Medieval Orders I: The Clergy & the Monks

The following short readings from the period suggest not only the ideals and failures of monastic and priestly culture but the practical realities of living in a monastery or as a parish priest. We will explore these readings using four sets of perspectives that are drawn from Stassen and Gushee's work Kingdom Ethics:

  1. The Way of Reasoning Dimension

  2. The Basic Convictions Dimension

  3. The Passions/Loyalties Dimension

  4. The Perceptions Dimension

While I will explain these ideas in class in more detail, you might want to review the Stassen-Gushee model for yourself. Keep in mind the following questions as you work through the readings:

"The Monastic Ideal" from Peter Damiani (MR 49-56)

  1. What are the chief values and convictions of Damiani?

  2. What is the monastic ideal concerning life, wealth, place, desires, food, clothing, the body, and tears?

"The Cistercian Order" from William of Malmesbury (MR 57-58)

  1. What are the chief convictions of Stephen (Harding)?

  2. Where do his chief loyalties lay?

  3. Why does he leave for Citeaux? What is his view of potential change?

  4. What do you think motivates the rules for the new order?

"How the Friars Came to Germany" from Jordan of Giano (MR 59-63)

  1. What ethical virtues or qualities are prized by the writer (Jordan of Giano)?

  2. Why are they prized? (i.e. What practices give them meaning?)

"A Preacher and His Miracles" from Salimbene (MR 64-66)

  1. What kind of audience would find these accounts interesting or attractive?

  2. How does this account differ from the previous one by Jordan?

"Monastic Reform in the Fifteenth Century" from John Busch (MR 67-70)

  1. What guides the decisions of the Bishop regarding the monastery of St. Martin at Ludinkerka?

  2. What are his convictions, loyalties, and perception of potential change?

"Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury" from Giraldus Cambrensis (MR 71-72)

  1. Why do certain of Baldwin's traits serve him well as a monk but not so well as an archbishop?

  2. What is Giraldus' final assessment of Baldwin?

"A Model Parish Priest: St. Gilbert of Sempringham" from John Capgrave (MR 73-74)

  1. Describe Gilbert's character?

  2. Why does he teach the practices to the people that he does? What is accomplished by them?

"An Attempt to Enforce Clerical Celibacy" from Ordericus Vitalis (MR 75-77)

  1. Apply the four dimensions of the Stassen-Gushee model to this situation. What should we conclude about what happens? 

  2. Would you have done things differently? Why or why not?

"The Habits of Priests in Normandy" from Odo of Rigaud (MR 78-81)

  1. What are we to conclude about church discipline as a practice, set of loyalties, attempt at promoting change?

  2. Would you have done things differently? Why or why not?


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding