Before the Dawn: Monks and the Night in Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Europe
Mary W. Helms
Anthropos, Vol.99:1 (2004)
Early European monks were preoccupied with the night. They were quintessential men of the dark, for nocturns, by far their longest liturgical office, was conducted each night, in the blackness of virtually unlit churches. In so doing monks not only ritually anticipated the coming of the dawn but also, and especially, engaged with the primordial cosmological darkness that preceded the original creation of Genesis. Various aspects of daily monastic life prepared monks for this primary nightly labor, the emotional and psychological effects of which were probably further heightened by physiological reactions to chronic sleep deprivation.