Since the foundation of the Christian Church, when men
and women first sought to live apart from popular society and devote
their lives entirely to religion, monks and nuns have influenced
heavily the development of Medieval art and architecture. Early
monks and nuns lived as hermits in the mountains, forests and
deserts. From the second or third centuries C.E., however, they
gathered together to live communally in organized monasteries. Like
their predecessors, the hermits, these later monks and nuns claimed
to live in abject poverty, but although they owned no personal
possessions, they often lived in communal splendor inside wealthy
and well-decorated houses. Supplied with lavish churches, gleaming
metalwork, sumptuous tapestries and vestments and colorful
manuscripts, monasteries became the treasure houses of Europe and
the targets of condemnation, arson, and looting.
This course will explore the phenomenon of Christian monasticism
from its earliest beginnings immediately after the death of Jesus
through the modern era, concentrating especially on the pinnacle of
the monasticism, the Middle Ages. We will read monastic rules in
translation to understand the lifestyle of the monks and nuns,
examine their artworks, including manuscripts in the Lilly Library
and objects in the Indiana University Art Museum. We will
investigate the legacy of their art and architecture, and visit
monasteries in Indiana, including the Tibetan Cultural Center, in
order to understand parallel, non-Christian traditions.
The final grade of the course will be calculated based on a total of
points earned out of 100.
Attendance will be worth 10 pts.
There will be 10 short assignments distributed throughout the term,
each worth 10 pts. The lowest grade among these 10 assignments will
The course assignments will vary widely in order to cultivate many
skills among the students.
- A short essay will be revised and reworked in order to
improve the studentsí writing skills (2 steps, 20 pts).
- A group project will allow the students to work communally and
present their findings.
- A brief research project will introduce the students to the
library and its resources.
- A personal diary project will document the studentsí own
experiences in attempting to follow a monastic routine for 24 hours.
- An artistic project (graded based on information provided, not
artistic skill) will allow the studentsí to critique examples of the
legacy of the monastic world on the Indiana University Campus.
- A report on attendance at a concert of the Early Music Institute
will explain their reaction to monastic music in performance.
- A reaction paper to a visit to a local monastery will document
the studentsí first experience of monasticism in person.
- A reading report on an assigned reading will analyze an academic
study of monastic art.
- A quiz on monastic art, architecture and music will test their
visual recall of monuments from class during the final exam period.