From Religious Household to the Chorus of Angels: Emergence and Transformation of the Fourth-Century Monastic Family Associations

Level: 
Doctoral
Thesis author: 
Andra Juganaru
Status: 
Ongoing
Year of enrollment: 
2013/2014
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2013 - Sep, 2019
Thesis supervisor: 
Marianne Sághy
Thesis supervisor: 
István Perczel
Thesis abstract: 

My dissertation deals with a special type of monastic life emerged in the fourth century, parallel with the rise of cenobitism. It involved associations of kindred men and women who dedicated their lives to God in the same monastic, “institutionalized” community, well-accepted and legitimized by Church Fathers. In these monasteries, monks and nuns lived secluded, in different buildings, sometimes separated by natural obstacles (such as rivers or mountains), and used to reunite only in certain conditions.
Scholars have scarcely analyzed this type of cenobitic establishments, referring to them as “double monasteries.” However, the use of this denomination leads to several methodological problems, due to its anachronism and to the different roots of monasticism in different regions. Therefore, after a theoretical introduction into the subject, meant to present the problems posed by sources and the methodology needed to be used, this research will begin with a thorough assessment of the old terminology and will propose the use of “monastic family associations” instead.
The second chapter will discuss the relation between the co-existent theological theories of the fourth century and the emergence of several ascetic experiments involving men and women in proximity. First, it will present the present stage of the research concerning the origins of Christian monasticism. A more consistent part will be devoted to the criteria used for selecting the communities to be analyzed in the further chapters.
The third chapter will present the transformation of ‘earthly’ family relationships into spiritual ties. The monasteries of Tabennesi, Annisa, Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, and Nola, on which this research is focused, will be analyzed in distinct subchapters.
The fourth chapter will discuss the organization of “angelic families.” One subchapter will present the landscape and architecture of the monasteries. A new section will deal with the problem of the monastic border. Further, the dissertation will focus on the great variety of relationships built up inside monasteries, from friendship to hatred, and on the problem of authority. A separate part will be devoted to the rapports established between members and ‘outsiders.’ Finally, the rhetoric and practice of wealth and poverty will be discussed.
The last chapter will analyze the spiritual life, at the edge of private and public. It will start with ceremonies and rituals practiced at the entrance into monasticism. The next section of this dissertation will discuss monastic pedagogy. Further, it will focus on monastic Rules and punishments. A new subchapter will present the kind of temptations which ascetics were determined or supposed to fight. Then, this dissertation will analyze the miracles reported to have occurred in these communities. The chapter will end with a discussion about the cult of the saints, with whom ascetics often maintain personal strong contacts.