Abbot is a concept that, according to what is detailed by the dictionary, comes from abbas, a Latin word. The term refers to the religious who holds the highest office in a type of monastery known as an abbey.
The abbot, therefore, is the spiritual father, leader and person in charge of an abbey. In its origins, the notion was not linked to a hierarchy or a formal position, but was an honorary title. The honor arose in Syrian monasteries and then began to be implemented in Europe.
Regarding the way in which abbots lived before formal organization, it is known that they were hermits, who persecuted through their actions and customs a state in which their spirit was freed from the material world. It was precisely thanks to this discipline that they could reach a degree of knowledge and harmony that attracted other religious to gather around them.
Far from being a selfish attitude or a symbol of lack of interest in the rest of human beings, the isolation of the first abbots had purposes of spiritual enrichment and reflection that later also benefited those who followed them. For example, when they reached a level of food production sufficient for their own consumption, they did not hesitate to share the surplus with others.
One of the most important names in this context is that of Saint Benedict of Nursia, a Christian priest who lived between the end of the 5th and the middle of the 6th century in the Byzantine Empire. He is considered the forerunner of western monastic life. He was the founder of the Benedictine order, which had the objective of making monasteries self-sufficient, that is, based on autarky, since until then they used to organize around a church.
Saint Benedict of Nursia enjoys various symbolic titles, such as being monastic patriarch of the West and patron of Europe. The concept of monasticism, on the other hand, is defined as the commitment to the lifestyle described above, characterized by asceticism and devotion to a religion, following a certain number of rules. In this regard, Saint Benedict was the author of ” The Holy Rule “, which has inspired various communities; It is a work composed of a prologue and 73 chapters in which he established certain principles that he considered fundamental for life in the monastery, such as “praying and working”.
When the title became popular, it went on to name the superior of an organized monastery as a community, which acquired the name of abbey. At the end of the XV century, abbot was already an ecclesiastical institution, as bishop and others.
In this way, the abbots became, in addition to being religious, authority figures who ruled the abbeys. They had jurisdiction over the monastery and over the subjects, they could consecrate churches and give blessings, among other issues.
In addition to the mentioned Saint Benedict, there were many other abbots of great historical importance in the Catholic Church. San Antonio Abad (251 – 356), for example, was the creator of the hermit movement.
Suger de Saint-Denis, Egidio Abad and Saint Molaise are other abbots who, due to their actions and achievements, reached relevance throughout history.
From an iconographic point of view, the representation of the abbot must include the abbey cross in his hand, the habits corresponding to his order and, in the case of the mitred abbots, the headdress known as the miter, characterized by being high and finish on point.
There are some expressions of the Spanish language that include the word abbot, such as the following: abbot’s face, red, thick and plump face; give yourself an abbot life, lead a good life; Abbot table, do not skimp on expenses at lunchtime.