For a long time, historians have tried to explain the lack of order structures among Benedictine
houses by referring to these communities’ conservative attitude. This paper proposes
a new hypothesis, which states that twelfth- and thirteenth-century Benedictines
really were receptive to new trends in monastic government; be it without imitating the
order model. As will be argued below, they attempted to install supra-monastic (i.e.
involving two or more monastic communities) structures by developing decentralised
associations between their houses. Even though, at first sight, these Benedictine initiatives
appear very different from the emerging religious orders, it will be shown that both
experiments were essentially rooted in a single type of institution: the confraternity agreement.