Honors Theses


Bobbi Sutherland



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Honors Thesis


Religious orders were ever-present in medieval life. Their influence was not limited just to the pulpit and the physical area around monasteries but extended into the daily life of entire kingdoms. Each religious community was unique in the interpretation and expression of its Rule of life, both between and within orders. During the Reformation, religious communities faced pressure from newly converted Protestant authorities alongside theological conversations within their own walls. New Protestant theologies carried with them anti-monastic ideas that challenged religious communities to fundamentally reexamine their lives. Nowhere were these choices as complicated as in Switzerland, where monks and nuns encountered Lutheran, Zwinglian, Anabaptist, and Reformed theology. I argue that these encounters occurred in conversation with the spiritual traditions of their orders, both in those who remained in or left their vows. I specifically look at the first-hand accounts and manuscripts of Swiss Franciscans and Benedictines and place their words in the context of their Rules and spiritual traditions. Further, I will argue that religious who remained Catholic more explicitly expressed their particular spirituality when encountering Protestant theology, while those who left the habit saw their new beliefs as a different expression, or even a fulfillment, of their original vows. Current historiographical approaches to religious orders in the Reformation deemphasize individual communities, seeing their interactions with Protestant theology solely defined by their geography or political context. This paper approaches the Reformation through the lived spiritual experience of religious and seeks to recognize the impact their monastic lives had on their decisions.

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Undergraduate research