Martin Luther, 95 Theses, Project Wittenberg
Jesuit Relations with Others: A Letter of St. Ignatius, Woodstock Theological Library at Georgetown University
"The Defenestration of Prague", German History in Documents and Images (GHDI)
"A Review: What Happened to Monasticism?" By Dr. Dee McKinney, [CC BY-NC-SA]
Crash Course, Reformation
Crash Course, Russia and the Mongols
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Lesson 12: The Reformation Learning Objectives
(Included in PowerPoint)
Upon successful completion of this lesson, students should be able to:
Lesson 12 Terms to Know
Lesson 12 Thought Questions
Lesson 12 Discussion Questions
A Review: What Happened to Monasticism?
(Information provided in part, with my thanks, by Father Steve Rice and Dr. Phillip Reynolds of Emory University)
You will recall from Lesson 10: The Middle Ages that monasticism played a monumental role in preserving culture and literacy after the fall of the Roman Empire, and that monasticism itself had a long and rich history from its early days in Egypt to the founding of monasteries throughout Europe. The Rule of St. Benedict provided a guide for monasticism, but many other monastic orders developed apart from the Benedictines.
In the Reformation, however, monasteries faced a time of crisis. Many had become corrupt, one of the flaws the Catholic Counter-reformation sought to repair in its revitalization of the faith. Others monasteries were dissolved or destroyed. So what happened to the solitary scholars who had played such a significant part in medieval history?
In the later Middle Ages, some religious men became mendicants, rather than monks. They took holy orders, but were not attached to a particular monastery and did not live cloistered lives. Instead, they traveled the lands, walking and talking to spread their word, many living in poverty. As a group, these men were known as friars, and they included Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites.
Meanwhile, some monasteries opened separate facilities for nuns, who usually took on the same rules and name of the monastic order they entered (i.e. Hildegard von Bingen, as you should recall, was a Benedictine nun). Some nuns did enter the mendicant orders, but they stayed cloistered in the monastery and did not travel.
But from 1536-1540 in England came the official Dissolution of the Monasteries. Thomas Cromwell managed the business of physically destroying or confiscating all monastic houses, nunneries, and priories where monks and nuns lived. Some of the residents received pensions and went to live elsewhere; others protested and ended up jailed or worse. The buildings, if usable, and their physical contents were either sold off for profit or given to loyal friends of the king, Henry VIII. Little protest arose, except in the north of England, where a protest called the Pilgrimage of Grace took place in Yorkshire. Unfortunately, about 200 of the protesters and their supporters were hanged as a warning to others.
Fortunately, monks and nuns survived the trials of the Reformation, and today, we still have active orders throughout the world. One example is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. The monks are Trappists, an offshoot of the Cistercians. Although their primary “job” is study, prayer, and meditation, they undertake a variety of physical activities to support their house, such as raising and selling exquisite bonsai trees and offering homemade food items, religious books, and other materials in their on-site store (though the bonsai can be ordered from their website!) Other monastic orders make cheese, wine, and honey; some even raise and train purebred dogs to pay for their own keeping.