along the coasts of England, where Benedictine monasticism had begun to flourish (Evesham, Winchester, St Alban, Glastonbury, to mention a few of the most renowned). Monte Cassino, refounded in 717, was sacked in 883 by Muslim (‘Saracen’) marauders, who murdered the abbot Bertario, and attempted to burn the monastic buildings; other monasteries of central Italy suffered a similar fate at their hands. Internal problems sapped the vitality of many monastic communities. Discipline was lax with regard to times of prayer, fasting, and the diet mandated by the Rule of Benedict, which prohibited the eating of meat, except by the sick.

An important change in monastic identity had taken place towards the beginning of the 9th century. Benedict had assumed that the monastic vocation differed from that of ordained clergy. A monastery might have a priest-monk or two, but only for convenience in having Mass celebrated as needed. As more and more monks sought ordination, they preferred to devote themselves to study instead of the manual labour prescribed in the Rule. Attention was focused on praying the Office and additional devotions in choir. Monastic scriptoria supplied the great abbeys with resources that made monastic authors of the Middle Ages the most distinguished theologians and Scripture commentators of the time.

2. Benedictine reforms and confederations.

The emergence of reform movements in the 10th century led to the imposition of strict discipline and assiduous observance of the Rule of Benedict. New monasteries were founded, frequently under the auspices and with the support of local rulers or bishops. Most significant of these new foundations was the Burgundian monastery of Cluny, created in 910 by Duke William of Aquitaine. The abbey had the good fortune to be ruled by a series of saintly abbots who were also gifted administrators. The second abbot, Odo (d 942), was a zealous and experienced reformer, who was named concurrently archabbot of all the monasteries at Rome by Pope Leo VII (936–9). Over the years, more and more abbeys were reformed and brought into the Cluny orbit. Only two abbots, Odilo (994–1049) and Hugh I (1049–1109), headed Cluny’s ever growing monastic ‘empire’ during the 11th century, when Cluny presided over a quasi-feudal network of nearly 1000 houses, realizing belatedly Benedict of Aniane’s aim of a unified monastic consuetudo. A genuine monastic ‘order’ had been formed, and the Cluniac consuetudines were widely imitated. Four Cluniac monks were elected to the papacy: Gregory VII (Hildebrand), Urban II, Paschal II, and Urban V.

Nearly all monasteries, whether federated or autonomous, adopted or emulated the Cluniac way of life, which departed significantly from the ‘tri-partite’ monasticism of Benedict of Nursia: prayer, lectio divina, and manual labour. Cluniac monks consecrated almost the entire day to an elaborate choir Office, to which many supplemental devotions were added (see §9 below). Cluny wielded significant influence in secular affairs, not only because of its extensive property holdings but also because it furnished advisers for rulers. Cluniac churches were no longer the simple oratories of Benedict’s time but towering Romanesque structures in stone that covered Europe with a ‘white mantle of churches’ (Raoul Glaber, d 1047). The third church at Cluny (completed 1180) was the largest building in Europe until the completion of new St Peter’s in the early 17th century. It was dynamited by French Revolutionaries, when they also burnt the monastic library and archives (Conant, C1966, pp. 186–221; on earlier monastic architecture see McClendon, C2005, pp. 149–72). William of Dijon (d 1031), known to music historians from the gradual-tonary that was compiled during his time as the reforming abbot of Saint-Bénigne de Dijon, was also the architect who built the abbey and was involved in the construction of Mont Saint-Michel. (Raoul Glaber was a monk of Saint-Bénigne at the time.)

England had its own Cluniac-inspired centres of Benedictine reform: Winchester, Worcester, Canterbury, and Glastonbury. St Dunstan (d 988), abbot of Glastonbury, encountered the Cluniac reform in Flanders during his exile (955). Upon his return to England, he became archbishop of Canterbury and used this position to promote monastic reform. One of his aims resembled that of Benedict of Aniane: to unify English monastic discipline under a single consuetudo. To this end there was compiled between 965 and 970 with the support of King Edgar (d 975) the Regularis Concordia Angliae nationis (Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation). Its author is thought to have been another reforming bishop, Aethelwold of Winchester (d 984). This document drew on not just the Rule of Benedict but also on the Concordia regularum of Benedict of Aniane and the observances of reformed continental abbeys (Cluny, Gorze, etc.). The English monasteries were subjected to Viking plundering, but a new day for monastic life under the Rule commenced with the Norman invasion of 1066. Monastic reform was part of the agenda of the new lords of England, and Norman abbots gradually replaced the Anglo-Saxon ones.

Human nature being what it is, high standards of monastic discipline could not be maintained indefinitely. Matters were not helped by the abuse (one historian called it a ‘leprosy’) of secular rulers holding abbeys in commendam. In this system, disastrous in its mingling of the sacred with the secular, nobles who had founded monasteries with grants of land (or their descendants) sought to profit by these ‘family monasteries’, installing kinsmen as abbots, who controlled the finances of the abbey. The wealth accumulated by many monastic communities made the commendam arrangement very tempting. The commendatory abbot, usually a layman, did not participate in the regular life of the monastery; nor did he concern himself with the well-being of its monks, or even with providing for the upkeep of the monastery’s buildings. Commendatory abbots gave little thought to recruitment at a time (the 13th century) when the new mendicant orders were attracting young men by the hundreds. If such an unsupervised abbey enjoyed some income, there was a temptation for the monks to live a life of ease incompatible with monastic renunciation of worldly pleasure or even decent moral behaviour.

Among the first signs that the attractiveness of Cluny had begun to wane was the departure of reform-minded monks from Cluniac houses beginning in the 11th and 12th centuries. For some (Cistercians) the aim was a return to a stricter observance of the Rule of Benedict. Others (Camaldolese, Vallombrosans, Carthusians) sought a return (insofar as that was possible) to a pre-Benedictine eremitical life regarded as superior to the prevailing coenobitic model of Western monasticism. Both were motivated by the overarching desire to withdraw from civilization and embrace radical poverty (Leclercq, E1958). In these reformed monasteries the endless Offices of Cluny had to yield to the practicalities of survival in a harsh environment, thereby restoring the balance of prayer, reading, and work that Benedict had envisaged. What this return to the ‘desert’ meant varied considerably, and a good number of the monasteries initiated with this goal did not long survive. Many that did eventually reverted to a Benedictine model.

St Romuald (d 1027) left a Cluniac monastery to take up the life of a hermit and to form communities willing to submit to extreme simplicity of life, silence, severe fasts, and manual labour. His main foundation at Campus Maldoli (Tuscany) gave its name to the order (Camaldoli), formally organized in 1072. St John Gualbert (d 1073) sought to blend the hermitage model of Camaldoli with strict observance of the Rule of Benedict. In 1039 he founded a monastery in the forests on a hillside east of Florence at Vallombrosa. The austere rule of life observed by the first Vallombrosans (perpetual silence, extreme poverty, and scourging for infractions of the Rule) was decidedly un-Cluniac. Peter Damian (d 1073), founder of a hermitage at Fonte Avellana, was a sharp critic of contemporary Benedictine monasticism. Forced to accept the cardinalate, he assumed a wider role in the Church, denouncing corruption and secular interference in ecclesiastical and monastic matters. The most durable of the communities that emulated the eremitical model was founded by St Bruno (d 1101) in a remote valley near Grenoble. At the Grande Chartreuse and its daughter houses the monks lived alone in hermitages arranged in a quadrangle, coming together only to chant the Office and for common meals on feast days – a departure from the communal life of the Rule of Benedict. Lay brothers (conversi), subject to less rigorous discipline, cared for their small material needs. The status of these (often illiterate) lay brothers (and sisters) within the orders that instituted this form of life remains unclear (Dubois, C1968; Constable, D1973; Linage, B2007, pp. 50–58); it was inferior to that of the professed monks and sisters.

Among the most charismatic, not to say erratic, monastic figures of the era was Stephen of Thiers (also ‘of Muret’; d 1124), who claimed that there was ‘no other rule except the Gospel of Christ’ (non est alia regula nisi evangelium Christi). He established what eventually became the congregation of Grandmont. Stephen’s regimen surpassed all previous monastic rules in the severity of fasts and corporal austerities demanded of monks. Numerous lay brothers controlled the order’s material possessions; this remained an insoluble problem that eventually tore the order apart.

A foundation of far greater significance than these, inspired in part by the ‘eremitic’ movement just described, originated with Robert, abbot of Molesme (d 1111), who led a group of monks away from his monastery to establish a ‘new monastery’ (novum monasterium), founded in 1098, in a secluded, inhospitable forested area at Cîteaux, not far from Cluny. (Such remote sites were favoured by these ‘Cistercians’, the name by which they were called, derived from ‘Cistercium’, the Latin for Cîteaux.) Their stated aim was ‘to observe more closely and more perfectly the Rule of blessed Benedict’. As a sign of their ‘newness’, the monks wore a white tunic of unbleached wool in place of Benedictine black (hence the name ‘white monks’). Reacting to what they viewed as the excesses of the Cluniacs, the Cistercians promoted simplicity in worship, in sacred vessels, and in architecture, and an austere daily regimen. Eventually, they abandoned the manual labour demanded by Benedict, assigning this to lay brothers, so that the choir monks could devote their time to prayer and study. The monastic community at Cîteaux had a difficult beginning, even with papal approval (confirmed in 1100), but with the election of Stephen Harding (d 1134) as abbot in 1108, the Cistercians’ fortunes began to improve. Four years later, the monastery welcomed the arrival of a group of thirty recruits, led by a charismatic young man from the region of Dijon named Bernard. This influx of new recruits led to the founding of daughter houses, among which was Clairvaux, where Bernard was soon named abbot, thus initiating a career virtually without equal in the history of Western Christendom. Bernard’s bitter attacks on Cluny’s wealth and the ostentation of its interminable psalmody earned a stinging rebuke from Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, who denounced the Cistercians as a ‘new race of Pharisees’. Soon, they too surrendered to some of the very abuses condemned by Bernard. Benedictine abbots learned something from the strong Cistercian organizational model. They convened general chapters, but attachment to autonomy was too great, and nothing binding came out of the meetings.

3. Decline and reform (12th–15th centuries).

Monastic schools were primarily for the education of young monks, but they were also open to outsiders. With the rise of the universities during the 12th and 13th centuries, however, Benedictine leadership in the world of learning was overtaken. The universities were invariably located in towns (Paris, Toulouse, Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge) rather than in the rural areas where monastics had settled. Monastic learning was unprepared to engage new norms that focused on understanding the works of Aristotle rather than on study of the sacra pagina, though this study was not neglected by the theology faculty in the university. The new mendicant orders (Dominicans, Franciscans) were instituted to confront heresy, to preach, and to engage in apostolic work, a mission that differed essentially from that of contemporary monasticism. They were organized in geographical provinces, and friars, having no vow of stability to the house of their profession, could be assigned to any post in their own province or in another one.

The 14th and 15th centuries were generally a period of monastic decline in spite of sporadic individual efforts at reform. The accumulated wealth of the abbeys of black and white monks alike led to a breakdown of the common life, ascetic discipline, and liturgical observance. Impoverishment, spiritual and financial, soon followed. Even some Cistercians were not reluctant to abandon the austerities demanded by their way of life. Many monastics bound by the Rule of Benedict sought exemptions, partial or full, from its prohibition against the eating of meat. A Cistercian pope, Benedict XII (1334–42), resident at Avignon, was a determined reformer of clerical and monastic abuses, and issued the bull Summi magistri (1336; known as the ‘Benedictina’) to address matters of governance, monastic life, temporal affairs of the monasteries, and the role of study among the Benedictines. Resistance to Pope Benedict’s far-reaching plan of reform was inevitable, and little was accomplished by the time of the pope’s death. In addition, monasteries have never been immune from the vicissitudes of the times. During the confusion and disorder of the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) many were plundered or destroyed.

The spirit of primitive monasticism nevertheless remained alive in congregations founded in the 13th and 14th centuries that drew inspiration from the eremitical tradition: the Williamites (founded by disciples of William de Maleval, d 1157), the Sylvestrines (founded by Sylvester Gozzolini in 1231 and committed especially to poverty), the Celestines (founded by Pietro del Morrone, later Pope Celestine V, 1294–6), the Olivetans (founded by Bernardo Tolomei in 1313), and the congregation of Monte Vergine (founded by William of Vercelli and confirmed by Pope Celestine III in 1197). All of these foundations were modelled on the Rule of Benedict, particularly its ‘liturgical code’ (chaps. 8–19).

Monastic reform movements in German-speaking lands in the 14th and 15th centuries were spurred by decisions of the Councils of Constance (1414–18) and Basel (1431–40) that sought to revive the initial fervour of Benedictine monasticism. An opening had been made (c1380) by a reform initiated at the Bavarian abbey of Kastel that focused especially on liturgical observance. It also involved the famous abbeys of St Gall, St Emmeram (Regensburg), and Ottobeuren. Abbot John Dederoth (d 1439), having reformed Clus Abbey at the request of Duke Otto of Brunswick, was sent by the Duke in 1433 to undertake the reform of Bursfeld in Lower Saxony. Four monks joined him from St Matthias Abbey in Trier. Two remained at Clus, and two accompanied Dederoth to Bursfeld in Hannover, where a strict observance of the Rule of Benedict was implemented and disseminated to other monasteries. By the Reformation there were 94 male and 60 female monasteries in the Bursfeld Union. This created a tightly organized confederation of reformed monasteries, whose presidency fell always to the abbot of Bursfeld.

In Italy, Ludovico Barbo (d 1443), appointed commendatory prior of the decayed Augustinian house on the island of S Giorgio in Alga (Venice), took his role seriously and tried to reform the priory. He and a group of friends, two of whom later became popes (Gregory XII and Eugene IV), lived a life of prayer in common after the example of the Brothers of the Common Life, instituted in the Netherlands by Gerard Groote (d 1384). Barbo, having become a Benedictine abbot, was sent to reform the monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua. After a difficult beginning the regular life prospered and a small confederation, De Unitate, was formed. After Monte Cassino joined in 1504 it became known as the Cassinese Congregation. Abbots were elected for a period of three years, not for life, as the Rule of Benedict specified. The Brothers of the Common Life inspired the reform movement implemented in the Windesheim Congregation. This movement of reform was chronicled by the zealous Johann Busch (d 1480), who in his Book of Reform gives some idea of the spiritual sloth that had to be overcome by the reformers. Their physical safety was sometimes in danger, if they could not depend on the protection of local secular authorities.

4. Women’s Benedictine monasteries.

In recent decades the attention of monastic historians has turned to houses of cloistered Benedictine female religious. These had a long history: Benedict’s own sister, Scholastica (d 543), presided over a convent of nuns near Monte Cassino. Communities of Benedictine nuns were, like their male counterparts, independent, never forming large confederations like the Cistercians. Recruitment practices and the degree of enclosure varied widely. Some nuns were widows; some had been raised in the convent as orphans. Others were members of aristocratic or well-to-do middle-class families, but even in the monastery class distinctions did not disappear. Young women, even children, were placed in the cloister by their parents, sometimes as an act of devotion, but sometimes because they could not (or would not) supply a dowry large enough for marriage. Family visits to the cloister were not exceptional. Under such conditions, leaving the ‘world’ behind was not the invariable result of the monastic profession.

Leaders of male communities were generally reluctant to assign priests to provide for the spiritual needs of women religious or to appoint lay brothers to perform manual labour, but women’s monasteries were sometimes founded adjacent to established male monastic communities. Gilbert of Sempringham (d 1189) established communities of women on the Cistercian model. Since the Cistercians rejected his petition that the nuns be allied with the order, Gilbert created ‘double monasteries’ in which the nuns followed the Benedictine observance and the men the Rule of Augustine. Double monasteries were typically ruled by the abbess, often a lady of high rank.

The Swedish visionary Birgitta (d 1337) founded double houses, the first at Valdstena. According to a model revealed to her by Christ himself, each Birgettine monastery was to have exactly 85 members: 13 priests (the number of apostles plus Paul) and 72 others (the number of Christ’s disciples): this number included 60 nuns. The whole was under the authority of the abbess, elected for life, who was often of noble birth. Life in a female Birgettine monastery in Nuremberg on the eve of the Reformation is revealed in the letters of Katerina Lemmel (Schleif and Schier, F2009). Some abbesses ruled monasteries in which most of the nuns were of comparable social status. At Brescia there were two monasteries, an exempt one for noble ladies and one subject to the bishop for all other women. It has been suggested that under certain circumstances female monastics might have enjoyed more freedom in the cloister, freed from the strictures of their social class, than they would have had in the ‘world’. Among the most famous medieval abbesses were Hilda of Whitby (d 680), Heloise, abbess of the Paraclete (d 1163/4), Hildegard of Bingen (d 1179), and Gertrude of Helfta (d 1302).

5. The Protestant Reformation and dissolution of the monasteries.

On the eve of the Reformation monastic observance generally left much to be desired, a situation that weakened whatever resistance might have been mounted against the onslaught of Protestant reformers. In areas where the Reformation took hold (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, parts of Holland, and later England) one of the first targets were monasteries and convents, whose wealth and property tempted secular rulers. Secularized monastic buildings, if they could not be converted to secular use, were used by their new owners as quarries for local construction projects. The results are all too evident today in the surviving façades and fragments of walls and foundations of former monasteries and monastic churches. Some of the latter were saved from destruction by being converted into parish churches. Many continental monasteries were pillaged and their inhabitants killed during the German Peasants’ War (1524–5).

Martin Luther (d 1546) excoriated the institution of monasticism as inconsistent with his theology that ‘works’ like monastic penance and self-denial were of no avail for salvation; neither monks nor nuns were any the better off for them. He and his wife, Katherina von Bora, a former nun, took up residence in the dissolved Augustinian priory in Wittenberg. In Saxony, suppression of the monasteries was carried out swiftly, but elsewhere the pace was slower, depending on the sentiments of local lords or town councils. Losses tended to be greater in the North than in the South. Some of the larger monasteries managed to resist and survive the wave of closures, but the situation varied considerably from place to place. Women’s convents fared better; even Luther was concerned about the fate of single women, young and old, suddenly thrust back into secular society. A good many of the women’s monasteries sheltered members of families of high social status or belonged to the nobility – an advantage that spared them from the worst.

In England, suppression of the monasteries was carried out rapidly and with brutal efficiency. Two waves of suppression under Henry VIII were pursued with a veneer of legality: abbots were ‘invited’ to surrender monastic properties to the king, so that he could turn a quick profit either from the sale of properties or from annual rents. When the London charterhouse, largest in England, resisted, Henry had the prior and six of the monks executed; the others were thrown into prison, where nine of them died. The execution in 1539 of five prominent abbots persuaded the remaining holdouts to surrender their properties to the crown. By 1540 monasticism in England had been eradicated. Former monks were given a small pension; some who were priests served as Anglican clerics or became cathedral canons of formerly monastic cathedrals. Monasticism survived longer in Scotland, but it fell prey to the widespread vandalism of monastic and mendicant property, encouraged by John Knox (d 1572) on his return to Scotland in 1539. Despite the prevalence of commendatory abbots (e.g., six of James V’s illegitimate sons), monasteries were not lacking in vocations. With the gradual passage of monastic property into private hands, however, monasticism ceased to exist in Scotland by the last third of the 16th century.

6. Recovery and renewal.

The Council of Trent (1545–63) did not take up the matter of the spiritual vitality of the monastic orders, perhaps because what remained after the Reformation did not require dramatic intervention. Most of the conciliar regulations concerning monasticism were organizational, touching on the minimum age for profession (16) after a novitiate of at least one year, the election of religious superiors by secret ballot, the minimum age (40) of abbesses and prioresses, and the strict enclosure of women religious. (The latter proved unworkable because of the many institutions engaged in teaching and what might now be called ‘social work’.) Returning to a familiar theme, the Council encouraged monasteries to group themselves into congregations, to schedule triennial chapters general, and to institute periodic visitations.

During the 16th and 17th centuries monasticism’s remarkable resilience was manifested in a revival exemplified by the French congregations of St Vanne (1604), whose constitutions followed those of Monte Cassino, and St Maur (1621). By the end of the 17th century the congregation of St Maur had grown to a congregation of 191 priories. Both congregations produced ambitious works of scholarship that remain of value to this day. Dom Rémi Ceillier, a monk of St Vanne, authored a Histoire des auteurs sacrés et ecclésiastiques in 23 volumes (1729–63; corrected, revised, and republished in 1868–9). The houses of the Maurists, in addition to being ‘centres of prayer and asceticism’ (Cousin, B1956, p. 429), produced multi-volume collections of primary sources. The foyer of the Maurists’ scholarly activity was the monastery of St Germain-des Prés in Paris. Among their publications were the complete works of many Fathers of the Church (republished by Jacques-Paul Migne in the Greek and Latin Patrologia), and such landmarks of erudition as the Acta sanctorum Ordinis Sancti Benedicti, Annales O.S.B., Gallia Christiana, Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, and the Histoire littéraire de la France. Series that were interrupted by the French Revolution were taken up and continued by scholars in the 19th century. Still of importance for the study of medieval liturgy and music are the collections of source material published by Dom Edmond Martène as De antiquis ecclesiae ritibus (1700–06; new edition, 1783) and De antiquis monachorum ritibus (1690). Other distinguished Maurists were the historian Jean Mabillon, Luc d’Achéry, and Bernard de Montfaucon, all of whose contributions and studies of palaeography, diplomatics, and critical method laid the foundations of much modern scholarly procedure (on monastic scholars see Hilpisch, B1950, pp. 68–73).

Despite the exceptional eminence of monastic erudition in France, the climate of 18th-century rationalism, especially the ridicule of monasticism by the philosophes, was disruptive. During the French Revolution monastic vows were abrogated by the authority of the state. Monks who refused to betray their vocation were relegated to ‘maisons de réunion départementales’, irrespective of the orders to which they belonged. Hundreds of monks, nuns, and priests lost their lives to revolutionary fury. The damage done by the Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and aggressive secularization dealt what appeared to be a death blow to this ancient institution and the culture it represented. Monasteries were closed, their property confiscated, their artistic treasures transferred to museums, and their libraries divested of precious manuscripts. The latter can be identified in the classification system of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek by the siglum: ‘c[odex] l[atinus] m[onacensis]’, and in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Florence) by the more straightforward ‘Conv[enti] sopp[ressi]’. Many priceless musical sources perished at this time. Fortunately, in Bavaria and Austria the great baroque monasteries, their dazzling churches visited by throngs of pilgrims, survived. The sumptuous décor of their libraries, where the books still remain on the shelves, demonstrates in a striking way Benedictine respect for learning. Abbot Martin Gerbert, who edited the three-volume collection of Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum (1784) and a history of sacred music (De cantu et musica sacra, 1774, R/1968), was abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St Blaise in the Black Forest.

7. 19th- and 20th-century restoration.

By 1830 there remained relatively few monasteries on European soil, mostly in southern German-speaking areas and Italy, but a remarkable monastic revival was underway. One of the first exponents was a monk of the abbey of La Trappe, Augustin de Lestrange (d 1827), who obstinately resisted both the revolutionaries and Napoleon. He first took refuge in Switzerland (1791) and later led his followers on a disastrous trip to Russia. His rule imposed such a level of austerity that many monks died. Lestrange was removed from his position of authority and the unsupportable discipline modified. Nevertheless, Lestrange prepared the way for the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), a monastic federation that still enjoys marked success in the number of vocations in both hemispheres.

English monks fleeing Napoleonic France re-established monasticism in England at Ampleforth (1807) and Downside (1814), and within a few decades vigorous foundations sprang up in that country. In France, Dom Prosper Guéranger (d 1875) had a vision of restoring the grandeur of observant medieval monasticism along with its intellectual traditions according to the Rule of Benedict. He collected funds to purchase the abbey of Solesmes and refound it in 1833. Professed as a Benedictine, he was appointed abbot of Solesmes by Pope Gregory XVI. His love for the liturgy was boundless, and its fruit was the commentary, L’année liturgique (completed after his death). The restoration of the authentic melodies of Gregorian chant was a priority at Solesmes. Dom Joseph Pothier (d 1923), for many years subprior of Solesmes (1862–93), and his confrère, Dom André Moquereau (d 1930), spurred chant research at the monastery, though their views (especially about the rhythm of Gregorian chant) were not always in agreement.

Inspired by the model of Solesmes, which they had visited, the brothers Maurus and Placidus Wolter, with the support of Princess Katharina von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, founded the abbey of Beuron in Baden-Württemberg (1868). It later became the home of an iconic artistic style known as ‘Beuronese’. The Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, a foundation of Beuron, was the home of monastic scholars whose books line the shelves of theological libraries: works on spirituality (by Columba Marmion, an Irishman), liturgy and patristics (by Germain Morin and Bernard Capelle), and Benedictine history (by Philibert Schmitz). The Revue Bénédictine has been published at Maredsous since 1890. Also in Belgium, the Abbey of Mont César (Leuven) distinguished itself by the promotion of a liturgical apostolate led by Dom Lambert Beaudoin (d 1960), founder of the Belgian ecumenical monastery of Chevetogne, and Bernard Botte (d 1980), first director of the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie in Paris. Necessarily, all of these initiatives had implications for the promotion of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.

The first monastery in the United States, founded at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in 1846 by Boniface Wimmer (d 1887), had the backing of King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1825–48). Within ten years the monastery, St Vincent’s, had 200 professed monks. By the time of Wimmer’s death ten daughter houses had been founded. In 1852, Wimmer invited Benedictine nuns from St Walburga (Eichstätt) to teach the children of German immigrants; they successfully contested the attempts of the imperious abbot to bring them under his control. Other abbeys were established in the American West by pioneering monks from Einsiedeln (St Meinrad, Indiana, 1855) and Engelberg (Conception, Missouri, 1873) to serve the needs of German-speaking immigrants.

In the Church of England, from which monasticism had been banished in the early 16th century, a renewal of the Benedictine monastic charism began in 1866 with the founding of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, the ‘Cowley Fathers’. Previously, in 1846, John Mason Neale (d 1866), the celebrated author and translator, had founded the Sisters of St Margaret. A high churchman, Neale was suspected of papist inclinations and the hostility directed toward him personally extended to his foundation. Elsewhere, Benedictine rule and Anglo-Catholic liturgical observance flourished at Nashdom Abbey (established in 1914). Two of its monks, Dom Gregory Dix (The Shape of the Liturgy; d 1962) and Dom Anselm Hughes (d 1974), were well-known, influential authors. Dom Hughes published Anglo-French Sequelae (1934) and was one of the editors of The New Oxford History of Music. No large monastic Anglican ‘orders’ developed, the various foundations being autonomous as monasteries had traditionally been. The times were not propitious for a wholesale revival of monasticism; hence Anglican initiatives remained small but far from insignificant.

The 19th-century monastic renaissance maintained its momentum throughout the century and into the next despite the hostile atmosphere in France (expulsions of monks in 1880, 1882, and 1901 in an upsurge of anti-clerical sentiment) and in Germany (the Kulturkampf). In Bavaria monasticism was supported by King Ludwig I, the patron of Richard Wagner and a monarch favourable to medievalism in general. Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903) urged in the brief Summum semper (1883) the creation of a union of Benedictine congregations under the presidency of an abbot-primate, whose place of residence would be (and is today) the abbey of Sant’ Anselmo on the Aventine in Rome. A similar arrangement grouped Cistercians of the Strict Observance under an Abbot General, also resident in Rome. (Originally, the abbot of Cîteaux was the head of the order ex officio.) Monastic communities, male and female, flourished in the years following World War II. The autobiographical memoir of Thomas Merton, a Cistercian monk of Gethsemani (Kentucky), The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), became a best-seller and prompted many vocations to the monastic and contemplative life. There have also been revivals of the Benedictine monastic spirit in many lay communities, who endeavour to emulate the Benedictine ideal in their own lives.

Benedictine (including Cistercian) monasticism now flourishes in Africa and Southeast Asia, the foundations of men and women supported by abbeys, priories, and private supporters in the northern hemisphere. There are presently 13 monasteries of Cistercians of the Strict Observance in Central and South America, 17 in Africa, and 23 in Asia and the Pacific. Monasteries often welcome laymen and laywomen for retreats and to participate in the life of the community. Cloistered Benedictine communities of women that have fully embraced the ‘ora et labora’ motto of Benedict are growing. These communities were recently addressed by Pope Francis (Vultum Dei Quaerere, 2016), who abrogated portions of canon law and the teachings of Pius XII concerning the cloistered life. It is not clear what internal challenges lie ahead for this special monastic charism.

8. The monastic Office.

Chapters 8–19 of the Rule of Benedict are the earliest comprehensive description of the Latin Office: its daily horarium, the weekly distribution of the 150 psalms, and how the various antiphons, responsories, hymns (called ‘ambrosiana’), and versicles were integrated into the sung Office. The horarium depended on the Roman system of time measurement that divided the day and the night equally into 12 hours. At the latitude of Monte Cassino a ‘day’ hour varied in length from about 45 minutes on December 21 to 75 minutes on June 21, and the same variation held true for the night hours. Vigils (vigiliae, later Matins), the first prayer service of the day, began between 1.50 and 2.30 a.m. during the winter (November 1 to Easter). During the summer it began about an hour before dawn. The second service, matutini (later Lauds), began at dawn. The first of the shorter services, Prime, began at sunrise (hora prima); Terce, at the beginning of the third hour; Sext, at midday; None, in the early afternoon. Vespers was chanted about half an hour before sunset, and Compline at dusk. The psalms were genuinely (if not elaborately) sung, not merely recited on a monotone. Not included in the horarium of the Rule was a daily Mass, probably because Benedict assumed that monks would not be ordained to the priesthood. A distinctive ‘Benedictine’ Mass ritual, one different from the diocese in which the monastery was situated, never developed.

The Office at Monte Cassino in the early 6th century must have required from three to four hours to chant, depending in part on the length of the readings at Vigils, which varied in length according to the time of year. This began to change in the early 9th century and reached its climax two centuries later at Cluny, where the opus dei and its multitude of accretions consumed most of the day. At Cluny the singing of each day’s liturgy (Mass and Office) in the late 10th century must have required at least eight hours on a normal day (and considerably longer on Sundays and feast days), due to a number of accretions added to the original Benedictine Office (Hunt, D1967, H1971; Rosenwein, D1982; Boynton, H2006). It is now recognized that the enormous length of the daily Cluniac observances, attested in customaries from the late 10th century and later, was neither unique nor as exclusive to Cluny as once believed. Many of what have traditionally been regarded as extravagant Cluniac ‘accretions’ were imported from what was common practice elsewhere. Some, like the gradual psalms before Vigils, went as far back as Benedict of Aniane and to Berno, abbot of Cluny from 909 to 926, who introduced practices from the Abbey of Beaune, where he had been abbot.

At Cluny, before Nocturns (Matins) in the early hours of the morning the 15 ‘gradual’ psalms (Vulgate cxix–cxxxiii) were sung, to which Psalms cxxxiv–cl were added during Lent. Once the night office had concluded, additional psalms were said. 28 psalmi familiares, chanted in groups of four, were distributed throughout the day after each hour. The seven penitential psalms and the Litany of the Saints were part of devotions that followed Prime. Even the last hour of the day, Compline was followed by nine psalms. In addition to the daily missa matutinalis after Terce, a second missa maior (usually for the dead) was celebrated after Prime. On Sundays and feast days the Mass liturgy was lengthened with musical additions – tropes, versus, proses – that might double the length of the traditional chants. (The Cistercians eschewed all of these and even excised long melismas from the traditional chant melodies.) There were, in addition, many processions. The Cluniac liturgy was further enhanced by the dazzling ambiance of the edifice (Cluny III) and by the complex ceremonial that surrounded the Mass and Office on the highest feasts. Developments at Cluny made it seem as if Benedict’s famous admonition, ‘nothing is to be put before the work of God’ (nihil operi Dei praeponatur; chap. 43), implied that the Office should be the sole occupation of monastic life. Even though this was not the case, Cluny made it appear so.

9. Music and monasticism.

The sung Office occupied many hours of the monk’s day, so it is not surprising that Benedictine monks would have focused their attention on understanding better the music they were singing. They must have had some share in the emergence of the so-called ‘Gregorian’ chant, an adaptation of Roman chant that evolved in Frankish lands in the 8th and 9th centuries, though tracing the history of this process remains a contested field. Monks were involved in creating the various regional families of neumatic notation that shifted the Gregorian melodies from the sphere of oral transmission to written form. Many of the earliest surviving notated chant manuscripts were copied in monastic scriptoria, but they undoubtedly represent only a small portion of what once existed. Monastic literary creativity introduced additions to the traditional chant repertoire: prosae/prosulae (words underlaid syllabically to chant melismas), and tropes (words and music that introduce a chant – in most cases the introit – or are intercalated between phrases of the original chant). Notker (d 912), a monk of St Gall, composed sequences, the better to remember (as he explained) long melismas. These were collected in his Liber ymnorum. The earliest beginnings of notated polyphony also originated within Benedictine milieux, as evidenced by the Winchester Troper and the manuscripts emanating from the monasteries associated with St Martial of Limoges.

Western music theory also owes its origins to monastic authors (Dyer, I1990). The music theory of late antiquity, transmitted by Boethius and Cassiodorus, was primarily a mathematical discipline having to do with proportional relationships. It was almost completely detached from sounding music, sacred or secular. Benedictine theorists like Aurelian of Réôme (fl 840–50), Hucbald of St Amand (c900), the author(s) of treatises attributed to Odo of Cluny (at least one, the Dialogus de musica, probably the work of an Odo of Arezzo [late 10th century]), Guido d’Arezzo (d after 1033), and Hermannus Contractus (d 1054) took the crucial step of applying the music theory of ancient Greece (pitch nomenclature, transposition scales) and of Byzantium (the octoechos) to the analysis of plainchant. They worked out fundamental theoretical principles such as the system of consonances (intervals) and the eight ecclesiastical modes.

The pipe organ, after its reappearance in the West in 757, made its way into abbey churches with increasing frequency during the 10th century. Most noteworthy was the introduction of the organ into English churches during the monastic revival led by Dunstan of Canterbury (d 988), Oswald of York (d 992), and Aethelwold (d 984). The latter oversaw the installation of the legendary organ in the Old Minster at Winchester (McKinnon, I1974). Not all were pleased: Aelred of Rievaulx (d 1166), a Cistercian abbot, denounced in furious terms the introduction of the organ to churches.

By the close of the 12th century musical leadership had shifted to non-monastic musicians, a transition exemplified by the development of modal and mensural polyphony within the sphere of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The composers associated with Notre-Dame, Leonin and Perotin, as well as the theorists of the new musical styles like Johannes de Garlandia and Franco of Cologne were secular clerics. (For obvious reasons the identity of the slightly later theorist whom Edmond de Coussemaker called ‘Anonymous IV’ cannot be ascertained.) Benedictines henceforth remained largely outside the mainstream of musical progress, preserving the chant and only occasionally cultivating contemporary trends. In late medieval England, where many of the great cathedrals like Canterbury, Durham, and Winchester were also Benedictine abbeys, not monks but boy choristers and secular musicians performed polyphonic votive Masses and Offices in the endowed chapels.

An extraordinary monastic adaptation to the Zeitgeist took place in the splendid 17th- and 18th-century monastic churches of Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland. Choir screens were removed and orchestras introduced to accompany the brilliant concerted music sung at Mass and Vespers. Operas and oratorios were performed in the halls of the grander Benedictine establishments. Kremsmünster, Göttweig, Melk, and Altenburg, to mention only a few, figured among the principal musical centers of the time, as attested by their large surviving collections of symphonies. Important manuscript evidence (scores and parts) for the performance of the sacred works and symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, and other composers of the classical era is preserved in the monastic libraries of southern Germany and Austria. Monks were among the instrumentalists, and some were composers. Romanus Hofstetter (d 1812), monk of Amorbach, attained instant celebrity in 1965, when it was discovered by Alan Tyson and H.C. Robbins Landon that Joseph Haydn’s ‘op.3’ quartets were in fact composed by Hofstetter, a great admirer of the Austrian master. A comprehensive study of monastic composers from the Middle Ages to the present is a scholarly desideratum.

The various ‘liturgical movements’ that developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries were stimulated in their early stages by new Benedictine foundations like Solesmes, Beuron, Maria Laach, and Mont César in Belgium (Liturgy and liturgical books, IV). In the United States the liturgical movement had its unofficial centre at St John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. The Liturgical Press, located at the Abbey, remains a major publisher of books, scholarly and pastoral, on the liturgy.

In the 19th century monk-scholars of Solesmes did much to restore the authentic melodies of Gregorian chant on the basis of the most ancient manuscripts notated in staffless neumes. At the ‘scriptorium’ of Solesmes, photocopies of what had been identified as the most important chant manuscripts were brought together for research into the ‘restoration’ of the Gregorian melodies, though the hope of discovering the ‘original’ melodies proved to be an unattainable goal. A series of facsimile editions with learned introductions, Paléographie Musicale, commenced publication in 1889; the most recent volume (23) was published in 2014. (It is likely to be the last, given the availability of digital images on the Internet.) In 1896 Dom Mocquereau compiled the Liber Usualis, a widely distributed anthology of nearly 2000 pages containing Mass chants and Vespers for Sundays and principal feasts with complete offices for some of the latter. The ‘Solesmes method’ of performance, though hardly historical, facilitated a revival of singing Gregorian chant throughout the world. It enabled the chant to function both as practical church music and as an aesthetic experience. Pius X endorsed the work of the monks of Solesmes in his Motu proprio of 1903.


The following bibliography is highly selective; for links to further information about the Benedictines and related orders visit

A Rule of Benedict and monastic customaries. B Historical surveys. C Special topics: (i) Regional monasticim. (ii) Architecture. D Reform movements. E Later medieval monastic history. F Women monastics. G Modern restoration of monastic life. H Monastic liturgy. I Music and monasticism.

A. Rule of Benedict and monastic customaries
  • L. Holste, ed.: Codex regularum monasticarum (Rome, 1661, ed. M. Brockie, Augsburg, 1759/R1959)
  • B. Albers: Consuetudines monasticae (Stuttgart, 1900–12)
  • S. Dulcy: La règle de Saint Benoît d’Aniane et la réforme monastique à l’époque carolingienne (Nîmes, 1935)
  • J. McCann: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English (London, 1952)
  • B. Steidle: Die Regel St. Benedikts: Eingeleitet, übersetzt und aus dem alten Mönchtum erklärt (Beuron, 1952; Eng. trans., 1967)
  • F. Vandenbroucke: ‘Sur les sources de la Règle bénédictine et Regula Magistri’, Revue Bénédictine, vol.62 (1952), 217–73
  • R. Hanslik: Benedicti Regula (Vienna, 1960, 2/1970)
  • A. de Vogüé: La communauté et l’abbé dans la règle de saint Benoît (Paris, 1961; Eng. trans., 1979/R1988)
  • K. Hallinger: Corpus Consuetudinum Monasticarum (Siegeburg, 1963–2010)
  • A. de Vogüé and J. Neufville: La Règle de saint Benoît (Paris, 1971–7)
  • A. de Vogüé: ‘The Cenobitic Rules of the West’, Cistercian Studies, vol.12 (1977), 175–83
  • J.-M. Clément: Lexique des anciennes règles monastiques occidentales (Steenbrugge, 1978)
  • T. Fry and others, eds.: RB 1980: the Rule of St Bendict in Latin and English with Notes (Collegeville, 1981)
  • A. de Vogüé: Les règles monastiques anciennes (400–700) (Turnhout, 1985)
  • D.M. La Corte and D.J. McMillan, eds.: Regular Life: Monastic, Canonial, and Mendicant Rules (Kalamazoo, 1997, 2/2004)
  • C. Falchini, trans.: Regole monastiche d’Occidente, ed. E. Bianchi (Turin, 2001)
  • C. Adenna and G. Melville: Regulae, consuetudines, statuta: Studi sulle fonti degli ordini religiosi nei secoli centrali del medioevo (Münster, 2005)
  • T. Merton: The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, iv (Collegeville, 2009)
  • B.L. Venarde, ed. and trans.: The Rule of Saint Benedict (Cambridge, MA, 2011)
  • C.M. Malone and C. Maines, eds.: Consuetudines et Regulae: Sources for Monastic Life in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (Turnhout, 2014)
B. Historical surveys
  • W. Dugdale: Monasticon Anglicanum (London, 1661–82)
  • A.J. le B. de Rancé: De la saintité et des devoirs de la vie monastique (Paris, 1683)
  • J. Mabillon: Annales ordinis S. Benedicti occidentalium monachorum patriarchae … (Paris, 1703–39)
  • A. Beunier and J.M. Besse: Abbayes et prieurés de l’ancienne France: Recueil historiques des archevêchés, evêchés, abbayes et prieurés de France (Ligugé, 1905–33/R)
  • J. Besse: Les moines de l’ancienne France (Paris, 1906)
  • G.C. Alston: ‘Benedictine Monks’, The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1907–1914,
  • U. Berlière: L’ordre monastique des origines au XIIe siècle (Maredsous, 1912, 3/1924)
  • E.C. Butler: Benedictine Monachism: Studies in Benedictine Life and Rule (London, 1919, 2/1924/R/1961)
  • U. Berlière: L’acèse bénédictine des origines à la fin du XIIe siècle (Paris and Maredsous, 1927)
  • D. Knowles: The Benedictines (London, 1929)
  • M. Viller and others, eds.: Dictionnaire de Spiritualité (Paris, 1932–1995)
  • P. Schmitz: Histoire de l’ordre de St. Benoît, 7 vols. (Paris, 1942–1955; 2/Maredsous, 1948–1956)
  • Monk of Douai Abbey, comp.: The High History of Saint Benedict and his Monks, Including an Account of the Conversion of England by the Benedictines, their Suppression by Henry VIII and Revival (London, 1945)
  • S. Hilpisch: Das Benediktinertum im Wandel der Zeiten (St Ottilien, 1950; Eng. trans., 1958, as Benedictinism through the Changing Centuries)
  • P. Lehmann: ‘The Benedictine Order and Learning’, Downside Review, vol.71 (1953), 407–21
  • P. Cousin: Précis d’histoire monastique (Paris, 1956)
  • J. Leclercq: L’amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu: Introduction aux auteurs monastiques du Moyen Âge (Paris, 1957; Eng. trans., 1982)
  • O. Chadwick: Western Asceticism (London, 1958)
  • P. Lehmann: ‘The Benedictine Order and the Transmission of the Literature of Ancient Rome in the Middle Ages’, Erforschung des Mittelalters: ausgewählte Abhandlungen und Aufsätze, iii (Stuttgart, 1960), 172–83
  • J. Decarreaux: Les moines et la civilisation en Occident, des invasions à Charlemagne (Paris, 1962; Eng. trans., 1964 as Monks and Civilization)
  • L.J. Daly: Benedictine Monasticism: Its Formation and Development through the 12th Century (New York, 1965)
  • J. Wollasch: Mönchtum des Mittelalters zwischen Kirche und Welt (Munich, 1973)
  • C. Brooke: The Monastic World, 1000–1300 (London, 1974)
  • J. Dubois: ‘Les moines dans la société du Moyen Âge (950–1350)’, Revue d’histoire de l’église de France, vol.60 (1974), 5–37
  • G. Pelliccia and G. Rocca, eds.: Dizionario degli instituti di perfezione (Rome, 1974–2003)
  • S. Frank: Frühes Mönchtum im Abendland (Zürich, 1975)
  • S. Frank: Geschichte des christlichen Mönchtums (Darmstadt, 4/1988; Eng. trans., 1993, as With Greater Liberty: a Short History of Christian Monasticism and Religious Orders)
  • G. Constable: Medieval Monasticism: a Select Bibliography (Toronto, 1976)
  • D.H. Farmer, ed.: Benedict’s Disciples (Leominster, 1980, R/2002)
  • B. Bischoff: ‘Das benediktinische Mönchtum und die Überlieferung der klassischen Literatur’, Studien und Mitteilungen des Benediktiner-Ordens und seiner Zweige, vol.92 (1981), 165–90
  • Monasticon Italiae (Cesena, 1981–2001)
  • Sous la règle de Saint Benoît: Structures monastiques et sociétés en France du moyen age à l’époque moderne: Paris 1980 (Geneva, 1982)
  • F. Prinz: ‘Zur Frühgeschichte des benediktinischen Mönchtums: Papst Gregor der Grosse und Columban der Jüngere’, Frühes Mönchtum in Salzburg, ed. E. Zwink (Salzburg, 1983), 37–44
  • C.H. Lawrence: Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (Harlow, 1984, 3/2001)
  • ‘Monasticism: a Historical Overview’, Word and Spirit, vi (Still River, MA, 1984)
  • I. Gobry: Les moines en Occident (Paris, 1985–2008)
  • G.C. Alessio and others: Dall’eremo al cenobio: La civiltà monastica in Italia dalle origini all’età di Dante (Milan, 1987)
  • H. Houben: Medioevo monastico meridionale (Naples, 1987)
  • T. Kardong: The Benedictines (Wilmington, DE, 1988)
  • G. Penco: Medioevo monastico (Rome, 1988)
  • J. Bühler: Klosterleben im Mittelalter nach zeitgenössischen Quellen (Frankfurt, 1989)
  • P. Hawel: Das Mönchtum im Abendland: Geschichte – Kultur – Lebensform (Freiburg, 1993)
  • G. Schwaiger, ed.: Mönchtum, Orden, Klöster, von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart: Ein Lexicon (Munich, 1993)
  • G. Penco: Storia del monachesimo in Italia: Dalle origini alla fine del medioevo (Milan, 1995)
  • M. Dunn: The Emergence of Monasticism: from the Desert Fathers to the Early Middle Ages (Oxford, 2000, 2/2005)
  • W.M. Johnston, ed.: Encyclopedia of Monasticism (Chicago, 2000)
  • A. Linage: La vida cotidiana de los monjes de la Edad Media (Madrid, 2007)
  • G. Melville and A. Müller, eds.: Mittelalterliche Orden und Klöser im Vergleich: Methodische Ansätze und Perspektiven (Berlin, 2007)
  • J.G. Clark: Benedictines in the Middle Ages (Woodbridge, 2011)
  • G. Melville: Welt der mittelalterlichen Klöster: Geschichte und Lebensformen (Munich, 2012, Eng. trans., 2016)
  • G.R. Evans: The I.B. Taurus History of Monasticism: the Western Tradition (London, 2016)
  • K. Pansters and A. Plunkett-Latimer, eds.: Shaping Stability: the Normation and Formation of Religious Life in the Middle Ages (Turnhout, 2016)
  • G. Constable: Medieval Monasticism (Abingdon, 2017)
C. Special topics
    (i) Regional monasticism
    • G. Falco: ‘Lineamenti di storia cassinese nei secoli VIII e IX’, Cassinensia: Miscellanea di studi cassinesi, ii (Monte Cassino, 1929), 457–548
    • S. Brechter: ‘Monte Cassinos erste Zerstörung’, Studien und Mitteilungen zur Geschichte des Benediktiner-Ordens, vol.56 (1938), 109–50
    • D. Knowles: The Monastic Order in England (Cambridge, 1940, 2/1963)
    • W. Levison: England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (Oxford, 1946/R)
    • G. Ferrari: Early Roman Monasteries (Vatican City, 1957)
    • J. Hubert: ‘Saint-Riquier et le monachisme bénédictin en Gaule à l’époque carolingienne’, Il monachesimo nell’alto medioevo e la formazione della civiltà occidentale (Spoleto, 1957)
    • B. Lohse: Mönchtum und Reformation (Göttingen, 1963)
    • F. Prinz: Frühes Mönchtum im Frankenreich: Kultur und Gesellschaft in Gallien, den Rheinlanden und Bayern am Beispiel der monastischen Entwicklung (4. bis 8. Jh) (Munich and Vienna, 1965)
    • J. Semmler: ‘Karl der Grosse und das fränkische Mönchtum’, Karl der Grosse: Lebenswerk und Nachleben, ii: Das geistige Leben, ed. B. Bischoff (Düsseldorf, 1965), 255–89
    • J. Dubois: ‘L’institution des convers au XIIe siécle: Forme de vie monastique propre aux laïcs’, I laici nella ‘Societas christiana’ dei secoli XI e XII (Milan, 1968), 183–261
    • P. Riché: ‘Educazione e monaci’, Dizionario degli istituti di perfezione, ed. G. Pelliccia and G. Rocca, iii (Rome, 1974–2003), 1057–65
    • The Benedictines in Britain (London, 1980)
    • I. Gobry: Les moines en Occident (Paris, 1985–2008)
    • T.L. Amos: ‘Monks and Pastoral Care in the Early Middle Ages’, Religion, Culture and Society in the Early Middle Ages: Studies in Honor of Richard E. Sullivan, ed. T.F.X. Noble and J.J. Contreni (Kalamazoo, 1987), 165–80
    • J.-M. Garrigues and J. Legrez: Moines dans l’assemblée des fidèles à l’époque des pères (IVe-VIIIe siècles) (Paris, 1992)
    • I. Wood: ‘The Mission of Augustine of Canterbury to the English’, Speculum, vol.69 (1994), 1–17
    • M. De Jong: ‘Carolingian Monasticism: the Power of Prayer’, The New Cambridge Medieval History, ii, ed. R. McKitterick (Cambridge, 1995), 622–53
    • D. Rees, ed.: Monks of England (London, 1997)
    • J. Hill: Bede and the Benedictine Reform (Durham, 1998)
    • A. Allanson: Biography of the English Benedictines (Ampleforth, 1999)
    • S. Foot: Life in Anglo-Saxon England, c.600–900 (Cambridge, 2006)
    • I. Cochelin: ‘When Monks were the Book: the Bible and Monasticism (6th–11th Centuries)’, The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages, ed. S. Boynton and D.J. Reilly (New York, 2011), 61–83
    • D. Barry, trans.: Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel: the Crown of Monks (Collegeville, 2013)
    • G. de Cortazar and others: Los monasterios medievales en sus emplazamientos: Lugares de memoria de lo sagrado (Aguilar de Campo, 2016)
    (ii) Monastic architecture
    • K.J. Conant: Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture (Harmondsworth, 2/1966)
    • W. Braunfels: Abendländische Klosterbaukunst (Cologne, 1969, Eng. trans., 1972, as Monasteries of Western Europe: the Architecture of the Orders)
    • W.W. Horn and E. Born: The Plan of St. Gall: a Study of the Architecture and Economy of Life in a Paradigmatic Carolingian Monastery (Berkeley, 1979)
    • S. Bonde and C. Maines: ‘The Archeology of Monasticism: a Survey of Recent Work in France, 1970–1987’, Speculum, vol.63 (1988), 794–825
    • C.B. McClendon: The Origins of Medieval Architecture: Building in Europe, A.D. 600–900 (New Haven, 2005)
    • M. Lauwers, ed.: Monastères et espace social: Genèse et transformation d’un système de lieux dans l’Occident médiéval (Turnhout, 2014)
    D. Reform movements
    • J. Evans: Monastic Life at Cluny, 910–1157 (Oxford, 1931/R)
    • K. Hallinger: Gorze-Cluny: Studien zu den monastischen Lebensformen und Gegensätzen im Hochmittelalter (Rome, 1950–51)
    • T. Symonds, ed.: Regularis concordia (London, 1953)
    • Il monachesimo nell’alto medioevo e la formazione della civiltà occidentale (Spoleto, 1957)
    • H. Jacobs: Die Hirsauer (Cologne and Graz, 1961)
    • D. Knowles: Great Historical Enterprises: Problems in Monastic History (London, 1963)
    • J. Semmler: ‘Die Beschlüsse des Aachener Konzils im Jahre 815’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vol.74 (1963), 15–82
    • L’eremitismo in Occidente nei secoli XI e XII: Atti della seconda settimana internazionale di studio: Mendola 1962 (Milan, 1965)
    • N. Hunt: Cluny under Saint Hugh (London, 1967)
    • H.E.J. Cowdrey: The Cluniacs and the Gregorian Reform (Oxford, 1970)
    • G. Constable: ‘Famuli and Conversi at Cluny’, Revue Bénédictine, vol.93 (1973), 326–50
    • T. Symons: ‘Regularis Concordia: History and Derivation’, Tenth-Century Studies, ed. D. Parsons (London, 1975), 37–59
    • L.J. Lekai: The Cistercians: Ideal and Reality (Kent, OH, 1977)
    • Studia Monastica (Rome, 1977–)
    • E.R. Elder, ed.: The Cistercians in the Late Middle Ages (Kalamazoo, 1981)
    • B.H. Rosenwein: Rhinocerous Bound: Cluny in the Tenth Century (Philadelphia, 1982)
    • J. Semmler: ‘Benedictus II: una regula—una consuetudo’, Benedictine Culture: 750–1050, ed. W. Lourdaux and D. Verhulst (Leuven, 1983), 1–49
    • J. Van Engen: ‘The “Crisis of Cenobitism” Reconsidered: Benedictine Monasticism in the Years 1050-1150’, Speculum, vol.61 (1986), 269–304
    • J. Rippinger: The Benedictine Order in the United States: an Interpretive History (Collegeville, 1990)
    • R.B. Lockhart: Halfway to Heaven: the Hidden Life of the Carthusians (Kalamazoo, 1999)
    • M.A. Claussen: The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the Regula canonicorum in the Eighth Century (Cambridge, MA, 2004)
    • S. Boynton and I. Cochelin, eds.: From Dead of Night to End of Day: the Medieval Customs of Cluny (Turnhout, 2005)
    • N. Robertson: ‘The Benedictine Reform: Current and Future Scholarship’, Literature Compass, vol.3 (2006), 282–99
    • Benedict XVI: ‘The Cluniac Reform’ (General Audience, November 11, 2009)
    • The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies (Turnhout, 2012–)
    E. Later medieval monastic history
    • G.G. Coulton: Five Centuries of Religion (Cambridge, 1923–50)
    • G.G. Coulton: ‘The Last Generations of Medieval Monasticism’, Speculum, vol.18 (1943), 437–57
    • J. Leclercq: ‘La crise du monachisme aux XIe et XIIe siècles’, Bullettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano per il medio evo e Archivio Muratoriano, vol.70 (1958), 19–41; Eng. trans., 1971, as ‘The Monastic Crisis of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Cluniac Monasticism in the Central Middle Ages, ed. J. Leclercq
    • N. Cantor: ‘The Crisis of Western Monasticism, 1050–1130’, American Historical Review, vol.66 (1960), 44–67
    • K. Elm, ed.: Reformbewegungen und Observanzbestrebungen im spätmittelalterlichen Ordenswesen (Berlin, 1989)
    • T. Sullivan: ‘Benedictine Masters of the University of Paris in the Late Middle Ages: Patterns of Recruitment’, Vivarium, vol.31 (1993), 226–40
    • M. Dilworth: Scottish Monasteries in the Late Middle Ages (Edinburgh, 1995)
    • B. Golding: Gilbert of Sempringham and the Gilbertine Order, c.1130–c.1300 (Oxford, 1995)
    • A. Davril and E. Palazzo: La vie des moines au temps des grandes abbayes, Xe–XIIIe siècle (Paris, 2000)
    • M. Parisse: ‘Être moine ou chanoine à la fin du IXe siècle’, Au cloître et dans le monde: Femmes, hommes, et sociétés (IXe–XVe siècles): Mélanges en honneur de Paulette L’Hermite-Leclercq, ed. P. Henriet and A.-M. Legray (Paris, 2000), 91–101
    • L. Bisgaard and others, eds.: Monastic Culture, the Long Thirteenth Century: Essays in Honour of Brian Patrick McGuire (Odense, 2014)
    F. Women monastics
    • E. Powers: Medieval English Nunneries (Cambridge, 1922)
    • S. Hilpisch: Geschichte der Benediktinerinnen (St. Ottilien, 1951, Eng. trans., 1958)
    • M.A. Meyer: ‘Women in the Tenth-Century Monastic Reform’, Revue Bénédictine, vol.87 (1977), 34–61
    • P.D. Johnson: Equal in Monastic Profession: Religious Women in Medieval France (Philadelphia, 1981)
    • J. de la C. Bouton, ed.: Les moniales cisterciennes (Grignan, 1986–9)
    • S.K. Elkins: Holy Women of Twelfth-Century England (Chapel Hill, 1988)
    • M. de la Trinité Kervingant: Des moniales face à la Révolution française: Aux origines des Cisterciennes-Trappistines (Paris, 1989)
    • S. Thompson: Women Religious: the Founding of English Nunneries after the Norman Conquest (Oxford, 1991)
    • J.A. McNamara: Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia (Cambridge, MA, 1996)
    • M. Schmitt and L. Kulzer, eds.: Medieval Women Monastics: Wisdom’s Wellsprings (Collegeville, 1996)
    • B.L. Venarde: Women’s Monasticism and Medieval Society: Nunneries in France and England, 890–1215 (Ithaca, NY, 1997)
    • B. Kerr: Religious Life for Women, c.1100–c.1350 (Oxford, 1999)
    • N. Nabert: Les moniales carthusiennes (Geneva, 2009)
    • C. Schleif and V. Schier: Katerina’s Windows: Donation and Devotion, Art and Music, as Heard and Seen through the Writings of a Birgittine Nun (University Park, PA, 2009)
    • J. Burton and K. Stöber, eds.: Women in the Medieval Monastic World (Turnhout, 2015)
    G. Modern restoration of monastic life
    • C. Barry: Worship and Work: Saint John’s Abbey and University, 1856–1956 (Collegeville, 1956)
    • A. De Masis: ‘La vocation monastique de Dom Guéranger’, Revue Bénédictine, vol.83 (1973), 119–80
    • L. Soltner: Solesmes et Dom Guéranger (Solesmes, 1974)
    • C. Johnson: Prosper Guéranger (1805–1875), a Liturgical Theologian: an Introduction to his Liturgical Writings and Work (Rome, 1984)
    • I. Jonveaux and S. Palmisano: Monasticism in Modern Times (Abingdon, 2017)
    H. Monastic liturgy
    • P. Batiffol: Histoire du Bréviaire romain (Paris, 1893, 3/1911)
    • S. Bäumer: Geschichte des Breviers (Freiburg, 1895/R; French trans., 1905/R, as Histoire du Bréviaire)
    • E. Bishop: Liturgica historica: Papers on the Liturgy and Religious Life of the Western Church (Oxford, 1918)
    • D. Knowles: ‘The Monastic Horarium’, Downside Review, vol.51 (1933), 706–25
    • M. Shepherd: ‘The Development of Monastic Worship’, Anglican Theological Review, vol.21 (1939), 1–21
    • A. Watkin: ‘St Benedict and the Chanted Office’, Downside Review, vol.59 (1941), 311–26
    • G. Penco: ‘Per la storia liturgica del monachesimo italico nei secoli VII–IX: Correnti ed influssi’, Rivista liturgica, vol.44 (1957), 168–81
    • C. Gindele: ‘Die gallikanischen “Laus perennis”-Klöster und ihr Ordo officii’, Revue Bénédictine, vol.69 (1959), 32–48
    • J. Leclercq: ‘Une parenthèse dans l’histoire de la prière continuelle: la “Laus perennis” du haut moyen âge’, La Maison-Dieu, vol.64 (1960), 90–101
    • S. Van Dijk and J. Walker: The Origins of the Modern Roman Liturgy (London and Westminster, MD, 1960)
    • O. Nussbaum: Kloster, Priestermönch und Privatmesse (Bonn, 1961)
    • J. Leclercq: ‘Culte liturgique et prière intime dans le monachisme au moyen âge’, La maison-Dieu, vol.69 (1962), 39–55
    • G. Penco: ‘La preghiera nella tradizione monastica’, La preghiera nella bibbia e nella tradizione patristica e monastica, ed. C. Vaggagini and G. Penco (Rome, 1964), 263–324
    • A. de Vogüé: ‘Origine et structure de l’office bénédictin’, Collectanea Cisterciensia, vol.29 (1967), 195–9
    • N. Hunt, ed.: Cluniac Monasticism in the Central Middle Ages (London, 1971)
    • B. Rosenwein: ‘Feudal War and Monastic Peace: Cluniac Liturgy as Ritual Aggression’, Viator, vol.2 (1971), 129–57
    • A. Häussling: Mönchskonvent und Eucharistiefeier: Eine Studie über die Messe in der abendländischen Klosterliturgie des frühen Mittelalters und zur Geschichte der Messhäufigkeit (Münster, 1973)
    • J. Angerer: Die liturgisch-musikalische Erneuerung der Melker Reform (Vienna, 1974)
    • H. Becker: ‘War das Stundengebet der Kartäuser von Anfang an monastisch?’ Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft, vol.13 (1974), 196–209
    • E. Kasch: Das liturgische Vokabular der frühen lateinischen Mönchsregeln (Hildesheim, 1974)
    • B. Baroffio: ‘Recenti studi sulla liturgia e sulla spiritualità nell’Ordine certosino’, Rivista Liturgica, vol.63 (1976), 399–410
    • C. Vogel: ‘La vie quotidienne du moine en Occident à l’époque de la floraison des messes privées’, Liturgie, spiritualité, culture (Rome, 1983), 343–60
    • R. Taft: The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West (Collegeville, 1986)
    • J. Harper: The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: a Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians (Oxford, 1991)
    • J. Dyer: ‘The Psalms in Monastic Prayer’, The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages, ed. N. van Deusen (Albany, 1999), 59–89
    • N.H. Petersen: ‘The Representational Liturgy of the Regularis Concordia’, The White Mantle of Churches: Architecture, Literature and Art around the Millennium, ed. N. Hiscock (Turnhout, 2003), 107–18
    • S. Boynton: Shaping a Monastic Identity: Liturgy and History at the Imperial Abbey of Farfa, 1000–1125 (Ithaca, NY, 2006)
    • T.F. Kelly, ed.: The Ordinal of Monte Cassino and Benevento: Breviarium sive ordo officiorum, 11th century (Fribourg, 2008)
    • R. Savigni: ‘Preghiera e spazio monastico in Occidente da San Benedetto a Cluny (secc. VI–X)’, Gli spazi della vita commnuntaria, ed. L. Pani Ermini (Spoleto, 2016), 111–48
    I. Music and monasticism
    • R. van Doren: Étude sur l’influence musicale de l’abbaye de Saint-Gall (VIIIe au XIe siècle) (Brussels, 1925)
    • P. Thomas: ‘Le chant et les chantres dans les monastères bénédictins antérieures au XVe siècle’, Mélanges bénédictins (Saint-Wandrille, 1947)
    • P. Anson: ‘The Evolution of the Monastic Choir’, Downside Review, vol.67 (1949), 183–93
    • A. Kellner: Musikgeschichte des Stiftes Kremsmünster nach den Quellen dargestellt (Kassel, 1956)
    • P. Combe: Histoire de la restauration du Chant Grégorien d’après des documents inédits: Solesmes et l’édition Vaticane (Solesmes, 1969, Eng. trans., 2003, as The Restoration of Gregorian Chant)
    • R.N. Freeman: The Practice of Music at Melk Abbey Based upon the Documents, 1681–1826 (Vienna, 1974)
    • J. McKinnon: ‘The Tenth-Century Organ at Winchester’, The Organ Yearbook, 5 (1974), 4–19
    • B. Baroffio: ‘Musica: I. Benedettini’, Dizionario degli instituti di perfezione, ed. G. Pelliccia and G. Rocca, vi (Rome, 1974–2003), 199–215
    • J. Angerer: ‘Die Consuetudines Monasticae als Quelle für die Musikgeschichte’, Sacerdos et cantus gregoriani magister: Festschrift Ferdinand Haberl, ed. F.A. Stein (Regensburg, 1977), 23–38
    • D. Nicholson: Liturgical Music in Benedictine Monasticism: a Post-Vatican II Survey (Saint Benedict, OR, 1986–8)
    • D. Nicholson: Liturgical Music in Anglican Benedictine Monasticism (Saint Benedict, OR, 1986–90)
    • B. Baroffio and C. Antonelli: ‘Impegno liturgico e pedagogico nella vita musicale dei monasteri’, Dall’eremo al cenobio: La civiltà monastica in Italia dalle origini all’età di Dante, ed. G.C. Alessio and others (Milan, 1987)
    • M. Berry: ‘What the Saxon Monks Sang: Music in Winchester in the Late Tenth Century’, Bishop Aethelwold: his Career and Influence, ed. B. Yorke (Woodbridge, 1988), 149–60
    • J. Dyer: ‘Monastic Psalmody of the Middle Ages’, Revue bénédictine, vol.99 (1989), 41–74
    • J. Dyer: ‘The Monastic Origins of Western Music Theory’, Cantus Planus: Papers Read at the Third Meeting: Tihany, Hungary 1988 (Budapest, 1990), 199–225
    • H. Josselyn-Cranson: ‘“Moderate psallendo”: Musical Participation in Worship among Gilbertine Nuns’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, vol.17 (2007), 173–86

This article supersedes an older article.

F.Ll. Harrison: Music in Medieval Britain (London, 1958, 4/1980)
Oxford, Bodleian Library