Monasticism was an essential element for the Medieval Europe as it remained one of the few institutes within which civilization, science, and other knowledge was able to survive for posterity so that future generations could use it. Monks were always a relatively stable small group of people that had the biggest access to information. They gathered different literature, made copies of it by hand (for a long time there was no printing press available). It is due to monks and Middle Eastern civilizations that the achievements and the works of Ancient Greece and Rome reached our age. Since monasticism was one of the main sources of knowledge and information , it is no wonder that Christianity managed to spread around the world.
Monasticism implies a rather strict way of life that is fully dedicated to serving God. A monk’s way of live is ascetic as he remains far from the chaos and temptations of the outer world. Monastic community has always been limited and driven by particular sets of rules that defined life in all o fits aspects. Interestingly enough, monasteries were not a widespread phenomenon initially as monks used to exist in solitude. After all, the word monk is derived from monos, which gives the meaning away. Gradually, as more and more monks started appearing, they united in communities to observe the ascetic way of life together.
Monks managed to be incredibly influential in two spheres that have always remained and are bound to maintain the same level of importance for mankind – education and medicine. One of the old capitularies dating back to 789 has the following words: “Let every monastery and every abbey have its school, in which boys may be taught the Psalms, the system of musical notation, singing, arithmetic and grammar.” The ambitious plan was fulfilled quiet well. Monks opened the world to numerous sphere of knowledge. Naturally, Christianity was an included item in the education package that could not be avoided. Only the nobility could disregard somewhat the Christian dogma and the demands of faith. People of lower social strata could not afford to do this. Since the education centre was concentrated for a long time in places where religion held the utmost important place, it is only natural that Christianity was being constantly popularized in such a manner. Is one interested in gaining any education whatsoever? One has to believe in God, naturally and never comply with heresy.
Medicine was another sector, in which monks held remarkable power. Pharmacies that studied and created medicaments were created in almost all monasteries. Moreover, monks were copying written works by medical writers and scientists in order to fill the gaps evident in their knowledge. Back in 2005, a group of archaeologists uncovered a waste at Soutra Aisle, which helped to establish the means through which people were treating themselves. Among them were vitamin C and hemlock.
It is only natural that holding monopolies in these two important spheres for several centuries helped Christianity gain a remarkably strong foothold within Europe. In order to cure themselves or to gain any kind of knowledge, people had to deal with Christian faith. There was no other alternative in Europe. It was a wise move to make Christianity inseparable from these important sectors of civilization. Without strong ties to education and medicine, Christianity would have found so many followers with more difficulties.
- Elliott, Jane. The medical world of medieval monks. BBC News Online, 2005. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3745498.stm
- Rowling, Marjori. Everyday Life in Medieval Times. London: Jarrold and Sons Ltd., 1968.
- Turner, William. “Carolingian Schools” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.