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The business model of a Benedictine abbey, 1945-1979

Tonia Ruppenthal (Department of Nutritional, Food and Consumer Sciences, Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Fulda, Germany)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 11 July 2019

Issue publication date: 10 January 2020




Management literature often neglects the business model developed by a monastic institution, as it does not fit the usual categorizations of an enterprise. Nevertheless, monastic institutions founded on Benedictine principles have proven to be economically viable and sustainable over centuries. This paper aims to examine, with the adoption of a single case study, the components of a Benedictine business model, their interrelationship and the role of sustainability.


This case study combines in-depth data collection from multiple sources such as field research, archival documents and publicly available information to examine the dynamic business operations of a Benedictine abbey.


The analysis suggests that the Rule of St Benedict and the Benedictine values, and a commitment to them, are important for the success of the Benedictine abbey concept and that the business model is both place-based and sustainable.

Research limitations/implications

A single case study has its limitations compared to the use of multiple examples. Business model concepts are not simply applicable to a monastic institution and vice versa; the Benedictine model is not easily transferable to conventional enterprises.

Practical implications

Generalizations from a single case study are limited; nevertheless this paper offers practical implications through the study of a monastic institution, showing place-based and sustainable business practices from which management scholars can make assumptions.


This paper describes and analyses the inception, development and stabilization of a sustainable place-based business model of a Benedictine abbey according to three stages over a period of 35 years while evaluating the sustainable business model from its inception.



The author is highly grateful for the support, openness and kindness of the sisters of the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary, Fulda, Germany. Without the sisters, especially Abbess Sr Benedikta Krantz OSB, this research would not have been possible. A special gratitude goes to Rosemarie Schade (Concordia University) for her helpful comments and suggestions.


Ruppenthal, T. (2020), "The business model of a Benedictine abbey, 1945-1979", Journal of Management History, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 41-59.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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