Jamie Wood

Monastic Space as Educative Space in Visigothic Iberia (pdf)

(*En Portugués aquí; En Español aquí; En français ici)


The writers of monastic rules from the Visigothic period in Iberia (sixth and seventh centuries) propose varied regimes of physical and mental discipline for training individual ascetics and forming communities of monks and nuns. The texts that writers such as Leander of Seville, Isidore of Seville and Fructuosus of Braga put together also articulate a clear vision of the monastery as a bounded space separate from the ‘world’. For example, the first chapter of Isidore’s Monastic Rule states that:

“The walls of the monastery will have one main entrance, with an additional small back entrance that leads into the garden. Any settlement must ideally be distant from the monastery, in case if it were near then it might bring the distress of danger or taint the monastery’s honorable reputation. The cells of the monks should be located next to the church so that they can go as quickly as possible to Divine Office.”

As well as their separation from what lay outside, it is also possible to observe in the texts an understanding that space was divided up for specific purposes within the monastery. In many instances this is connected explicitly to the training of the monks and nuns. This paper starts from the assumption that it is worth exploring these imagined monastic spaces as sites of identity construction. The monasteries described by Isidore and his peers were, after all, the spaces in which formation was supposed to take place – i.e. where the identity of monks and nuns as individual ascetics and as members of ascetic communities. Exploring their varying conceptualizations of the relationship between monastic and educative space is thus worthwhile as it offers a potential a window onto how contemporaries thought more broadly about how subjectivities were cultivated in early medieval Iberia.


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