This unit will give students a broad overview of the pioneers and centres of the early monastic movement in Egypt and their impact on the spread of the movement throughout the Late Roman Empire. It will consider the various theological viewpoints that became prominent in Late Antique Egypt and its impact in Egyptian monastic circles.

Unit code: CH1509A (Approved)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 1

Unit discipline: Church History

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Identify the protagonists and the centres of the Egyptian monastic movement in Late Antiquity;


Articulate the variations in Egyptian monastic practice and the impact this had on a monk’s daily life;


Describe the various theologies that became prominent in Egypt during late antiquity and how this impacted and challenged monastic circles;


Demonstrate the impact Egyptian monasticism had on the spread of the movement throughout the Late Roman Empire.

Unit sequence

Prohibited combinations: Only one of CH1500A, CH1509A, CH2500A & CH2509A may be taken


Weekly sessions, comprising guided reading from the set texts, additional reading resources and some notes, together with an online tutorial. Students will be expected to contribute to the discussions in each session.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Brakke, David, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism. Oxford, 1995.
  • Burton-Christie, Douglas, The Word in the Desert. Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism. Oxford, 1993.
  • Chitty, Derwas, The Desert a City. Oxford, 1966.
  • Elm, Susanna, Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity. Oxford, 1994.
  • Evelyn-White, Hugh, The Monasteries of the Wadi ‘n Natrun, Part I-III. New York, 1926-33.
  • Frank, Georgia, The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity. Berkeley, 2000.
  • Gabra, Gawdat, Coptic Monasteries. Egypt’s Monastic Art and Architecture. Cairo, 2002.
  • Goehring, James, Ascetics, Society and the Desert. Studies in early Egyptian monasticism. Harrisburg, 1999.
  • Gould, Graham, The Desert Fathers on Monastic Community. Oxford, 1993.
  • Harmless, William, Desert Christians: an introduction to the literature of early monasticism. New York, 2004.
  • Krawiec, Rebecca. Shenoute and the Women of the White Monastery. Egyptian Monasticism in Late Antiquity. New York, 2002.
  • Meinardus, Otto, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert. Cairo, 1990.
  • Russell, Norman, The Lives of the Desert Fathers. The Historia Monachorum in Aegypto. Kalamazoo, 1981.
  • Vivian, Tim, Journeying into God. Seven Early Monastic Lives. Minneapolis, 1996.
  • Wimbush, Vincent, Ascetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook. Minneapolis, 1990.

Articles that are compulsory weekly readings will be made available online [in PDF format].


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Essay 2000 words

0 50.0

Essay 2000 words

0 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 30 Sep, 2015

Unit record last updated: 2019-12-17 14:22:24 +1100