Christianity / Organization / Monasticism /
Monasteries exists in many other religions too, but due to this encyclopaedia's geographical scope, those are beyond Contents.
The term comes from Greek monasterion, from the roots monos, "alone" and terion, a place for doing something.
For fuller treatment of the lifestyles and regulations, see Monasticism.
A monastery may be defined as an abbey, a priory and in some cases, a hermitage. A monastery arranged according to communal life is called cenobitic, in opposition to eremitic, the lifestyle of the hermit. Cenobitic monasticism, aiming at letting monks help each other, was defined by St. Pachomios in the 4th century.
The terms often used for a monastery for nuns is convent or nunnery.
Monasteries can be very small, from only a small building to large complexes. The smallest may have as little as 2 or 3 monks, the largest can house tens of thousands.
Monastery finance their activities from a number of activities. It can be manufacture of goods, agriculture, the production of alcoholic beverages. Some are not self sustainable, receiving donations or alms or funded by certain organizations.
Monasteries are usually ruled by an abbot, a female monastery by an abbess.
St. Anthony's Monastery in Egypt is the oldest in the world.
Islam has had institutions with many similarities to a monastery, known as ribats. Ribats were built in newly conquered territory in the early years of Islam. They were a mixture of strict, ascetic communities and military quarters. There was no form of lifelong celibacy involved. Hermits have also been a part of Islam until modern times. In North Africa, pre-Islamic traditions continued in the shape of maraboutism and the institutions of zawiyyas. With maraboutism and zawiyyas no form of celibacy was involved, rather it appears that fertility was the focus of many of these cults.
Judaism has no form of monasticism, but the Essenes formed monasteries from around 2nd century BCE until 2nd century CE. One theory is that the Essenes were the traditional founding fathers of Christian monasticism.