Schola caritatis : twelfth century Cistercians and the ideas of monastic caritas and amicitia : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University

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In the sixth century Saint Benedict recorded that he was composing his rule for monastic communities 'to safeguard love [caritatis]...' The idea of fraternal love, or caritas, had for a number of centuries been developed as the foundational concept and guide for monks living together in communities Ever since Pachomius had brought monks together in the fourth century the centrality of the idea of caritas had never been disputed. For Saint Benedict the practice of caritas within a community led to caritatem perfecta, or 'perfect love' of God – the goal of all who followed the monastic life. The Rule of Saint Benedict became the fundamental observance for most of Western European monasticism and the idea of caritas as Saint Benedict had expressed it was the bond that held these communities together A related idea, the idea of amicitia, or friendship, with its implications of exclusivity and distraction was marginalised, although never really disregarded completely. Amicitia was always possible, according to monastic rules and institutions written by men such as John Cassian and Saint Augustine, and also in the Rule of Saint Benedict, but in practice the idea was discouraged. It was not until the growing affectivity of the eleventh and twelfth centuries that, within some monastic communities, the distance between these related ideas of caritas and amicitia began to narrow. In particular, a redefined idea of amicitia began to be integrated with caritas and to assume a more central position than it had previously held. The late eleventh and early twelfth centuries were a period of challenge and change for the monastic houses of medieval Europe. The appearance of new reforming orders challenged the older Benedictine orders such as Cluny and similar abbeys, refuting and abandoning their splendour and power for a new life centred on prayer and the practice of asceticism within a supportive community. Of these reforming orders, the Cistercians were the greatest and most successful. The Cistercians defined their Order by the Carta Caritatis, or Charter of Love. This document not only instituted a strict observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict, but gave the idea and practice of fraternal caritas a central role in maintaining a uniform observance in all abbeys throughout the rapidly growing Cistercian Order, so that they would 'live by one charity [sed una cantale], one Rule, and like usages'¹Chrysogonus Waddell, (ed.), Narrative and Legislative Texts from Early Cîteaux: Latin Text in Dual Edition with English Translation and Notes, Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses, 1999, p. 444. It was within the nurturing reform environment where the practice of fraternal caritas was openly and deliberately encouraged by the cultural framework created by the charter that individual abbots began to redefine the idea of amicitia and relocate its practice within the monastic environment. The work of Bernard of Clairvaux indicates a shift in acceptance of the idea of amicitia in which it became an acceptable, even desirable, part of monastic experience and was linked with the practice of caritas – friends and brothers together. The later work of Aelred of Rievaulx integrated the two ideas further. The idea of amicitia became located within the context of fraternal caritas. For Aelred amicitia was an exclusive form of carifas reserved for one or two close and intimate companions within the abbey environment. These close bonds of amicitia embedded within fraternal caritas could lead to what Aelred called amicitiae perfectionem – the 'perfect friendship' of God.[FROM INTRODUCTION]
History, Cistercians -- Europe, Catholic Church, Love -- Religious aspects, Friendship -- Religious aspects, Monastic and religious life -- Middle Ages, 600-1500