Rachel Fulton
Department of History
The University of Chicago

Spring 2001


This course focuses on the origins and development of monasticism as one of the central institutions of medieval Europe. Problems to be addressed include the appeal of asceticism in late antique society, the role of the monasteries in the collapse and preservation of European civilization, the social, economic, and political impact of Benedictine monasticism on the development of western Europe, and the progressive reforms of this institution from Benedict to Francis.


1. The primary requirement for this course is attendance in class and participation in discussion of the assigned readings. To help you prepare for the discussions and to give me some indication of how you are reading, I would like you over the course of the quarter to type and turn in at least eight comments on the texts read for the day at the beginning of class on the day on which we discuss those texts. These comments should address questions that occurred to you in the course of your reading (e.g. about the problems you had understanding the text, about things that surprised you in the text, about issues or particulars about which you would like to know more having read the text). These typed comments should be no more than a page each. Together they will constitute 20% of your final grade.

2. A textual analysis on a reading of your choice to be turned in on Wednesday, April 25. This essay will constitute 35% of your final grade.

3. A final exam to be handed out on Wednesday, May 30, and due in my office by 5pm on Wednesday, June 6. This exam will constitute 45% of your final grade.


Lawrence, C.H. Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. 3rd ed. London and New York, 2001.

John Cassian. Conferences. Trans. Colm Luibheid. The Classics of Western Spirituality. New York, 1985.

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Trans. Betty Radice. Harmondsworth, 1974.

Bernard of Clairvaux. Treatises II: The Steps of Humility and Pride and The Book on Loving God. Trans. M. Basil Pennington and Robert Walton. Cistercian Fathers Series 13. Kalamazoo, 1980.

Jocelin of Brakelond. Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds. Trans. Diana Greenway and Jane Sayers. Oxford, 1989.

Francis of Assisi: The Saint. Early Documents. Eds. Regis J. Armstrong, J.A. Wayne Hellmann and William J. Short. St. Bonaventure, NY, 1999.

Gertrude the Great of Helfta. Spiritual Exercises. Trans. Gertrud Jaron Lewis and Jack Lewis. Cistercian Fathers Series 49. Kalamazoo, 1989.


March 26 Introduction

March 28 Life in the Desert
*Athanasius of Alexandria, "Life of St. Anthony of Egypt," cc. Introduction, 1-15, 44-56, 58, 65-71, 83-94, in Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology, ed. Thomas Head (New York, 2000), 7-30. Also available in Athanasius, The Life of Antony and The Letter to Marcellinus, trans. Robert C. Gregg, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York, 1980), 29-43, 64-75, 78-83, 91-99.

Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 1-17.

April 2 Greek Fathers
*Basil of Caesarea, "The Long Rules," in Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, trans. Sister M. Monica Wagner, The Fathers of the Church 9 (New York, 1950), 223-337.
*Evagrius Ponticus, The Praktikos, trans. John E. Bamberger, Cistercian Studies Series 4 (Spencer, MA, 1970), 12-42.

Wolfgang Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe: The Architecture of the Orders (London, 1972; Princeton, 1973), 13-18.

April 4 Latin Fathers
*Jerome, "Letter 22 to Eustochium," in The Letters of St. Jerome, trans. Charles C. Mierow, Ancient Christian Writers 33 (London, 1963), 134-79.
*Caesarius of Arles, "Rule for Nuns," ed. and trans. M.C. McCarthy, Catholic University of America Studies in Medieval History n.s. 16 (Washington, D.C., 1960), 170-204.

April 9 Unceasing Prayer
*John Cassian, Conferences 1, 9, 10 and 18, trans. Luibheid, 37-59, 101-40, 183-201.
*_________, Institutes, Books 2-3, trans. Boniface Ramsey, Ancient Christian Writers 58 (New York, 2000), 35-48, 57-68.

April 11 A little rule for beginners
*Benedict, "Rule for Monasteries," in RB1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes, ed. Timothy Fry (Collegeville, Minnesota, 1981), 156-297.
*Gregory the Great, "Dialogues II," in Readings in Medieval History, ed. Patrick Geary, 2nd ed. (Peterborough, Ontario, 1997) 188-208.

Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, 19-36.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 18-38.

April 16 Early Medieval
*Eigil, "The Life of Saint Sturm," in Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints' Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, eds. Thomas F.X. Noble and Thomas Head (University Park, PA, 1995), 166-87.
*Walahfrid Strabo, "Life of St. Gall," in Medieval Saints: A Reader, ed. Mary-Ann Stouck (Orchard Park, NY, 1999), 223-49.

Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 39-65.

April 18 Imperial Benedictines
*Ardo, "The Life of St. Benedict, Abbot of Aniane and of Inde," in Soldiers of Christ, eds. Noble and Head, 215-54.
*Rudolf, "The Life of St. Leoba," in Soldiers of Christ, eds. Noble and Head, 257-77.
*Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, 37-46.

Mayke De Jong, "Carolingian Monasticism: The Power of Prayer," in The New Cambridge Medieval History, ed. Rosamond McKitterick, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1995-1998), 622-53.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 66-82.

April 23 Tenth-century Foundations
*William of Aquitaine, "Foundation Charter of Cluny," in Readings in Medieval History, ed. Geary, 304-6.
*Charters of the Grossi Family, in Readings in Medieval History, ed. Geary, 306-10.
*Odilo of Cluny, "Life of St. Maiol, Abbot of Cluny," in Medieval Saints, ed. Stouck, 250-64.
*Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, "The Establishment of the Monastery of Gandersheim," in Medieval Hagiography, ed. Head, 243-54.

R.W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Harmondsworth, 1970), 214-40.
*Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, 47-66.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 83-106.

April 25 Opus Dei
*Psalms (Vulgate numbering) 3, 94; 59-61, 65, 67-72; 66, 50, 1Samuel 2:1-10, 148-50; 9b, 10, 11; 119-127; 134-137; 4, 90, 133.
*Benedict, "Rule for Monasteries," cc. 8-20 (reread).

Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture, trans. Catharine Misrahi, 3rd ed. (New York, 1982), 236-54.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 107-45.

April 30 The New Hermits
*Peter Damian, "Life of St. Romuald of Ravenna," in Medieval Hagiography, ed. Head, 297-316.
*________, Letters 17-18, in Letters 1-30, trans. Owen J. Blum, The Fathers of the Church, Mediaeval Continuation (Washington, D.C., 1989), 145-70.

Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 146-71.

May 2 Sisters in Christ
*Heloise, Letter 5, and Peter Abelard, Letters 6 and 7, in Letters, trans. Radice, 159-269.

Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 217-37.

May 7 The New Desert
*Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility and Pride and The Book on Loving God, trans. Pennington and Walton, 25-82, 91-132.

Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, 67-110.
Southern, Western Society and the Church, 240-72.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 172-206.

May 9 Prayer
*William of St. Thierry, "On Contemplating God" and "Prayer," in The Works of William of St Thierry I, trans. Sister Penelope, Cistercian Fathers Series 3 (Kalamazoo, 1977), 36-64, 71-74.
*Guigo II the Carthusian, "Ladder of Monks" and "Twelve Meditations," trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh, Cistercian Studies Series 48 (Kalamazoo, 1979), 67-131.

Leclercq, Love of Learning, 191-235, 255-70.

May 14 Life in a Monastic Community
*Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, trans. Greenway and Sayers.

May 16 Naked Following the Naked Christ
*Francis, "The Earlier Rule," "The Later Rule," and "The Canticle of the Creatures," in Francis of Assisi, eds. Armstrong, Hellmann and Short, 63-86, 99-106, 113-14.
*Thomas of Celano, "The Life of Saint Francis," in Francis of Assisi, 180-308.

Southern, Western Society and the Church, 272-99.
Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 238-78.

May 21 Dogs of Christ
*Canonization Process of St. Dominic, in Readings in Medieval History, ed. Geary, 455-66.
*Jordan of Saxony, On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers, ed. and trans. Simon Tugwell, Dominican Sources: New Editions in English (Chicago, 1982), xvi, 1-31.

Lester Little, Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe (Ithaca, 1978), 146-219.
Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, 125-52.

May 23 Brides of Christ
*Gertrude the Great of Helfta, Spiritual Exercises, trans. Lewis and Lewis, 21-146.

Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism, 279-94.


May 30 Conclusion (slides and music)

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