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How were the lives of mendicant friars different from monks?

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November 04, 2011 1:45AM

Regular monks, such as Benedictines, Cistercians and Cluniacs lived according to a Rule that set that apart from society. While a monastery might own and manage land, the day-to-day interaction of monks with ordinary people was supposed to be strictly limited. Their life was supposed to be one of quiet contemplation of God, regular worship (they had seven daily ceremonies known as the Opus Dei) and scholarship. Monks and their regular monasteries were most often sited in the countryside, at a distance from larger towns.

The mendicant friars, on the other hand, lived by different rules. Orders such as the Dominicans, the Franciscans and the Augustinians were not supposed to be separate from secular life, but rather they lived within normal society, preaching to the people, tending to their spiritual needs, running hospitals, almshouses and schools. They made vows of poverty and were supposed to live on charity: this frequently fell by the wayside, however. They often served urban populations and some historians argue they arose out of the need that came with the growth of cities in the 11th century.