Project: Formative Spaces – making monks in early medieval Iberia

Formative Spaces is a British Academy- Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant project that addresses the relationship between physical spaces and normative texts such a monastic rules in the formation of ascetic communities in early medieval Iberia.

Rulebooks for monastic life propose a complicated disciplinary regime that trained monks to adopt specific beliefs and practices, while an increasing number of monastic sites – the spaces in which monks were presumably trained in such practices – have been excavated in Spain and Portugal over recent decades. However, minimal attention has been devoted to understanding how the physical organisation of monastic space related to the rules that regulated ascetic life. There are two strands to Formative Spaces: (1) a synthetic analysis of a sample of the extant monastic archaeological sites of early medieval Iberia (6th-7th century); (2) a comparison of such sites with contemporary Iberian monastic rules. This scoping study prepares the ground for a fuller examination of the spatiality of monastic formation in early medieval Iberia, and of the relationship between ascetic theory and practice more generally.