• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why did monasticism play such an important part in the expansion of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon Churches between 500 and 750?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Why did monasticism play such an important part in the expansion of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon Churches between 500 and 750? The term "monasticism" is not entirely straightforward: in this period the word "monasterium" was used to refer to a wide variety of institutions and it must be borne in mind that there was not some kind of 'standard monastery'. The basic characteristics of monasticism were prayer and abstinence, although the levels of dedication demanded varied greatly and encompassed both coenobitic and eremitic forms. We should not force anachronistic ideas onto monasticism in this period: the isolation and simplicity demanded by the Rule of St Benedict were generally not required until the reforms of the tenth century, although some monasteries, like Monkwearmouth and Jarrow, where Benedict Biscop's rule was used, incorporated strong elements of Benedictine tradition. Indeed, in many monasteries, monks had considerable freedom of movement and clerics were also part of the community. Because of the later associations of the word "monastery", some writers use the term "mynster" in discussing monastic establishments in this period; I shall not follow this pattern, since, as Sims-Williams points out, "monasterium" was considered in this period to encompass a broad range of institutions and did not necessarily then have the connotations it has subsequently acquired. It is my contention that these diverse monastic foundations played an important role in the growth of both the Irish and the Anglo-Saxon Churches in four main ways. The first sense in which monasticism contributed to the Church's expansion was in the conversion of pagans. Secondly, monks were most probably concerned to some extent with 'front-line' pastoral care, ministering to the faithful. In analysing this, it is necessary to consider the role of monasticism in relation to episcopal authority, where contrasts between the Anglo-Saxon and Irish Churches emerge. It appears that, especially in the Anglo-Saxon Church, the monasteries played an important role in this area, though pastoral care was theoretically the preserve of the episcopate; while monasteries in Ireland were powerful, it is doubtful whether they contributed greatly to pastoral care. ...read more.

Middle

However, the repetition of these instructions, which we see on both sides of the Irish Sea, suggests that they were being disobeyed, implying that monasteries were involving themselves in pastoral care, often to the chagrin of church councils and synods. It is particularly likely that this was the case in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which tended to have large bishoprics and relatively few priests (a similar situation existed in the British Church in Wales in this period). Although Archbishop Theodore increased the number of dioceses, it would be difficult for a bishop to maintain comprehensive control of his see and it is likely that monasteries took on pastoral work, perhaps especially where little was organised by the episcopate: such an interpretation reconciles Bede's account with the evidence from the councils. However, we can also draw the conclusion that some monasteries in Ireland were attempting to perform pastoral work, since it was necessary for it to be stated repeatedly that only priests could administer the sacraments. Nevertheless, it is probably reasonable to conclude, as Sims-Williams does, that direct monastic involvement in pastoral care diminished over time, as such strictures were repeated. In the Anglo-Saxon Church, this came about as the episcopate grew more powerful, particularly after Theodore; in Ireland, it now seems unlikely that monks played a critical role in most pastoral work, given that the episcopate was relatively well established from the time of St Patrick. We do not have evidence (like that of Bede for the Anglo-Saxon Church) to suggest that pastoral care was a routine part of Irish monasteries' work, although some probably did become involved; indeed, evidence of day-to-day ministry is notably absent from Adomnan's "Life of Columba", suggesting that pastoral care was not integral to Irish monasticism. However, it is probably best not to see monasteries and the episcopate in opposition to each other: most of the time, as Thacker points out, they combined and co-operated as part of a 'Church'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Secondly, as Sims-Williams points out, they were tolerated by the Council of Clofesho (747); this suggests that they were not generally perceived as harmful. Upsetting as the secularisation might be to Bede, a proponent of relative austerity, it is probable that the benefits of such endowments to the Churches, in practical if not spiritual terms, outweighed their disadvantages. After all, wealth was necessary if the monasteries were to support the missionary activity, pastoral work, education and artistic achievement that extended the Churches. The implicit assumption behind this question is that monasticism was highly important in the growth of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon Churches. In many ways, this is an entirely reasonable premise: monasticism contributed directly to the preaching of the Word, especially to pagans, but also in some cases to the faithful; provided much of the intellectual and creative underpinning of the Churches' missions; and accumulated wealth that was vital for the Churches' growth. Generally, the similarities between the roles of monasticism in the Irish and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms are striking. This is not to say that they were identical: there were differences, for example in missionary style, artwork and position in relation to the episcopate. However, we see monasteries performing broadly similar roles in preaching the Word and especially in supporting the preaching of the Word. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that monasticism was not the Church: on both sides of the Irish Sea, there were important issues relating to episcopal control and it now seems that the direct pastoral role of monasteries in Ireland was perhaps not as great as Hughes once thought, although some monasteries clearly made an important (and in some ways unofficial) contribution to pastoral care. No two monasteries were the same and it is highly unlikely that any two monasteries had precisely the same impact, but it is clear that monasticism contributed greatly, both directly and indirectly, to the expansion of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon Churches. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Places of Worship section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Places of Worship essays

  1. relgion becoming secular

    With many 'religious' preachers touring the country (such as Joyce Meyer, who is probably more of an entertainer than a preacher), and with the adaptation of the churches it is understanding to assume that religion itself has become secularised. There is a very low percentage of American people who don't go to church.

  2. Describe the disadvantages that black Americans faced in the early ...

    His goal was civil and social discipline through sanctification of the individual person. Calvin's success in Geneva can be partly due to that he wrote for a fully international audience using the international languages of French and Latin. He operated from a strategically placed FreeCity which lay on important crossroads

  1. THE CONFESSIONS OF AUGSBURG On 31 October 1517, Dr. Martin Luther, professor of theology ...

    Therefore, holy days instituted to bring forgiveness of sin are without use and against the teaching of the Gospel. Article XVIII addresses the Catholics' belief that man was born with original sin and is inclined towards doing sinful deeds. Therefore, they believe that there is a need for help from

  2. The process whereby religion looses its influence over social life and society is known ...

    It is important to recognise that it is now the media who, extracts public confessions and dominate the field of morality. This heightened in the case of Father Brendan Symth, who raped children. The sacred image of the church as a means of protecting the innocent was shattered.

  1. In this affair the agreements between science and religion are more numerous and above ...

    the Dialogue on the Two Great World Systems which technically escaped the definition of the Bellarmines censure (though not escape what may have been a forged document in his file that prohibited him from discussing it whatsoever) The second trial was again the result of Galileo pushing the boundaries of previously good will towards him.

  2. To Kill A Mocking Bird - selected essays related to Chapter 12

    At the church when the ground is too hard they put the corpses in ice until the ground is soft enough for them to be buried. This shows that they are clever and can think around problems, the reader will admire them for that.

  1. The Churches struggle against apartheid and a comment on the effectiveness of this Challenge.

    In 1937, the Native Laws Amendment Act prohibited Africans from buying land in urban areas as these were considered "white areas", and yet the 1946 population census showed a majority of native Africans living in urban areas.8 As each new law was passed, the Churches in South Africa and the

  2. Religious Social Education Coursework Christianity and Churches.

    The reason it is known as either these two because Jesus performed these actions before he died. In Luke chapter 22 verses 17-20 describe how Jesus first gave communion with his disciples, "Then Jesus took some bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to the apostles saying "This is

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work