May 11, 2020, by ahzsa

Dr. Liudmyla Sharipova’s new article on double monastaries in The Historical Journal

Double monasteries came into existence at the time of Christian antiquity. Men and women religious lived within the boundaries of the same cloister or in close proximity to each other, but did not share quarters. The rationale behind their foundation was that double monasteries gave women a degree of protection against external threats, ensured that nuns carried out household chores, and, most importantly, secured regular provision of liturgical and sacramental services to the female communities. Double monasteries ceased to exist in the Latin West by the High Middle Ages, but demonstrated remarkable staying powers in the sphere of historic Byzantine cultural influences. In Orthodox Eastern Europe and Christian Middle East this archaic type of monastic organisation survived into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Based on new archival material from the Ukrainian lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and later – Muscovite Russia, the article analyses the place of kinship structures, economic and political factors, legal frameworks, and the role of the imperial state in the evolution and ultimate decline of the double monastery.


Across the Orthodox world, the growth of double monasteries was stimulated by prolonged periods of political uncertainty, devolution of power, religious intolerance, and physical insecurity, all of which inhibited the development of independent female communities. Property disputes that emerged toward the end of the seventeenth century demarcated two distinct stages in the development of double monasteries in the Eastern Church: the initial period of insecurity and the women’s acute dependence on the monks, and the time when the combination of female reassurance and a favourable legal regime began to encourage competition for resources. Vague accusations of immorality coming from imperial authorities concealed thinly veiled anxieties over the power of economically independent agents supported by local networks of elite kin. They were reflective of wider struggles for political autonomy of the provinces against the authority of imperial metropolis. The Partitions of Poland (1772-95) by the centralising Habsburg and Romanov powers heralded the complete disappearance of double monasteries in Orthodox Eastern Europe. This happened because the trappings of modern imperial state: centralised administrative control over ecclesiastical affairs, secularisation of church property, the weakening of patron-client networks, increasing reliance on bureaucratic procedures, and assurance of law and order provided enough support to independent women’s monasteries.

The full article can be found here.

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