Monastery (Gr. a house of retirement), the place in which monks or nuns live in seclusion. (See Monaohism.) In the beginning monasteries were to be found only in solitary places; after a time some were built outride the walls of cities, and after the 5th century the cities themselves became the abode of cenobites. The growth of monasteries for women kept pace with those for men. St. Anthony built one for women in Egypt and placed his sister over it; St. Pachomius did the same in Palestine. St. Basil erected several similar houses in Pontus and Cappa-docia. At Rome St. Constantia founded one near the church of Santa Agnese, and Marcella another near that of San Lorenzo. At the same epoch St. Eusebius of Vercelli built a monastery for women near his cathedral, and St. Ambrose another in Milan; and St. Augustine a little later placed his sister at the head of a monastery in Africa. Similar establishments increased rapidly in western Europe. In both the Fast and the West the great religious orders had numerous though separate houses for both sexes. The western monasteries of the middle ages became, like those of Egypt and Palestine, so many little towns, containing all the industries necessary for their own subsistence.
Not unfrequently, too, the neighboring peasants drew from the monks the necessaries of life and built their huts in close proximity to them. Such were the famous eouv.-nts of St. Gall, Fulda, Cluny, Ci-teaux, and Clairvaux, as well as the great monastic establishments of the British isles; and Mich are still the monasteries of the East - These houses arc called abbeys when governed by an abbot or abbess, priories when ruled by a prior or prioress; and when the superior has no such distinctive title, the house is called simply a monastery, convent, or nunnery.