Honors | Monks, Nuns and Medieval Art
H203 | 25362 | Diane Reilly
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.
Readings will be available on the E-reserves system. Images for the
course will be accessed through Oncourse.
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 (with attendance at each class
meeting worth 4 points out of a total of 100).
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
1 and 2. A short essay will be revised and reworked in order to
improve your writing skills (2 steps, 20 pts).
3. A group project will allow you to work communally and present
4. A brief research project will introduce the library and its
5. A personal diary project will document your own experiences in
attempting to follow a monastic routine for 24 hours.
6. An artistic project (graded based on information provided, not
artistic skill) will allow you to critique examples of the legacy of
the monastic world on the Indiana University Campus.
7. A report on attendance at a concert of the Early Music Institute
will explain your reaction to monastic music in performance.
8. A reaction paper to a visit to a local monastery will document
your first experience of monasticism in person.
9. A reading report on an assigned reading will analyze an academic
study of monastic art.
10. A quiz on monastic art, architecture and music will test your
visual recall of monuments from class during the final exam period.