Monasticism and Monasteries

John A. McGuckin

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Monasticism and Monasteries

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In the Middle Byzantine Era, half the literate class of the empire were probably monks. The idea of the city-monk, the cosmopolitan hermit, was perfected by Byzantines. The monastic tradition is often believed to have originated in Egypt in the early fourth century, when Antony was accorded the symbolic role of the "founder of monasticism". The idealized figure of Antony had elevated the notion of the hermit as the supreme form of monastic life, where an individual would seek radical seclusion to advance in prayer and asceticism. Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzos, two of the leading Nicene Cappadocian fathers, tried to establish the idea of monasticism as something fundamental to the structural organization of the Church. However, the initial anxiety of bishops over the concept of zealous monks undermining their administration can be witnessed in the Acts of the Council of Gangra in 340. This article focuses on monasticism and monasteries in the Byzantine Empire.

Keywords: monks; monasticism; asceticism; Egypt; monasteries; Byzantine Empire; Basil of Caesarea; Gregory of Nazianzos; Antony; Byzantine Era

Article.  4472 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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