Communication and knowledge transfer in medieval monastic networks

March, 2015 to December, 2016
Hungarian Scholarship Board Office

Previous academic research has identified various areas, types of contacts and forms of interaction, where monastic orders played a significant role in communication and knowledge transfer. Their internal organization and networks were essential in the dissemination of ideas and complex “information packages.” The eight main types of information exchange covered in this research project are as follows:

  • Exchange of texts, manuscripts and books in a monastic milieu
  • Movement of objects (pieces of minor art, liturgical objects, relics, etc.)
  • Transfer of the cult of certain saints  within monastic networks
  • Dissemination of complex ideas and theories (theological, religious, ecclesiastical, etc.)
  • Transmission of architectural forms, building technologies
  • Military architecture and the role of religious-military orders
  • The role of monasteries in the transfer of innovative technologies (agriculture, crafts)
  • Transfer of organizational practices (rules, customs, hierarchy patterns, liturgies)

Although most of these forms of interaction have been documented extensively in the secondary literature on monasticism, they are generally treated separately rather than comprehensively in the context of communication systems and monastic networks. Recent developments in the study of social and institutional networks, as well as new possibilities offered by digital technologies such as network studies and GIS (Geographical Information System), now provide a solid basis for new types of co-operation between these areas. By exploring these research areas, this pilot project aims to create a sample database of objects, pieces of art, and their relationship to monasteries and monastic order, which will be used as a platform of co-operation for the major research program planned.

The complexity of monastic interactions and knowledge transfer requires an interdisciplinary methodology and research strategy. The other aim of the project is to demonstrate, how archaeological, art historical, hagiographic, historical, manuscript data can be manipulated in this database to show various types of interactions and their spatial distribution patterns. For methodological and theoretical problems of the research areas involved, such as network analysis and GIS applications, other units of CEU and research partner institutions of FOVOG will be consulted.