Dr. John Hannah on Medieval Monasticism

Medieval monastic orders are as follows:

1. The Benedictine order, founded by Benedict of Nursia in Tuscany, northern Italy (480-547), the father of western monasticism (Recall that monasticism is born in the East [Athanasias]). Benedict was discouraged by the decadence of the church and its moral and spiritual neglect and thus founded a monastery in Monte Casino where men would enjoy possessions in common and spend a lot of time in spiritual reading.
2. The Cisterian order, founded by Robert of Citreaux, of which Bernard of Clairveaux was a part. Bernard was the pope's advisor and favored the rise of papal power (without material wealth) and pushed the role of Mary and of the rosary in prayer. He was first and foremost a monk and a strong advocate of austerity. Bernard claimed that knowledge of God comes through devotion to God in poverty, simplicity and solitude. To be poor with Christ was his one concern and thus he lived in primitive huts.
3. The Cluny order, founded by William, Duke of Acquitaine
4. The Dominican order, founded by Dominic of Osma (1170-1221). Most famous participant is Thomas Aquinas, probably the greatest theologian of the Roman church.
5. The Fransican order, founded by Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226). Most famous participant is Bonaventure.
6. The Augustinian order. Most famous participant is Martin Luther, who was a hermetic Augustinian -- radical, fundamentalist.

In the medieval period the word for mysticism was contemplation. You had to be isolated to have quiet time with God. Some stressed rational contemplation; others, like Bernard, stressed affective contemplation. The contemplative life, the life of solitude, stressed the development of spirituality and the regression of attachment to the world. Contemplation is impossible apart from ascetisim.

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