Double monastery

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A double monastery was the name given to a monastery district in which monks and nuns lived under the direction of a common superior , although male and female communities were strictly separated. The only double monastery still preserved today is a merger of the Einsiedeln and Fahr monasteries .

Origin and development

The shape of the double monasteries goes to the monasteries of the Basilian and Basilian back in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East lived in the local monastery districts. They lived according to the rules of the order of St. Basil (330–379), who founded the male religious orders , while the founding of the female religious orders was attributed to his sister Makrina the Younger (330–379). Despite the prohibition by Emperor Justinian I (482-565), the further prohibition by the Synod of Agde in 506 and finally the prohibition by the Second Council of Nicaea (787), the way of life continued in double monasteries, at least in the East and the Orthodox Churches and was retained until the 14th century.


In the west, the life span of the double monasteries, especially in the earlier Anglo-Saxon region, spanned the 5th to 9th centuries. Here the monastic institutions were almost always directed by the abbesses . The abbots represented the religious communities externally and were the link between secular and ecclesiastical power. In France , Italy and later Germany , the double monasteries experienced their heyday in the 11th and 12th centuries. While the Premonstratensians separated between monasteries and nunneries in 1140, the Cistercians decided to continue. In the 13th century the double monasteries were almost everywhere abandoned; one of the two communities disappeared or was relocated. The main reasons for this were the critical attitude of contemporary church leaders towards the double monasteries and the general refusal of the orders to accept or supervise women's monasteries, which was shaped by this attitude. The Order of the Redeemer , founded in the 14th century by Birgitta of Sweden , whose original concept was that priests and lay brothers should also live in a monastery, gave up this way of life after the Reformation .

Monasteries in which canons and canonesses live under the direction of an abbess or provost are also known as double monasteries.

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