Crusaders were not the only Europeans drawn to the Holy Land during the twelfth century. Many lay people and followers of religious orders made pilgrimages to the East to visit the holy sites, and many felt compelled to stay there, settling as monks or hermits in established monasteries or founding hermitages of their own. So widespread was the exodus that Bernard of Clairvaux spoke out against Cistercian monks who were "deserting the flock." The Perfection of Solitude is the first comprehensive study of the Latin monastic presence in the Holy Land at this time.
Andrew Jotischky looks at the reasons why Latin monks were drawn to the Holy Land (building upon the work of historical geographer J. K. Wright) and what happened after they arrived there. Since very little is known about the history of western monastic settlement in the Holy Land, this book navigates mostly uncharted territory. Jotischky makes use of the recently discovered, but little exploited, writings of Gerard of Nazareth, whose collection of brief lives of twelfth-century Frankish hermits sheds new light on the nature of the Latin Church in the Crusader States. Jotischky's most important conclusions are that solitary and communal monastic practices overlapped each other in the East and that this was due in part to the influence of Eastern practice which was less structured than its counterpart in Europe.