CC: Monasticism East and West

Course Status: 
CEU code: 
MEDS 5331 CC
CEU credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
25 Sep 2011 - 20 Dec 2011
Non-degree Specialization: 
CHS—Cultural Heritage Studies & Policy Specializatiion
Non-degree Specialization: 
EMS—Advanced Certificate in Eastern Mediterranean Studies
István Perczel
József Laszlovszky
Learning Outcomes: 
The students will gain insight into a range of critical methodologies used in the study of monasticism, both from the angle of textual and of arhaeaological research. They would become able to critically assess received opinions and to examine new perspectives. They will not (!) receive a systematic introduction to the history of monasticism as such - which would be an impossible task in one semester.
Assessment : 
The students are required to submit a one-page class journal after every class, which the instructor would correct, so as to check the comprehension of the subjects treated. Before the end of the semester each student should treat one monastic subject of his/her own choice, in a 5-page seminar paper.

The course is an interdisciplinary (that is, quite disparate) endeavour, co-taught by an archaeologist working on medieval western monastic sites and by an intellectual historian working on late antique, Byzantine and eastern Christian texts. As such, it can only give spotlights on: I. East - 1. the beginnings of monasticism in Egypt (3rd-4th centuries); 2. the birth of a new form of monasticism in the Holy Land (5th-6th centuries); 3. Constantinopolitan monasticism after the Iconoclast strife (10th-11th centuries); II. West - 4. early medieval Western monasticism (the Benedictines 6th-10th centuries); 5. monastic reforms in the West (Carthusians, the mendicant orders 11th-14th centuries); 6. Monasticism in Central Europe (the Pauline order, from the 13th century).  Due to the different trainings of the two instructors, the two segments (early Eastern monasticism versus medieval Western monasticism) will be presented following two different methodologies. The first part will be based on textual evidence with incidental hints on eremitic, semi-eremitic, skiti- and laura-type, as well as coenobitic architecture, corresponding to the organisational structures of these types of the monastic life, while the second part will principally deal with architecture, landscape and archaeological finds, with a secondary use of textual evidence and incidental remarks on the spiritual theories accompanying and founding the new types of building activity.


The seminar will deal with the spiritual, religious, architectural and landscape aspects of monastic communities from different areas. From the methodological angle it will introduce the students into some of the most hotly discussed contemporary problems of textual criticism, patristic and Byzantine studies, hagiography and social history, as well as of medieval archaeology and landscape studies in the research into late antique and medieval monastic communities, with a special emphasis on recent methodological issues (such as: the the education of the early monks, interaction between theory and practice, the changing social and political role of monasticism, landscape concepts, spatial organisation of monasteries, industrial activity of the communities etc.). Different research directions and analytical approaches will be discussed in the form of case-studies. The case studies will focus on different ideas of monastic life and their interaction with the physical world that surrounded the monastic communities.

Weekly outline with bibliography (C-E means that the book is available at CEU-ELTE Medieval Library, I.P. means: available from István Perczel)

1. First introduction by József Laszlovszky: medieval monasteries and their landscapes.

Michael Aston, Monasteries (Know the landscape), London, 1993.

Christopher Brook, Monasteries of the World. Ware, 1982.

Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and material culture : the archaeology of religious women. Routledge, London 1994

2. Second introduction by István Perczel: from the sixth century to the third: how to work our way back from a highly  institutionalised monasticism, with a pronounced socio-political  role and in the Empire and intense building activities, to the earliest beginnings of monasticism. The respective roles of textual criticism and of an “archaeology of knowledge”.

Samuel Rubenson, The Letters of Saint Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) C-E

Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1986)

3. The “desert a city”, or the first single monastery in the desert? The founders and the founding traditions: Antony and Pachomius. On the sources: the Vita Antonii in its diverse versions, the Letters of Antony, the Coptic, Greek and Arabic Lives of Pachomius.

Derwas Chitty, The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire (Oxford: Blackwell, 1966) C-E

Samuel Rubenson, The Letters of Saint Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) C-E

Athanasius, Life of Anthony and a Letter to Marcellinus (Classics of Western Spirituality), transl. Robert C. Gregg (New York: Paulist Press,1980) C-E

Pachomian Koinonia, vol. 1, transl. and intr. Armand Veilleux (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1980) C-E

4. The desert and the city: Egypt, the Judean desert, Alexandria and Jerusalem in the late 4th and the 5th century. Nitria and Scetis, the Mount of Olives and Betlehem - Rufinus and Jerome in the Holy Land; lavra-type monasticism in the Judaean Desert.

Hugh Gerard Evelyn-White, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition:The monasteries of the Wadi’n Natrun

            vol. 2: The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and of Scetis (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930, reprint: NY: Arno Press, 1973) available online:

Graham Gould, The Desert Fathers on Monastic Community (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993) C-E

Yizhar Hirschfeld, The Judean Desert Monasteries in the Byzantine Period (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1992) C-E

Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony, Encountering the Sacred: The Debate on Christian Pilgrimage in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) C-

5. From the desert to the City: the role of the holy men; Palestine on the crossroads of East and West; Palestine and Constantinople in the 6th century.

Joseph Patrich, Sabas, Leader of Palestinian Monasticism (Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, 1995)

Joseph Patrich (ed.) The Sabaite Heritage in the Orthodox Church from the Fifth Century to the Present (Leuven: Peeters, 2001)

Cyril of Scythopolis, The Lives of the Monks of Palestine, transl. by R. M. Price, ann. John Binn (Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications, 1991)

Peter Brown, "The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity" in Journal of Roman Studies vol. 61, 1971, p. 80-101

6. Monasticism becomes a major political power: The Two “Origenist Controversies” and the Three Chapters Controversy: 392-400 AD and 530-553 AD

Elisabeth Clark, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate (Princeton, NJ: The University Press, 1992) C-E

Daniel Hombergen, The Second Origenist Controversy (Rome: Centro studi S. Anselmo, 2001)  I.P.

David Beecher Evans, Leontius of Byzantium: An Origenist Christology, Dumbarton Oaks Studies 13, (Washington D.C: Dumbarton Oaks, 1970) I.P.

István Perczel, “A Philosophical Myth in the Service of Religious Apologetics: Manichees and Origenists in the Sixth Century” in: Religious Apologetics Philosophical Argumentation, ed. Yosset Schwartz and Volkhard Krech (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), p. 205-236 I.P.

7. Monasticism in the City: Monasticism in Constantinople during Iconoclasm and beyond (8th to 11th century); a spiritual revolutionary: Symeon the New Theologian  (949-1022)

Peter Hatlie, The Monks and Monasteries of Constantinople, ca. 350-850 (Cambridge: The University Press, 2007) C-E

Francis Dvornik, The Photian Schism: History and Legend (Cambridge: The University Press, 1970, reprint of the 1948 edition) I.P.

H. J. M. Turner, Saint Symeon the New Theologian and Spiritual Fatherhood (Leiden: Brill, 1990)

8. The classical Benedictine abbey and its environment. The Sankt Gallen plan. Cluny I-II-III, and its influence on European monastic architecture. Research problems and methods: complex interpretation of visual, textual and archaeological sources, functional analysis of buildings.

 Advances in monastic archaeology. Edited by Roberta Gikchrist, Harold Mytum. Tempus Reparatum, Oxford 1993.

9. Reform orders and their spatial distribution. Carthusians, Augustinian canons, etc. Monastic expansion, monastic settlement policy. Ideas, architecture and landscape of the new monastic orders in the 11-12th centuries. Image and reality in the Cistercian economy and architecture.Research problems and methods: spatial analysis, study of the general chapters and of the local monastic factors, style and function in architecture, centre and periphery approach.

James Bond, Monastic Landscapes. Tempus, Stroud, 2004.

Fundort Kloster. Archäologie im Klösterreich. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Stift Altenburg. Fundberichte aus Österrreich. Materialheft A 8, Bundesdenkmalalmt. Wien 2000.

Kaspar Elm et alii, Die Zisterzienser. Ordensleben zwischen Ideal und Wirklichkeit. Köln , 1980.

Matthias Untermann, Forma Ordinis. Die mittelalterliche Baukunst der Zisterzienser. Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, Berlin, 2001.

L'espace cistercien. ed. Léon Pressouyre. Paris, Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques. 1994.

10. Monastic revolution of the Middle Ages: the mendicant orders. The buildings of Franciscans and Dominicans in the urban landscape. Royal courts and friaries in Central Europe. Research problems and methods: urban topography, architectural history.

Ernst Badstübner, Kirchen der Mönche. Berlin, 1980.

Wolfgang Braunfels, Abendlndische Klosterbaukunst. DuMont Dokumente, Köln, 1978.

11.  Monastic architecture beyond the cloister. Fishponds, mills, workshops, barns, and fields owned by monasteries and their impact on the medieval landscape. Research problems and methods:environmental history, landscape archaeology, economic history, the industrial revolution of the Middle Ages.

Roberta Gilchrist - Harold Mytum, The Archaeology of Rural Monasteries. BAR British Series 203. Oxford 1989.

12. Hermits and the idea of the desert in the Central European landscape. The Pauline order and its monastic landscape. Research problems and methods: landscape archaeology, landscape history, architectural history.

 Monastic archaeology : papers on the study of medieval monasteries. Edited by Graham Keevill, Mick Aston and Teresa Hall. Oxbow Books, Oxford  2001.