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CATEGORY: structure
DEFINITION: A place where monks or nuns live, work, and worship. An abbey usually consisted of group of buildings housing a monastery or a convent and an abbey church or a cathedral. Monasticism originated in the Middle East during the second half of the 4th century and spread to Byzantium, France, Greece, and Italy and developed independently from that in Britain. Excavations have shown considerable variation in the layout of abbeys depending on the different monastic orders. They range from beehive cells and oratories of Early Celtic abbeys to the Cistercian plan with cloisters, domestic ranges, and a large church. Prior to the 10th century, monasteries were the principal artistic, economic, and educational centers of the Christian world. An abbey was the complex of buildings which served the needs of these self-contained religious communities. The first European abbey was Montecassino in Italy, founded in 529.

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