Enlightened Monks: The German Benedictines 1740-1803

Enlightened Monks: The German Benedictines 1740-1803



Enlightened Monks investigates the social, cultural, philosophical, and theological challenges the German Benedictines had to face between 1740 and 1803, and how the Enlightenment process influenced the self-understanding and lifestyle of these religious communities. It had an impact on their forms of communication, their transfer of knowledge, their relationships to worldly authorities and to the academic world, and also their theology and philosophy. The multifaceted achievements of enlightened monks, which included a strong belief in individual freedom, tolerance, human rights, and non-violence, show that monasticism was on the way to becoming fully integrated into the Enlightenment. Ulrich L. Lehner refutes the widespread assumption that monks were reactionary enemies of Enlightenment ideas. On the contrary, he demonstrates that many Benedictines implemented the new ideas of the time into their own systems of thought. This revisionist account contributes to a better understanding not only of monastic culture in Central Europe, but also of Catholic religious culture in general.



Publication Date



Oxford University Press




History of Christianity


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Challenge of Historiography

3. The Challenge of a New Life Style

4. The Challenge of a New Liberty

5. The Challenge of New Modes of Communication

6. Monastery Prisons and the Enlightenment

7. Runaway Monks

8. The Challenge of New Theories of Law

9. The Challenge of New Philosophies

10. The Challenge of a New Theology

11. Conclusion


Enlightened Monks: The German Benedictines 1740-1803