Author(s): Benedicta Ward
The desert fathers provided the inspiration for Christian spirituality throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. The men and women who first embraced the life of solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syria were seldom clerics or scholars. Yet these uneducated peasants, shepherds, itinerant traders, former slaves and prostitutes soon attracted so many followers they were said to have turned the desert into a city. From the fourth century onwards, along with biographies and full-length treatises, their reflections were brought together and widely circulated. Powerful and moving in their depth of religious conviction and wholehearted, even joyful, commitment to poverty, simplicity and humility, the Sayings directly influenced the Rule of St Benedict, and set the pattern for Western monasticism. This Penguin Classics edition makes freshly accessible the most influential Latin collection of Sayings.
Benedicta Ward is a Reader in the History of Early Christian Spirituality at the Theology Faculty in Oxford. She is the author of An Introduction to Christian Spirituality (SPCK, 1999) and Miracles and the Medieval Mind (Pennsylvania UP, 1987). She has translated The Prayers and Meditations of St Anslem for Penguin Classics.