The Origins and Development of the Movement: a Geographical Sketch

  • Henrietta Leyser
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series


The new hermit movement began in Italy in the late tenth century. It is here associated with Romuald and with Peter Damian, with Romuald as the founder and Damian, his biographer, as the spokesman of the movement and a figure of importance in both papal and imperial circles. Of Damian, however, it must be said at once that he cannot strictly be called a hermit of the new type, for although he wrote the rule for Fonte Avellana he did not found, or help to found it, nor did he belong to it in its earliest, formative years. It is, of course, difficult to know the exact extent to which the customs of Fonte Avellana had evolved when Damian joined it, but it is unlikely that Damian in his rule introduced any fundamental innovation. He himself stated that he was merely describing the life already established and it is only in conclusion that he mentions the changes, which are, on the whole, of a traditional character, that he had wanted or felt it wise to make the building up of the house’s material resources and its library, the acquisition of altar ornaments, the erection of a cloister. Above all, Damian does not, in his writings, give any indication that he ever shared the doubts and hesitations of the hermits of the new movement as to how they should organise their lives.


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  1. 1.
    Peter Damian, Op. XV, Ch. 1, MPL, CXLV, col. 336–7.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Peter Damian, Vita beati Romualdi, Ch. 4, G. Tabacco (ed.), Fonti per la storia d’Italia (Rome, 1957), pp. 20–1.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., Ch. 37, p. 78.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., Ch. 24, p. 51.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bruno of Querfurt, Vita Quinque Fratrum, MGH SS, XV, ii, Ch. 2, p. 718.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Marbod of Rennes, Vita sancti Roberti abbatis Casae Dei, MPL, CLXXI, Ch. 7, col. 1509).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For what follows, see D. Baker, ‘The surest road to heaven’, SCH, X, 51.Google Scholar

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© Henrietta Leyser 1984

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  • Henrietta Leyser

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