Visigothic Monastic History: Old Paths and New Directions


  • Roger Collins University of Edinburg



Monasticism, Visigothic Kingdom, Spain, Historiography


Half a century ago, the evidence for monastic life and practices in the Visigothic kingdom consisted entirely of literary sources of very unequal merit, both in the value of their contents and its interpretation, and in the quality of the editions of them. Over recent decades, the latter has improved, though the lack of a proper critical edition of most of the monastic rules of the period remains a great weakness. After a slightly hesitant start, caused by disagreements over chronology, archaeology has come to play a central role in uncovering and understanding the evidence for Visigothic monasticism. Comparisons with discoveries made in several other geographical contexts, ranging from Egypt to the islands of the Hebrides, can enhance understanding of its scale and importance in the Iberian Peninsula in the post-Roman centuries. While much work remains to be done, it seems from what has now been achieved that Hispanic monasticism was far more extensive and more varied in character than would have been believed fifty years ago. Textual editing and study now need to be accelerated, to keep pace with expected further archaeological discoveries, to provide a better understanding of this important aspect of the history of the Visigothic kingdom.