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Monastic-Life-art - 9/23/16


"An Introduction to Monastic Life" by Thomas of Tenby.


NOTE: See also the files: monks-msg, nuns-a-monks-lnks, nuns-msg.





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Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



An Introduction to Monastic Life

by Thomas of Tenby


For centuries monasteries were a part of medieval life.   Founded as spiritual communities, they were originally reclusive and often self-sustaining.    During the 5th and 6th centuries, monasteries were founded in Italy, Gaul, Spain, Ireland, and later, in England, France, and elsewhere in Europe.  Originally there was no generally accepted rule that governed monastic life.  Over time, many monasteries adopted a common way of life; one of the common paths is known as Benedict's Rule.


This Rule decreed that everything essential for life, such as water, mills, gardens, and workshops, be in the monastery walls. The church was always the most prominent building, and other buildings contained rooms such as refectories and dormitories.  Benedict's Rule emphasized the value of communal religious life, and outlined how a monk's day was to be filled with prayer, manual labor and spiritual reading.


A monk's day began with the ringing of bells at a time after midnight for their first prayers of the day. Prayers were again held at sunrise, and then at three-hour intervals throughout the day.  These ritual times became known as canonical hours:


Matins –  3 am
Prime  –  6 am
Terce  –  9 am
Sext  –  12 pm
None  –  3 pm
Vespers  –  6 pm
Compline  –  9 pm


Meals were served once a day in winter, twice in summer.  Monks were required to be silent while eating.  Their basic food was rye or barley bread and meat though they may also have had homegrown vegetables, local fruit, nuts and honey.  They drank ale, wine, mead or cider as water was often unclean.  


At least three hours per day were spent in manual labor (including cooking, cleaning, plowing, sowing, reaping, wine-making, ale-making, harvesting honey) with remaining hours spent in prayer, study, especially of Latin, and sacred reading.  They also provided hospitality to pilgrims and medical care to local communities.  


As these monastic communities developed, they formed joined together to form "orders" which shared common purposes and order of life.  Some of the most famous medieval orders include:
        Benedictines, founded in 529, known as the "brown monks"
        Cistercians, founded in 1098, known as the "white monks"
        Franciscans, founded in 1209, known as "greyfriars"
        Dominicans, founded in 1215, known as "blackfriars"


There are many other orders.   Military orders such as the Hospitallers founded in 1080 and the Templers founded in 1119 are not included in this list because they lived more as knights than monks.  


Any man, rich or poor, noble or peasant could become a monk and it was a lifetime commitment.  They could not own property, leave the monastery walls without the abbot's consent, nor even receive letters from home.   They slept on pallets of straw.  It was a very disciplined and well-ordered way of life.


Copyright 2012 by Garrison Martt. <gemartt at earthlink.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
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Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org