Thursday, August 11, 2022

Beginnings of Western Monasticism

Sack of Rome (Latium, 410)

After standing inviolable for over 800 years, Rome is sacked by Goths in 410 and, much too soon again, in 455 by Vandals.

Monasteries: source of new order (Western Christendom, 400s)

As the western provinces of the Roman Empire collapse into disorder, men seeking some meaningful and viable alternative begin exploring the possibilities of living together in monastic communities. At first these are nothing more than local attempts to create a little social order around Jesus as the center. Centuries later monasteries would be primary sources of new order across Christendom.

Honoratus (Gallia, ca 410)

About the time of Rome’s first sacking in centuries, a man named Honoratus seeks solitude on the deserted island of Lérins about 3 miles (5 km) off the coast of Cannes in southern Gallia. Contrary to his expectations, a number of other men quickly join him. Soon the island is home to a thriving monastic community (>427).

Patrick (Hibernia, 432)

Before traveling to Hibernia (today’s Ireland), Patrick may have lived with the monks of Lérins. If so, he took their austere way of living with him. 

Benedict (Latium, 500)

Benedict (ca 480-543) is a rich young Latin when, around 500, he abandons his wealth and retires to solitary living in the valley of Subiaco near Rome. Benedict’s ways are gentler than those of Honoratus or Patrick. He eventually organizes seekers who came to him into twelve separate communities of monks. His monastic order, the Benedictines, has enjoyed continuous existence from his day to ours. For more information, see Benedict of Nursia.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
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