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Monasticism, in all of its variations, was a feature of almost every landscape in the medieval West. So ubiquitous were religious women and men throughout the Middle Ages that all medievalists encounter monasticism in their intellectual worlds. While there is enormous interest in medieval monasticism among Anglophone scholars, language is often a barrier to accessing some of the most important and groundbreaking research emerging from Europe. The Cambridge History of Medieval Monasticism in the Latin West offers a comprehensive treatment of medieval monasticism, from Late Antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages. The essays, specially commissioned for this volume and written by an international team of scholars, with contributors from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, cover a range of topics and themes and represent the most up-to-date discoveries on this topic.
Much can be revealed about monastic daily life by observing innovations in and through our sources. While discussing some of them in this article for the period between the late eighth century and the eleventh—through a discussion of customaries, the claustral area (claustrum), the chapter house, the recruitment of children, and the outer court—I will argue that we should be more critical about what have long been considered fundamental tenets of medieval monastic life, especially the literal application of the Rule of St. Benedict (RB), total obedience toward the abbot, and strict separation from the secular world. While this last idea has already been challenged, much remains to be said about the complexity of the interaction between the community within the monastery and the exterior. Much also remains to be told about the sway of the community itself.
Between January of 1417 and the last session of the great Council of Constance (1414–18) in April of 1418, Sigismund of Luxemburg (d. 1437), King of Germany, Hungary, and Croatia, was quartered intermittently at the House of Augustinian Hermits (f. 1268) in the southern part of the old city. The honor of hosting the king—the defensor ecclesiae—along with much of his vast retinue, must have come at great cost both to the community and to the townsfolk of Constance. Perhaps in recognition of this effort and expense, and surely aware that the Augustinians’ church had not yet been fully restored in the wake of a devastating fire in 1398, Sigismund arranged for the impressive sum of 1,400 Guilders to be paid to three local artists—Heinrich Grübel, Kaspar Sünder, and Johann Lederhoser—to paint the nave of the monastery church. Work on the frescoes began in July of 1417, and by September the job was complete.