words, words, words – monastic words

It’s been a few weeks so hopefully you’ll have a nice long list of monastic terms. This isn’t exhaustive and I may add to it over time but how did you do?

abbey – larger monastic house indicating independence. The head the house was an abbot (male) or an abbess (female). Abbot comes from the Latin word abba meaning father. In the Benedictine order the abbot’s rule over his house is absolute.

advowson – the right to appoint to an ecclesiastical job i.e. the vicar.

alien priories – monastic houses which were subsidiary or dependent i.e a daughter house of a continental monastery. This houses were gradually suppressed particularly during the reign of Edward III.

almoner – monk or nun responsible for charitable giving. In larger houses there may have been a specific building that people could come to for alms and food called an almonry. In some foundations you might also find an almshouse where the poor and elderly could find shelter.

anchorites, anchoresses and hermits – monks and nuns who withdrew from the world to live alone. They lived in very enclosed accommodation away from the rest of the world. Some of them were sealed into their homes.

Austin Canons -the so-called “black canons- because of their destinctive habits. https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/15/monastic-orders-part-2-canons/

The rule of St Benedict All monks and nuns, no matter what their order, follow the rule of St Benedict, which governs their day and their devotions.

Benedictines an order of monks and nuns . https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/14/medieval-monastic-orders-part-i/

Benefactors patrons contributing to the building and extension of monastic foundations usually in return for prayers and as a method of shortening a stay in purgatory.

Boarders wealthy patrons had a tendency to send their old servants or extended family members to live in monastic houses. These people would not take holy orders, they were living in the monastic house as a retirement home.

Brewhouse – all ale was home-brewed.

Brigettines – often double communities – i.e. monks on one side and nuns on the other- there was only one house in England, of nuns only, at Syon they had a reputation for learning and zealousness.

Bursar- official role looking after the money.

Canonical hours – The seven specific services of the day – Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, Mattins and Lauds.

Carrells – study cubicles often found in the cloister.

Carthusian – monastic order https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/14/medieval-monastic-orders-part-i/ Their monastic foundations are often referred to as charterhouses.

Cell – this could either be the individual living space of a monk such as the Carthusian cells that can be seen at Mount Grace or it can also describe a very small house of four or fewer monastics which is entirely dependent on it’s mother house. A cell of this kind may be placed to grow a daughter house or to keep oversight of a property or as a location for punishment.

Cellarer – Second in charge, responsible for food and drink and fuel. The domain of the cellarer was the cellar or cellarium which simply means storehouse. In most monasteries this is a very large space, sometimes vaulted, in the west wing of a monastic foundation. It would be on this side of the abbey that you would find all the administration for running the abbey.

Chantry – A chapel or altar given by a donor in expectation that the monks and nuns would say masses for the donor’s soul after his or her death.

Chapter – the morning briefing that took place every day in monastic houses where the work of the day would be allocated, punishments given, notices read and the rules of St Benedict read – one each day. This all took place in the chapter house. https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/08/04/chapter-houses/

Cisterican – monastic order, the so-called “white monks” https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/14/medieval-monastic-orders-part-i/

Cloister – the enclosed area with a walk all the way round its perimeter at the heart of a monastic house.

Cluniac – monastic order. In total there were 32 cluniac houses in England. They were alien priories because they were all daughter houses to the mother house at Cluny.

Compline The last of the canonical hours laid out by the Rule of Benedict. The canonical hours are also referred to as Divine Office.

Conduit Water supply, either a spring (as at Mount Grace) or a large raised tank in the conduit house.

Corrodian – lay person who paid the monastic house a sum of capital in order to live in the monastic house, all inclusive, until their death.

Cowl – A long cloak with an attached hood.

Crypt – chamber below floor level – in a church contains graves or holy relics.

Daughter house – As monastic houses received endowments they wanted to expand the number of houses so they would send a group of monks or nuns to another part of the country to develop a house. The original house was the mother house, the dependent house the daughter house and over the passage of time there were even grand daughter houses.

Day room – place where monks and nuns went during their times of recreation.

Day Stair – the way that the monastic inhabitants got from their dormitories to the cloister. Lay brothers and sisters had their own wings that mirrored those of the monks and nuns.

Dorter or dormitory – sleeping quarters

Double orders – foundations which included both men and women in their monastic houses. The only time the two groups came together was during worship.

Drying Room – most associated with Cistercians who provided a room for the lay brothers to dry out after a day working.

Foundation – 12 monastics plus their superior were required to found a monastic house. They would also require the funds to survive and to build a monastic house. This was provided by the founder.

Frater or refectory – dining room.

Friars – rather than living in enclosed houses this group of religious orders travelled around the country begging and preaching. https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/16/monastic-orders-part-3-friars/

Grange– a manor or farm that sent all its proceeds to the monastic house that owned it and whose organisation was dependent on the monastic house for instructions as to what to do.

Guest-house hospitality was an underpinning requirement of the Rule of Benedict.

Habit – religious attire

Hours – canonical hours

Infirmarer -responsible for the preparation of medicines and tonics as well as the care of patients in the infirmary. Infirmaries are also called farmeries.

Lady Chapel – chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary

Lay brother and lay sister – monastic servants who said some divine offices but who had permission to say the rest of the offices where they worked. Their accommodation mirrored that of the “choir” monks and nuns but in a separate wing – usually the western range associated with the practical administration of the monastic house. Lay brothers are also sometimes described as conversi.

Laver/lavabo – washing trough

Library– does what it says on the tin.

Mendicant – monastics who beg for their livings.

Military orders https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/06/17/monastic-orders-part-4-the-military-orders/

Misericord – perch to rest upon during long religious services. Found in the choir stalls. The choir or quire is the part of the church between the nave and presbytery where the monks and nuns would have their services.

Night Stair – access from the dorter to the church for night offices – mattins and lauds – these two services are sometimes called the Nocturns. Hexham has a very fine example.

Novice Master– monastic responsible for the care, tuition and discipline of novices who had not yet taken their final vows. Novices served a probationary period before taking their vows.

Oblate – child given by its parents to religious life.

Officers – also called Obedientiaries– monastics who held offices for the running of the monastery; either its spiritual life or its working life e.g. cellarer.

Parlour – room where monks and nuns could meet and speak.

Pittance – a food treat given in addition to standard monastic rations usually to celebrate a liturgical feast day.

Porter – door keeper.

Precinct – area around the abbey belonging to the abbey. Usually enclosed by a wall.

Prior – second in command to the abbot in Benedictine houses; where the monastic foundation was a daughter house the prior was the person responsible for the house reporting back to the abbot in the mother house. Some orders did not have abbots, so the prior was the superior.

Priory – smaller than an abbey usually a daughter house. All Austin Canons lived in priories, so it also depends on the order who lived there!

Sacristry – room for storing sacred vessels cared for by the sacrist.

Warming-house – room with a fire where monastics could warm themselves.