Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Second Advisor

Dr. Otto Gründler

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Throughout the history of western monasticism three principal occupations were repeatedly emphasized for the monk: prayer, lectio divina (spiritual reading/ meditation), and manual labor. Periodically, cultural mindsets, social structure, or even geography have produced in a variation in the practice of these occupations, resulting in the dominance of one or the other, or even the disappearance of one altogether.

The emergence of the Cistercian Order at the end of the eleventh century was characterized by a spirit of simplicity and austerity with a renewed emphasis on manual labor which had been a neglected element in the monastic regime in the period just prior to the Cistercians. The treatises of the prominent Cistercian authors of the twelth century indicated a desire to return to and recapture the fervant observance of the monastic regime as lived by the Desert Fathers and earliest monastic regime as lived by the Desert Fathers and earliest monastic communities, and most literally a faithfulness to the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Cistercian emphasis on manual labor was as much an attempt to respond to the popular religious needs of the twelfth century as it was an attempt to restore monasticism to its pristine form. Although Cistercian authors continued to insist upon the performance of manual labor into the thirteenth century, by the end of the twelfth century it ceased to be required of all monks in the Order.