Monks and Monasteries

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Wine has always had spiritual and religious significance (see religion and wine), and monks and monasteries have long been regarded as playing a crucial part in wine history.

While wine and the vine played a prominent role in most religions of the eastern Mediterranean during antiquity, it was in Christian religious symbolism and practice that it achieved particular significance, as an essential element of the eucharist. Such Christian symbolism built on earlier Jewish beliefs in which the vine or vineyard was used as one of the favourite symbols for the nation of israel in the Old Testament. The adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman empire during the 4th century ad (see Ancient rome) meant that wine was to attain a position of the utmost ideological prominence in European society. While monasteries in the eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa continued to make wine in late antiquity, as evidenced in particular by their wine presses, the religious significance of wine is widely regarded as of particular importance at two main periods in its history: first, in ensuring the survival of viticulture following the collapse of the western Roman empire; and secondly in the introduction of viticulture and winemaking to the Americas.