What Religion Is It To Dig in the Ground? Contesting Religious Practices in the Twelfth-Century Diversification of Monastic Life


Sita Steckel (University of Münster)




18:15 Central European Summer Time


Campus Westend and Zoom Meeting

Medieval religious communities have recently been described as ‘communities of practice’, and it seems clear that shared practices form the backbone of monastic community life. Scrutinized more closely, regimes of practice form a rather complex scaffold for individual and group behaviour within the monastic setting: monastic communities not only constituted group coherence through practices, but also negotiated formal and informal hierarchies through the adherence to regulated practices—or, as the case might be, through deviations from them. Yet most forms of divergence in the arena of shared practice led to contestations and re-interpretations of their meaning and necessity, not least because the social context of convent life was saturated with symbolic meaning attached to practices. The massive diversification affecting the religious life during the twelfth century therefore generated a much-intensified focus on monastic practices, as their necessity and form were scrutinized and their meaning for the monastic life or for the identity of a particular religious order was re-negotiated. The presentation will discuss how this dynamic of a re-ordering of the monastic life affected specific religious practices, also asking how we can grasp and describe the resulting forms of religious change.

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