Life Inside the Cloister

Understanding Monastic Architecture: Tradition, Reformation, Adaptive Reuse

Thomas Coomans

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Sacred architecture as reality and metaphor in secularised Western society

Christian monasteries and convents, built throughout Europe for the best part of 1,500 years, are now at a crossroads. This study attempts to understand the sacred architecture of monasteries as a process of the tangible and symbolic organisation of space and time for religious communities. Despite the weight of seemingly immutable monastic tradition, architecture has contributed to developing specific religious identities and played a fundamental part in the reformation of different forms of religious life according to the changing needs of society. The cloister is the focal point of this book because it is both architecture, a physically built reality, and a metaphor for the religious life that takes place within it. Life Inside the Cloister also addresses the afterlife and heritagisation of monastic architecture in secularised Western society.

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content)

Introduction. Understanding Monastic Architecture

Origins. Organising Sacred Space and Time

1. The Cell
2. The Rule
3. The Community
4. The Church
5. The Cloister

Building Types. Identities and Reformations

6. The Abbey
7. The Charterhouse
8. The Castle
9. The Friary
10. The Beguinage
11. The Hôtel-Dieu
12. The College
13. The Palace
14. The House

Characters. Embodying the Sacred

15. Place and Stability
16. Enclosure and Gender
17. Liturgy and Identity
18. Death and Memory
19. Scale and Growth
20. Style

Afterlife. Adaptive Reuse and Heritagisation

21. Destruction and Ruins
22. Manors, Farms and Factories
23. Residential Use
24. Barracks, Arsenals, Prisons and Courthouses
25. University Colleges and Lyceums
26. The Sacredness of Culture

Conclusion. Tradition, Heritage and the Spirit of the Place

Index of Places
Index of Names

Format: Monograph - ebook

176 pages

101 colour illustrations

ISBN: 9789461662606

Publication: May 17, 2018

Series: KADOC-Studies on Religion, Culture and Society 21

Languages: English

Thomas Coomans is a full professor of architectural history at KU Leuven and program director of the POC Conservation of Monuments and Sites of the Faculty of Engineering Science.
Academicamente oportuno e conceptual e metodologicamente atual, cientificamente autorizado, pragmático no propósito e na forma, rico de conteúdo, e, por tudo, eminentemente útil, ao novo livro de Coomans parece apenas faltar a tradução para outras línguas, nomeadamente latinas, para se impor como recurso pedagógico de referência ao nível dos estudos avançados em Arquitetura, Artes e Património.
Maria Luísa Jacquinet

The book is an attractive and useful addition to the introductory literature on western monasticism and its architectures, and is likely to be particularly welcomed by undergraduate students who are as yet largely unfamiliar with the field. It will provide a helpful grounding for those about to tackle such as Wolfgang Braunfels' Monasteries of Western Europe, and who are preparing to launch themselves into developing some understanding of the principles of architectural conservation and adaptation.
Richard Fawcett, The Medieval Review 19.04.08
Dit neemt niet weg dat 'Life inside the Cloister' een rijk boek is. Ondanks het feit dat het met 176 pagina’s bescheiden van omvang is, biedt het boek een uiterst helder overzicht in de zeer diverse materie die het behandelt,
in het licht van een actueel onderwerp. Het boek is met 104 afbeeldingen voorbeeldig geïllustreerd, beschikt over een namen- en plaatsnamenregister en de zeer uitgebreide bibliografie biedt vele aanknopingspunten
voor nader onderzoek.
Gabri van Tussenbroek, Bulletin KNOB 118 (2019) 2,

Thomas Coomans is een expert op het vlak van de religieuze architectuur. Heel zijn kennen en kunnen lijkt me als een soort synthese vervat te liggen in deze prachtige studie., december 2018

This is an authoritative historical review of monastic architecture which could be recommended for use in undergraduate and taught postgraduate teaching. The text is written to a high scholarly standard, and adopts a clear and logical line throughout. It is up to date both in terms of current questions about the future of these buildings and also in terms of its consideration of published scholarship about them. From the point of view of a basic textbook, it is clear, thorough, and comprehensive.
Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin - University of Kent