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Affective piety in the eleventh-century monastery of John of Fécamp
Series: Artes Liberales
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.

Defining emotional reform and affectivity in John of Fécamp’s Confessio theologica
Lauren Mancia

To the best of our knowledge, John of Fécamp wrote only one major treatise in the course of his fifty-five years at the monastery of Fécamp. Unlike the expansive corpus of Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) or Lanfranc of Bec (1005–89), John revised a single work at different moments in his priorship and abbacy, choosing not to write new works. 1 This is a significant fact. Ultimately, as this book will show, John seemed to have felt that his Confessio theologica was the core of what he had to teach his monks, his noble female

in Emotional monasticism
Tradition and innovation in John’s Confessio theologica
Lauren Mancia

Of all the texts John could have written, why a treatise on right feeling in prayer? Why not instead a treatise on proper liturgical behaviour, or a commentary on the RB , or some other work regulating monastic action as was typical for monastic reformers at the time? John’s choice to write about emotional reform instead of behavioural reform in his Confessio theologica was in many ways a natural extension of his experience of monastic policies and training in Ravenna (from his early life until c. 1010), at Saint-Bénigne de Dijon

in Emotional monasticism
The monastic roots of affective piety
Lauren Mancia

John’s Confessio theologica and its ideas about monastic prayerful emotion were alive and well at Fécamp during the years of John’s abbacy, from 1028 to 1078. But did they die with the abbot who authored them, or did they live on? This chapter will detail how John’s ideas were embraced, built upon, and transformed by those who came after him: his students, the generations of monks that succeeded him at Fécamp, the Norman monks who were his younger contemporaries, and a wider audience of late medieval Christians

in Emotional monasticism
The uses of John’s devotional method within the walls of Fécamp
Lauren Mancia

The devotional method prescribed in John of Fécamp’s Confessio theologica was not confined to the pages of that abbot’s treatise; rather, an eleventh-century monk would have been presented with John’s emotional devotion in a variety of media at the monastery of Fécamp. In examining the manuscripts, sermons, liturgical rituals, letters, and images that were circulating around John’s eleventh-century monastery, one can see that the ideas of emotional reform contained in the Confessio theologica were being reinforced at many other

in Emotional monasticism
Abstract only
Lauren Mancia

Ever since André Wilmart published his study of John of Fécamp in the 1930s, medievalists have slowly begun to acknowledge that so-called ‘Anselmian spirituality’ did not, in fact, originate with Anselm, and that ‘affective piety’ was not an invention of the later Middle Ages. My study of John of Fécamp builds on that trend, both by giving the details of his full-length Confessio theologica and by placing John’s devotional method in his wider monastic context, showing just how proper to eleventh-century Benedictine monasticism

in Emotional monasticism
Abstract only
Lauren Mancia

John, noting that they were part of a much larger treatise, posthumously called John’s Confessio theologica (Theological Confession), which was likely written between 1023 and 1028, fifty years before Anselm of Canterbury’s more famous affective prayers. 8 Since Wilmart’s reattribution, several scholars have characterised John as the earliest medieval writer prescribing ‘affective’ devotion. 9 And so while John’s interest in the graphic, suffering body of Christ in his Confessio theologica , and his commitment to drawing parallels between the sufferings of the

in Emotional monasticism
John’s devotional principles cultivated in the secular landscape
Lauren Mancia

John of Fécamp found many ways to teach his monks how to distinguish between devotion that was truly felt and devotion that was merely performed: his Confessio theologica , his letters, and the devotional culture at this monastery all embraced his contemplative instructions. But John also acknowledged that there were limited benefits to being wholly absorbed in the ‘cloister of the soul’; in fact, to John, the world outside of the monastery was surprisingly useful to a monk’s religious cultivation. In his CT , John explicitly admits

in Emotional monasticism