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  • Andrew Jotischky


Monastic reform is generally understood as a textually driven process governed by a renewed interest in early monastic ideals and practices in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and focusing on the discourses of reformers about the Egyptian ‘desert fathers’ as the originators of monasticism. Historians have suggested that tropes about the desert, solitude, etc., drawn from early texts found their way into mainstream accounts of monastic change in the period c. 1080–1150. This paper challenges this model by proposing that considerations of ‘reform’ must take into account parallel movements in Greek Orthodox monasticism and interactions of practice between the two monastic environments. Three case-studies of non-textually derived parallel practices are discussed, and the importance of the Holy Land as a source of inspiration for such practices is advanced in place of Egypt.



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1 Vita Bartholomaei Farnensis, viii–ix, Symeon of Durham, Historia Ecclesiae Dunhemlensis. Appendix II, ed. Thomas Arnold, Rolls Series (1882), i, 300–2. See also Tudor, V. M., ‘Durham Priory and its Hermits in the Twelfth Century’, in Anglo-Norman Durham 1093–1193, ed. Rollason, David, Harvey, Margaret and Prestwich, Michael (Woodbridge, 1994), 6778 .

2 Cassian, John, De institutis monachorum, i, 3–9, ed. Guy, J.-C., Chrétiennes, Sources 109 (Paris, 1965), 4351 , specified a ‘cuculla’, ‘pallium’ and linen tunic to be worn at all times together with ‘subcinctoria’, or shoulder straps. This clothing is also described in the earlier Historia monachorum in Aegypto, iii, Patrologia Latina, ed. J.-P. Migne (215 vols., Paris, 1844–) (PL), xxi, col. 407. For standard Benedictine clothing, La règle de Saint Benoit, v–vi, ed. A. De Vogué and J. Neufville, Sources Chrétiennes 35 (2 vols., Paris, 1972), ii, 618.

3 Among many examples, Haimo of Hirsau, Vita Willelmi Hirsaugiensis xxi, PL, cl, col. 913; Constable, Giles, The Reformation of the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, 1996), 144, 153–61.

4 See the remark of Constable, Reformation, 125.

5 William of Saint-Thierry, Vita prima sancti Bernardi, i, vii, 34, PL, clxxxv, col. 247.

6 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, viii, 26, ed. Marjorie Chibnall (6 vols., Oxford, 1969–80), iv, 312–14.

7 Conrad of Eberbach, Exordium Magnum Cisterciense, Dist. i, 2–3, ed. B. Griesser, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis (CCCM), 138 (Turnhout, 1994), 7–9.

8 Cassian, John, Conférences XVIII–XXIV, xviii, 4–6, ed. Pichery, E., Sources Chrétiennes 64 (Paris, 1959), 1318 .

9 La règle, lxxiii, 672.

10 Taking England as an example, the Vitas patrum was certainly known at these monasteries by the early thirteenth century: Burton, Bury, Christ Church Canterbury, Flaxley, Glastonbury, Peterborough, Reading and Rochester. Cassian (either the Institutes or Conferences or both) was known at all the same houses, and also at Whitby and Rievaulx before the end of the twelfth century: list by Richard Sharpe at

11 Orderic Vitalis, viii, 26, 314–20.

12 Ward, Benedicta, ‘The Desert Myth. Reflections on the Desert Ideal in Early Cistercian Monasticism’, in One Yet Two. Monastic Tradition East and West, ed. Pennington, M. Basil (Kalamazoo, 1976), 183–99; Constable, Reformation, 136, and see also 131, where he doubts whether most twelfth-century monks knew much about the early Church.

13 Daniel, Walter, Life of Ailred of Rievaulx, xv, ed. Powicke, F. M. (Edinburgh, 1950), 24 .

14 de Nogent, Guibert, Dei gesta per Francos, ii, ed. Huygens, R. B. C., CCCM, 127A (Turnhout, 1996), 8990 . See now LéanNí Chléirigh, ‘The Impact of the First Crusade on Western Opinion towards the Byzantine Empire’, in The Crusades and the Near East. Cultural Histories, ed. Conor Kostick (2011), 164–8.

15 Thomas, John P., Private Religious Foundations in the Byzantine Empire (Washington, DC, 1987), 186213 ; Morris, Rosemary, Monks and Laymen in Byzantium (Cambridge, 1995), 931 .

16 Compare the ideas expressed by John the Oxite in late eleventh-century Byzantium about monastic origins to those of Conrad of Eberbach a century or so later, ‘Requisitoire du Patriarche Jean d'Antioche contre le charistikarioi’, ed. P. Gautier, Revue des Études Byzantines, 33 (1975), 77–131.

17 Princeton University Library Garrett MS 16, fo. 194r.

18 Durham Cathedral MS B.iv.10 (Cassian's Conferences) and Durham Cathedral B.iv.ii (Cassian's Institutes).

19 Callahan, Daniel, ‘Jerusalem in the Monastic Imaginations of the Early Eleventh Century’, Haskins Society Journal, 6 (1994), 119–27; France, John, ‘The Destruction of Jerusalem and the First Crusade’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 47 (1996), 117 .

20 Adhémar, Chronicon, iii, 47, ed. P. Bourgain, CCCM 129 (Turnhout, 1999), 166–7; Rodulfi Glabri Historiarum Libri Quinti, i, 21, iii, 24, ed. J. France (Oxford, 1989), 37, 132–6; Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon, ii, 27, ed. G. Pertz, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) (SS), viii (Hanover, 1848), 399.

21 Morris, Colin, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West (Oxford, 2005), 107–27.

22 Corpus Orationum, ed. Edmond Eugène Moeller, Jean-Marie Clément and Bertrand C. T. Wallant, CCSL 160 A–L (13 vols., Turnhout, 1992–2003), i, 83–4.

23 Hugh of Flavigny, Chronicon, ii, 21–2, MGH (SS), viii, 395–6.

24 Bousquet, J., ‘La foundation de Villeneuve d'Aveyron (1053) et l'expansion de l'abbaye de Moissac en Rouergue’, Annales du Midi, 75 (1963), 517–42, with foundation document at 538–9. See also Jotischky, Andrew, ‘The Christians of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre and the Origins of the First Crusade’, Crusades, 7 (2008), 53–4.

25 Veronique Gazeau, Normannia Monastica (2 vols., Caen, 2007), ii: Prosopographie des abbés bénédictins, 208, 244–7, 254, 274.

26 See for example, Meinwerk, bishop of Paderborn, who sent monks to Jerusalem to take the dimensions of the Holy Sepulchre to copy the building for his own new monastic foundation, Vita Meinwerci episcopi, ccxvii, ed. G. Pertz, MGH (SS), xi (Hanover, 1854), 158–9.

27 Gazeau, Normannia Monastica, ii, 374–6, for details of contracts with Adelaide and William de Bordouville, Richard de Troarn and William de Milly; L'abbaye de Saint-Martin de Troarn, ed. R. N. Sauvage, Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Normandie, 4th series, 4 (Caen, 1911), 26, 222. For the Milly descendants in the Holy Land, see Barber, Malcolm, ‘The Career of Philip of Nablus in the Kingdom of Jerusalem’, in The Experience of Crusading, ii: Defining the Crusader Kingdom, ed. Edbury, Peter and Phillips, Jonathan (Cambridge, 2003), 6075 .

28 Gazeau, Normannia monastica, ii, 263–5.

29 Vita sancti Nili, PL, cxx, cols. 124–32, for the impression made by St Nilus on the monks of Montecassino. See also Hamilton, Bernard and McNulty, P. A., ‘ Orientale lumen et magistra Latinitas: Greek Influence on Western Monasticism (900–1100)’, in Le millénaire du Mont Athos. Études et mélanges (2 vols., Chevtogne, 1963), i, 181216 ; Loud, Graham, ‘Montecassino and Byzantium in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries’, in The Theotokos Evergetis and Eleventh-Century Monasticism, ed. Mullett, M. and Kirby, A. (Belfast, 1994), 3058 ; H. Bloch, ‘Montecassino, Byzantium and the West in the Early Middle Ages’, in Bloch, H., Montecassino in the Middle Ages (Rome, 1968), 1136 ; MacGregor, J., ‘Negotiating Knightly Piety: The Cult of the Warrior Saints in the West ca. 1070–ca. 1200’, Church History, 73 (2004), 317–45; Lapina, Elizabeth, ‘Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Patron Saint of Crusaders’, Viator, 40 (2009), 93112 ; Oldfield, Paul, ‘St Nicholas the Pilgrim and the City of Trani between Greeks and Normans c. 1090–1140’, Anglo-Norman Studies, 30 (2008), 168–81; Jones, C. W., ‘The Norman Cults of Saints Catherine and Nicholas’, in Hommages à André Boutemy, ed. Cambier, G. (Brussels, 1976), 216–31; Walsh, Christine, The Cult of Saint Katherine of Alexandria in Early Medieval Europe (Aldershot, 2007).

30 Thus Leyser, Henrietta, Hermits and the New Monasticism (New York, 1992), 24–5; Dunn, Marilyn, ‘Eastern Influence on Western Monasticism in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Byzantinische Forschungen, 13 (1988), 245–59.

31 See the discussions by Leyser, Conrad, ‘Custom, Truth and Gender in Eleventh-Century Reform’, in Gender and Christian Religion, ed. Swanson, R. N., Studies in Church History, 34 (Woodbridge, 1998), 7591 ; and Cushing, Kathleen, Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century (Manchester, 2005), 111–33.

32 Constable, Reformation, 210–12.

33 Chronica Monasterii Casinensis, ii, 12, 22, ed. H. Hoffman, MGH (SS), xxxiv (Hanover, 1980), 190, 206.

34 Rule of Athanasios the Athonite for the Lavra Monastery’, xxix–xxx, trans. Dennis, George, in Byzantine Monastic Foundation Documents, ed. Thomas, John and Hero, Angela (5 vols., Washington, DC, 2000), i, 227 .

35 Miracula Sancti Gorgonii, xxvi, MGH (SS), iv (Hanover, 1841), 246.

36 Walsh, Cult of Saint Katherine, 63–78.

37 Cartulaire de l'abbaye de la Sainte-Trinité de Rouen, ed. Delville, A., in Le cartulaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Bertin, ed. Guérard, M. (Paris, 1841), no. 97, 466–7.

38 ‘Sanctae Catherinae virginis et marytris translatio et miracula Rotomagenia saec. XI’, ed. A. Poncelet Analecta Bollandiana, 22 (1903), 423–38.

39 Fawtier, R., ‘Les reliques rouennaises de Sainte Catherine d'Alexandrie’, Analecta Bolladiana, 41 (1923), 365 .

40 Jerusalem, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Taphou MS 35, an eleventh-century codex owned by the monastery of St Theodosius, south of Jerusalem, contains the Dialogues of Gregory the Great in Greek.

41 ‘Sanctae Catherinae’, ed. Poncelet, 429.

42 Le cartulaire de Cormery, ed. J. J. Bourassé (Tours, 1861), 104.

43 ‘Die klösterregeln des hl. Sabbas’, ed. E. Kurtz, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 3 (1894), 167–70.

44 Un grand mystique byzantine: la Vie de Syméon le nouveau théologien, ed. and trans. I. Hausherr, lii–lvii, Orientalia Christiana xii (Rome, 1928), 68–72.

45 Ellenblum, Ronnie, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge, 1996), 128–36; Jotischky, Andrew, ‘The Frankish Encounter with the Greek Orthodox in the Crusader States’, in Tolerance and Intolerance. Social Conflict in the Age of the Crusades, ed. Gervers, Michael and Powell, James M. (Syracuse, 2001), 102 ; Les sains pelerinages, v, 20, Pelerinaiges, xx, Chemins et pelerinages, A.iv, 17, in Itinéraires à Jérusalem et descriptions de la Terre-Sainte rédigés en français au XIe, XIIe et XIII siècles, ed. H. Michelant and G. Raynaud (2 vols., Geneva, 1879–80), ii, 104, 102, 188; Pringle, Denys, The Churches of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. A Corpus. Vol. I A–K (Cambridge, 1993), 8292 .

46 Kedar, Benjamin Z., ‘Gerard of Nazareth, a Neglected Twelfth Century Writer in the Latin East’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 37 (1983), 71–7, from Flacius, Matthias Illyricus, Historia Ecclesiastica, integram ecclesiae Christi ideam . . . secunda singulas centurias perspicuo ordine complectens (7 vols., Basel, 1562–74), xii, Duodecima Centuria, cols. 1603–10.

47 Narratio de monachi Palestinensis, in ‘Saints de Chypre’, ed. H. Delehaye, Analecta Bollandiana, 26 (1907), 162–75.

48 Kyrillos von Skythopolis, ed. E. Schwartz (Leipzig, 1939), 205–6, 225.

49 Palladius, The Lausiac History, xxxiv, ed. Cuthbert Butler (Cambridge, 1898–1904), 98–100.

50 Licence, Tom, ‘The Gift of Seeing Demons in Early Cistercian Spirituality’, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, 39 (2004), 4965 .

51 Ibid. , 62–4.

52 Walter Daniel, Life of Aelred of Rievaulx, xxxi, 39–40.

53 Jotischky, Andrew, The Perfection of Solitude. Hermits and Monks in the Crusader States (University Park, PA, 1995), 6971 .

54 Walter Daniel, Life of Aelred of Rievaulx, xxviii–xxix.

55 Reginald of Durham, De vita et miraculis S. Godrici heremitae de Finchale, ed. J. Stevenson, Surtees Society (1847), 176–7.

56 ‘The Rule of Neophytos the Recluse’, xiv–xv, ed. and trans. Coureas, Nicholas, The Foundation Rules of Medieval Cypriot Monasteries: Makhairas and Neophytos, Cyprus Research Centre Texts and Studies in the History of Cyprus xlvi (Nicosia, 2003), 146–9.

57 ‘The Life and Miracles of Godric of Throkenholt’, ed. Tom Licence, Analecta Bollandiana, 124 (2006), 15–43.

58 ‘ligneum sedile usque ad humeros in altitudine, in modum circuli rotundi, super quod die noctuque sedit’, Licence, ‘Life and Miracles’, 25–8. At other times he sat outside on a particular piece of turf for the same purpose, which after his death was kept and venerated by his patron.

59 Pachomius, Koinonia, ii. Pachomian Chronicles and Rules, trans. A. Veilleux (Kalamazoo, 1981), 126; also Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, xxxii, 3, ed. Butler, 88.

60 For early Syrian practices, see Voobus, A., History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalum 184, 197 (2 vols., Louvain, 1958–60), ii, 264–5, where examples of standing and lying in contorted positions are given, but without reference to chairs.

61 John Moschus, Pratum Spirituale, lxiii, PL, lxxiv, col. 148.

62 Pachomius, Regula, lxxxviii, PL, xxiii, col. 74.

63 Oikonimides, N., ‘The Contents of the Byzantine House from the Eleventh to the Fifteenth Centuries’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 44 (1990), 205–14.

64 The Life of Lazaros of Mt Galesion, xviii, xxxv, ed. and trans. Richard P. Greenfield (Washington, DC, 2000), 99, 122. Lazaros, as superior at Mt Galesion, refused to permit beds even for sick monks, clxii, 253–4.

65 Ibid., clii, 253–4.

66 Athanassakis, A. N. and Vivian, T., ‘Unattested Greek Words in the Life of St George of Choziba and the Miracles of the Most Holy Mother of God of Choziba ’, Journal of Theological Studies, 45 (1994), 625 .

67 The Life of Lazaros, 1.

68 Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, trans. Sheridan, Alan (Harmondsworth, 1979), 149 .

69 Bynum, Caroline Walker, Jesus as Mother. Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley, 1982), 72–6.

70 For an example of first crusaders at a Greek Orthodox monastery, ‘Narratio quomodo reliquiae martyris Georgii ad nos Aquicinensis pervenerunt’, Recueil des Historiens des Croisades. Historiens Occidentaux, v (Paris, 1895), 248–52; see also Haskins, Charles H., ‘A Canterbury Monk at Constantinople c. 1090’, English Historical Review, 25 (1910), 293–5; although there is no evidence that the monk in question spent time at a Constantinopolitan monastery, it would have been strange if he had not at least visited one; for another western visitor, Ciggaar, Krijnie, ‘Une description de Constantinople dans le Tarragonensis 55’, Revue des Études Byzantines, 53 (1995), 1740 .

71 Vita S. Guillelmi Divionensis, in Acta Sanctorum ordinis S. Benedicti, ed. L. D'Achery and J. Mabillon (9 vols., Paris, 1668–1701), vi, 302; William of Malmensbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum, v, 260–1, ed. Michael Winterbottom and Rodney M. Thomson (2 vols., Oxford, 2007), i, 620–1; Vita S. Symeonis, Acta Sanctorum, ed. J. Bollandus et al. (69 vols., Paris, 1643–1940), June i, 88–101; see also Lapidge, Michael, ‘Byzantium, Rome and England in the Early Middle Ages’, in Roma fra Oriente e Occidente, Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull'Alto Medioevo, 49 (2002), 363400 ; Ciggaar, Krijnie, Western Travellers to Constantinople: The West and Byzantium 962–1204 (Leiden, 1996), 130–1.

72 E.g. the feast of St Katherine in eleventh-century Canterbury, British Library Cotton MS Vit. E. xviii, fo. 7r, and the early twelfth-century Cambridge Corpus Christi MS 270. Paul of Caen, abbot of St Albans (1077–93), is said to have adopted eastern monastic disciplinary norms, Gesta abbatum sancti Albani, ed. T. Riley (3 vols., 1867–9), i, 60. The Cistercian monastery of Vallis Lucens (Vaulvisant) owned a Latin translation of the liturgies of St Basil and St John Chrysostom in the twelfth century, now Paris Bibliothèque Nationale Nouvelles Acquisitions Latines 1791; Jacob, A., ‘La traduction de la liturgie de S. Basile par Nicholas d'Otrante’, Bulletin de l'Institut Belge de Rome, 38 (1967), 51–2.

73 Howe, John, Church Reform and Social Change in Eleventh-Century Italy: Dominic of Sora and his Patrons (Philadelphia, 1997); Loud, Graham, The Latin Church in Norman Italy (Cambridge, 2007), 53–9; and the forthcoming book by Oldfield, Paul, Sanctity and Pilgrimage in Medieval Southern Italy (1000–1200) (Cambridge); on Greek monasticism in Italy, Borsari, S., Il monachesimo bizantino nella Sicilie e nell'Italia meridionale prenormanne (Naples, 1963), 6076 ; Vitolo, G., ‘Les monastères grecs de l'Italie mériodionale’, in Moines et monastè res dans les sociétés de rite grec et latin, ed. Lemaitre, J.-L., Dmitriev, M. and Gonneau, P. (Geneva, 1996), 99113 .

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