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A few monasteries cannot easily be categorized because so little is known about them from fleeting references in documents. This brief chapter considers the limited evidence for these monasteries and evaluates what can be said about their likely affiliation and their place in the framework of Crusader States society.
Monasticism in the Christian tradition was a product of the Eastern Roman Empire, particularly the provinces of Egypt, Syria and Palestine. Monks and monasteries already existed in Syria and the Holy Land before the end of the fourth century and, despite the profound changes associated with the Arab and Seljuq conquests of the seventh and eleventh centuries, some were still functioning by the time of the First Crusade at the end of the eleventh century. The most distinctive feature of monasticism in the Holy Land was its close relationship, both institutional and spiritual, with the shrines and Holy Places that also exercised a magnetic attraction to pilgrims from all over Christendom.
The focus of this chapter is on Orthodox monasteries as spiritual centres. The nature of Orthodox monastic spirituality in the Holy Land is examined from hagiographical and theological writing. The theme of the chapter is the continuity of early monastic traditions and the adherence of the monasteries to ideals and practices that had their roots in the early Christian ‘golden age’ of monasticism.
A Latin monastic presence was part of the landscape of the Holy Land as early as the fourth century. Although the Latin presence waned after the Arab Conquest of the seventh century, interest and involvement in the monastic presence of the Holy Land continued, notably in the reign of Charlemagne in the early ninth century. The eleventh century saw increased knowledge of conditions for Christians in the Holy Land as pilgrimage from the West became more widespread. By the eve of the First Crusade in 1095, the Latin and Greek Orthodox Churches had drifted apart in observance of religious customs, but they remained in communion. The purpose of the Crusade was to revive and strengthen the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
One of the main features of western religious life in the twelfth century was the emergence of new monastic Orders inspired by the desire either to reform observance of the Rule of Benedict or to create alternative forms of monasticism. One such initiative following the latter approach was the Order of Prémontré founded in northern France in the 1120s. This chapter examines the foundations of the Order made in the Holy Land in the twelfth century and considers their appeal to lay patrons and their distinctive role in religious society.
The Carmelites were an unique religious Order: the only contemplative Order to owe their foundation entirely to the Crusader States. They were formed in the early thirteenth century from a group of solitaries and hermits who had gathered for safety on Mt Camel, near the new capital of the kingdom of Jerusalem at Acre, and absorbed into a new community by Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem. Their aim was the pursuit of a penitent life in a small regulated community in a fixed location without the burden of property ownership. By the middle of the thirteenth century, however, they had made the transition to being mendicants, and although Mt Carmel remained the spiritual heart of the Order, they had founded houses in the West as well. This chapter examines the origins of the community and the process of transition, situating the Carmelites alongside other models of reform in the Crusader States.
Although Francis of Assisi never set foot in person in the Holy Land, he was associated with the Crusader States through his presence in Egypt on the Fifth Crusade. The Franciscans established priories in the Holy Land, notably at Acre but also in other centres of population, and played a significant role in the pastoral life of the Latins in the thirteenth century, at a time when monasteries were struggling to maintain their landed properties and thus to minister to rural parishes. Franciscan spirituality manifested itself through care for prisoners and in the mission field.
The most successful and popular congregation of monastic reformers in the twelfth-century West was the Cistercian Order, founded at around the same time as the First Crusade. Although at first, under the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Cistercians were reluctant to found daughter-houses in the Crusader States, after his death in 1153 a few Cistercian monasteries were formed, and functioned in the same way as the Order’s daughter-houses in the West. Characteristics of Cistercian spirituality were austerity and adherence to a strict observance of the Rule of Benedict, and in pursuit of these aims Cistercians usually occupied remote areas. In contrast to canons regular and more traditional Benedictine houses, Cistercians showed less interest in the shrines of the Holy Land, taking their spiritual inspiration instead from wilderness and remoteness. Nevertheless, they also amassed landed estates and became part of the socio-political framework of the Crusader States.
A major, but largely neglected source of evidence for understanding Orthodox monasticism in the Crusader East is the body of writing produced in the monasteries themselves. Over a hundred manuscripts from the major monasteries survive, containing as well as original compositions, many copies of early devotional, hagiographical and liturgical works. The reasons for copying certain works and the uses made of them, and the nature of the original compositions – hagiographical, theological, liturgical and polemical – are the focus of this chapter.
The Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, established themselves in the Holy Land because it represented an opportunity to fulfil two of the aims of the Order: missionary activity and aiding in parochial ministry. Most of the evidence for Dominican activity in the Crusader States comes from the former, where the Order was particularly active in trying to negotiate the acceptance of the primacy of the papacy among eastern Christians. In Cyprus, where the Order also founded houses after the Latin Conquest of the 1190s, the Dominicans also fulfilled their role as monitors of Christian doctrine through acting as inquisitors, notably in relation to the Greek Orthodox Church.
The surviving evidence for Orthodox monasteries does not permit the same type of analysis of the place of monasteries within political and land-holding society as is possible for the Latin monasteries. The aim of this chapter is, instead, to provide an anatomy of Orthodox monasteries as institutions, using a variety of evidence including accounts by visitors and pilgrims and foundation documents. The emphasis is on giving as comprehensive as possible an analysis of how the Orthodox monasteries in the Holy Land functioned in terms of internal governance and discipline and relations with the state and external drivers.
Women as well as men from western Europe were drawn to the religious life in the Holy Land, and convents for women were an important feature of the Latin monastic landscape. The largest, St Anne’s and St Mary the Great in Jerusalem and Bethany, near Jerusalem, owned substantial landed property throughout the Christendom, and their abbesses could wield important political influence. St Anne’s and Bethany in particular had close associations with the Latin ruling dynasty of Jerusalem. This chapter examines the history of the women’s convents in the Crusader States and their fate after the loss of territory in the thirteenth century.
The Rule of Augustine, a composite formula for religious life, was one of the products of the multi-faceted religious reform movement in western Europe in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. Part of its appeal to those wishing to live a religious life was its flexibility and adaptability to a variety of different types of community. The abbey of St Ruf Tripoli was a foundation of the long-established Augustinian community of St Ruf at Avignon, of which it functioned as a daughter-house. It is treated in a separate chapter because, uniquely among houses of canons regular in the Crusader States, it continued to be under the oversight of the mother-house in the West.