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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 18, 2018

Von Hesychie zu Ökonomie: Zur Finanzierung der Wüstenklöster Palästinas (5.–6. Jh.)

  • Konstantin M. Klein
From the journal Millennium


Jerusalem and its surrounding hinterland were popular destinations for late antique pilgrims. The majority relied on the hospitality offered in Christian guesthouses during their visits and afterwards returned to their homes all over the late antique world. This study aims at investigating how pilgrimage hospitality in the Holy Land between the fourth and the sixth centuries functioned in general – and to what extent board and lodging provided by the mostly monastic hosts had to be remunerated through either manual labour, voluntary financial donations or testamentary bequests by the guests. It will be demonstrated that hospitality was not only a Christian virtue but also a necessary means for the monasteries to survive as it formed the financial backbone for their social and political activities in the city of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Patriarchate. This constant source of income through a permanent influx of pilgrims enabled further monastic financial investments in a growing number of guesthouses which were constructed not only on the outskirts but also in the centres of cities and towns. Soon, alterations in both the ground plans and the function of the monasteries became noticeable: The monastic institutions of the Holy Land shifted from mere clusters of cells (laurae) – which were unable to host the growing number of visitors and new novices alike – to monasteries (coenobia) with a strictly regulated communal life. The study furthermore shows that this change found support in the hagiographical literature of the age. Exhortations to demonstrate hospitality to pilgrims and to rebuild the cells into proper monasteries were often placed in narratives of divine visions or in the ultima verba or monastic testaments of famous abbots. Nevertheless, these changes were not unchallenged by monks who aimed for a more traditional lifestyle in quiet contemplation (hesychia) far away from the more economically-driven ambitions of their superiors, who, to quote John Moschus, had „lined up their bellies and purses.“

Published Online: 2018-10-18

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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