Monks and Nuns

Owen Chadwick

in The Early Reformation on the Continent

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780198269021
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600470 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church

 Monks and Nuns

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Many early leaders of the Reformation were monks or friars, especially friars who had more contact with the people, and this was ‘not a sign of decadence but its opposite’. Luther's attacks on the monastic state were influential, but the movement against monks had wider origins in the belief that they were among the oppressors of the poor and the opinion of town governments that they could only provide adequate social provision by confiscating monastic endowments. Dissolution of religious houses in Germany and Switzerland created disturbances, especially in divided communities and around secluded monasteries in the countryside. Many monks left of their own free will; those who wished to continue in the contemplative life had to move to southern Germany or abroad; and it was easier for monks than nuns to make a new life as pastors, scholars, or in the printing industry. In the Protestant world, there was no feeling that anything valuable had been lost. Reformers thought that by abolishing nunneries they were freeing women, but some recent feminist scholars have argued that the Reformation created a more patriarchal society.

Keywords: monastic endowments; religious orders; women

Chapter.  14985 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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