Varieties of Monastic Experience in Byzantium, 800-1453
310 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 10 halftones
Paperback | 9780268105624 | April 2019
Hardcover | 9780268105617 | April 2019
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268105648 | April 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268105631 | April 2019
In this unprecedented introduction to Byzantine monasticism, based on the Conway Lectures she delivered at the University of Notre Dame in 2014, Alice-Mary Talbot surveys the various forms of monastic life in the Byzantine Empire between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. It includes chapters on male monastic communities (mostly cenobitic, but some idiorrhythmic in late Byzantium), nuns and nunneries, hermits and holy mountains, and a final chapter on alternative forms of monasticism, including recluses, stylites, wandering monks, holy fools, nuns disguised as monks, and unaffiliated monks and nuns.
This original monograph does not attempt to be a history of Byzantine monasticism but rather emphasizes the multiplicity of ways in which Byzantine men and women could devote their lives to service to God, with an emphasis on the tension between the two basic modes of monastic life, cenobitic and eremitic. It stresses the individual character of each Byzantine monastic community in contrast to the monastic orders of the Western medieval world, and yet at the same time demonstrates that there were more connections between certain groups of monasteries than previously realized. The most original sections include an in-depth analysis of the challenges facing hermits in the wilderness, and special attention to enclosed monks (recluses) and urban monks and nuns who lived independently outside of monastic complexes. Throughout, Talbot highlights some of the distinctions between the monastic life of men and women, and makes comparisons of Byzantine monasticism with its Western medieval counterpart.
Alice-Mary Talbot is the editor of the Byzantine Greek series of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library and director emeritas of Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. She is the author and editor of a number of books, including service as the executive editor of the three-volume Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium.
"This book makes a major contribution in discussing a deceptively simple question: 'What was it like to live as a monk or nun in Byzantium?' In doing so, the author has combed a vast array of texts, particularly hagiographies, in order to gather together material on subjects as varied as clothing, food, handicrafts, access to fire and water, travel, attitudes to the natural environment and the fundamental issue of whether the communal or the solitary was the higher form of monastic life. She is an acknowledged expert on Byzantine nuns and it is refreshing to see female monasticism treated on an equal level with the male experience." —Rosemary Morris, University of York
"Varieties of Monastic Experience brings together the author’s remarkable work as an editor, translator, and deeply learned commentator of Byzantine monastic texts. Richly detailed and engagingly written, this groundbreaking study of the various forms of middle and late Byzantine monasticism includes a comparison with medieval Western monasticism and an unparalleled study of female monastic life in the Byzantine world. This volume will not only be recognized as essential reading in the field but will also deservedly attain the status of a true classic" —Fr. Maximos Constas, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
"This is an important and long overdue study of the fascinating, complex field of Byzantine monasticism. In Varieties of Monastic Experience in Byzantium, 800–1453, Alice-Mary Talbot distills her vast knowledge of the subject into a series of lucid, informative, and meticulously researched essays. Her emphasis on the rich variety of Byzantine monastic experience challenges the traditional binary of community and solitary and paints a compelling image of the extraordinary wealth of opportunities available in the Byzantine world for men, women, and eunuchs to pursue their religious calling." —Richard Greenfield, Queen's University
"Drawing on decades of reading, translating, and interpreting Byzantine Orthodox Christian monastic texts, Alice-Mary Talbot offers an invaluable handbook to the practicalities of Byzantine monasticism." —Speculum