Summary

This rapid survey of the development of the monasticism in Western Europe in the four centuries between 950 and 1350 will at least give evidence of the abounding vitality of the Christianity of that region in these years. As we look back across the story eight generalizations stand out.

1. For a large proportion of Christians the monastic way seemed to be the road through which to pursue the perfect Christian life and to attain the goal of the salvation of one's soul.

2. All the efforts to attain the Christian ideal through monasticism tended to spend their force and the institutions to which they gave rise to become prosaic and even corrupt.

3. From time to time, often in protest against this laxity, new monastic movements sprang up and flourished.

4. These fresh movements displayed increasing variety. Some of them, like the earlier ones, sought complete separation from the society about them, there to live uncontami-nated by the evil which seemed an integral part of the world. On the other hand, a mount ing trend was towards active participation in the world in an effort to save it and to win more and more men and women to the Christian faith.

5. The overwhelming majority of the new monastic movements had their origin in Italy and in what had once been Gaul, areas which had long been professedly Christian. Few arose in regions such as England, Scotland, the north of Germany, and Scandinavia, which had recently been won to the Christian faith, or in Spain, where Islam had not yet been fully vanquished. To this there were a few exceptions. One of them was Bec, where the founder was from Norman stock which only two or three generations earlier had been pagan, but even in Bec Lanfranc and Anselm, the leaders who did most to give the foundation distinction, were from Italy. It may be noted, by way of anticipation, that in subsequent centuries most of the new monastic movements had their birth in Latin Europe, while in contrast the movements which issued in Protestantism were especially strong outside Latin Europe.

6. The initiators of the new orders were chiefly from the aristocracy. Francis of Assisi was an outstanding exception, but even he was from the merchant class and not from the peasantry.

7. Here was a swelling tide seeking to deepen and make more intelligent and effective the loyalty to the Christian faith which had become nominal through the mass conversions of the earlier centuries.

8. Finally, we must note what we have already suggested and what will become more apparent in the next two chapters, that the monastic developments were but one phase of an even more inclusive mounting wave of religious life. This was concurrently making itself felt in other movements, some of them within the Church and some denounced by the latter as heretical, in efforts to purify the Church and with it to lift to a higher level the entire population which bore the Christian name.

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