The Papal Monarchy: The Western Church from 1050 to 1250

By Colin Morris | Go to book overview
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10
THE NEW MONASTIC ORDERS

i. From Hermitage to Monastery

One of the features of the monastic scene in the late eleventh century had been the appearance of groups of hermits who lived outside existing rules and customs. The dominant characteristic in the twelfth century was the opposite: the emergence of new orders with clearly defined constitutions. Paradoxically, these monks were the lineal descendants of the hermits: the Cistercians and Carthusians trace their ancestry back to hermits gathered in Burgundy, while Fontevraud, Savigny, and Tiron have their origin in the povertyand-preaching movement in north-western France. Historians have disagreed about the dynamics of the change: was it transition or treason?1 Ernst Werner saw the movement from the freer life of hermits into regulated communities primarily as the result of pressure by the hierarchy, whereas Giles Constable and Henrietta Leyser have rejected any suggestion of a sharp contrast between hermits on the one hand and monks on the other, emphasizing there was a multitude of forms of 'eremitical monasticism', within which movement could take place in one direction or the other.2 In any case, we must not exaggerate the speed of the transformation. There were certainly plenty of communities whose founders chose to accept a Rule from an established house, but when a community developed its own customs into a new form of religious life the process usually took a considerable time. Remarkably, in almost every such case the original founder had moved elsewhere, and there are doubts about the continuity of ideals; a feature common to Bruno at Chartreuse, Robert at Cîteaux, Cono at Arroualse, William of Champeaux at St Victor, and Norbert at Prémontré.

____________________
1
L. Mills, "L'évolution de l'érémitisme au canonicat régulier . . . : transition ou trahison?", MCSM 7 ( 1977), 223-38.
2
E. Werner, Pauperes Christi ( Leipzig, 1956); H. Leyser, Hermits and the new Monasticism ( London, 1984); and G. Constable, "The Study of Monastic History Today", in his Religious Life and Thought ( London, 1979).

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