Emotional monasticism

Affective piety in the eleventh-century monastery of John of F├ęcamp

By Lauren Mancia

Emotional monasticism
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  • ISBN: 9781526140203
  • Publish Date: Jun 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
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  • ISBN: 9781526155917
  • Publish Date: Jun 2021
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
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  • ISBN: 9781526140227
  • Publish Date: Jun 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4022-7
    • Published Date: June 2019
    • Series: Artes Liberales


    Medievalists have long taught that highly emotional Christian devotion, often called 'affective piety', appeared in Europe after the twelfth century and was primarily practiced by communities of mendicants, lay people and women. Emotional monasticism challenges this view. The first study of affective piety in an eleventh-century monastic context, it traces the early history of affective devotion through the life and works of the earliest known writer of emotional prayers, John of F├ęcamp, abbot of the Norman monastery of F├ęcamp from 1028-78. Exposing the early medieval monastic roots of later medieval affective piety, the book casts a new light on the devotional life of monks in Europe before the twelfth century and redefines how medievalists should teach the history of Christianity.


    'In this exciting study of F├ęcamp, Lauren Mancia looks "under the hood" of an apparently ordinary eleventh-century Benedictine monastery. What she discovers of its rich and intense emotional life suggests new contours for the history of medieval "affective piety".'
    Barbara H. Rosenwein, Professor Emerita, Loyola University Chicago

    'Emotional monasticism is a ground-breaking work of revisionist history that promises to have a profound influence on the study of Christian devotion in the Middle Ages. Scholars have tended to locate the devotional disposition that we call "affective piety" in movements of mendicant, lay and female spirituality of the later Middle Ages. In this lucid and well-argued book, Lauren Mancia convincingly makes the case that affective piety was already at play in the eleventh century in male Benedictine communities, particularly at the abbey of F├ęcamp in Normandy, where Abbot John fostered a devotional culture in his community with the aim of the emotional reform of his sinful brethren. Central to the reform was John's lifework, a treatise known as the Confessio theologica. In her study, Mancia delineates with great skill the devotional program of John's emotional reform through an analysis of his Confessio theologica, the influence of a specifically Benedictine culture on its formation, with special attention to John's career and use of manuscripts, the implementation of his reforming agenda at F├ęcamp, the cultivation of these devotional principles by abbots active in the world and the legacy of the Confessio theologica beyond the monastic milieu of the eleventh century. This book will be of great interest not only to historians of medieval monasticism, but also to a much broader audience of readers interested in the history of premodern emotions and Christian piety.'
    Scott G. Bruce, Professor of Medieval History, Fordham University

    'Mancia gives us a perfect example of the contribution that can be made by the history of emotions and the necessity of exploring this approach, since in seeking to better understand the emotions of the past, not only do historians gain access to new knowledge, they can also question received ideas, as this study does in the area of affective devotion in monasticism. [.] A pleasure to read from start to finish.'
    The History of Emotions in the Middle Ages

    'The eleventh century and its monastic forms of affectivity are given much-needed recognition. Lauren Mancia has succeeded in giving John the place he deserves in the history of medieval spirituality. She has made him visible and contributed to our understanding of medieval culture.'

    '[the book] showcase[s] Mancia's confidence and competence across an impressive range of relevant disciplines and approaches, from theology and philosophy to historical and literary analysis...Mancia's inspired discussion of the visual imagery that can be seen in some of F├ęcamp's manuscripts made around the time of John's abbacy is one of the book's highlights....this is a fine book which speaks to a wide variety of subjects and cross-disciplinary interests with authority and thoughtfulness...Mancia has done herself and John of F├ęcamp proud with a provocative study that is not revisionist in the aggressive sense, but which picks its battles carefully and, as a result, encourages future conversation.'
    Benjamin Pohl, Medieval Europe, University of Bristol


    1 Reforming the reader's interior: defining emotional reform in John of F├ęcamp's Confessio theologica
    2 Dicta mea sunt dicta patrum? Tradition and innovation in John's writing
    3 Reforming the monastic community: the uses of John's devotional method within the walls of F├ęcamp
    4 Reforming monks in the temporal world:John's devotional principles cultivated in the Anglo-Norman landscape
    5 John's medieval legacy: the monastic roots of affective piety


    Lauren Mancia is Assistant Professor of History at Brooklyn College, City University of New York

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