Intro Truths
Scripture Saints
Culture Worship

Monks and Monasteries—Study Aids

Catholic Culture #5
Monks and Monasteries
takes an in depth look at Western Monasticism. Subjects include Desert Fathers, Celtic/British Monks, Benedictines, Organization of Monasteries, Cluniac reforms, Cistercians, and Carthusians.

Information Pages

The Monks and Monasteries unit focuses on the contribution of Monks and the importance of monasticism to the history of Europe. Several of the Information pages are derived from Thomas Woods' book and video series on monks (see below) and from other public domain sources.

Read OnlinePrintable
Overview — Monks of the Middle Ages
Glossary — Monastic Terms
Desert Fathers — 250-450 A.D.
Benedictine Order — 450-950 A.D.
Cluniacs, Carthusians, Cistercians — 920-1300 A.D.
British Monks and Monasteries

Printable Homework Questions

Recommended Reading

The primary book used as a reference for the Monks and Monasteries unit is How the Catholic Church Built Civilization by Thomas Woods, published in 2005. The book can be purchased at Amazon.

CLICK ON COVER IMAGE to purchase online.

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods
No institution has done more to shape Western civilization than the two-thousand-year-old Catholic Church—and in ways that many of us have forgotten or never known. In this book Professor Thomas E. Woods explain the Church's profound role in shaping Western civilization and goes far beyond the familiar tale of monks copying manuscripts and preserving the wisdom of classical antiquity. Gifts such as modern science, free-market economics, art, monks, and the idea of human rights come from the Catholic Church.

Reading Assignment:     Chapter 3, pp 25-45
(3) How the Monks Saved Civilization

The saint biographies listed below are in the public domain and are available in electronic form online or as an ebook. Those on Benedict and Gregory the Great give good historical overviews of the time in which the saints lives as well as biographical information.

CLICK ON COVER IMAGE to download EPUB to your tablet or smart phone.
CLICK ON TITLE to read online (internet required).

Life of St. Benedict  by F.A. Forbes
This book tells the story of St. Benedict, the founder of western Monasticism. He was born in the late fifth century as barbarians from the north and east overran the ruins of the fallen Roman empire and laid waste to the last vestiges of civilization. From this ruin, Benedict established an order of religious communities that survived the wreck of the dark ages.

St. Gregory the Great  by Sisters of Notre Dame
Gregory the Great lived in the sixth century during a time of great turmoil. The western imperial government at Rome had broken down. Germanic leaders controlled most of the old Roman provinces, commerce was hindered by lawless bandits, and civilization was breaking down. At this critical time Gregory undertook many important reforms of the Church, sent evangelists all over pagan lands, and helped to usher in the "Age of Faith" in Europe.

Online Videos of Interest

The most important videos for the Monk and Monateries division are from Thomas Wood's Catholic Church - Builder of Civilization series. These are essential viewing.

  • Catholic Church — Builder of Civilization: The Monks (30 minutes)
    This video is an essential introduction to the life and accomplishments of the monks of the Middle Ages. It provides an excellent overview of the monasteries, debunks many myths about monks perpetrated by anti-Catholic histories. Highly, Highly, Recommended.
  • Catholic Church — Builder of Civilization: Charity (30 minutes)
    This video is from the same series, but focuses on the manner in which Christian Charity trasformed Western Civilization. It covers many topics other than monks, but it does emphasize the role that monasteries played in offering services such as inns, schools, hospitals, libararies, alms, and spiritual care for people of the middle ages.

The following videos are all produced by modern day monastic communities that follow traditional rules. The provide valuable insight into the eternal value of monastic life.

  • Quaerere Deum Monks of Norcia (40 minutes)
    This documentary shows the life of a group of traditional Monks who have taken up residence in Nursia, the original home of St. Benedict, and are working to restore the monastery there to its historic glory. The video shows the daily life of the monks include much footage of their chants and prayers saying the Divine Office.
  • Deep Roots -- The Monks of Norcia (4 minutes)
    This short video was created by the Monks of Norcia after their monastery and abbey were destroyed by a series of Earthquakes in 2016. It highlights the perseverence of the Monks and the dedication they have to rebuild.
  • A life of Christian Catholicism -- French Benedictines (52 minutes)
    Documentary on A Life of Christian Catholicism...A life of prayer, work, humility, love and obendience which is expected to be followed by members of the Church. A rule that these Roman Catholic Monks of France practice on a daily basis as part of their routine for the rest of their Christian lives which they have given up for God.
  • Carthusians -- Into Great Silence (trailer)
    This is a trailer for an extraordinary film, made over a several year period, that documents the lives of the Carthusians monks still residing in the Great Chartreuse hermitage in France, as they spend their days in quiet medication, prayer, and song. Carthians rarely speak so their is limited audio naration. Their story is beautifully told visually and through prayers, chants, and subtitles. This film is only a trailer, but the two hour video can be viewed on Youtube here, or a CD can be purchased here.
Websites Links of Interest