Keep the door open: hospitality as an obligation in an age of Christological controversy

Konstantin Klein (Otto Friedrich Universität Bamberg)


Just as many hagiographical writers before him, Cyril of Scythopolis (fl. mid-fifth century) recorded a considerable number of seemingly stereotypical and repetitive admonitions allegedly uttered by the protagonists of his Vitae, namely that future generations of monks should continue their deeds in the pious field of hospitality: hosting the poor (as well as the rich) and never closing the doors of the monasteries to strangers. Often integrated in the monastic fathers’ deathbed speeches, these testament-like admonitions turned into moral obligations just as well as into a justification for the monasteries’ activities in the political and social sphere. This paper aims to cast a close look upon hospitality as an admonition, an obligation, and a method to gain influence in an age of Christological controversy following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. It will become clear that rivalling monasteries entered into a ‘real’ competition in which the virtue of hospitality served as a powerful tool to gain influence – as well as into a literary competition in which the acts of hospitalities worked as just one more metaphor for the fame and renown of ascetics, abbots, and monks.

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