The reluctant order: a bottom-up approach to the shaping of suprainstitutional structures in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Benedictine monasticism 

De onwillige orde
01 October 2016 → 31 December 2020
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Theology and religious studies
suprainstitutional structures Benedictine monasticism
Project description

This project aims to fundamentally revise the traditional narrative on the institutional development of Benedictine monasticism from the mid-twelfth to the mid-thirteenth centuries. For a long time, scholars have argued that non-Cluniac Benedictines became irrelevant to monasticism’s development by failing to adopt other movements’ centralised and hierarchical order structures in the twelfth century, and by resisting papal attempts to impose such structures in the thirteenth century. Recent scholarship has nuanced these views, by showing that: a) order formation in this period was a non-linear, trial-and-error process; and b) early twelfth-century Benedictines were actively involved in experiments with different types of supra-institutional organisations. However, how these experiments were pursued is completely unknown. By looking at a well-chosen set of documentary and narrative sources from Benedictine institutions in the archdiocese of Reims, I aim to verify two hypotheses. First, that beginning in the mid-twelfth century, Benedictine abbots created decentralised monastic networks based on relationships of equality. And secondly, that the existence of this alternative organisational model explains the Benedictines’ resistance to the subsequent papal reforms. By arguing the plurality of religious governmental structures in the period c. 1150 - c. 1250, this project will provoke a thorough revision of current views on the general development of medieval Western monasticism.