This module will offer a survey of monasticism in Europe from its origins to the Reformation. Questions relating to the different spiritual ideals of nuns and monks will be addressed together with themes like internal organisation and regulation, aspects concerning the daily life in a religious institution and the economic and political functions of a religious community. Monasteries will be studied as spiritual and cultural centres as well as features in town and countryside which shaped their environment. The creation of religious communities and eventually religious Orders will be analysed and attention will be paid to the tensions which often emerged between religious ideals and reality. Issues like reform and observance, conflict and conformity will be discussed in their respective contexts. Differences as well as similarities between the major religious Orders will be defined so as to explore how a rich and complex network of religious institutions spread across and shaped the regions of Europe and some areas beyond.