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Monasteries in the High Middle Ages as engines of innovation for European forms of life

Description of the project

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gert Melville - Research Members: Dr. Mirko Breitenstein / Dr. Jörg Sonntag

In the course of the social and religious changes from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries medieval monasteries developed an unprecedented rationality in their way of life. At that time models of social and cultural evolution developed, which were to shape the specific configurations of organization of modern Europe.

This project is supported by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, with the duration from January 1st 2009 to December 31st 2024. Its goal is to explore these foundations of European culture. The project segment located at the FOVOG (Centre for Comparative History of Religious Orders) is supported by the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities at Leipzig. It is linked directly to another project segment (under the direction of Prof. Dr. Bernd Schneidmüller and Prof. Dr. Stefan Weinfurter) located at Heidelberg University which is supported by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

The aim of the project is to identify, analyze and publish important sources by a combining approach. The focus will be on texts in which the programmatic dimension of the monastic competence of determination within society becomes particularly tangible: paraenetic writings, didactic treatises, rules for monasteries and religious orders, and statutes as well as their commentaries, which represented the legal system of the communities. Such texts were meant for an internal audience, but they also stood in relation to the outside world and had an impact there.

On the one hand the research of the sub-project in Dresden will focus on the normative structures of monastic life during the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. The main interest lies in the establishment of those structures, which were instrumental in generating new forms of societal organization. On the other hand the investigation will include an analysis of the ways in which the individual established a relationship with new structures of organization, in turn influencing their development through his involvement. In this sense the project is essentially about the redefinition of the relationship between individual and community, and the resulting process in the generation of new concepts and structures of life. The project is being conducted in close cooperation with the researchers at Heidelberg who focus on world views and those concepts which convey systems of configuration and constructions of meaning to the world, and try to put them into effect.


published in the series of the project: „Klöster als Innovationslabore“ (Verlag Schnell und Steiner, Regensburg)

Gert Melville, Bernd Schneidmüller und Stefan Weinfurter (Hgg.)
Innovationen durch Deuten und Gestalten. Klöster im Mittelalter zwischen Jenseits und Welt (Klöster als Innovationslabore. Studien und Texte 1), Regensburg 2014.
Stefan Burkhardt (Hrsg.)
Vita Arnoldi archiepiscopi Moguntinensis. Die Lebensbeschreibung des Mainzer Erzbischofs Arnold von Selenhofen. Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar (Klöster als Innovationslabore. Studien und Texte 2), Regensburg 2014.

in the series „Vita regularis. Abhandlungen“ (LIT-Verlag, Berlin)

- Geist und Gestalt. Monastische Raumkonzepte als Ausdrucksformen religiöser Leitideen im Mittelalter, hg. von Jörg Sonntag unter Mitwirkung von Petrus Bsteh, Brigitte Proksch und Gert Melville (Vita regularis. Abhandlungen 69), Berlin 2016.

- Identität und Gemeinschaft. Vier Zugänge zu Eigengeschichten und Selbstbildern institutioneller Ordnungen, hg. von Mirko Breitenstein, Julia Burkhardt, Stefan Burkhardt und Jörg Sonntag (Vita regularis. Abhandlungen 67), Berlin 2016.

- Die Klöster der Franziskaner im Mittelalter. Räume, Nutzungen, Symbolik, hg. von Gert Melville, Leonie Silberer und Bernd Schmies (Vita regularis. Abhandlungen 63), Berlin 2015.

- Rules and observance. Devising forms of communal life, hg. von Mirko Breitenstein, Julia Burkhardt, Stefan Burkhardt und Jens Röhrkasten (Vita Regularis. Abhandlungen 60), Berlin 2014.

- Innovation in Klöstern und Orden des Hohen Mittelalters. Aspekte und Pragmatik eines Begriffs, hg. von Mirko Breitenstein, Stefan Burkhardt und Julia Dücker (Vita regularis. Abhandlungen 48), Berlin 2012.

Activities in context of the project:

From September 19th to 21st 2011 the first study week of the project was held at the FOVOG on the topic "Innovation in monasteries and orders in the High Middle Ages – conceptual aspects and pragmatics": Programme / Flyer.

From October 04th to 06th 2012 the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften and the SAW Leipzig held a conference about "Innovationen durch Deuten und Gestalten. Klöster im Mittelalter zwischen Jenseits und Welt" in Mainz: Programme.

From April 14th to 16th 2013 the Forum für Weltreligionen, the Project "Monasteries in the High Middle Ages" of the SAW Leipzig and the Centre for Comparative Research of Religious Orders held a conference at the Johannes-Schlößl of the Pallottines about: "Geist und Gestalt. Monastische Raumkonzepte als Ausdrucksformen religiöer Leitideen" in Salbzurg: Programme, some pictures you can find here.

From September 19th to 21st 2013 the Sächsiche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig and the Forschungsstelle für Vergleichende Ordensgeschichte, in cooperation with the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, the second study week of the project was held on the topic: "Identität und Gemeinschaft" at Heidelberg: Programme.

From November 14th to 16th 2013 the an workshop on "Neue Aspekte zur strukturierten Dokumentation variabler Texte" took place at the FOVOG: Programme.

From April 06th to 08th 2016 a conference on "Die Wirkmacht klösterlichen Lebens im Mittelalter. Modelle – Ordnungen – Kompetenzen – Konzepte" was held at the Kloster Nimbschen: Programme.


Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gert Melville:
    Tel: +49 (0) 351 4793 4181
    Email: gert.melville(at)

Dr. Mirko Breitenstein:
    Tel: +49 (0) 351 4793 4182
    Email: breitenstein(at)

Dr. Jörg Sonntag:
    Tel: +49 (0) 351 4793 4182
    Email: joerg.sonntag(at)

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gert Melville

Academic Manager and Research Coordinator:
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Cristina Andenna

Technische Universität
D - 01062 Dresden
Email: fovog-dresden(at)

Tel: +49 (0) 351 4793 4180
Fax: +49 (0) 351 4793 4189

The FOVOG is a centrally incorporated institute of the Technical University of Dresden
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