Lay brothers and sisters in the High and Late Middle Ages

Book chapter

Cassidy-Welch, Megan. (2020) Lay brothers and sisters in the High and Late Middle Ages. In In Beach, Alison I. and Cochelin, Isabelle (Ed.). The Cambridge history of medieval monasticism in the Latin West pp. 1027-1038 Cambridge University Press.
AuthorsCassidy-Welch, Megan
EditorsBeach, Alison I. and Cochelin, Isabelle

Lay brothers and lay sisters—usually referred to as conversi and conversae—became a significant and very visible part of monastic life from the late eleventh century. The word conversus itself originally signified an adult convert to monastic life, as distinct from an oblatus, or child recruit to a monastery. But increasingly, the conversi and conversae of Western monasticism denoted a unique and sometimes quite multivalent status within an abbey or convent. Other Latin terms were sometimes used for these men and women, some of which are very general (such as laici, fratres, and sorores) and some of which denote difference on the basis of location (forinseci) or on the basis of physical appearance (barbati); a combination of these terms can also be used, such as fratres barbati. Confusingly for the modern historian of monasticism, some of these terms could occasionally also refer to men and women who were not lay brothers or lay sisters, but rather lay individuals or, in the case of fratres and sorores, monks and nuns.

Page range1027-1038
Book titleThe Cambridge history of medieval monasticism in the Latin West
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationCambridge, United Kingdom
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
OnlineJan 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Jun 2021
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