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Monastic landscapes: a new approach to Columbanian Monasticism

Albrecht Diem

SVMMA. Revista de Cultures Medievals, December 2022

Albrecht Diem

Albrecht Diem


This contribution proposes different notions of “monastic landscapes” (geographic, political, textual, economic, spiritual) and discusses whether applying them to the monastic movement allegedly initiated by Columbanus may help us to refine or deconstruct the concept of “Columbanian monasticism.”

Comparing evidence on monastic life in Gregory of Tours’ hagiographic and historiographic works with the depiction of monastic life in Jonas of Bobbio’s Vita Columbani shows that we can indeed identify a shift from a “landscape with monasteries” in sixth-century Merovingian Francia to a politically integrated “monastic landscape” in the seventh century. However, this does not mean that the fundamental shift was necessarily the result of the activities of the Irish monk Columbanus.

An investigation of Jonas’ depiction of the spiritual and physical landscape around Columbanus’ main foundation Luxeuil shows the grade of continuity between monastic foundations in Gaul before Columbanus and the alleged center of a new “Columbanian” monastic movement.