Men, Women, and the Angelic Life: Double Monasteries in Late Antiquity
Andra Jugãnaru, Central European University, Budapest
The beginning of the fourth century entailed profound transformations in the Christian world. After the status of Christianity changed from persecuted sect to recognized and favoured religion by the Roman State, an ascetic “revolution” spread through the Christian churches like a bushfire. Moreover, several spiritual modi vivendi had been practiced among Christian ascetics, in solitude or in common, as a result of the influence of various interacting theological tenets.
My thesis deals with a particular type of ascetic life, involving associations of men and women who formed a single community, later on called “double monastery.” Such communities were not the only attempt of men and women seeking to live a God-pleasing life close to each other. But they were the only ones which survived in the Near-East, with the support of the Church Fathers, who at the same time rejected other experiments of double-gender ascetic life.
The main purpose of my research is to explain why and how did monks and nuns engage in the ascetic path close to each other in double monasteries. In so doing, it will examine in detail several case-studies of double communities in the Near East (Tabennesi, Sohag – Egypt –, Annisa – Cappadocia –, Bethlehem, Mount of Olives – The Holy Land –), in parallel with one example of the Latin West (the nunnery and the monks’ monastery founded by Augustine in North Africa which, although they have never been officially “united” in a single unit, might have had contacts). Another purpose is to explain the differences between the kind of asceticism attacked by Church Fathers and double monasticism that was accepted by them. Finally, I aim to explain why the interest in founding double communities decreased later on, contextualizing this aspect with the controversies that the Origenist theology brought up among ascetics.