Inter-cultural Transmission of Intellectual Traditions in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. A comparative perspective


Damian Jasiński

participant photo
Early monasticism in the late antique Latin West and its influence on the Church hierarchy: Eastern models and Western practice

One of the most important intellectual transfers in the history of Christianity in the late antique Mediterranean is the adoption and
reworking of the idea of monastic life. The earliest monasteries and other ascetic endeavours emerged in a way that could not be overlooked in Egypt and Syria in the fourth century. Before long, the ever growing groups of visitors from the Western provinces were coming to see them with their own eyes and spread the news among their relatives and friends, especially in their Christian communities, inviting them to follow suit and engage in monasticism. The Western ascetics imitated their Eastern counterparts but also conceived of asceticism in their own ways and the amount of literature they produced on the topic enables us to catch a glimpse of both: their dependence on earlier Eastern models and their own invention.

In contributing to the project I shall analyse a particular facet of the phenomenon described above. What was the relationship between ascetics and the Church hierarchy in the West? How did these two groups converge, especially in the figures of so-called monks-bishops? What did this bring to the understanding of the ideal of Christian perfection and leadership? With these questions in mind I will be trying to trace the transmission of this particular religious concept from the Greek East to the Latin West.

Damian Jasiński is a PhD student in classical philology at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. His thesis is entitled: “He remained a monk: Asceticism of bishops in the late antique Latin hagiography” and deals with the literary image of the ecclesiastical leaders in their biographies, especially with the paradox of the monks-bishops, striving to live ascetic life and therefore to ‘flee the world’ but deeply entangled in the worldly obligations by virtue of their office.