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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Desert monasticism was a much-cited ideal but in practice many monasteries were busy, engaged in running their estates for profit and accumulating extensive landed resources, acquired from gifts, sales, and exchanges. They could leave a mark on the landscape, for example by consolidating properties, shifting the settlement pattern, and by erecting monuments. On the whole monastic landlords realized their income by collecting rents, but some of those with larger properties actively managed their lands, sometimes by requiring services from tenants. The profit was used to support the monks, guests, and the poor; to purchase precious objects and copy books; to make records and write new books, fixing institutional memory in the landscape. Monastic landholding also brought power—power over the labour force, the power that comes with the establishment of a large clientele, and occasionally the power to hold a judicial court.

Keywords: landscape, medieval economy, medieval monasteries, monastic estates, servile dependents, monastic landlords

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