Institutionalized form of religious life, devoted to disciplined ascetic prayer practice. An ascetic form of Christian living, including vows of celibacy and poverty (or simplicity) in service of the church, had characterized early Syriac Christianity by the 2nd or 3rd cent. During the 4th cent., as for Christians elsewhere, this type of religious vocation began to organize in desert and wilderness areas apart from urban contexts. Yulyana Saba (d. 367) was one of the first to establish a community of disciples in the desert of Osrhoene. By the 5th cent., varieties of monasticism were flourishing in the Syrian Orient, and documents containing monastic rules indicate the efforts to institutionalize and order these under the supervision of bishops. In Syrian tradition, a ‘monastery’ was a community of two or more individuals pursuing a life of prayer. Individual hermits or ascetics were often loosely connected to monasteries, which then provided for their needs. Sometimes monasteries became very large and assumed roles such as landowners or providing schools. They were often centers of learning for both men and women and contained important ms. collections. Rich traditions of mysticism and prayer devotion flourished in late antique and medieval E. and W. Syr. monasteries. Syr. monasticism was notable for its close engagement with civic life (villages, towns, cities), and for constant, intimate interaction with lay people of every kind — a characteristic still apparent in the monasteries of Ṭur ʿAbdin in eastern Turkey, or the Monastery of Mor Ephrem in Glane-Losser, Holland.
- D. Caner, Wandering, begging monks: Spiritual authority and the promotion of monasticism in Late Antiquity (2002).
- S. H. Griffith, ‘Julian Saba, “Father of the Monks” of Syria’, JECS 2 (1994), 185–216.
- S. A. Harvey, ‘Praying bodies, bodies at prayer: Ritual relations in early Syriac Christianity’, Prayer and the spiritual life in the early Church, vol. 4. The spiritual life, ed. W. Mayer et al. (2006), 149–67.
- F. Jullien, Le monachisme en Perse. La réforme d’Abraham le Grand, père des moines de l’Orient (CSCO 622; 2008). (incl. further references)
- Palmer, Monk and mason.
- I. Peña, P. Castellana, and R. Fernandez, Les Stylites syriens (1975).
- I. Peña, P. Castellana, and R. Fernandez, Les reclus syriens: Recherches sur les anciennes formes de vie solitaire en Syrie (1980).
- I. Peña, P. Castellana, and R. Fernandez, Les cénobites syriens (1983).
- A. Vööbus, Syriac and Arabic documents regarding legislation relative to Syrian asceticism (PETSE 11; 1960).
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Susan Ashbrook Harvey , “Monasticism,” in Monasticism, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Monasticism.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Harvey, Susan Ashbrook. “Monasticism.” In Monasticism. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Monasticism.
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