Self is still on Chapter VII (The Rise of Monasticism) of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There are some fantastic stories in this chapter. Alas, self has not the time to share them. Suffice it to say, Gibbon gives short shrift to monastic life in Gaul, Italy, Britain, Syria, etc and focuses almost exclusively on Egyptian monasteries (which makes self want to go to Egypt; but she wonders, anyway, if any of those ancient monasteries still exists)
Gibbon seems to feel great affinity for the Egyptian monk’s life of simple arduousness. Perhaps it reminded him of his own scholar’s life?
But, Gibbon being Gibbon, he cannot escape a chance to probe their state of mind. And this is how he describes it:
The repose which they had sought in the cloister was disturbed by tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty desires; and while they considered each natural impulse as an unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the age of a flaming and bottomless abyss.
In the “sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion of the austere penitents who were deprived of their senses.”
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.