The Monastery

A monastery was a structure where people lived and worshiped, devoting their time and life to God. The people who lived in the monastery were called monks. The monastery was self-contained, providing all its own needs such as clothing and food. The monks had no need for the outside world. They were isolated and focused on God. There were medieval monasteries throughout Europe. Sometimes monasteries owned a lot of land and were wealthy from the tithes of the local people. Each monastery had an open area called a cloister.

The monks in the monasteries were literate, and they provided education to others. The monks wrote books and recorded events. These books remain a primary source of information about the Middle Ages.

The monks played an important part in the community. Monasteries served as an inn for travelers. They fed the poor, tended the sick, and provided education to boys in the local community.

Monks spent most of the day in silence praying, reading the Bible, and meditating. The rest of the day they did chores around the monastery. Monks had different jobs. Some farmed the land. Others washed the clothes, cooked the food, or made repairs around the monastery. Some monks were scribes who copied manuscripts. Monks and nuns were the most educated people during the Middle Ages. A scribe could spend a year copying a long book like the Bible.

Here are some of the main positions in a monastery:

  • The Abbot was the head of the monastery or abbey.
  • The prior was the abbot’s deputy.
  • The lector was in charge of reading the lessons in church.
  • The cantor led the monk's choir.
  • The sacrist was in charge of the books.

When monks entered the order, they took vows to dedicate their life to the monastery and the order of monks. They gave up worldly goods for a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

There were many orders of monks differing in how strict their rules were. The main orders in Medieval Europe were the Benedictines, the Carthusians, and the Cistercians.

Source: The Monastery
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