chapter  15
The heretics
Pages 14

Reform movements, religious enthusiasm and social needs stimulated the creation of several kinds of quite different religious houses. By 1200, the inherited network of monasteries, nunneries, chapters of regular and secular canons, commanderies of the military orders, hospitals, leper-houses and hermitages was a powerful force in European life. Their collective membership was drawn mainly from the upper and middle groups in society, though some humbler social strata were represented as well, especially among the Cistercian conversi. Their buildings and landed endowments represented a significant portion of Christendom’s wealth. Although the Benedictine tradition had reached a point of saturation, other sorts of religious houses continued to attract recruits, gifts and new foundations. But the forces that invigorated organised religious life also pushed in other directions.