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Monasticism and the early monastic centres
  Monasticism originated in third-century Egypt, where some Christians chose to pursue their faith removed from the world, either as hermits in semi-desert areas, or in communities of the faithfull. By the fourth century, both forms of monasticism were widespread. Syria was famous for its solitary ascetics, such as the eccentric Symeon the Stylite; Asia Minor and Palestine, for their flourishing monastic communities led respectively by St Basil and St Sabas. Dalmatou, the first monastery in Constantinople, was founded in the late fourth century. By 536, there were almost seventy monasteries in the capital. By the sixth century, monastic life was governed by fixed rules that controlled the daily and weekly routine, prayer times and content, the monk's work, food, drink, and clothing. The Justinianic legislation provided the legal basis for bequeathing property to monasteries, which led to their increasing prosperity.
  Monasteries generally began with a hermit, who withdrew from the world and dwelt isolated in a cave or a hut. With time, other monks joined him, creating a community. The founder determined whether the place would be a lavra, a loose community of monks living separately but sharing Saturday and Sunday prayers, or a coenobium, an enclosed monastery where monks met daily for prayers and meals. A coenobium comprised a variety of buildings (such as churches and chapels, cells for the monks, libraries, bathhouses, refectories, kitchens, storerooms, water reservoirs, stables, hospices and hospitals), the construction of which was funded by wealthy admirers or with money bequeathed by the founder. Hospices were usually built outside the monastery walls, and served not only as a lodging for pilgrims and travellers but also as a trading post for the monks' products. Monks kept worshops, tended gardens and, in agricultural regions produced oil and wine. The communal buildings of the coenobium were also those of the lavra's nucleus, except that in the latter case they were not surrounded by a wall. The monks of a lavra dwelt in isolated caves or hermitages (cells or small complexes including a chapel or a prayer corner).

See also: St Saba's monastery; Martyrios' monastery; Sinai monastery