The monasteries of Europe in the middle ages made huge contributions to western civilization which they are not often given the credit they deserve. They contributed greatly to agriculture, technology, education, infrastructure, and the preservation of great works of western literature.
The monks were very active in agriculture and animal husbandry. They cleared forests for land, and established farms. They also taught animal husbandry to local people. Monks also produced many items which were needed by regular people, such as flour, beer, and leather. There were some monasteries which specialized in metallurgy, and were the main suppliers of metal products in some areas. Some monasteries produced goods by harnessing water power by the use of complicated mechanical apparatuses, contributing to the technology of the middle ages.
Some monasteries repaired local infrastructure, doing things like fixing bridges or roads. Some even created new infrastructure. Monks also contributed to education by founding schools. The monks also copied manuscripts, mostly were religious, but many great secular works of Latin and Greek literature were preserved through the monasteries.
Western civilization is greatly indebted to the monasteries of the middle ages for contributing greatly to agriculture, technology, education, and also the preservation of the great works of Latin and Greek literature. Without the monasteries, western civilization would have run a different course.