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Monk: a new type of intellectual

In the Europe of the Middle Ages, an important cultural and social leadership was played by monks. The founder of monasticism was Anthony, who later became a saint, the son of a family of wealthy Egyptian farmers. He left his village and retired to meditate in the Egyptian desert, where he died in 356, at the age of 105 years, after having passed 70 in absolute solitude.

Anthony opened, in this way, a kind of life completely alien to the man of the classical era: the political life and the town he replaced with a solitary existence, made of fasting, prayer and meditation. The same name monk also derives from the greek monos, meaning "single": the Monk in fact stays out from the world and solitude, dedicated to the research of God and his contemplation. The monk represented by the Christian culture is something likely to be what philosophers were for Greek culture: an attempt to overcome the limitations of everyday life in search of truth and wisdom.

Unlike philosophers, however, the monks were not dedicated to science, intellectual research or teaching, but to the glorification of God and his contemplation. As intellectuals they carried out the re-writing of most holy scriptures in the monasteries and they opposed the sanctity of silence and intimate the search of God in the social life of the city.

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