Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 24 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Francis de Sales
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

What are the origins of monasticism?

Public Domain

Anna Krestyn - published on 04/22/13

Christians have been called to the monastic life since the Church's earliest centuries

Christian monasticism is rooted in the life of Jesus Christ, who embodied the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy and obedience, and invited his followers to give up everything for his name’s sake (Mt 19:29).The Acts of the Apostles also give evidence of the beginnings of the monastic life (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32).

By the second and third centuries, the Desert Fathers of Egypt had emerged as the leaders of this ascetical way of life and prayer. Among the Fathers, St. Anthony the Great is generally regarded as the first Christian monk; St. Athanasius wrote a biography of him which eventually introduced him to and sparked enthusiasm for monasticism in Europe. St. Anthony and the other first Christian monks lived as hermits and exemplified the form of monasticism called eremitic. The first formal Christian monastic communities both of men and of women were organized by St. Pachomius, a peer of St. Anthony. Their form of monastic life is called cenobitic. Pachomius instituted a formal way of life that included fasting, periods of prayers and manual labor. Even to this day, Christian monasticism exists according to one of two forms: eremitic and cenobitic.

St. Basil the Great (modern-day Turkey), St. Martin of Tours (Gaul), and St. Augustine of Hippo founded some of the first Christian monasteries. The Italian St. Benedict (480-547 A.D.), known as the father of Western monasticism, was greatly influenced by the communities of monks in Egypt and wrote “The Rule” which became the set of guidelines used by nearly all Christian monastic communities in Europe.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
4
Philip Kosloski
When did Christians start praying the Hail Mary?
5
PHILIP RIVERS
Cerith Gardiner
Quarterback Philip Rivers' retirement announcement reflects his s...
6
CONSOLE
Philip Kosloski
What are the spiritual works of mercy?
7
EMOTIONAL
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.