Book Series Disciplina Monastica, vol. 13

The Pursuit of Salvation. Community, Space, and Discipline in Early Medieval Monasticism

with a critical edition and translation of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines

Albrecht Diem

  • Pages: 687 p.
  • Size:210 x 270 mm
  • Illustrations:1 col., 3 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, Latin
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58960-2
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58961-9
  • E-book
  • Available

Available in Open Access on BrepolsOnline

A history of the monastic pursuit of eternal salvation in the early medieval West, revolving around a seventh-century monastic rule for nuns, the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines ("Someone’s Rule for Virgins")


“In sum this book brings together the key insights of Diem’s important methodological work on this and other early monastic rules and makes useful contributions to the debate on the persistence or otherwise of Columbanian monasticism and the early spread of the Benedictine rule. While it will be of great interest to specialists in the field, many of its conclusions will be controversial.” (Katrina Edwards, in Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 24.02.2022, p. 209)

“Die lebendige und bildreiche Sprache des Werkes, in dem so mancher originelle Vergleich und manche Wendung aus Vorträgen erhalten geblieben ist, weckt Lust darauf, dieser Einladung zu folgen und, wenn man einmal dabei ist, noch ein bisschen zu bleiben. Bleiben wird auch dieses Buch, denn an der hier unternommenen Herkulesaufgabe einer Darstellung der Entwicklung des westlichen Klosterwesens wird man auf absehbare Zeit nicht vorbeikommen, auch wenn man in dem einen oder anderen Punkt anderer Meinung sein sollte.” (Arnold Otto, in Jahrbuch für mitteldeutsche Kirchen- und Ordensgeschichte, 18, 2022, p. 286)

“At first glance, this book looks like a critical edition, English translation, and extensive commentary on the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines, a seventh-century monastic rule that was written for a female community. However, this study is much more than that. Albrecht Diem takes the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines as a starting point for a broader investigation of early medieval monasticism: he analyses the role of monastic discipline and space, as well as the function of monastic communities in the salvation process. For this purpose, Diem draws on his own in-depth and long-term research on early medieval monastic rules. (...) Throughout his work, Diem diligently combines philological with historical and theological investigation, which makes this publication extremely valuable.” (Rahel Schär, in Early Medieval Europe, 31.2, 2023, pp. 1-3)

“Although Diem’s focus is on a single relatively brief work, the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines, he uses this as the foundation on which to build a complex, thoughtful, and illuminating discussion of early medieval monasticism as a whole. In doing so, Diem challenges a range of long-held theories and assumptions. Although some scholars may disagree with specific elements of his case, all who work in this area will need to grapple with it going forward. (...) Although the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines is his ostensible focus, he sets it into conversation with a very wide range of other materials, to illustrate the author’s decision-making processes, as well as the text’s reception. This is a constantly intertextual discussion, and Diem displays his familiarity with the intricacies of monastic materials in the process.” (Lisa Kaaren Bailey, in Studies in Late Antiquity, 7.2, 2023, p. 327)

« D’un point de vue méthodologique, on retiendra que l’étude d’A.D. est la première à centrer l’étude de la tradition monastique sur une analyse purement lexicographique. Elle ouvre ainsi une voie et montre l’intérêt que les historiens pourraient tirer de la mise en place d’une véritable base d’interrogation des textes monastiques du haut Moyen Âge, si du moins il leur est aussi possible d’avancer dans le même temps vers une méthodologie affinée de l’analyse de l’intertextualité et des champs lexicaux. »  (Laurent Ripart, dans RMA, 291, 2023, p. 246)

“By this book and the studies that preceded it, Diem has provided an authoritative and extensive source and content analysis of the Regula cuiusdam ad virgines. He does so, in Jonas’s words, with attention and zeal, or, we might say, with a great deal of work and study. He details how Jonas used the Rule of Benedict, but also corrected it to fit his own ideas about how the nuns for whom he was writing should live. All students of pre-Carolingian monasticism in the Latin West are much beholden to Professor Diem.” (Hugh Feiss, O.S.B, in The American Benedictine Review, 74/4, 2023, p. 459)


Albrecht Diem, Associate Professor of Late Antique and Early Medieval History at Syracuse University


The seventh-century Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines (Someone’s Rule for Virgins), which was most likely written by Jonas of Bobbio, the hagiographer of the Irish monk Columbanus, forms an ideal point of departure for writing a new history of the emergence of Western monasticism understood as a history of the individual and collective attempt to pursue eternal salvation.
The book provides a critical edition and translation of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines and a roadmap for such a new history revolving around various aspects of monastic discipline, such as the agency of the community, the role of enclosure, authority and obedience, space and boundaries, confession and penance, sleep and silence, excommunication and expulsion.



The book consists of two sections. The first is a critical edition and translation of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines, a seventh-century Frankish monastic rule for nuns, along with the short treatise De accedendo ad Deum, which most likely formed a part of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines.

The second section is a study on the transformations and diversification of monastic theology, concepts of communal life and monastic discipline in the early medieval period. It revolves around the Regula cuisudam ad uirgines in its historical and intertextual context.

The study is divided four parts that are related to the four key words of the title of the book (Community, Space, Discipline, and Salvation). Each part consists of a chapter that makes an argument about the place of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines in intertextual contexts and a chapter that applies these arguments in a historical inquiry.


Section I: Edition and Translation of the Regua cuiusdam ad uirgines
Section II: Study

Part I: Community revolves around the question to what extent the monastic community can serve as an agent of the collective and individual pursuit of salvation

Chapter 1: Quidam pater – quaedam mater? The Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines and its author provides a survey of the monastic milieu in which the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines was written, discusses potential authors and stakeholders in the monastic foundation that may have been addressed by the Rule and shows on the basis of semantic and stylistic similarities and shared content and ideas that Jonas of Bobbio, the author of the Vita Columbani, is to be considered the author of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines as well.

Chapter 2: The dying nuns of Faremoutiers: the regula in action argues that Jonas of Bobbio’s description of the deaths of the nuns of Faremoutiers, which is a part of Book 2 of his Vita Columbani, and the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines represent the same monastic program, once presented as a "narrated rule", once as a normative text. The Faremoutiers episodes are closely modelled after Book 4 of the Dialogi of Gregory the Great and can be read as a critical response to Gregory’s eschatology and his notion of pursuing salvation by living a virtuous life. After having fleshed out the parallels and differences between the Dialogi and the Faremoutiers miracles, the chapter analyzes each episode of the Faremoutiers miracles, showing that Jonas wrote his monastic program in a highly sophisticated manner into stories describing the deaths occurring in the founding generation of nuns in Faremoutiers – deaths that were most likely still remembered by the primary audience of the Vita Columbani.

Part II: Space discusses the role of space and boundaries for the monastic pursuit of salvation and explores the origins of the medieval cloister

Chapter 3 The Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines, a supplement to Caesarius’ Rule for Nuns? compares the provisions of Caesarius of Arles’ Rule for Nuns with the Regula cuisudam ad uirgines and argues that Jonas wrote his Rule as an expansion and revision of Caesarius work: an "early medieval" update of a "late antique" monastic program, as it were.

Chapter 4: Enclosure re-opened: Caesarius, Jonas, and the invention of sacred space discusses the evolution of Caesarius of Arles’ notion of enclosure as salvific instrument and then shows how Jonas of Bobbio tried to face the aporias of Caeasarius’ theology of enclosure by expanding it towards a system of total control of all physical, social and corporeal boundaries and the implementation of various enclosures.

Part III: Discipline provides a historical survey of the evolution of various aspects of monastic discipline in early medieval monastic rules leading to the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines.

Chapter 5: The Regula Benedicti in seventh-century Francia explores the role of the Regula Benedicti in Frankish monasticism in the aftermath of Columbanus and shows how Jonas used and revised the Regula Benedicti and refuted some of his main theological premises.

Chapter 6: The Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines and its context describes the history of the topics addressed in each chapter of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines and provides a detailed commentary to the Rule itself, showing how Jonas rewrote the Regula Benedicti. I discuss every chapter of the Rule but put a special emphasis on the following topics: abbatial authority, hierarchy, boundaries, love, confession, silence, work, sleep, excommunication, and family ties.

Part IV: Salvation focusses on the short treatise De accedendo ad Deum which provides a unique theological rationale why monastic discipline enables monks and nuns to pray effectively and to attain eternal salvation.

Chapter 7: De accedendo ad Deum – a lost chapter of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines? shows that De accedendo was most likely a lost chapter of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines and thus written by Jonas of Bobbio as well.

Chapter 8: Prompto corde orandum: the theological program of De accedendo analyzes the theological argument that monastic discipline enable a nun or monk to approach God through prayer, which forms one of the most sophisticated early medieval responses to the challenge of the doctrine of prevenient grace and the "semi-Pelagian" debate. De accedendo essentially explains how the monastic pursuit of salvation works.

Three appendices provide textual evidence for ascribing the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines to Jonas of Bobbio and to document the reception of the Regula cuiusdam ad uirgines in the eighth-century Life of Bertila.
Bibliography of manuscripts, sources, and literature
Index uerborum

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