New ideas expressed in old words: The Regula Donati on female monastic life and monastic spirituality

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9 Scopus citations


This article provides a detailed analysis of the Regula Donati, a seventh-century rule for nuns which was influenced by the Columbanian (or "Hiberno-Frankish") monastic movement. The rule combines elements of the Regula Benedicti, Caesarius's Regula ad virgines and the Rules ascribed to Columbanus. I show that a close comparison of the original texts with Donatus's "revision" provides a wealth of information about everyday life in early medieval monasteries (e.g., the role of writing and literacy, manual labor, and clothing) and also reveals fundamental shifts in spirituality and monastic theology, particularly a shift from concepts of discipline based on obedience, humility, prohibition, punishment, and enclosure towards a system that is based on knowledge, control, permission, and the practice of confession and penance. The text of the Regula Donati has traditionally been dismissed as a mere compilation of older monastic rules, yet Donatus succeeds in producing an entirely new and innovative monastic program through conscious omissions, rearrangement of his material, and subtle shifts in terminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Caesarius of Arles
  • Confession and penance
  • Early medieval monasticism
  • Female monasticism
  • Hiberno-Frankish monasticism
  • Monastic rules
  • Monastic spirituality
  • Regula Benedicti
  • Ré-écriture
  • Total institutions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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