As a dedicated Christian, I take it upon myself to understand the history of Christianity, so I research it. As I was reading about the spread of Christianity sometime back, I came across monks and monasteries that were popular in the Middle age. I learned that they played a key role in the spread of Christianity. So, how did catholic monasteries contribute to the spread of Christianity?
It is suggested that monasteries and monks spread Christianity because monks acted as missionaries who converted people as they educated them at the monasteries. Also, influential politicians are believed to have converted and associated with monks to gain influence on people; in this sense, they influenced more conversion. Lastly, Monasteries were escape places for women who ran from early marriages, so they kept converting.
Join me in this article as I discuss middle-age monasticism and its developments. I will also discuss the contribution of monks and monasteries in the spread of Christianity and much more!
Monasticism In The Middle Ages
Monasticism describes the way of life of people in the Middle age who lived an enclosed life, away from society, enclosed in their communities that sought to practice the utmost form of self-discipline. The popularization of monasticism happened in the Middle age in Europe. Many people believed that to thrive spiritually, they needed to withdraw from society and focus on their relationship with God. During this age, education was mostly available for women in the convent, which is said to have been among the reasons many women were drawn to the convent. Also, it is believed that for any man or woman to join the monasteries, they should have been celibate all their life.
Monks and nuns who formed the monasteries community had many duties to perform during the Middle age. Apart from helping in nourishing the society spiritually by composing songs and leading them in prayer and connection with God, they had charity tasks. The monks and nuns had to tend to visitors, take care of the sick, and be kind to the poor by giving them some basic needs that they lacked. Also, during the Middle age, some abbots and abbesses were responsible advisers of secular rulers of the society. Most importantly, it is believed that the monasteries were dedicated to promoting literacy; they encouraged learning and preserved ancient literature for future generations.
Also, during the Middle age, it is believed that most monasteries became active in the art world. As the popularity of monastic grew, there was an increased need for buildings and books for the growing population. Monks and nuns had to be more creative and handy in manual labour. While participating in these works was for the greater good of the increasing population among monasteries, it is believed that they considered the works and art as a way of serving God. For this intention of serving God through their works of art, it is believed that many monasteries marked theory works with not just their names but with indications that that work was like a prayer offering to God.
Also, it is suggested that the instructions and directions for the ideal design for buildings of Monasteries were first suggested and implemented in the middle ages. It was believed that monks and nuns would thrive in their monastic lives when the environment around them was highly conducive. This implies that the buildings also had an impact. However, the first three centuries of monastic had only prescribed an exact design of their buildings in the 8th Century when rules came up with a set of directions regarding the buildings of monasteries and the arrangement.
Development of monasticism from the middle ages
The Benedictines is an order of monasticism that was formed by the most influential Monk in the West, Benedict of Nursia, the father of monastic. The founder of the Benedictines is believed to have received his education in Rome but later became an ascetic living in a cave in Subiaco. It is suggested that withdrawing from everyone helped him thrive in his intended religious discipline, which made him attract followers. With his followers, it is believed that he founded the first monastery, the Monastery of Monte Cassino, in 520.
It is suggested that he formed the first rules that defined the rules of the monastery, the officials, and the responsibilities. It is implied that his set of rules was inspired by the rule of the master from Rome, which became the basic rule for all monasteries in the West. The Benedictine monasteries were normally small during this time, with about 12 monks per monastery.
The monks in the Benedictine order are believed to have always prioritized prayer among all their responsibilities. The duties of the monasteries under the Benedictine order could have included; praying, reading, preparing medicine, manual labour, and lettering. The monks in the Benedictine orders were required to write neatly and add illustrative drawings to the books. Therefore, the Benedictine order of monasteries is suggested to have been the centre of all knowledge.
The Cluniacs are also believed to have been a reformed order of the Benedictine order. It is suggested that the rise of Cluniacs was foreseen by nobles who donated land to monks and took advantage of it by interfering in the lives of monks. It is believed that they started the Cluniacs movement to change how the nobles interfered with monks. Also, they are believed to have greatly valued artwork and people with low incomes.
The Carthusian order is believed to have been formed in 1084 by Bruno Cologne. It is suggested that these monasteries particularly focused on being more silent and praying. It is also implied that their monks lived in cells.
The Cistercian movement is believed to have been formed by Bernard of Clairvaux. It is suggested that the Cistercian movement followed the Benedictine rules but reformed most aspects, mainly in terms of labour. People had to go back to fieldwork and resisted some Benedictine developments. It was formed in 1098, and most monasteries were built in isolated interior parts of Europe. The popularity of the Cistercian movement is believed to have grown gradually and peaked in the 15th Century.
It is believed that Norbert of Xanten formed this movement of monasteries in 1120. It is implied that they were not a group of nuns and monks but canons of the church. They are similar to Cistercians. However, it is suggested that their focus was on going back to society through social education and literacy.
It is said that Saint John of Matha formed the order of Trinity in 1198. They are believed to have been the order of the Holy Trinity. They are implied to have been on a mission to save Christians in Muslim captives. They focused on being hospitable to pilgrims, caring for the unwell and remaking church buildings, and evangelizing.
The contribution of monks and monasteries to the spread of Christianity
Monks acted as missionaries
The rise of monasteries and monks in Europe is believed to have caused Christianity as a religion to dominate Europe. Therefore, it is implied that the monks influenced the pagan tribes that lived around monasteries to convert to Christianity.
Monasteries could have attracted political attention
Although politics in the church is often not the way to go as Christians, during the time of monasteries and monks, politics impacted their mission. It is suggested that many political leaders who were pagans would convert so that they get alliances with monks. This implies that many people who are influenced by politics could have also been influenced to convert.
It is believed that Monasteries offered education
It is suggested that Monasteries offered education to both males and females. Therefore many females would turn to monasteries to escape early marriages and become literate. This increased the number of converts. Also, preserving literature and written works that monks wrote led to rich knowledge about Christianity, which continued influencing conversion.
Did monks have a contribution to Christianity outside of their monasteries?
It is believed that Monks contributed to Christianity outside of their Monasteries. It is suggested that Monks participate in other social works that impact society and persuade them towards Christianity. Monks are believed to have been helping people experiencing poverty, especially the Cluniacs, educating society, and advising the rulers. All these things are believed to have impacted many people, implying that they were being persuaded towards Christianity because of the Monk’s kindness.
Are monks and monasteries still relevant to Christianity today?
It is suggested that monasteries and monks are still relevant to Christianity today, especially in areas where Orthodox Christianity thrives. Areas like Greece, Russia, Holy Land, and Romania still use Monasteries because they are orthodox regions. The many monasteries’ homes that were abandoned have been revamped and serve Christian purposes like retreating and silence for prayers. Also, according to the Easter orthodox church, all their Bishops must be monks, saying that celibacy is not enough. Also, such churches value the monastic saints and celebrate them, implying that monastic is still relevant to them.
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.