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History 4 Lesson 20-Contributions Made by Monks to European Development

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe owes its revival to the efforts expended by monks and their monastic tradition.  They contributed greatly to the development of medieval and modern life.  Below are five areas where their contributions are recorded.


Through their love of manual labor, monks transformed the wild landscapes into cultivable land.  A swamp would be turned into fertile agricultural land.  They raised cattle and horses, cleared forests, recovered marshes, planted trees and conserved forests, introduced new crops or production methods, brewed beer, raised bees and fruit, corn, cheese, salmon fisheries, and vineyards.


The monks introduced waterpower for industrial use on a large scale for crushing wheat, sieving flour, fulling cloth, and tanning.  They introduced metallurgy and methods of mining of salt, lead, iron, alum, gypsum, quarrying marble, glassworks, and forging metal plates.  They developed furnaces to extract iron from ore.

Charitable work

The monasteries were always open to charitable activities such as serving as hospitable inns to people lost in the woods, giving alms, feeding wanderers, creating safe harbor for sailors by introducing bells by the seashores, repaired bridges, roads, and medieval infrastructure.

Preserving classical literature and tradition

The monks translated ancient literature into various European languages preserving it for future generations.  They displayed an appreciation of ancient scholarly work by quoting works of Horace, Virgil, Cicero, etc. in their writings.


The monks educated students of religion and laymen which also included children of nobles.  They established schools, taught people how to read and write.  They laid the foundations for universities, and were thinkers and philosophers, and shaped religious and political thought.

The five areas above describe the immense contribution of monks and their monastic traditions.


Author: sophiaelahirpc

10th Grade student in the Ron Paul Curriculum. Full-time teen writer living in Singapore.

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