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Difference Between Abbey and Monastery

Abbey Vs Monastery

Even for Roman Catholic s, distinguishing between a monastery and an abbey may become a confusing task most especially that there are many misconceptions between the two. Many claim that both places are the same with the two being named differently in varied locations. Other people also suggest that a monastery is purely for monks while abbeys are solely for nuns.

Another reason for the confusion is because monasteries have become the more popular term that seemed to be described as any building or place of worship where ‘the religious ones’ like monks and nuns live. The term abbey is not much heard of compared to the monastery.

To clear out the confusion, a monastery is like the premature version of an abbey. In its simplest definition, it is basically a place where nuns, monks, clerics live a more communal lifestyle. By virtue of the power vested in the Holy Church in Rome, a monastery becomes an abbey in the same way as how a child grows to become a man or a woman. Monasteries are therefore the places where people can live a monastic kind of life.

The abbey is a bigger community of either monks or nuns. If dwelt by monks, the abbey is usually led by an abbot (the father) whereas if it is the case of the latter then it is lead by an abbess (the major superior). Technically speaking, abbeys need to have at least 12 religious dwellers unlike the monastery.

Abbey is a unique place because it is governed by abbots and abbess who have territorial leadership. They almost are in rank with a typical bishop but the latter does not have jurisdiction in abbeys unlike the abbots and abbess. Abbeys are usually walled. The entire quadrangle contains lots of individual buildings and amenities like a place for the guests, the choir, for prayer, conference area, infirmary, dining and kitchen halls, dormitories, an area for receiving alms or gifts from outsiders and even a simple parlor. Most abbeys are under the Benedictine order especially with regard to Western monasteries.

1. Abbey is the term used to describe the monk’s dwelling place according to the Benedictine order. For most of the other orders (especially the more cloistered and contemplative ones), these places are regarded as monasteries.

2. Ideally, a monastery is a more premature version of an abbey because the latter needs to have more religious dwellers or worshippers than in monasteries.

3. Either to non Catholics and Roman Catholics, monastery is a more popular term compared to abbeys.

4. The abbey is under the abbot or abbess leadership unlike the monastery.

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  1. There is no difference between an abbey and a monastery. An abbey is a monastery or one kind of monastery. A monastery is the religious house of members of the canons regular, monastic order and mendicant orders. A new monastery is usually founded from an existing one. It will start out as a simple House. As the community grows, becomes more stable and recruits its own religious rather than on depending on religious from its founding house its degree of autonomy increases. It may first become a simple priory. Next it will become a major priory. At this stage it will usually get its full independence and in mendicant orders it will always remain a priory. When if has a large enough and satisfactorily stable community it may be elevated to the rank of abbey (in the canons regular and monastic orders). The various stages and actual requirements are laid down in a religious institute’s own laws. The Holy See’s permission is only required to establish a monastery of enclosed nuns.

  2. Don’t forget the Eastern Orthodox, we have monasteries too. Maybe not as many in America, but Mount Athos is world renowned.
    Which many protestants have taken a liking to Orthodoxy. Where there is one monastery where couples live monastic lives. I think it’s in Pennsylvania. Where God did see Adam was lonely, so created Eve, a woman, as a helpmate. So I suspect they have a good thing up there.

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