Emotional monasticism

Affective piety in the eleventh-century monastery of John of Fécamp

Author: Lauren Mancia

Scholars of the Middle Ages have long taught that highly emotional Christian devotion, often called ‘affective piety’, originated in Europe after the twelfth century, and was primarily practised by late medieval communities of mendicants, lay people, and women. As the first study of affective piety in an eleventh-century monastic context, this book revises our understanding of affective spirituality’s origins, characteristics, and uses in medieval Christianity.

Emotional monasticism: Affective piety at the eleventh-century monastery of John of Fécamp traces the early monastic history of affective devotion through the life and works of the earliest-known writer of emotional prayers, John of Fécamp, abbot of the Norman monastery of Fécamp from 1028 to 1078. The book examines John’s major work, the Confessio theologica; John’s early influences and educational background in Ravenna and Dijon; the emotion-filled devotional programme of Fécamp’s liturgical, manuscript, and intellectual culture, and its relation to the monastery’s efforts at reform; the cultivation of affective principles in the monastery’s work beyond the monastery’s walls; and John’s later medieval legacy at Fécamp, throughout Normandy, and beyond. Emotional monasticism will appeal to scholars of monasticism, of the history of emotion, and of medieval Christianity. The book exposes the early medieval monastic roots of later medieval affective piety, re-examines the importance of John of Fécamp’s prayers for the first time since his work was discovered, casts a new light on the devotional life of monks in medieval Europe before the twelfth century, and redefines how we should understand the history of Christianity.

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‘Mancia gives us a perfect example of the contribution that can be made by the history of emotions and the necessity of exploring this approach, since in seeking to better understand the emotions of the past, not only do historians gain access to new knowledge, they can also question received ideas, as this study does in the area of affective devotion in monasticism. […] A pleasure to read from start to finish.’
The History of Emotions in the Middle Ages
August 2020

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