Abbot

Abbot

Overview

The word abbot, meaning father, is a title
Title
A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

 given to the head of a monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 in various traditions, including Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The office
Office
An office is generally a room or other area in which people work, but may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it ; the latter is in fact an earlier usage, office as place originally referring to the location of one's duty. When used as an adjective, the...

 may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery. The female equivalent is abbess
Abbess
An abbess is the female superior, or mother superior, of a community of nuns, often an abbey....

.

The title had its origin in the monasteries
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, spread through the eastern Mediterranean
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

, and soon became accepted generally in all languages as the designation of the head of a monastery.
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Encyclopedia

The word abbot, meaning father, is a title
Title
A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

 given to the head of a monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 in various traditions, including Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The office
Office
An office is generally a room or other area in which people work, but may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it ; the latter is in fact an earlier usage, office as place originally referring to the location of one's duty. When used as an adjective, the...

 may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery. The female equivalent is abbess
Abbess
An abbess is the female superior, or mother superior, of a community of nuns, often an abbey....

.

Origins


The title had its origin in the monasteries
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, spread through the eastern Mediterranean
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

, and soon became accepted generally in all languages as the designation of the head of a monastery. At first it was employed as a respectful title for any monk, but it was soon restricted by canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 to certain priestly superiors. At times it was applied to various priests, e.g. at the court of the Frankish monarchy the Abbas palatinus ('of the palace') and Abbas castrensis ('of the camp') were chaplains to the Merovingian and Carolingian sovereigns’ court and army respectively. The title "abbot" came into fairly general use in western monastic
Christian monasticism
Christian monasticism is a practice which began to develop early in the history of the Christian Church, modeled upon scriptural examples and ideals, including those in the Old Testament, but not mandated as an institution in the scriptures. It has come to be regulated by religious rules Christian...

 orders whose members include priests.

Monastic history




An abbot (from the Hebrew ab "אב" or abba "אבא", "a father", through Latin abbas (genitive form, abbatis), Old English abbad, ; German Abt; French abbé) is the head and chief governor of a community of monks, called also in the East hegumen
Hegumen
Hegumen, hegumenos, igumen, or ihumen is the title for the head of a monastery of the Eastern Orthodox Church or Eastern Catholic Churches, similar to the one of abbot. The head of a convent of nuns is called hegumenia or ihumenia . The term means "the one who is in charge", "the leader" in...

or archimandrite
Archimandrite
The title Archimandrite , primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise...

. The English version for a female monastic head is abbess.

Early history


In Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the first home of monasticism, the jurisdiction of the abbot, or archimandrite, was but loosely defined. Sometimes he ruled over only one community, sometimes over several, each of which had its own abbot as well. Saint John Cassian speaks of an abbot of the Thebaid
Thebaid
The Thebaid or Thebais is the region of ancient Egypt containing the thirteen southernmost nomes of Upper Egypt, from Abydos to Aswan. It acquired its name from its proximity to the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes....

 who had 500 monks under him. By the Rule of St Benedict
Rule of St Benedict
The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century it has also been adopted by communities of women...

, which, until the Cluniac reforms
Cluniac Reforms
The Cluniac Reforms were a series of changes within medieval monasticism of West focused on restoring the traditional monastic life, encouraging art, and caring for the poor. The movement is named for the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, where it started within the Benedictine order. The reforms were...

, was the norm in the West, the abbot has jurisdiction over only one community. The rule, as was inevitable, was subject to frequent violations; but it was not until the foundation of the Cluniac Order that the idea of a supreme abbot, exercising jurisdiction over all the houses of an order, was definitely recognized.

Monks, as a rule, were laymen, nor at the outset was the abbot any exception. For the reception of the sacraments, and for other religious offices, the abbot and his monks were commanded to attend the nearest church. This rule proved inconvenient when a monastery was situated in a desert or at a distance from a city, and necessity compelled the ordination
Ordination
In general religious use, ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart as clergy to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination itself varies by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is...

 of some monks. This innovation was not introduced without a struggle, ecclesiastical
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

 dignity being regarded as inconsistent with the higher spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 life, but, before the close of the 5th century, at least in the East, abbots seem almost universally to have become deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s, if not priests. The change spread more slowly in the West, where the office of abbot was commonly filled by laymen till the end of the 7th century. The ecclesiastical leadership exercised by abbots despite their frequent lay status is proved by their attendance and votes at ecclesiastical councils. Thus at the first Council of Constantinople
First Council of Constantinople
The First Council of Constantinople is recognized as the Second Ecumenical Council by the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Old Catholics, and a number of other Western Christian groups. It was the first Ecumenical Council held in...

, AD 448, 23 archimandrite
Archimandrite
The title Archimandrite , primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise...

s or abbots sign, with 30 bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s.

The second Council of Nicaea
Second Council of Nicaea
The Second Council of Nicaea is regarded as the Seventh Ecumenical Council by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches and various other Western Christian groups...

, AD 787, recognized the right of abbots to ordain their monks to the inferior orders below the diaconate
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

, a power usually reserved to bishops.

Abbots were originally subject to episcopal
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 jurisdiction, and continued generally so, in fact, in the West till the 11th century. The Code of Justinian (lib. i. tit. iii. de Ep. leg. xl.) expressly subordinates the abbot to episcopal oversight. The first case recorded of the partial exemption of an abbot from episcopal control is that of Faustus, abbot of Lerins, at the council of Arles, AD 456; but the exorbitant claims and exactions of bishops, to which this repugnance to episcopal control is to be traced, far more than to the arrogance of abbots, rendered it increasingly frequent, and, in the 6th century, the practice of exempting religious houses partly or altogether from episcopal control, and making them responsible to the pope alone, received an impulse from Pope Gregory the Great
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I , better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death...

. These exceptions, introduced with a good object, had grown into a widespread evil by the 12th century, virtually creating an imperium in imperio, and depriving the bishop of all authority over the chief centres of influence in his diocese
Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

.

Later Middle Ages


In the 12th century the abbots of Fulda
Fulda
Fulda is a city in Hesse, Germany; it is located on the river Fulda and is the administrative seat of the Fulda district .- Early Middle Ages :...

 claimed precedence of the archbishop of Cologne. Abbots more and more assumed almost episcopal state, and in defiance of the prohibition of early councils and the protests of St Bernard and others, adopted the episcopal insignia of mitre
Mitre
The mitre , also spelled miter, is a type of headwear now known as the traditional, ceremonial head-dress of bishops and certain abbots in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglican Communion, some Lutheran churches, and also bishops and certain other clergy in the Eastern Orthodox...

, ring, gloves and sandals.
It has been maintained that the right to wear mitres was sometimes granted by the popes to abbots before the 11th century, but the documents on which this claim is based are not genuine (J. Braun, Liturgische Gewandung, p. 453). The first undoubted instance is the bull by which Alexander II
Pope Alexander II
Pope Alexander II , born Anselmo da Baggio, was Pope from 1061 to 1073.He was born in Milan. As bishop of Lucca he had been an energetic coadjutor with Hildebrand of Sovana in endeavouring to suppress simony, and to enforce the celibacy of the clergy...

 in 1063 granted the use of the mitre to Egelsinus, abbot of the monastery of St Augustine at Canterbury. The mitred abbots in England were those of Abingdon
Abingdon Abbey
Abingdon Abbey was a Benedictine monastery also known as St Mary's Abbey located in Abingdon, historically in the county of Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire, England.-History:...

, St Alban's, Bardney
Bardney Abbey
Bardney Abbey in Lincolnshire, England, was a Benedictine monastery founded in 697 by King Æthelred of Mercia, who was to become the first abbot. The monastery is supposed to have been destroyed during a Danish raid in 869...

, Battle
Battle Abbey
Battle Abbey is a partially ruined abbey complex in the small town of Battle in East Sussex, England. The abbey was built on the scene of the Battle of Hastings and dedicated to St...

, Bury St Edmunds
Bury St. Edmunds Abbey
The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds was once among the richest Benedictine monasteries in England. Its ruins lie in Bury St Edmunds, a town in the county of Suffolk, England.-History:...

, St Augustine's Canterbury
St Augustine's Abbey
St Augustine's Abbey was a Benedictine abbey in Canterbury, Kent, England.-Early history:In 597 Saint Augustine arrived in England, having been sent by Pope Gregory I, on what might nowadays be called a revival mission. The King of Kent at this time was Æthelberht, who happened to be married to a...

, Colchester
Colchester Abbey
Colchester Abbey was an Benedictine abbey in Colchester .In 1120 Eudo Dapifer, steward to William I and Henry II, was buried there, whilst May 1157 Henry II held a trial in the Abbey concerning the right of the pope to over rule him on matters of religion.John Ballard, an archer, captured the...

, Croyland, Evesham
Evesham Abbey
Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin at Evesham in England between 700 and 710 A.D. following a vision of the Virgin Mary by Eof.According to the monastic history, Evesham came through the Norman Conquest unusually well, because of a quick approach by Abbot Æthelwig to William the Conqueror...

, Glastonbury
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

, Gloucester
Gloucester Abbey
Gloucester Abbey was a Benedictine abbey for monks in the city of Gloucester, England. The abbey was founded about 1022 and was dedicated to Saint Peter. It is recorded that the abbey lost about a quarter of its complement of monks in 1377 due to the Black Death.In 1540, the abbey was dissolved by...

, St Benet's Hulme, Hyde
Hyde Abbey
Hyde Abbey was a medieval Benedictine monastery just outside the walls of Winchester, Hampshire, England. It was dissolved and demolished in 1538....

, Malmesbury
Malmesbury Abbey
Malmesbury Abbey, at Malmesbury in Wiltshire, England, was founded as a Benedictine monastery around 676 by the scholar-poet Aldhelm, a nephew of King Ine of Wessex. In 941 AD, King Athelstan was buried in the Abbey. By the 11th century it contained the second largest library in Europe and was...

, Peterborough, Ramsey
Ramsey Abbey
Ramsey Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey located in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, England, southeast of Peterborough and north of Huntingdon, UK.-History:...

, Reading
Reading Abbey
Reading Abbey is a large, ruined abbey in the centre of the town of Reading, in the English county of Berkshire. It was founded by Henry I in 1121 "for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William, my father, and of King William, my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife, and all my ancestors...

, Selby
Selby Abbey
Selby Abbey is an Anglican parish church in the town of Selby, North Yorkshire.-Background:It is one of the relatively few surviving abbey churches of the medieval period, and, although not a cathedral, is one of the biggest...

, Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury Abbey
The Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, commonly known as Shrewsbury Abbey, was a Benedictine monastery founded in 1083 by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery, in Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, England.-Background:...

, Tavistock
Tavistock Abbey
Tavistock Abbey, also known as the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon, is a ruined Benedictine abbey in Tavistock, Devon. Nothing remains of the abbey except the refectory, two gateways and a porch. The abbey church, dedicated to Our Lady and St Rumon, was destroyed by Danish raiders in 997 and...

, Thorney
Thorney Abbey
Thorney Abbey was on the island of Thorney in The Fens of Cambridgeshire, England.- History :The earliest documentary sources refer to a mid-7th century hermitage destroyed by a Viking incursion in the late 9th century. A Benedictine monastery was founded in the 970s, and a huge rebuilding...

, Westminster
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

, Winchcombe
Winchcombe Abbey
Winchcombe Abbey is a now-vanished Benedictine abbey in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, this abbey was once the capital of Mercia, an Anglo Saxon kingdom at the time of the Heptarchy in England. The Abbey was founded c. 798 for three hundred Benedictine monks, by King Offa of Mercia or King Kenulf. In...

, and St Mary's York
St Mary's Abbey, York
The Abbey of St Mary in York, once the richest abbey in the north of England, is a ruined Benedictine abbey that lies in what are now the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, on a steeply sloping site to the west of York Minster. The original abbey on the site was founded in 1055 and dedicated to Saint Olave...

. Of these the precedence was originally yielded to the abbot of Glastonbury, until in AD 1154 Adrian IV
Pope Adrian IV
Pope Adrian IV , born Nicholas Breakspear or Breakspeare, was Pope from 1154 to 1159.Adrian IV is the only Englishman who has occupied the papal chair...

 (Nicholas Breakspear) granted it to the abbot of St Alban's, in which monastery he had been brought up. Next after the abbot of St Alban's ranked the abbot of Westminster. To distinguish abbots from bishops, it was ordained that their mitre should be made of less costly materials, and should not be ornamented with gold, a rule which was soon entirely disregarded, and that the crook of their pastoral staff
Crosier
A crosier is the stylized staff of office carried by high-ranking Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran and Pentecostal prelates...

 should turn inwards instead of outwards, indicating that their jurisdiction was limited to their own house.

The adoption of certain episcopal insignia (pontificalia) by abbots was followed by an encroachment on episcopal functions, which had to be specially but ineffectually guarded against by the Lateran council
First Council of the Lateran
The Council of 1123 is reckoned in the series of Ecumenical councils by the Catholic Church. It was convoked by Pope Calixtus II in December, 1122, immediately after the Concordat of Worms...

, AD 1123. In the East abbots, if in priests' orders and with the consent of the bishop, were, as we have seen, permitted by the second Nicene council
Second Council of Nicaea
The Second Council of Nicaea is regarded as the Seventh Ecumenical Council by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches and various other Western Christian groups...

, AD 787, to confer the tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

 and admit to the order of reader; but gradually abbots, in the West also, advanced higher claims, until we find them in AD 1489 permitted by Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV
Pope Innocent IV , born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was pope from June 25, 1243 until his death in 1254.-Early life:...

 to confer both the subdiaconate and diaconate. Of course, they always and everywhere had the power of admitting their own monks and vesting them with the religious habit.

The power of the abbot was paternal but absolute, limited, however, by the canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

. One of the main goals of monasticism was the purgation of self and selfishness, and obedience was seen as a path to that perfection. It was sacred duty to execute the abbot's orders, and even to act without his orders was sometimes considered a transgression. Examples among the Egyptian monks of this submission to the commands of the superiors, exalted into a virtue by those who regarded the entire crushing of the individual will as a goal, are detailed by Cassian and others, e.g. a monk watering a dry stick, day after day, for months, or endeavoring to remove a huge rock immensely exceeding his powers.

Appointments


When a vacancy occurred, the bishop of the diocese chose the abbot out of the monks of the convent
Abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

, but the right of election was transferred by jurisdiction to the monks themselves, reserving to the bishop the confirmation of the election and the benediction of the new abbot. In abbey
Abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

s exempt from the (arch)bishop's diocesan jurisdiction, the confirmation and benediction
Benediction
A benediction is a short invocation for divine help, blessing and guidance, usually at the end of worship service.-Judaism:...

 had to be conferred by the pope in person, the house being taxed with the expenses of the new abbot's journey to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. It was necessary that an abbot should be at least 25 years of age, of legitimate birth, a monk of the house, unless it furnished no suitable candidate, when a liberty was allowed of electing from another convent, well instructed himself, and able to instruct others, one also who had learned how to command by having practised obedience. In some exceptional cases an abbot was allowed to name his own successor. Cassian speaks of an abbot in Egypt doing this; and in later times we have another example in the case of St Bruno. Popes and sovereigns gradually encroached on the rights of the monks, until in Italy the pope had usurped the nomination of all abbots, and the king in France, with the exception of Cluny, Premontré and other houses, chiefs of their order. The election was for life, unless the abbot was canonically deprived by the chiefs of his order, or when he was directly subject to them, by the pope or the bishop.

The ceremony of the formal admission of a Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 abbot in medieval times is thus prescribed by the consuetudinary
Consuetudinary (book)
A consuetudinary is the name given to a ritual book containing the consuetudines—forms and ceremonies—used in the service of a particular monastery, religious order, or cathedral...

 of Abingdon. The newly elected abbot was to put off his shoes at the door of the church, and proceed barefoot to meet the members of the house advancing in a procession. After proceeding up the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

, he was to kneel and pray at the topmost step of the entrance of the choir, into which he was to be introduced by the bishop or his commissary
Commissary
A commissary is someone delegated by a superior to execute a duty or an office; in a formal, legal context, one who has received power from a legitimate superior authority to pass judgment in a certain cause or to take information concerning it.-Word history:...

, and placed in his stall. The monks, then kneeling, gave him the kiss of peace on the hand, and rising, on the mouth, the abbot holding his staff of office
Staff of office
A staff of office is a staff, the carrying of which often denotes an official's position, a social rank or a degree of social prestige.Apart from the ecclesiastical and ceremonial usages mentioned below, there are less formal usages. A gold- or silver-topped cane can express social standing...

. He then put on his shoes in the vestry
Vestry
A vestry is a room in or attached to a church or synagogue in which the vestments, vessels, records, etc., are kept , and in which the clergy and choir robe or don their vestments for divine service....

, and a chapter
Chapter (religion)
Chapter designates certain corporate ecclesiastical bodies in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches....

 was held, and the bishop or his delegate preached a suitable sermon.

General information


Before the late modern era, the abbot was treated with the utmost reverence by the brethren of his house. When he appeared either in church or chapter all present rose and bowed. His letters were received kneeling, as were those of the pope and the king. No monk might sit in his presence, or leave it without his permission, reflecting the hierarchical etiquette of families and society. The highest place was assigned to him, both in church and at table. In the East he was commanded to eat with the other monks. In the West the Rule of St Benedict
Rule of St Benedict
The Rule of Saint Benedict is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century it has also been adopted by communities of women...

 appointed him a separate table, at which he might entertain guests and strangers. This permission opening the door to luxurious living, the council of Aachen
Council of Aachen
A number of significant councils of the Roman Catholic Church were held at Aachen in the early Middle Ages.In the mixed council of 798, Charlemagne proclaimed a capitulary of eighty-one chapters, largely a repetition of earlier ecclesiastical legislation, that was accepted by the clergy and...

, AD 817, decreed that the abbot should dine in the refectory
Refectory
A refectory is a dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminaries...

, and be content with the ordinary fare of the monks, unless he had to entertain a guest. These ordinances proved, however, generally ineffectual to secure strictness of diet, and contemporaneous literature abounds with satirical remarks and complaints concerning the inordinate extravagance of the tables of the abbots. When the abbot condescended to dine in the refectory, his chaplain
Chaplain
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...

s waited upon him with the dishes, a servant, if necessary, assisting them. When abbots dined in their own private hall, the Rule of St Benedict charged them to invite their monks to their table, provided there was room, on which occasions the guests were to abstain from quarrels, slanderous talk and idle gossiping.


The ordinary attire of the abbot was according to rule to be the same as that of the monks. But by the 10th century the rule was commonly set aside, and we find frequent complaints of abbots dressing in silk, and adopting sumptuous attire. Some even laid aside the monastic habit altogether, and assumed a secular dress. With the increase of wealth and power, abbots had lost much of their special religious character, and become great lords, chiefly distinguished from lay lords by celibacy
Clerical celibacy
Clerical celibacy is the discipline by which some or all members of the clergy in certain religions are required to be unmarried. Since these religions consider deliberate sexual thoughts, feelings, and behavior outside of marriage to be sinful, clerical celibacy also requires abstension from these...

. Thus we hear of abbots going out to hunt, with their men carrying bows and arrows; keeping horses, dogs and huntsmen; and special mention is made of an abbot of Leicester
Leicester
Leicester is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and at the edge of the National Forest...

, c. 1360, who was the most skilled of all the nobility in hare hunting. In magnificence of equipage and retinue
Retinue
A retinue is a body of persons "retained" in the service of a noble or royal personage, a suite of "retainers".-Etymology:...

 the abbots vied with the first nobles of the realm. They rode on mules with gilded bridles, rich saddles and housings, carrying hawks on their wrist, followed by an immense train of attendants. The bells of the churches were rung as they passed. They associated on equal terms with laymen of the highest distinction, and shared all their pleasures and pursuits. This rank and power was, however, often used most beneficially. For instance, we read of Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

, judicially murdered by Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, that his house was a kind of well-ordered court, where as many as 300 sons of noblemen and gentlemen, who had been sent to him for virtuous education, had been brought up, besides others of a lesser rank, whom he fitted for the universities. His table, attendance and officers were an honour to the nation. He would entertain as many as 500 persons of rank at one time, besides relieving the poor of the vicinity twice a week. He had his country houses and fisheries, and when he travelled to attend parliament his retinue amounted to upwards of 100 persons. The abbots of Cluny and Vendôme were, by virtue of their office, cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

s of the Roman church.

In process of time the title abbot was extended to clerics who had no connection with the monastic system, as to the principal of a body of parochial clergy; and under the Carolingians
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 to the chief chaplain of the king, , or military chaplain of the emperor, It even came to be adopted by purely secular officials. Thus the chief magistrate of the republic at Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 was called .

Lay abbot
Lay abbot
Lay abbot is a name used to designate a layman on whom a king or someone in authority bestowed an abbey as a reward for services rendered; he had charge of the estate belonging to it, and was entitled to part of the income.This custom existed principally in the Frankish Empire from the eighth...

s (M. Lat. , , , , or , , or sometimes simply ) were the outcome of the growth of the feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 system from the 8th century onwards. The practice of commendation, by which—to meet a contemporary emergency—the revenues of the community were handed over to a lay lord, in return for his protection,
early suggested to the emperors and kings the expedient of rewarding their warriors with rich abbeys held in commendam.

During the Carolingian epoch the custom grew up of granting these as regular heritable fiefs
Fiefdom
A fee was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable lands granted under one of several varieties of feudal tenure by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the...

 or benefice
Benefice
A benefice is a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services. The term is now almost obsolete.-Church of England:...

s, and by the 10th century, before the great Cluniac
Cluny
Cluny or Clungy is a commune in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne in eastern France. It is 20 km northwest of Mâcon.The town grew up around the Benedictine Cluny Abbey, founded by Duke William I of Aquitaine in 910...

 reform, the system was firmly established. Even the abbey of St Denis
Saint Denis Basilica
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the commune of Saint-Denis, now a northern suburb of Paris. The abbey church was created a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy...

 was held in commendam by Hugh Capet. The example of the kings was followed by the feudal nobles, sometimes by making a temporary concession permanent, sometimes without any form of commendation whatever. In England the abuse was rife in the 8th century, as may be gathered from the acts of the council of Cloveshoe. These lay abbacies were not merely a question of overlordship, but implied the concentration in lay hands of all the rights, immunities and jurisdiction of the foundations, i.e. the more or less complete secularization of spiritual institutions. The lay abbot took his recognized rank in the feudal hierarchy, and was free to dispose of his fief as in the case of any other. The enfeoffment of abbeys differed in form and degree. Sometimes the monks were directly subject to the lay abbot; sometimes he appointed a substitute to perform the spiritual functions, known usually as dean
Dean (religion)
A dean, in a church context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.-Anglican Communion:...

 (decanus), but also as abbot (abbas legitimas, monasticus, regularis).

When the great reform of the 11th century had put an end to the direct jurisdiction of the lay abbots, the honorary title of abbot continued to be held by certain of the great feudal families, as late as the 13th century and later, the actual head of the community retaining that of dean. The connection of the lesser lay abbots with the abbeys, especially in the south of France, lasted longer; and certain feudal families retained the title of abbes chevaliers (abbates milltes) for centuries, together with certain rights over the abbey lands or revenues. The abuse was not confined to the West. John, patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch of Antioch
Patriarch of Antioch is a traditional title held by the Bishop of Antioch. As the traditional "overseer" of the first gentile Christian community, the position has been of prime importance in the church from its earliest period...

, at the beginning of the 12th Century, informs us that in his time most monasteries had been handed over to laymen, bencficiarii, for life, or for part of their lives, by the emperors.

Giraldus Cambrensis
Giraldus Cambrensis
Gerald of Wales , also known as Gerallt Gymro in Welsh or Giraldus Cambrensis in Latin, archdeacon of Brecon, was a medieval clergyman and chronicler of his times...

 reported (Itinerary, ii.iv) the common customs of lay abbots in the late 12th-century Church of Wales:
"for a bad custom has prevailed amongst the clergy, of appointing the most powerful people of a parish stewards, or, rather, patrons, of their churches; who, in process of time, from a desire of gain, have usurped the whole right, appropriating to their own use the possession of all the lands, leaving only to the clergy the altars, with their tenths and oblations, and assigning even these to their sons and relations in the church. Such defenders, or rather destroyers, of the church, have caused themselves to be called abbots, and presumed to attribute to themselves a title, as well as estates, to which they have no just claim."


In conventual cathedrals, where the bishop occupied the place of the abbot, the functions usually devolving on the superior of the monastery were performed by a prior
Prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

.

Modern practices


In the Roman Catholic Church, abbots continue to be elected by the monks of an abbey to lead them as their religious superior in those orders and monasteries that make use of the term (some orders of monks, as the Carthusians for instance, have no abbots, only prior
Prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

s). A monastery must have been granted the status of an abbey by the Pope, and such monasteries are normally raised to this level after showing a degree of stability—a certain number of monks in vows, a certain number of years of establishment, a certain firmness to the foundation in economic, vocational and legal aspects. Prior to this, the monastery would be a mere priory, headed by a prior who acts as superior but without the same degree of legal authority that an abbot has.

The abbot is chosen by the monks from among the fully professed monks. Once chosen, he must request blessing: the blessing of an abbot is celebrated by the bishop in whose diocese the monastery is or, with his permission, another abbot or bishop. The ceremony of such a blessing is similar in some aspects to the consecration of a bishop, with the new abbot being presented with the mitre
Mitre
The mitre , also spelled miter, is a type of headwear now known as the traditional, ceremonial head-dress of bishops and certain abbots in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglican Communion, some Lutheran churches, and also bishops and certain other clergy in the Eastern Orthodox...

, the ring, and the crosier
Crosier
A crosier is the stylized staff of office carried by high-ranking Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some Lutheran and Pentecostal prelates...

 as symbols of office and receiving the laying on of hands and blessing from the celebrant. Though the ceremony installs the new abbot into a position of legal authority, it does not confer further sacramental authority- it is not a further degree of Holy Orders (although some abbots have been ordained to the episcopacy).

Once he has received this blessing, the abbot not only becomes father of his monks in a spiritual sense, but their major superior under canon law, and has the additional authority to confer the ministries of acolyte and lector (formerly, he could confer the minor orders, which are not sacraments, that these ministries have replaced). The abbey is a species of "exempt religious" in that it is, for the most part, answerable to the Pope, or to the abbot primate, rather than to the local bishop.

The abbot wears the same habit as his fellow monks, though by tradition he adds to it a pectoral cross.

Territorial abbot
Territorial abbot
A territorial abbey is a type of particular church within the Roman Catholic Church.Normally an abbot is the superior of an abbey , and exercises authority over a religious family of monks. His authority extends only as far as the monastery's walls, or only to the monks who have taken their vows...

s follow all of the above, but in addition must receive a mandate of authority from the Pope over the territory around the monastery for which they are responsible.

Abbatial hierarchy


In some monastic families there is a hierarchy of precedence or authority among abbots. In some cases, this is the result of an abbey being considered the "mother" of several "daughter" abbeys founded originally as dependent priories of the "mother." In other cases, abbeys have affiliated in networks known as "congregations." Some monastic families recognize one abbey as the motherhouse of the entire order.
  • The abbot of Sant'Anselmo
    Sant'Anselmo
    Sant'Anselmo, named after the Italian saint and theologian, Anselm of Canterbury, is the home of the Abbot Primate of the Benedictines, seat of the Benedictine Confederation, and also hosts an Athenaeum, including the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, and the Philosophy and Theology faculties...

     di Aventino, in Rome, is styled the "abbot primate," and is acknowledged the senior abbot for the Order of St. Benedict (O.S.B.)
  • An abbot president is the head of a congregation (federation) of abbeys within the Order of St. Benedict (for instance, the English Congregation, The American Cassinese Congregation, etc.), or of the Cistercians (O. Cist.)
  • An archabbot is the head of some monasteries which are the motherhouses of other monasteries (for instance, St. Vincent's Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania)

Modern abbots not as superior


The title abbé
Abbé
Abbé is the French word for abbot. It is the title for lower-ranking Catholic clergymen in France....

 (French; Ital. abate), as commonly used in the Catholic Church on the European continent, is the equivalent of the English "Father" (parallel etymology), being loosely applied to all who have received the tonsure
Tonsure
Tonsure is the traditional practice of Christian churches of cutting or shaving the hair from the scalp of clerics, monastics, and, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, all baptized members...

. This use of the title is said to have originated in the right conceded to the king of France, by the concordat
Concordat
A concordat is an agreement between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state on religious matters. Legally, they are international treaties. They often includes both recognition and privileges for the Catholic Church in a particular country...

 between Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X , born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was the Pope from 1513 to his death in 1521. He was the last non-priest to be elected Pope. He is known for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther's 95 Theses...

 and Francis I
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 (1516), to appoint abbés commendataires to most of the abbeys in France. The expectation of obtaining these sinecure
Sinecure
A sinecure means an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service...

s drew young men towards the church in considerable numbers, and the class of abbés so formed—abbés de cour they were sometimes called, and sometimes (ironically) abbés de sainte espérance, (abbés of holy hope; or the pun, of St. Hope)—came to hold a recognized position. The connection many of them had with the church was of the slenderest kind, consisting mainly in adopting the title of abbé, after a remarkably moderate course of theological study, practising celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

 and wearing a distinctive dress—a short dark-violet coat with narrow collar. Being men of presumed learning and undoubted leisure, many of the class found admission to the houses of the French nobility as tutors or advisers. Nearly every great family had its abbé. The class did not survive the Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

; but the courtesy title
Courtesy title
A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives do not themselves hold substantive titles...

 of abbé, having long lost all connection in people's minds with any special ecclesiastical function, remained as a convenient general term applicable to any clergyman.

Eastern Christian


In the Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and Eastern Catholic Churches, the Abbot is referred to as the Hegumen
Hegumen
Hegumen, hegumenos, igumen, or ihumen is the title for the head of a monastery of the Eastern Orthodox Church or Eastern Catholic Churches, similar to the one of abbot. The head of a convent of nuns is called hegumenia or ihumenia . The term means "the one who is in charge", "the leader" in...

. The Superior of a Convent of Nuns is called the Hēguménē. The title of Archimandrite
Archimandrite
The title Archimandrite , primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise...

(literally the head of the enclosure) used to mean something similar.

In the East, the principle set forth in the Code of Justinian still applies, whereby most abbots are immediately subject to the local bishop. Those monasteries which enjoy the status of being stauropegiac will be subject only to a primate
Primate (religion)
Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....

 or his Synod of Bishops and not the local bishop.

Though the title "abbot" is not given in the Western Church to any but actual abbots of monasteries today, the title archimandrite is given to "monastics" (i.e., celibate) priests in the East, even when not attached to a monastery, as an honor for service, similar to the title of monsignor
Monsignor
Monsignor, pl. monsignori, is the form of address for those members of the clergy of the Catholic Church holding certain ecclesiastical honorific titles. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, from the French mon seigneur, meaning "my lord"...

 in the Western/Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Church, only actual monastics are permitted to be elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. Married priests are elevated to the parallel rank of Archpriest
Archpriest
An archpriest is a priest with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches, although it may be used in the Latin rite of the Roman Catholic Church instead of dean or vicar forane.In the 16th and 17th centuries, during...

 or Protopresbyter. Normally there are no celibate priests who are not monastics in the Orthodox Church, with the exception of married priests who have been widow
Widow
A widow is a woman whose spouse has died, while a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The state of having lost one's spouse to death is termed widowhood or occasionally viduity. The adjective form is widowed...

ed. Since the time of Catherine II
Catherine II of Russia
Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great , Empress of Russia, was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia on as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg...

 the ranks of Abbot and Archimandrite have been given as honorary titles in the Russian Church, and may be given to any monastic, even if he does not in fact serve as the superior of a monastery. In Greek practice the title or function of Abbot corresponds to a person who actually serves as the head of a monastery, although the title of the Archimandrite may be given to any celibate priest who could serve as the head of a monastery.

In the German Evangelical Church
Evangelical Church in Germany
The Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of 22 Lutheran, Unified and Reformed Protestant regional church bodies in Germany. The EKD is not a church in a theological understanding because of the denominational differences. However, the member churches share full pulpit and altar...

 the German title of Abt (abbot) is sometimes bestowed, like the French abbé, as an honorary distinction, and survives to designate the heads of some monasteries converted at the Reformation into collegiate foundations.
Of these the most noteworthy is Loccum Abbey
Loccum Abbey
Loccum Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery in the town of Rehburg-Loccum, Lower Saxony, near Steinhude Lake.-History:...

 in Hanover
Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

, founded as a Cistercian house in 1163 by Count Wilbrand of Hallermund, and reformed in 1593. The abbot of Loccum, who still carries a pastoral staff, takes precedence over all the clergy of Hanover, and was ex officio a member of the consistory
Consistory
-Antiquity:Originally, the Latin word consistorium meant simply 'sitting together', just as the Greek synedrion ....

 of the kingdom. The governing body of the abbey consists of the abbot, prior and the "convent" of Stiftsherren (canons).

In the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, the Bishop of Norwich
Bishop of Norwich
The Bishop of Norwich is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Norwich in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers most of the County of Norfolk and part of Suffolk. The see is in the City of Norwich where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided...

, by royal decree given by Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, also holds the honorary title of "Abbot of St. Benet." This title hails back to England's separation from the See of Rome, when King Henry, as supreme head of the newly independent church, took over all of the monasteries, mainly for their possessions, except for St. Benet, which he spared because the abbot and his monks possessed no wealth, and lived like simple beggars, disposing the incumbent Bishop of Norwich and seating the abbot in his place, thus the dual title still held to this day.

Additionally, at the enthronement
Enthronement
An enthronement is a ceremony of inauguration, involving a person—usually a monarch or religious leader—being formally seated for the first time upon their throne. This ritual is generally distinguished from a coronation because there is no crown or other regalia that is physically...

 of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, there is a threefold enthronement, once in the throne the chancel as the diocesan bishop
Diocesan bishop
A diocesan bishop — in general — is a bishop in charge of a diocese. These are to be distinguished from suffragan bishops, assistant bishops, coadjutor bishops, auxiliary bishops, metropolitans, and primates....

 of Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

, once in the Chair of St. Augustine as the Primate of All England, and then once in the chapter-house as Titular Abbot of Canterbury.

There are several Benedictine Abbeys throughout the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

. Most of them have mitred abbots.

Abbots in art and literature



"The Abbot" is one of the archetypes traditionally illustrated in scenes of Dance Macabre.

The lives of numerous abbots make up a significant contribution to Christian hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

, one of the most well-known being the Life of St. Benedict of Nursia
Benedict of Nursia
Saint Benedict of Nursia is a Christian saint, honored by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of Europe and students.Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, about to the east of Rome, before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. There is no...

by St. Gregory the Great.

During the years 1106-1107 A.D., a Russian Orthodox Abbot named Daniel made a pilgrimage
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

 to the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

 and recorded his experiences. His diary was much-read throughout Russia, and at least seventy-five manuscript copies survive.

Saint Joseph, Abbot of Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk
Volokolamsk is a town and the administrative center of Volokolamsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located on the Gorodenka River, not far from its confluence with the Lama River, northwest of Moscow. Population: -History:...

 (1439–1515), wrote a number of influential works against heresy
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

, and about monastic and liturgical discipline, and Christian philanthropy
Philanthropy
Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity"—love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, or enhancing; humanity in the sense of "what it is to be human," or "human potential." In modern practical terms, it is "private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of...

.

In the Tales of Redwall series the creatures of Redwall are led by an Abbot or Abbess. These "abbots" are appointed by the brothers and sisters of Redwall to serve as a superior and provide paternal care, much like real abbots.

See also

  • Abbé
    Abbé
    Abbé is the French word for abbot. It is the title for lower-ranking Catholic clergymen in France....

  • Abbé Pierre
    Abbé Pierre
    LAbbé Pierre, was a French Catholic priest, member of the Resistance during World War II, and deputy of the Popular Republican Movement . He founded in 1949 the Emmaus movement, which has the goal of helping poor and homeless people and refugees...

  • Abbot Lawn
  • Commendatory abbot
    Commendatory abbot
    A commendatory abbot is an ecclesiastic, or sometimes a layman, who holds an abbey in commendam, drawing its revenues but not exercising any authority over its inner monastic discipline...

  • Hegumen
    Hegumen
    Hegumen, hegumenos, igumen, or ihumen is the title for the head of a monastery of the Eastern Orthodox Church or Eastern Catholic Churches, similar to the one of abbot. The head of a convent of nuns is called hegumenia or ihumenia . The term means "the one who is in charge", "the leader" in...

  • Archimandrite
    Archimandrite
    The title Archimandrite , primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise...


External links