English Monasteries, by Alexander Hamilton Thompson

Saint Mary's Abbey, York, England, crossing, north transept, and north aisle of navePREFACE

In view of the growth of interest in medieval history and art, so conspicuous of late years, it is thought that this small volume may meet the needs of those who desire to know something about one of the most interesting sides of the life of the middle ages. There is no dearth of literature relating to monasteries, and the general facts of monastic history are accessible to the ordinary student in various handbooks. Monographs, however, which describe the plans of monasteries and the position and use of the principal buildings, exist for the most part in forms which are more difficult of access. Special attention has therefore been paid in the present case to the question of plan, and it is hoped that visitors to the remains of our English religious houses, who wish to gain some co-ordinate idea of their various parts, may find some help from this manual.

The writer desires to acknowledge gratefully the assistance of his wife, who is responsible for the plans and illustrations. The master of Emmanuel, the general editor of the series, has kindly read through the proofs and furnished valuable suggestions. The book has also had the great advantage of perusal and criticism by Mr W. H. Saint John Hope, Litt.D., D.C.L., to whose kindness and learning the writer is deeply indebted. Some idea of what students of English monastic life owe to Mr Hope may be gained from the bibliography at the end of this volume. Thanks are also due to the editors of the Archaeological Journal for permission to found the plan of Haughmond abbey (p. 114) on that by Mr H. Brakspear, F.S.A., in Archaeological Journal, volume 66.

– Alexander Hamilton Thompson, 12 April 1913

CHAPTER I – THE RELIGIOUS ORDERS

A monastery is a community of men or women, devoted to the service of God and obeying a fixed rule. Monastic rules of life varied in strictness and in detail; while each community supplemented the rule of its order by its own code of observances. The object, however, of these different rules and codes was one. The general term for the monastic life was ‘religion’ (religio): the ‘religious’ (religiosus) was bound by three vows, to poverty against the deceits of the world, to chastity against the lusts of the flesh, to obedience against the snares of the devil. His chief duty was to take part with his brethren in the recitation of the canonical hours, and in the celebration of daily masses. A portion of his day was set apart for meditation in the cloister; but his surplus time was devoted to labour. The business affairs of a monastery brought some religious into touch with the practical side of life. Others found their vocation in manual labour in the fields or workshops; while a certain number devoted themselves to literary work in the cloister.

The rule of Saint Benedict, on which western monachism was founded, distinguishes between four classes of religious. Of these the two principal were cenobites, monks living in a community (coenobium) under rule, and the anchorites, who have departed (??a???e??) from the world to live a solitary life of prayer. These were the sources of the two main streams of Christian monachism. Naturally, the anchorite came first into existence. The cenobite followed, by the combination of anchorites in monasteries. The development of the coenobium was gradual. About 305 a.d., Saint Anthony inaugurated the ‘lauras’ (?a??a?) of northern Egypt, monasteries in which each anchorite lived in his separate cell and met for common services only on Saturday and Sunday. A few years later Saint Pachomius founded his first coenobium at Tabennisi in southern Egypt. Here the social principle was more fully organised: common services in church were more frequent and labour was recognised as a factor in the monastic life; but the monks still lived separately. A further step was taken by Saint Basil, who about 360 founded a coenobium near Neocaesarea. His rule introduced the idea of common life under one roof. It became the basis of the monastic system of the eastern Church, and its principles had a lasting effect on the monastic life of western Europe.

The influence of the monachism of the east naturally spread westward. No general rule of life was followed at first. Each collection of monks was governed by its own special observances, aiming generally at the ascetic ideal of separation from the world pursued by the early anchorites. Monachism, however, was a powerful agent in the Christianising of the west. Each monastery under its abbot or father became a training-ground for monk-bishops who ruled dioceses in new monastic centres of missionary effort. The beginnings of organised monachism in Ireland may be traced to the monastery of Lerins, on an island near Cannes, where Saint Patrick received his training. The success of Irish monasticism soon reacted upon Gaul and Italy, when Saint Columban founded the monasteries of Luxeuil and Bobbio upon a rule derived from Irish practice. About the same time Saint Columba at Iona established the vogue of the Irish system in northern Britain.

Meanwhile, a new development of the principle arose. Saint Benedict, a native of Norcia near Spoleto, retired about the beginning of the sixth century to a hermitage at Subiaco. Here he attracted a number of followers, and several monasteries arose in the neighbourhood under his direction. It was for the monastery of Monte Cassino, which he ruled for some thirty years, that he composed the rule which became the law of the monastic life of western Europe. The success and the general adoption of the rule of Monte Cassino in the west were due to the statesmanship with which its injunctions were adapted to climate and physical capacity. The Benedictine monk entered upon a life of work and prayer, which needed the habitual exercise of self-control; but his bodily health ran no risk of being ruined by pious excess. Isolated devotion was superseded by religious life in a common church and cloister. This was the end to which Pachomius and Basil had contributed; but the mystical temperament of the east fostered a contemplative and ascetic tendency which modified the conception of a common life of uniform duty. The early monasteries of Gaul, such as that of Saint Martin at Tours, followed the model of the laura rather than the coenobium; and the separate cell and the practice of self-imposed austerities seem to have been general in early Celtic monasteries. The voluntary hardships of Saint Cuthbert in his cell on the Farne islands, the prayers and visions of the Saxon Guthlac at Croyland, were western survivals of the ideals of Saint Anthony and Saint Simeon Stylites. Saint Benedict, on the contrary, while casting no reflexions on a life which he himself had at first adopted, recommended to the aspirant for salvation no heroic tasks of prayer and fasting. His aim was the growth in grace of a brotherhood, living under a common rule in obedience to an abbot to whom considerable discretion was given. The natural tendency of the solitary life was to produce an emulation in religious endeavour; and monasteries which were little more than collections of anchorites were liable to the decay consequent upon the rivalry of their inmates. Saint Benedict enjoined emulation in good works among his monks; but their emulation had its root in humility and obedience, and its outward sign was a mutual deference far removed from spiritual pride. There can be little wonder that a rule, difficult but possible to follow, and allowing for individual weakness, spread far outside the community for which it was made, and that the Benedictine order by the end of the seventh century supplanted all other forms of monasticism in western Europe.

The rule of Saint Benedict was introduced into England by Saint Augustine, prior of the monastery on the Coelian hill in Rome. At this time the chief strength of Celtic monachism was naturally in the north, although it had penetrated southwards to such isolated outposts as Glastonbury. Gradually Roman customs gained ground in the strongholds of Celtic Christianity. The grant of the monastery of Ripon to Wilfrid was followed by the departure of the Scottish monks. Little is definitely known of English monastic life at this period, but it is clear that it began to approximate more closely to the Benedictine model. Thus the nuns of Hackness, an offshoot of the monastery of Whitby, had a common dormitory; while the monasteries of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow differed in many respects from the local pattern, and were certainly established upon a principle of common life. In certain features a compromise seems to have been arrived at, as in the survival of the custom, which had probably been introduced by Irish missionaries, of grouping monks and nuns in one monastery under the presidency of an abbess. The most famous instance of this was the abbey of Whitby, but other examples are known in various parts of England remote from each other. For a few of these models may have been found in Gaul, where the Benedictine rule was not introduced until a period later than the coming of Augustine. Another feature was the establishment of bishops’ sees in monasteries. In European countries where the traditions of the Roman occupation were more or less continuous, the cathedral within the city was a distinct foundation from the monasteries which, as at Paris or Rouen, rose at a later date outside the walls. But the Celtic missionaries in England broke new ground in a country from which the traces of Roman Christianity had almost disappeared, and their sees were founded in monasteries. This custom was followed in the natural order of things by Augustine at Canterbury. In the reorganisation of dioceses after the Norman conquest it was still continued. In eight of the seventeen medieval dioceses of England the cathedral, and in two others one of the two cathedrals, was a monastic church.

The Danish invasions brought extinction to the monastic life in the greater part of England. It was not until about a hundred years later that it was revived. Odo, archbishop of Canterbury 942-59, prepared the way for the movement. Its success was achieved under his successor, Saint Dunstan, with the co-operation of Edgar the peaceful. Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester, and Oswald, archbishop of York, were its most active promoters. Both were disciples of the reformed Benedictine rule which, early in the tenth century, had begun to spread from the abbey of Cluny. The abbey of Fleury or Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, which, after the sack of Monte Cassino by the Lombards in 660, had become the resting-place of the body of Saint Benedict, was reformed under Cluniac influence. Oswald studied the Benedictine rule at Fleury. Made bishop of Worcester in 961, he was active in replacing the secular clergy of the churches of his diocese by monks. At Evesham, Pershore, Winchcombe, Worcester and elsewhere, Benedictine monks were introduced. In 971 Oswald aided Aelfwine, an East Anglian nobleman, to found the monastery of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, and a few years later he and Ethelwold persuaded Abbo of Fleury to visit England and help them in extending the religious life. Ethelwold was equally active at Winchester, and, under a charter from king Edgar, restored destroyed monasteries throughout the country, including Ely and Peterborough. Dunstan, the reformer of Glastonbury, gave active sympathy to the movement, but was more cautious in his attitude to the secular clergy; and it is noteworthy that the reform did not at once extend to his cathedral church at Canterbury.

This glorious period in the history of English monasticism closed with the disasters of the early part of the eleventh century. Canute and Edward the Confessor favoured and enriched many religious houses, and Edward, by his foundation of the abbey of Westminster, takes a foremost place among benefactors of the religious life in England. But, during this disturbed epoch, few new monasteries were founded, and the tendency to slackness in observance of the rule again appeared. The permanent triumph of monasticism was achieved after the Norman conquest. The Conqueror and his followers sought the salvation of their souls by the foundation of abbeys and priories on their new estates. The victory of Hastings was marked by the foundation of the abbey of Battle, the first of the long series of Norman monasteries in England. In the work of organisation ecclesiastics from the great abbeys of Normandy took, as was natural, the chief part. Two successive archbishops of Canterbury, Lanfranc, formerly a monk of Bec and abbot of Saint Stephen’s at Caen, and Anselm, formerly abbot of Bec, were instrumental in giving the Benedictine order in England its pre-eminence under the early Norman kings.

The Benedictine monasteries in England were colonised, or, where they were older than the conquest, received new blood from the monasteries of Normandy and France. We have seen that the rule of Saint Benedict was made for a special monastery: the order was a collection of independent houses which found the rule suitable to their needs. Thus each of the larger English Benedictine monasteries was a separate community, under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop, from whose visitations some powerful abbeys, such as Saint Albans, Evesham and Westminster, eventually obtained exemption. It was also subject to the visitation of two abbots, chosen annually by a general chapter of heads of English houses. The ruler of the monastery was the abbot: under him was his deputy, the prior, on whom a large part of the direct oversight of the house devolved. Where, as at Durham, the church of the monastery was also the cathedral of the diocese, the bishop was nominally abbot, but the actual ruler of the house was the prior; and to such houses the name of cathedral priory was given. The larger houses, however, frequently founded off-shoots on distant portions of their property, which were governed by priors appointed by the mother house, and were known as priories or cells. Although some of them became important houses, they were at first part and parcel of the mother house, and many continued to be so throughout the middle ages. Thus Saint Martin’s at Dover was a priory of Christ Church, Canterbury, and Tynemouth in Northumberland was a priory of Saint Albans.

There were also certain priories founded in subordination to foreign houses. Thus Bec had a priory at Saint Neots in Huntingdonshire; the abbey of Mont-Ste-Cathérine at Rouen had one at Blyth in Nottinghamshire. Both these houses contained several monks: in the thirteenth century there were fourteen at Blyth, all probably foreigners, and many of them sent from the parent house for a change of air. But there were also a large number of monastic possessions known as priories, which were not strictly conventual, but were simply manors in the possession of alien monasteries, on which a prior or custos, sent from the mother abbey with another monk as his socius, resided for a portion of the year, practically as estate agent. Sometimes he was allowed, as at Ecclesfield in Yorkshire, a priory of Saint-Wandrille, to serve the cure of the parish church; but this was not common. Where these small ‘alien priories’ are known to have existed, we need not expect to find any trace of monastic arrangements in the parish church. Still less need we look for traces of a cloister. During the hundred years’ war with France, the alien priories were repeatedly confiscated by the Crown, and before their final confiscation in 1414 many had been granted to English charterhouses, chantry colleges, and similar foundations. Conventual priories, such as Blyth and Saint Neots, were continued as independent monasteries under English priors.

The popularity and wealth of the Benedictine order naturally led in many monasteries to relaxation of the rule. From time to time monks who felt the necessity of closer communion with God and a stricter life sought their need in the foundation of new houses under a more severe form of their rule. The first important move in this direction was made in the abbey of Cluny, from which, founded in 910, proceeded the monastic reform of the tenth century. Saint Berno, the first abbot, died in 927. One essential point distinguished Cluniac monasteries from Benedictine. Each Benedictine abbot was the president of his own republic. The Cluniac houses, on the other hand, were priories directly under the supervision of the abbot of Cluny, the autocrat of the order. They were exempt from episcopal visitation, and the abbot, holding his general chapters at Cluny, was responsible to the pope alone. In England their chief house was the priory of Saint Pancras at Lewes, founded in 1077 by William de Warenne for a prior and twelve monks: the prior of Lewes took second rank among Cluniac priors. Of some thirty-two English houses of the order several were cells of the larger priories, and at the general chapter would be represented by the priors of their parent monasteries. Owing to the dependence of the order upon Cluny, its English priories shared confiscation with the other alien foundations. They were allowed to continue, however, as ‘denizen’ houses with English priors, and the priory of Saint Saviour at Bermondsey was raised to the dignity of an abbey. Of ruins of Cluniac priories in England, the most complete are at Wenlock in Shropshire and Castle Acre in Norfolk. The plans of Lewes and Thetford priories have been recovered from foundations and fragments, and there are substantial remains at Bromholm in Norfolk.

The Carthusian order was founded by Saint Bruno at the Grande-Chartreuse near Grenoble in 1086. Its members were vowed to fasting and the solitary life. Each had his separate cell, the monastery being composed of one or more courts, round which these dwellings were arranged. The brethren met in church for the night-office, mass, and vespers: the lesser hours were said, and meals, save on certain days, were taken by each monk separately. The order thus was a revolt against the common life, and a return to the anchoritic ideal. In England only two houses, Witham (c. 1179-81) and Hinton (c. 1227), both in Somerset, were founded before the middle of the fourteenth century. The remaining seven were all founded after 1340. The royal foundation of Shene priory in Surrey (1414) was the latest and wealthiest of all. In England the word Chartreuse (Certosa in Italian) took the form Charterhouse. Considerable remains of charterhouses exist at Beauvale in Nottinghamshire (founded 1343), in London (founded 1371) and at Hinton; but the most complete idea of a Carthusian priory may be gained from the ruins of Mount Grace in Yorkshire (founded 1396).

One of the many off-shoots of the Benedictine order was a congregation of monks and lay brothers founded in 1114 in the diocese of Chartres. The name of Thiron (Tiro) was given to the abbey from the tirones or apprentices whom the founder united there, to pursue their trades in the service of God. Closely akin to this was the abbey of Savigny in the diocese of Avranches, founded in 1112, which between that date and 1147 planted some thirteen houses in England and Wales. When the order of Savigny was merged about 1147 in that of Cîteaux, its monasteries were said to belong to the Tironensian order. This, however, was not because of any definite affiliation to Thiron, but on account of similarity of observances between the two congregations. English Tironensian houses, such as Humberston abbey in Lincolnshire, became identical with the ordinary Benedictine monasteries, although a nominal distinction was recognised. Important remains of a Tironensian house exist at Caldey, a priory of Saint Dogmaels, on an island near Tenby. Such Savigniac houses as Buildwas and Furness became famous as Cistercian monasteries. Neither of these congregations possessed the organising capacity which the founders of the Cistercian order brought to their work. The same may be said of the Grandimontine order, founded in 1046 at Grandmont in the diocese of Limoges, which during the twelfth century founded three small priories in England.

The Cistercian order took its name from the abbey of Cîteaux in Burgundy, which was founded in 1098 by Robert, abbot of the Benedictine house of Molesme. His monks aimed at a literal observance of the rule of Saint Benedict on the most austere lines. Meat was banished from their meals: their buildings followed simple laws of construction and were free from ornament. The real founders of the order were Stephen Harding, an Englishman, who became abbot of Cîteaux in 1109, and his disciple Saint Bernard, who in 1115 became abbot of the first daughter house, Clairvaux. Largely owing to the energy of Saint Bernard, the order spread with extraordinary rapidity. When Waverley abbey, its first English house, was founded in 1128, it possessed more than thirty houses. In 1152 an order forbade the foundation of new abbeys; there were then fifty houses in England and Wales out of 339. In spite of this prohibition, the number in the thirteenth century exceeded 600. In all, the houses of the order in England and Wales numbered 75, some of which possessed cells.

Cîteaux, like Cluny, stood at the head of a federation of religious houses exempt from episcopal authority. These houses, however, were ruled by their own abbots, not by priors dependent on the abbot of Cîteaux; and thus the Cistercian abbeys were saved from the difficulties which befell the Cluniac in common with other alien houses. The Charter of Charity, drawn up in 1119, regulated the growth of the order and the relations between its monasteries. When the numbers of any house grew too large, it might, with the consent of the annual chapter at Cîteaux, send out at least twelve brethren, with a thirteenth as abbot, to found a new monastery. Thus Waverley was colonised from the abbey of L’Aumône in Normandy. Fountains, founded in 1132 and augmented from Clairvaux in 1134 or 1135, sent out colonies to Newminster in Northumberland (1138), Louth Park in Lincolnshire (1139), Woburn in Bedfordshire (1145) and Lysa in Norway (1146). The right of visitation of Cistercian houses belonged to the abbots of their parent monasteries: the abbot of Cîteaux was visitor of Clairvaux, the abbot of Clairvaux visitor of Fountains, and so on; while Cîteaux itself was visited by the abbots of Clairvaux and its three other eldest daughters. Monasteries thus founded were to be in places remote from the conversation of men. Such names as Vaudey (Vallis Dei) and Valle Crucis mark the favourite site of such abbeys in secluded valleys: it was seldom that the rule was transgressed, as in the case of Saint Mary Graces near the tower of London. The churches were dedicated in honour of our Lady: stone bell-towers were forbidden as well as wooden towers of excessive height, the windows were filled with plain glass, all paintings were prohibited save painted wooden crucifixes, and vestments and other ornaments were of the plainest kind compatible with dignity. All workshops, stables, etc. were within the abbey precincts, and precautions were taken against the growth of any colony of lay-folk near the monastery by the order that any house built outside the precinct wall was to be pulled down. A similar precaution regulated the establishment of the abbey farms or granges at a specified minimum distance from each other. Temporary guests were admitted under special conditions; but, after the dedication of the church and its octave were over, the presence of women within the precinct was forbidden.

One point in the Cistercian rule, which arose from this self-contained ideal and had an important influence upon the planning of Cistercian buildings, was the division of the brethren of each abbey into monks (monachi) and lay brothers (conversi)1. The Cistercian monk was a clerk who could read and write. Like a Benedictine monk, he was not necessarily a priest, although it became very general for monks to proceed to priest’s orders. His duties lay in the church and cloister, and, unless he held an office such as that of cellarer or kitchener, he was not immediately concerned with the business affairs of his convent. These, which in Benedictine houses were largely transacted by tenants or hired labourers and servants, were performed in Cistercian houses by the conversi. A conversus was a layman who had turned from the service of the world to that of God. He entered the convent as a novice and in due course made his profession. He was precluded from learning to read or write and from taking holy orders. He was taught a few prayers and psalms by heart, but his business was manual labour in the convent workshops, or in its fields and granges. On ordinary work-days he had to attend part of the night-office and, if he was not stationed in a grange, had to come to compline. He observed the other hours by the recitation of special prayers at his work. His life was regulated by statutes which in respect of abstinence, silence and other similar essentials resembled those of the monks. The conversi had their own separate common rooms in the cloister buildings, their own quire in the church and their own infirmary. They rose at an hour which was specially calculated to allow them enough sleep before their day’s work: their chapter was held by the abbot only on Sundays and certain feast-days. Thus the convent was provided with all the workmen whom it needed. Some conversi were deputed to live upon the convent granges, each of which had a conversus as prior. The white frocks and cowls of the monks gave the Cistercians their distinctive name of white monks as opposed to the Benedictines or black monks: the dress of the conversus was a cloak (cappa), tunic, stockings (caligae), boots (pedules) and a hood (capucium) covering only the shoulders and breast2.

The monastic movement was not in the first instance a clerical movement, nor can the earliest founders have contemplated that their convents would include more than a few priests for the ministration of the Sacraments. But the ideal of the regular life as pursued in the monasteries attracted clergy as well as laymen. As early as 391, Saint Augustine established communities of regular clergy in Africa. In the later years of the eighth century, Chrodegand, bishop of Metz, introduced a rule of life, founded upon that of Saint Benedict, among the clergy of his cathedral, which was copied by other similar congregations of clergy. From this adoption of a rule (canon, ?????) the members of such bodies became known as canons, and the bodies themselves, meeting in chapter-houses, where, as in monasteries, a chapter (capitulum) of the rule was read daily, took the name of chapters (capitula). The main object of the movement was the daily recitation of the canonical hours: the canons had their meals in common, and in some cases had a common dorter or dormitory. The tendency during the ninth and tenth centuries seems to have been for canons to establish their separate households in the neighbourhood of the church which they served. A marked distinction arose between the monks of cathedral priories such as Canterbury and the secular canons who served such churches as the cathedral of York. In the secular chapters the recitation of the hours was maintained and certain common funds were administered; but each canon had his own separate estate, a church or manor known as a prebend (prebenda), and the richer prebends became the perquisites of clerks in constant attendance upon the king or upon some bishop or nobleman. The number of resident canons was very small, and the duties of absentees were taken by their vicars (vicarii) or deputies. Colleges of chantry-priests, usually of late foundation, were organised as similar associations of secular clergy, who were bound, however, from the nature of their duties to continual residence. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge had a similar basis. They were associations of clergy for teaching and study, with a common hall and church, and are therefore derived from a source distinct from the monastic movement.

Bodies of canons regular, however, came into existence, distinct from the chapters of canons secular, living in monasteries, reciting the canonical hours, and leading the common life of monks. Their rule was modelled on an adaptation of a letter from Saint Augustine of Hippo to a congregation of religious women. It was shorter and couched in more general terms than the rule of Saint Benedict; but its aim was similar. Its followers became known as Augustinian or Austin canons. From their hooded black cloaks with white surplices and black cassocks beneath, they were often called black canons. The order did not appear in England until about 1106, when the priory of Saint Botolph at Colchester was founded by a Benedictine monk named Ernulf; nor did the papacy definitely recognise the order until 1139, when its houses were already numerous. The number of English Augustinian houses at its highest point reached 218, and of these 138 were founded before 1175. At the suppression of the monasteries there were about 170 Augustinian houses, while of Benedictine houses there were from 130 to 140. Augustinian houses varied greatly in size and wealth, and at no time did their wealthier abbeys approach the immense revenues of the greater Benedictine houses; while their average income was very moderate. Each house was governed by a ‘prelate,’ generally known as the prior, but in some 24 cases as the abbot. Most of their abbeys were in the midland districts: in Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Norfolk, where their houses were numerous, the title of prior was universal. In 1133 one of their convents, Carlisle, was raised to the dignity of a cathedral priory. Their growth was analogous to that of the Benedictines: each house with its cells was an independent community: their visitor was the diocesan bishop, and very few of their houses became permanently exempt from visitation. The order also held its general chapters, at which two visitors were appointed yearly for each of the provinces into which its houses were divided.

The order of Premonstratensians, known from their white habit as white canons, was founded by Saint Norbert at Prémontré, to the west of Laon, about 1120. The canons followed the Augustinian rule in the main, but their constitution shewed a tendency to follow Cistercian models. The order was centralised under the abbot of Prémontré, where the general chapters were held, and was extended by the Cistercian process of colonisation, each house sending out its body of canons as the nucleus of a new abbey. Lisques, a daughter of Prémontré, colonised Newhouse abbey in north Lincolnshire in 1143. In 1147 Newhouse founded a daughter house at Alnwick, and between that time and 1212 founded ten other abbeys. Of these Welbeck (1153) was responsible for seven more between 1175 and 1218. In all there were thirty-one abbeys of the order in England, not counting two cells. Cistercian influence can be seen in the constitution of each new house as an abbey, in the choice of secluded sites for the houses of the order, and in the principal dedication of most of its churches to our Lady. Like other centralised orders, the Premonstratensians were exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop; but the allegiance of the English canons to Prémontré gradually slackened, and the administration of their order in England was delegated in course of time to a commissary. In 1512 Julius II exempted the English houses from obedience to Prémontré and placed them under the control of the abbot of Welbeck.

The order of Prémontré originally made some provision for houses of nuns side by side with those of canons. The experiment languished, and although a body of nuns or canonesses followed the Premonstratensian rule, they had few houses. Only two are known in England, and neither of these was connected with any house of canons. But in the second quarter of the twelfth century Gilbert, rector of Sempringham in Lincolnshire, with the advice of the abbot of Rievaulx, founded a house of seven nuns following the Cistercian rule. The Cistercian order refused to take charge of the community, and Gilbert, possibly following the example of Prémontré, provided for its spiritual needs by associating with the nuns a body of canons under the rule of Saint Augustine. Gilbertine houses were thus at first regarded as nunneries in which the Sacraments were administered by an auxiliary community of at least seven canons. Minutely composed statutes provided for the seclusion of the two bodies from each other in two adjacent cloisters. In such double houses the maximum number of nuns ordained by statute was generally double that of canons: thus at Watton in Yorkshire, the largest house of the order, nominal provision was made for 140 nuns and 70 canons. The order, which was exempt from episcopal control, was placed under a general, known as the master of Sempringham. Sempringham was the mother house of a number of priories: new houses were founded on the Cistercian plan of the migration of twelve canons and a prior from one of the existing houses. Conversi and conversae formed a part of each establishment. The total number of Gilbertine houses was some 27, of which eleven were in Lincolnshire: with the exception of two houses in Wiltshire, one in Devonshire and one in Durham, the monasteries of the order were all within the four eastern dioceses of Lincoln, York, Ely and Norwich. The order never spread beyond England.

Houses of Benedictine nuns were numerous in England. The most important of these lay within the dioceses of Salisbury and Winchester. In the midlands, the east and north, where they were numerous, they were with a few exceptions small foundations of which scanty traces are left. A few priories of nuns, chiefly in the dioceses of York and Lincoln, followed the Cistercian rule. In the sixteenth century the wealthiest of the Cistercian nunneries, which as a rule were small and poor, was at Tarrant in Dorset; and it was for the three nuns who originally settled here in the thirteenth century that the famous Ancren Riwle or Regulae inclusarum were composed. Cistercian nunneries were not subject to Cîteaux, but were visited by their diocesan bishop. Houses of nuns or canonesses following the rule of Saint Augustine were few; but of their two abbeys, Burnham and Lacock, there are substantial remains. The richest nunnery at the suppression was Sion abbey in Middlesex, founded by Henry V in 1414 for Bridgetine nuns, whose rule was modelled on that of Saint Augustine. The Bridgetine order, as well as that of Fontevrault, to which Nuneaton priory in Warwickshire originally belonged, attempted to provide regular chaplains for its members by uniting a convent of men to one of women. In connexion with some of the older Benedictine nunneries there were from an early date secular chaplains who had their own prebends in the monastic estates and their stalls in quire. In process of time such prebendal stalls in the churches of Romsey, Shaftesbury, Wilton, Wherwell and Saint Mary’s, Winchester, became perquisites of clerks in the royal service, whose duties in the nunneries were performed by vicars.

After the beginning of the fourteenth century the foundation of monasteries practically ceased, although the Carthusian order at a later date enjoyed some popularity, which was enhanced by royal patronage. Religious houses no longer afforded the only career possible to those who were unfitted for the limited professions open to the medieval layman. With the growth of a well-to-do middle class came the tendency to devote benefactions which at an earlier date would have been given to monasteries to parish churches. From the reign of Edward II onwards chantries and colleges of chantry-priests in parish churches were founded in great numbers. In one respect, however, the regular life kept in touch with national progress. The orders of friars found their way to England in the thirteenth century. In 1221 Dominicans (Friars preachers or black friars) settled at Oxford: about 1224 houses of Franciscans (Friars minor or grey friars) were established at Canterbury and London: Hulne priory in Northumberland and Aylesford priory in Kent were founded for Carmelites (white friars) about 1240: Clare priory in Suffolk was founded for the order known later as Austin friars in 1248. Of the lesser orders the most important was the Trinitarian, whose most famous house was Saint Robert’s at Knaresborough. Although the general plan of a friary was similar to that of a monastery, the lives of monks and friars were totally different. The friar was a wanderer who lived on alms: his circuit was bounded by a special province, and he was not confined to the limits of a single house. The favourite places for friaries were thus the larger towns. No less than seven houses of friars were founded in Cambridge: there were six each in London and Oxford: Bristol, Lincoln, Lynn, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich, Stamford, Winchester and York contained houses of all the four chief orders. An order of nuns, known as the Poor Clares from their foundress Saint Clare, was an off-shoot of the Franciscan order, and had five houses in England. The influence gained by these new bodies served to turn popular attention from the older orders. Not merely were the friars the revivalist preachers of the age, in antagonism to the conservative spirit of the monks and secular clergy3; but the great learning of many of their leading members earned them distinction and no little weight in the universities of Europe. The moral dangers of their life, their independence of episcopal control and their unchecked influence among the common people brought about an early decline from the ideals of their founders; but their achievements during the first century of their existence are one of the most remarkable episodes in religious history.

Although monks and canons were bound to individual poverty and all who attempted to accumulate a private store of money were liable to punishment, the greater monasteries were large landowning corporations. Their early benefactors bestowed gifts of manors and churches upon them for which they were bound in return to the sole service of praying for the souls of the donors. Such alienations were regulated by the statute of mortmain (1279). Benefactions continued under the procedure established by this act, and the monasteries thus became owners of a very large number of parish churches. The custom of appropriation and its effects on the fabrics of parish churches has been stated in another volume of this series. The constant plea for appropriation was founded on the insufficiency of the funds of a monastery to fulfil its duty of hospitality to wayfarers and of relief to the poor. In churches of which monks were proprietors, the vicar was a resident secular priest. Monks were not allowed, save in very exceptional cases, to serve the cures of parishes, which would have interfered with their duties in quire and cloister. Wherever we find it stated in print that an incumbent of a parish church or chantry was a monk, we should hesitate to believe it without consulting the original record of his institution. Canons, on the other hand, whose orders began in the association of secular priests under a rule, were given more licence in this respect. Premonstratensian canons were generally allowed to serve the parish churches belonging to their houses; and bishops granted similar licences, though not without demur, to Austin canons. It is sometimes stated that the object of the Augustinian order was to supply parochial clergy to churches on their estates. If this was so, the custom was severely checked in the thirteenth century; and, when in the later middle ages the number of appropriated churches served by Austin canons considerably increased, the quire services in their monastic churches suffered to an extent which was never contemplated by their founders.

The position of monasteries as landowners naturally led to some slackening of the rule. Abbots and priors of the larger houses took their place among the spiritual barons of the realm. From the fourteenth century to the suppression twenty-four Benedictine and three Augustinian abbots, with the prior of Coventry and the English prior of the knights hospitallers, had a prescriptive right to seats in parliament. These are sometimes confounded with ‘mitred’ abbots: the right, however, of an abbot or prior to wear episcopal insignia depended, not upon a parliamentary summons, but upon a privilege granted by the pope. In addition to the extra-monastic duties thus incumbent upon certain heads of houses, the care of large estates took many of the brethren away from constant attendance in their house. When bishop Alnwick of Lincoln visited Peterborough abbey in 1437, he found that out of 44 monks there were seldom on ordinary days more than ten or twelve at any service in church. The obedientiaries or officers who looked after the chief departments of the convent came to church only on great festivals: some monks lived upon the abbey granges: every week at least seven were on furlough for blood-letting: two were at their studies at Oxford: several were old and infirm and could not attend service regularly. The somewhat trite remark of the cellarer at Leicester in 1440 that ‘abundance of money is the cause of many evils’ is justified over and over again in the records of episcopal visitations. In spite, however, of their wealth, even the richest houses, as a rule, were beset by money difficulties. Their expenses were great: hospitality and the daily alms were a serious drain on income: pensions and corrodies or shares in the common revenue were too liberally granted to outsiders: there was much necessary outlay on property: young monks had sometimes to be maintained in hostels belonging to monasteries at the universities: an ambitious abbot might run his house into extravagant expense on buildings: episcopal visitations meant a large fee to the bishop and expense upon his entertainment. The improvidence of officers, joined with the damage caused to property by pestilence and storm, constantly reduced monasteries to a state of bankruptcy. The heavy debts of monasteries, their insufficient assets, the irregularity with which accounts were rendered, and the consequent decay of discipline are abundantly illustrated in the registers of fourteenth and fifteenth-century bishops and in the patent rolls of the reigns of Henry V and Henry VI.

‘Decem sunt abusiones claustralium,’ runs an inscription upon the quire-stalls of Saint Agatha’s abbey, now in Richmond church, ‘The abuses of those in cloister are ten: costly living, choice food, noise in cloister, strife in chapter, disorder in quire, a neglectful disciple, a disobedient youth, a lazy old man, a headstrong monk, a worldly religious.’ The actual evidence of documents, when compared with the counsels of perfection in the rules of orders and the custom-books of monasteries, supplies a commentary on this text which applies to every century from the thirteenth to the sixteenth. It must also be owned that grave moral offences were not uncommon. Where slackness of rule was prevalent, temptations of this kind must have abounded, and convents which had the misfortune to possess an unworthy or lazy head were liable to succumb to them. Such weaknesses, however, are just those on which satirists lay excessive emphasis and to which scandal lends a too ready ear. The evidence of episcopal visitations, while it discloses much that is repellent to our ideal of the religious life, seldom proves that moral corruption was general in any given monastery, or that individual backslidings went without punishment. Cases of immorality, though not few, are generally treated with an individual prominence which would be impossible, if a whole monastery were implicated in them. This fact must be laid against the credence which is still sometimes given to the so-called comperta of Henry VIII’s commissioners, the trustworthiness of which is now rightly discredited. Bishops like Alnwick would spend months of hard work in visitations and several days, if necessary, on the impartial examination of the evidence for a single crime, while such commissioners as Dr Layton rushed at full speed through the monasteries committed to their inquiry, with prejudices already formed and with the most casual examination of witnesses, enforcing resignations of abbots and extorting confessions and bribes from frightened monks and nuns, with the closely allied objects of bringing the revenues of the houses to the royal exchequer and of earning grants of prebends and deaneries for themselves.

There can be no doubt, however, that during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the life of monks and canons regular became generally more lax and easy, while the numbers of those who embraced the monastic life decreased. In the twelfth century the monasteries had been full to overflowing: each newly-founded house was a sign that the parent monastery had no more room. In the middle of the thirteenth century the numbers were still large but not unwieldy. Such numbers as we have indicate that the monasteries were kept up to the complement of inmates required by their statutes, but that there was no general increase. In Cistercian abbeys the number of conversi swelled the total of inmates: at Louth Park during the same period there were 66 monks, while the conversi numbered 1504. Such numbers, however, decreased greatly within the next hundred years. In 1349, the year of the great pestilence, there were 42 monks at Meaux, but only seven conversi: 32 monks and all the conversi died. The pestilence worked similar havoc in other houses. In the small nunnery of Wothorpe, near Stamford, only one nun was left: Greenfield priory in Lincolnshire remained without a head for three months. There can be little doubt that the religious houses as a whole never recovered from the pestilence: there were not enough recruits from outside to compensate for the sudden decrease in numbers. Alnwick’s visitations in the middle of the fifteenth century shew that the monasteries of his diocese were far from full. Later visitations in the diocese of Norwich strengthen the conclusion that even in important houses like the cathedral priory of Norwich a number of from 40 to 50 monks was exceptionally large. In 1492 there were only 17 canons in the wealthy priory of Walsingham. In the largest Premonstratensian houses, during the last quarter of the fifteenth century the numbers seldom exceeded 25. The distinction between the various orders was no longer clearly marked. After 1349 conversi ceased to form a part of most Cistercian monasteries. Within the next fifty years they disappeared altogether, and the monks, like the Benedictines, administered their estates by hired labour. At the suppression of the monasteries the number of monks at Furness, where the accommodation was unusually large, was only 30. In Bury Saint Edmunds, one of the largest Benedictine abbeys, there were about 60.

The decline in numbers after 1349 would inevitably tend to the extinction of small and poor houses. A few nunneries, such as Wothorpe, were amalgamated with larger foundations. Various causes also led to the suppression of small monasteries. An example had been set as early as 1312 by the extermination of the military order of knights Templars, whose rule was founded upon the Cistercian Carta Caritatis. Their lands in great part went to enrich the order of knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, whose property at the general suppression was very large. During the French wars, as we have seen, the smaller possessions of foreign abbeys were gradually appropriated to other religious foundations. Alien priories also formed a large portion of the possessions of Eton and King’s college, Cambridge. For the purposes of later colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, this example was followed in the suppression of small English houses: Jesus college at Cambridge in 1497 entered upon the buildings and possessions of the nunnery of Saint Radegund. Wolsey founded Christ Church at Oxford in place of the priory of Saint Frideswide, and obtained the suppression of several small monasteries for the endowment of his colleges at Oxford and Ipswich. To Wolsey indeed the beginning of the general suppression may be fairly attributed. His measures, however, had reform for their end. Later acts of suppression were prompted by far different causes. Yet not even the financial advantages of the step could lead to the destruction of the monasteries at one blow. The act of 1536 put in the king’s hands only those houses whose revenues were under £200 a year, and of these thirty-two, against which even the commissioners could find no evidence, were refounded. Such an act naturally produced serious economic changes: the ringleaders of the subsequent northern rebellion complained of the damage incurred by the poor from the loss of convent alms. The Pilgrimage of Grace brought disaster to the abbeys which had lent it support. Other houses made terms with the king by surrendering their possessions: the rest fell in consequence of the act of 1539, which extended the provisions of 1536 to all the surviving foundations. It may be granted that the dissolution of the monasteries was inevitable. But for their arbitrary seizure by the state there was only the shadow of a legitimate reason, and the motives of the suppression are exposed by the traffic in their property which followed. Pensions were granted to monks and canons from the exchequer; but the bulk of monastic property went to enrich private owners for the temporary relief of the extravagance of the Crown.

Many monasteries were entirely ruined after the suppression, and of about a third of the number no vestige is left. Of rather less than a third there are substantial remains. In many cases, these are confined to the church, which, if it served the needs of a parish, was granted to the parishioners and partially used by them, the monastic quire being generally allowed to go into decay. More rarely, as at Christchurch priory, the whole church was retained. Secular chapters were founded in the cathedral priories, and six abbey and priory churches, including Westminster, were raised to the rank of cathedrals. Thus, allowing for the inevitable change of use to which the monastic buildings were put, at Canterbury, Chester, Durham, Ely, Gloucester, Norwich, Peterborough, Rochester, Westminster, Winchester and Worcester, the arrangements of a Benedictine monastery can be studied more or less satisfactorily, and at Bristol, Carlisle and Christ Church, Oxford, those of a house of Austin canons may be fairly well seen. Of ruined houses by far the most complete series of remains are those of the Cistercian abbeys, which, generally in remote situations, have been allowed to go to decay with little removal of material. Benedictine, Cluniac and Augustinian houses have suffered more: the remains of Benedictine houses like Reading or Saint Mary’s, York, are not complete; while of Cluniac houses Wenlock, and of Augustinian, Haughmond and Lilleshall are some of the few exceptions to the general rule of destruction. Only three Cistercian churches remain partly in use as parish churches, viz. Dore, Holme Cultram and Margam: they were converted to this use at periods later than the suppression. On the other hand, the remains of nearly half the monasteries enable us to reconstruct the life which was led in them with great completeness. Pre-eminent among these is the magnificent ruin of Fountains. Kirkstall and Tintern are hardly less complete. Beaulieu, Buildwas, Cleeve, Croxden, Ford, Furness, Jervaulx, Neath, Netley, Valle Crucis and Rievaulx have singularly perfect remains of large portions of the cloister buildings, and to these may be added several other instances where churches or other buildings remain or may be traced by foundations. Traces of most of the Premonstratensian houses are left. The most perfect is the splendid abbey of Saint Agatha at Easby near Richmond. Part of one Premonstratensian church, that of Blanchland in Northumberland, has been converted into a parish church. Of Carthusian plans, as already said, much is known, and for completeness Mount Grace priory is not far behind Fountains. One Gilbertine plan, that of Watton in Yorkshire, has been recovered by excavation. Of houses of nuns the remains are somewhat scanty, but of Benedictine foundations Saint Radegund’s priory at Cambridge, and of Augustinian houses Lacock abbey in Wiltshire deserve special mention; while the great Benedictine church of Romsey abbey remains entire. Fragments of friaries are left in many of our large towns: of their general arrangements much can be seen at the Dominican friary in Bristol and in the ruins of the Austin friary at Clare and the Carmelite friary at Hulne. The church of the Austin friars in London is still a place of worship: the quire of the Dominican friary at Brecon is the chapel of Christ college. Fragments of churches may be seen at Lynn (black friars) and Richmond (grey friars), while the church of the Dominicans at Norwich and that of the Franciscans at Chichester have been converted to secular uses. At Cambridge the colleges of Emmanuel and Sidney Sussex were founded on the sites of Dominican and Franciscan friaries. The Dominican buildings at Emmanuel were cleverly adapted to the plan of the new college, the hall of which, in spite of transformation, is substantially the church of the friary.

CHAPTER II – THE CONVENTUAL CHURCH

plan of the cathedral priory, CanterburyThe precinct of a religious house was separated from the outer world by an enclosing wall or dyke, on the line of which a gatehouse gave admission to the outer court (curia). Here were placed various offices and storehouses, and such buildings as the almonry and guest-house, in which the monastery came into necessary contact with secular affairs. The church and cloister, devoted to the religious life, occupied approximately the middle of the precinct, the cloister and its surrounding buildings being generally placed on the south side of the nave of the church. At the east end of the church was the graveyard; while outside the cloister was a collection of buildings, sometimes arranged round a court or smaller cloister, of which the chief was the infirmary. In dealing with these divisions, the church and cloister, the centre of the daily life of the monastery, must be taken first. It is necessary to remember that while the relative position of curia, cloister and infirmary buildings was almost always the same, their actual position varied according to the site of the monastery. The natural place for the curia was on the west side of the church and cloister, and in Cistercian monasteries, where the site was unencumbered by other buildings, it is usually found in this position. On the other hand, as at Durham and Worcester, where the site was longer from north to south than from east to west, the curia was on the south side of the cloister. Again, where a monastery was founded on the north side of a town, as at Canterbury, Chester and Gloucester, it was convenient that the cloister should be on the north side of the church, where seclusion and quiet were possible. Occasionally, as at Tintern, where a river ran north of the abbey, the cloister was placed on that side for purposes of drainage; while in a few instances a river on the west side of the cloister was the cause of important variations in the plan of the buildings. In one exceptional case, at Rochester, the confined nature of the site led to the building of the cloister on the south side of the eastern arm of the church.

The position of the chief buildings round the cloister was arranged upon a convenient principle, which commended itself to monks and canons alike. The chapter-house was always in the eastern range of buildings: the dormitory or dorter was nearly always on the first floor of the same range: the refectory or frater was always in the range opposite the church5. This was the usual Benedictine plan, and its dispositions, allowing for some variation, were followed by most of the religious orders. But the Cistercian order, while maintaining the relative position of the cloister buildings, developed a special type of church and plan of cloister, which were in no small degree the result of its peculiar constitution. Its claustral arrangements were peculiar to itself, but its church-plan had some effect upon the churches of other orders, particularly upon those of Premonstratensian canons. In considering the monastic church, it will be useful in the first place to take the main features of the Benedictine plan, and in the sequel, after noting the peculiarities of Cistercian churches, to observe the effect of both plans on the churches of other orders. In all monastic churches, however, the plan was governed by three common necessities. (1) A quire had to be provided for the recitation of the canonical hours by the convent. (2) A sufficient number of altars was necessary, so that brethren in holy orders might have frequent opportunities of celebrating mass. (3) Arrangements had to be made for processions, and especially for the procession before high mass on Sundays, which began and ended in the church and made the round of the claustral buildings.

The result of these common requirements was the general prevalence of the cruciform plan in churches of monks and canons. The eastern arm contained the high altar and presbytery. The quire occupied the crossing of the transepts and one or more of the eastern bays of the nave. The transepts were provided with eastern chapels, and in the transept next the cloister direct access was given to the dorter by the night-stair, which was used by the convent in going to and returning from the night office of matins and lauds. The quire was separated from the rest of the nave by a stone screen with a loft above, known as the pulpitum, a bay west of which came another screen, the rood-screen. The nave usually had north and south aisles. In the aisle-wall next the cloister were two doorways, one opening into the east, the other into the west walk of the cloister. The Sunday procession left the church by the eastern doorway, which was also the entrance used by the convent for the day offices, and returned by the western. There was frequently a tower above the crossing, and the larger churches had additional towers at the west end of the aisles. Even Cistercian churches, in defiance of the statutes, succumbed in the later middle ages to the attractions of tower-building. A tower was built above the crossing at Kirkstall and at the west end of the nave at Furness. At Fountains, after a futile attempt to build above the crossing, the tower was added to the end of the north transept.

The eastern arm of a Benedictine church was normally aisled. In the common plan of a Norman abbey church the presbytery ended in an apse, which contained the high altar, standing clear of the eastern wall, and projected a bay east of the ends of the aisles, which were internally apsidal but externally were finished off square. This plan was followed in Lanfranc’s church at Canterbury, at Durham, Peterborough, Westminster and elsewhere, and was not confined to monastic churches. In England, however, a plan was sometimes followed which was unusual in Normandy, although it is common in Romanesque churches in other parts of France. The aisles in this case were continued round the apse, so as to form a processional path behind the altar; and out of this path opened three apsidal chapels, as at Gloucester and Norwich, or five, as in the Cluniac church of Lewes, where the plan was borrowed from the parent church of Cluny. This plan was of great convenience for processions and afforded room for at least one additional altar. It was adopted in the abbey church of Saint Augustine at Canterbury, and in the rebuilding of the eastern arm of the neighbouring cathedral priory. Gloucester, Norwich and Tewkesbury are examples of its use in Benedictine churches; and it occurs in the Augustinian priory church of Saint Bartholomew, Smithfield. In these cases the processional path was retained through all later alterations, and the original arrangement is still quite clear; while the alternative and at one time more common plan has generally disappeared in England, and Peterborough is the one large church in which there are substantial remains of it above the foundations. Although the influence of Cluny upon foreign Romanesque architecture was considerable, the English Cluniac churches had no distinct plan of their own. Castle Acre, for example, followed the ordinary Norman plan as seen at Durham and Peterborough; and later developments at Castle Acre and Wenlock were carried out on models common to churches of other orders.

The presbytery or space west of the altar in churches of the Norman period varied in length from two bays to four. At its west end a step (gradus presbyterii) divided it from the quire, which, as already noted, occupied the length of the crossing and the eastern bay or bays of the nave. The quire was an oblong enclosure cut off from the nave, aisles and transepts by screens on three sides, against which the stalls of the convent were arranged. It had three doorways. The western entrance, in the middle of the pulpitum or quire screen, was called the lower entry (introitus inferior). The upper entries (introitus superiores) or quire-doors (ostia chori) were lateral entrances in the screens next the transepts, on either side of the presbytery step, and were the way by which the convent came into quire. When the Sunday procession left the high altar, it passed out of the quire by the upper entry on the side furthest from the cloister, and returned, after making the circuit of the church and cloister-buildings, through the lower entry in the pulpitum. The stalls in the quire were occupied according to seniority. In an abbey church, the abbot sat against the western screen, on the south side of the lower entry, while the prior sat in the corresponding stall on the north. Where a prior was head of the house, he sat in the southern stall and the sub-prior in the northern. In the middle of the quire was the lectern, where, as at Durham, ‘the Moncks did singe ther Legends at Mattins and other tymes.’ On certain festivals, the epistle and gospel were chanted from the pulpitum at the west end of the quire. In these general arrangements, allowing for the divergences in the ritual of the various orders, there was very little difference between the interior of a monastic quire and that of a church of secular canons. Where medieval stall-work remains, as at Winchester and Chester, or in the collegiate quires of Lincoln, Beverley, and Ripon, the similarity is at once apparent; but monastic quires were effectually isolated from the nave by the rood-screen west of the pulpitum, an arrangement which, though not unknown, was very rare in collegiate churches.

On leaving the quire by one of the upper entries, the Sunday procession first visited the altars in the transept on that side, and, while the celebrant sprinkled each with holy water, anthems were sung by the convent. The transept-chapels varied in number. In the great abbey churches of the Norman period, as at Norwich, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, a single apsidal chapel projected from the east wall of either transept. In churches with short presbyteries, such chapels formed an effective group with the apse and its chapels. Thus at Saint Mary’s, York, and Saint Albans, where the plan of the eastern apse without a processional path was followed, the apse, projecting beyond the rest of the church, was flanked on either side by a row of three chapels, of which two opened out of the transept; and of these two, the inner one, nearest the aisle, projected further east than the outer. At Durham, Ely and Peterborough, the transepts were provided with eastern aisles, divided by low screens or perpeyn walls into three chapels on either side. There were thus in the plan of these three churches, eight altars in the transepts and presbytery aisles: at Saint Mary’s, York, and Saint Albans there were six: at Westminster four; while at Norwich, Gloucester and Tewkesbury, where there was a processional path round the high altar, there were five.

The lengthening of the eastern limbs of monastic churches, of which an early example was the enlargement of Canterbury cathedral, completed in 1130, provided additional chapels and a clear course for the procession at the back of the high altar. At Canterbury, the new eastern limb was as long as the nave and crossing together: the quire was moved into its western part, and additional transepts, each containing two chapels, were thrown out on either side of the new presbytery, while three chapels opened out of the processional path which encircled the apse. In this plan the night-entry was a doorway in the eastern transept. In the second rebuilding, some fifty years later, the plan was lengthened further to include a chapel for the shrine of Saint Thomas between the high altar and the ambulatory. Although in several cases, with the lengthening of the eastern limb, the quire was transferred to a position east of the transepts, this alteration was by no means general. In the thirteenth century rebuilding at Westminster, the high altar, presbytery and quire remained in their old places, and the additional space in the new apse was devoted to the chapel and shrine of Saint Edward. The plans of Canterbury and Westminster were both elaborate versions of the Norwich and Gloucester plan. But, while this type of plan prevailed in the great churches of France, the plan which was preferred in England from the beginning of the thirteenth century onward was a long rectangular eastern limb. At Winchester and Saint Albans, the longest of our great churches, the quire did not extend east of the transepts, and the presbytery and high altar occupied their relative positions as in the older plan. Behind the screen or reredos of the high altar a bay was screened off as a feretory or shrine for the local saint. At this point the high roof of the church ceased, and the roof of the eastward extension was on a level with that of the aisles, which were thus returned to afford a processional path at the back of the feretory. On the east side of the processional path were chapels enclosed by screens, while a long aisleless Lady chapel was built out from the centre of the east wall. At Chester the eastern chapel, which contained Saint Werburgh’s shrine, is directly at the back of the high altar, and no space was left for a processional path: this was remedied to some extent in the fifteenth century by prolonging the north aisle eastwards and so affording a lateral entrance to the chapel. In the east and north of England, as at Ely and Selby, it was customary to continue the high roof to the extreme east end of the church, and to prolong the aisles to the same length on either side, so that externally the ambulatory and eastern chapels are not definitely expressed. In such cases a row of altars, divided by screens or perpeyn walls, stood side by side against the east wall. These alternative plans were not peculiar to the religious orders, and the second plan was freely used in the larger Yorkshire churches, by secular canons at York and Ripon, by Benedictines at Selby, Whitby and Saint Mary’s, York, by Cistercians at Jervaulx and Rievaulx, and by Augustinian canons at Guisbrough and Kirkham.

Croyland abbey: rood-screen and nave from the southeastThe Sunday procession, after making stations at each of the eastern chapels in turn, came down the aisle into the transept next the cloister, and, having visited the altars there, passed into the cloister through the eastern processional doorway in the nave. It returned through the western processional doorway. If, as at Durham, there was a chapel at the west end of the church, the procession would enter it by the doorway at the end of one aisle, and leave it by the other. The western chapel at Durham, as at Glastonbury, was the Lady chapel. It was known at Durham as the Galilee because the celebrant, entering it in front of the convent at the end of the procession on Sunday, the feast of the Resurrection, symbolised our Lord going before His disciples into Galilee. The name Galilee was also applied, as at Ely, or in the Cistercian churches of Byland and Fountains, to porches in front of the western doorway of a church. The final station of the procession was in the middle of the nave before the rood-screen. Here the convent stood in two long rows, the position of each member being regulated by stones inserted in the floor of the nave at equal intervals: such stones still remain beneath the grass at Fountains, and are known to have existed elsewhere. Meanwhile, the celebrant sprinkled the chief nave altar, which stood against the middle of the screen, and was at Durham enclosed at the sides and in front by wooden screens, which formed a chapel or ‘porch.’ On either side of the altar was a doorway through the screen, above which was the great rood or crucifix, with a figure of Saint Mary on one side and Saint John on the other: at Durham there were also figures of archangels. The rood-screen was flanked by screens across the aisles, so that the western part of the nave was entirely shut off from the quire and from the eastern processional doorway. The eastern part of the south aisle at Durham was screened off as a chantry chapel, and there were also two enclosed chapels further west, beneath opposite arches of the nave, one of which was visited on the way to the Galilee, and the other in returning. There was frequently, as at Saint Albans, a row of chapels beneath the arches, while in some cases, as at Ely and Peterborough, where the nave projected some distance west of the cloister, more altars were provided in a transept at the west end. After the station at the rood altar and its neighbouring chapels had been concluded, the convent passed through the two doorways in the rood-screen, and, reuniting in the bay beyond, entered the quire through the doorway in the middle of the pulpitum. In many churches, as at Norwich, the pulpitum was formed by two parallel stone screens carrying the loft and occupying a bay of the nave. At Malmesbury it enclosed the bay west of the crossing, and its eastern screen is the reredos of the present parish altar. At Durham and Canterbury, where the quire was east of the crossing, the pulpitum was between the eastern piers, the rood-screen between the western. At Canterbury the eastern processional doorway was in the west wall of the transept next the cloister. At Durham it is in the usual position, but covered by a vestibule formed by placing the screen at the end of the south aisle one bay west of the rood-screen. The rood-screens at Croyland and at Tynemouth priory still remain among the ruins. At Saint Albans the pulpitum is gone, but the stone rood-screen remains; while at Blyth priory the place of the rood-screen was taken by a wall the whole height of the nave.

Lay-folk were permitted to enter the naves of monastic churches; and, even in Cistercian churches, where the whole building was strictly devoted to the uses of the monastery, doorways are sometimes found, as at Kirkstall, which may have been made for this purpose. In a large number of Benedictine and Augustinian churches, though by no means in the majority, an altar in the nave was appropriated to parochial services, and was served by a secular vicar or a curate appointed by the convent. The lay-folk entered the church by a doorway in the aisle opposite the cloister: the great western doorway was used only on special occasions, as in the procession on Palm Sunday or at an episcopal visitation. Sometimes, as at Blyth and Leominster, a special addition of an aisle or a second nave and aisle was made to the original nave, for the sake of parochial services. Such services, however, frequently interfered with the monastic offices, especially if the convent was singing one thing and the parishioners another. At Wymondham in Norfolk a dispute about the use of the bells by the parish led to a serious quarrel in the fifteenth century. The parishioners fastened up the rood-screen doors and appropriated the nave, and the dispute was healed only by the building of a separate bell-tower for the parish at the west end of the church. The monks of Rochester and the canons of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, built churches within their outer precincts for the parishioners whose services interfered with their own. This arrangement, like that by which the pairs of parish churches at Coventry, Evesham and Bury Saint Edmunds were distinct from the monastery churches hard by, put an end to such constant wrangling as occurred between monks and lay-folk over the use of the south transept at Chester.

plan of typical Cistercian church showing original form and later eastern enlargementCistercian churches developed a special plan of their own in keeping with the austere ideals of their order. Some of their earliest churches, as at Waverley and Tintern, had aisleless naves, short transepts, each with one rectangular chapel upon its eastern side and an aisleless rectangular presbytery. This is a simple form of the normal Cistercian plan, which may be seen to perfection at Kirkstall and Buildwas, and was preserved with some modifications in a late rebuilding at Furness. The presbytery, aisleless and rectangular, projected some two bays east of the crossing, the high altar being placed slightly in advance of the east wall. The western bay of the presbytery was covered on either side by two or three rectangular chapels ranged along the east side of the transepts, divided from each other by solid walling, but with a continuous eastern wall. The nave was aisled. The quire was in the usual position, in the crossing and the eastern bays of the nave, and was enclosed on north and south by stone walls which were built flush with the inner faces of the columns and across the length of the crossing. The lower entry of the quire was, as usual, in the middle of the pulpitum: the upper entries were doors in the side-walls close to the presbytery.

Such a plan obviously gave little scope for processions, while the number of altars was limited by the aisleless presbytery. While some churches, such as Buildwas and Kirkstall, kept their early plan without alteration, and while thirteenth-century churches such as those of Sweetheart abbey in Kirkcudbrightshire and Valle Crucis in Wales were built on the traditional plan, others were rebuilt with aisled presbyteries and ranges of eastern chapels. In two instances, at Croxden and in the extension of Hayles made in 1271-7, the ordinary French Gothic plan of an apse with a processional path and apsidal eastern chapels was adopted. Special Cistercian models, however, were provided by the rebuildings at Clairvaux (1174) and Cîteaux (1193). At Clairvaux an apse took the place of the rectangular presbytery: the east walls of the chapels next the presbytery were removed, and these chapels were continued round the apse as a processional path, out of which opened a series of chapels, one from each bay, divided by walls and covered by a common lean-to roof. The plan of Cîteaux was simply a rectangular version of that of Clairvaux: the presbytery was aisled, the aisles were returned across the east end, and all three sides surrounded by similar chapels walled off from each other. Of the Clairvaux plan the only known example in England is the thirteenth-century church of Beaulieu. The Cîteaux plan in a modified form was more general. It is well seen at Dore, where there are no chapels opening from the north and south aisles, but the processional path has an eastern aisle containing five chapels, originally divided from one another by perpeyn walls. This plan was followed in the earlier church at Hayles (1249-51), before the eastern arm was extended to include the chapel of the Holy Blood. In some churches, as at Byland and Waverley, the processional path was provided by moving the high altar a bay west of the main east wall, and placing the chapels in the returned aisle, instead of building a special aisle for them beyond. On the other hand, the eastern limbs at Jervaulx, Rievaulx, Tintern, and elsewhere were rebuilt in the thirteenth century upon the ordinary aisled rectangular plan. The high altar was placed two bays west of the east end: the processional path was in the bay between it and the eastern chapels, which were ranged against the east wall. The presbyteries in these churches were usually walled off from the aisles, as may be seen in Tintern: the walls were provided for from the beginning and were sometimes bonded into the piers. As a rule, such aisled presbyteries were short. Four bays was a usual length, as at Jervaulx, Netley and Tintern: this allowed two bays for the high altar and presbytery, and the quire was left in its normal position. But at Rievaulx the eastern arm was lengthened to seven bays and included the quire. The thirteenth-century enlargement at Fountains gave four bays to the altar and presbytery, without removing the quire; while behind the altar was built a vast eastern transept two bays deep, with nine chapels against its east wall and a processional path in the western bay. This unusual and beautiful plan was imitated with great splendour in the Benedictine church of Durham.

The chief peculiarity of the Cistercian transept was the arrangement, already described, of its eastern chapels. This was modified in later times, as at Furness, where the vaulting of the chapels was removed and replaced by a wooden roof at a higher level, and screen-walls took the place of the solid divisions. The night-stair from the monks’ dorter was very generally placed against the west wall of the adjacent transept; while in the end wall of the opposite transept was the doorway through which funerals passed to the graveyard. At Furness, where the church, by an exceptional arrangement, stands between the greater part of the curia and the cloister, this doorway formed the main entrance to the church and was covered by a porch. Beaulieu, like Cîteaux, has the unusual feature of a western aisle in the transept opposite the cloister. Such aisles, though sometimes found in both transepts of Benedictine churches, are rare in the churches of Cistercians.

Tintern abbey: north transept and presbytery, showing doorways to dorter and sacristyCistercian naves were not affected by the problem of parochial services, but served special purposes required by the peculiar constitution of the order. So far as the Sunday procession was concerned, their arrangements did not greatly vary from those of other monasteries, although the position of the western processional doorway with regard to the cloister was rather different. The west end of the quire was shut off by the pulpitum, which in the longer naves, as at Fountains, consisted of two parallel screens with a loft above, occupying a full bay, but was often a single screen-wall with a loft. Against the west face of the pulpitum there were two altars, one on each side of the middle doorway. The bay west of these was called the retro-quire, where infirm and aged monks attended service, and was shut off on the west by the rood-screen. This was of the usual character, with an altar against its western face between two doorways. The nave west of the rood-screen was used as the quire of the lay brothers, who had a night-stair from their dorter in the adjacent aisle, and used the western processional doorway as their day-entrance. Their stalls were set against the walls which, as in the presbytery, shut the nave off from its aisles: these were discontinued in the westernmost bay, so as to give a clear entry for the lay brothers and for processions. This arrangement can be well seen at Tintern, where only the west bay on the north side, next the cloister, was left unwalled. The plan received its fullest extension at Fountains, where the nave was eleven bays long, of which seven were west of the rood-screen, while of the rest one was devoted to the quire, and one each to the pulpitum, the altars in front of it and to the retro-quire. At Furness, where there were ten bays, two were given to the quire, five were west of the rood-screen and the intermediate three were divided as at Fountains. In shorter churches, such as Buildwas (seven bays) and Tintern (six) some economy of space between the screens had to be studied. Thus, of eight bays at Kirkstall two were in the quire, four were west of the rood-screen, the pulpitum occupied a whole bay, and the remaining bay contained the altars on its western side: the space beneath the pulpitum may in this case have been used as a retro-quire. The pulpitum at Valle Crucis was a single screen-wall between the western piers of the crossing, and the quire did not extend into the short nave. After the lay brethren had ceased to be a part of Cistercian convents, the walls dividing their quires from the nave-aisles were removed where they were not in bond with the piers, and chapels were then made in the eastern bays of the aisles. There is no trace of any new chapels at Furness, but there was probably always an altar there in each of the aisles, in a line with the altars next the pulpitum.

The preference for a rectangular chancel, in our larger churches at any rate, may be attributed in some measure to the architectural influence exercised by the Cistercian order. It is certainly possible to trace Cistercian influence in some of the churches of canons regular. It cannot be said that churches of Augustinian canons followed any definite or uniform plan. Some, like Saint Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, preferred plans for which the best contemporary models were Benedictine. But the plan of the first church at Haughmond was very like the early plans of Waverley and Tintern; and when this was superseded by a larger church with its longer axis further north than before, the new presbytery was still aisleless and was still walled off from the transept-chapels immediately adjoining. Of these there were two on either side, both rectangular in shape, and those next the presbytery were longer than those on the outside. The same plan of presbytery and transept-chapels is found at Lilleshall, and is known to have existed at Fountains before the presbytery was aisled. Similarly the plan of presbytery and transepts at Bolton and Brinkburn is distinctly Cistercian in origin, and, when the presbytery at Bolton was lengthened in the fourteenth century, its aisleless form was retained. In Premonstratensian churches the likeness to the normal Cistercian plan is often obvious. The original plan of the eastern portion of the church at Saint Agatha’s was almost the same as that of Kirkstall; while the plan of the same part of Torre is virtually identical with those of Buildwas and Roche. As at Bolton, the aisleless presbytery at Saint Agatha’s was prolonged in the fourteenth century to twice its original length.

The plan of Haughmond and Lilleshall, in which the presbytery walls remained unpierced, while they were flanked with aisle-like chapels, is found in some Premonstratensian churches, as at Dale. At West Langdon the chapels were continued the whole length of the presbytery. Usually, however, they stopped short of the east end. The aisleless projection thus formed might contain, as at Alnwick, the high altar. But at Saint Radegund’s near Dover, the eastern bay was the Lady chapel, and between it and the high altar was a space for processions, entered by doorways in the walls which divided it from the aisles and in the screen on either side of the high altar. In many Augustinian churches a further development of this plan is found, in which the chapels are real aisles, divided by arcades from the presbytery, as at Cartmel and Lanercost, and the eastern arm is so lengthened as to include the quire or a portion of it. At Saint Frideswide’s, Oxford (now Christ Church cathedral), Repton and Dorchester, where the plans are somewhat complicated by the addition of one or more extra chapels on one side, the high altar was, as at Cartmel and Lanercost, in the eastern bay, and the procession in going from one aisle to another had to pass in front of it. The aisled portion, however, was sometimes planned, as at Bristol, to include the quire and presbytery and a bay for the processional path behind the high altar: this was also the plan of the church of secular canons at Southwell. The eastern limb of Christchurch, Hants, is similar in plan to that of Bristol; but here the high roof stopped above the altar, and the roofs of the processional path and Lady chapel, as at Winchester, are on a level with those of the aisles, while above them is an upper story or loft, formerly the chapel of Saint Michael. The ground-plan of the Cluniac church of Castle Acre was enlarged on the lines followed at Cartmel and Lanercost: that of Wenlock approximated to those followed at Bristol and Christchurch. Variations of these types of plan are seen in the thirteenth-century enlargements of the Benedictine churches of Rochester and Worcester, in which the quires were placed in the eastern arm. Both churches have eastern transepts, and in both cases the high vault was continued to the end of an aisleless eastern projection, in which the high altar stood at Rochester with a clear space behind it. At Worcester the aisleless bay was the Lady chapel, and the high altar stood west of the processional path.

The naves of the larger churches of canons, such as Bridlington, Guisbrough and Worksop, were provided with their full complement of aisles. Christchurch and Saint Botolph’s at Colchester are conspicuous instances of Augustinian conventual naves which were aisled in the twelfth century. But it is also certain that many canons’ churches, like Haughmond, had no aisles to begin with. This, as we have seen, was a point in common between them and some early Cistercian churches. The nave at Lilleshall was never provided with aisles: the same thing happened at Kirkham, where the eastern arm was fully aisled in the thirteenth century. In such cases, where a nave had been originally planned without aisles, no aisle could be added on the side next the cloister without contracting the cloister or necessitating its rebuilding. Consequently aisleless naves were left as they were or were enlarged by an aisle only on the side which admitted of extension, opposite the church. The nave with a single aisle, although it is found in some Benedictine churches, as at the priories of Abergavenny and Bromfield, is certainly characteristic of churches of canons, and may be explained on these grounds. Among Augustinian examples are the churches of Bolton, Brinkburn, Canons Ashby, Haughmond, Hexham (as planned in the thirteenth century), Lanercost, Newstead, Thurgarton and Ulverscroft: Dorchester, where the broad south aisle is a westward continuation of the original south transept, may be placed in the same category. Premonstratensian churches of the type were Coverham, West Langdon, Shap and Torre. It has been suggested that this partial addition of aisles may have been caused by the canons’ desire to rival aisled Benedictine churches. Large canons’ churches, however, such as those already mentioned, if they were smaller than the great Benedictine churches, were at any rate as completely planned; and it is probable that the enlargement of aisleless naves was merely the result of the inconvenience of the cramped space, especially where new altars were needed. It had nothing to do with the needs of parishioners: only four out of the ten Augustinian, and none of the Premonstratensian examples given above contained parochial altars. The enlargement was frequently achieved, as at Canons Ashby and Thurgarton, with a beautiful and perfectly unambitious effect. At Newstead, however, the builders, in projecting their western façade, seem to have felt that the one-sided plan hardly gave them an opportunity for the elevation they wanted; and so they disingenuously balanced the west front of their north aisle by building out a screen-wall, similar in design, against the west wall of the cloister buildings. This work, executed with elaborate detail, shews that no funds can have been wanting to build a south aisle, but that the sole reason which prevented this was the inconvenience which would have been caused to the cloister.

The division of an aisleless nave by screens is well illustrated at Lilleshall, where the bases of the pulpitum and rood-screen both remain, and there was a wall further west which screened the nave from a vaulted vestibule, apparently planned as the ground-floor of a tower. Examples of aisleless naves are found in churches of all orders. Instances of Benedictine churches, such as Saint Benet’s, Hulme, in Norfolk, are known, where this plan seems out of keeping with the importance and wealth of the convent. The Cluniac priory church of Bromholm is another case from the same county. Salley, a Cistercian church on the borders of Yorkshire and Lancashire, had a fully aisled quire, but a very short aisleless nave, which was little more than a vestibule to the church and covered only the eastern part of the north walk of the cloister. The nave of the Scottish abbey of Kelso, which belonged to the order of Thiron, was also a mere vestibule or narthex, and forms a striking contrast to the long nave, with north and south aisles, of the neighbouring Augustinian church of Jedburgh.

Mount Grave priory: tower-arches and nave from the northeastAn entirely aisleless plan, in which the church was a mere parallelogram without transepts and without an arch between presbytery and nave, is found at the Cistercian abbey of Cymmer, near Dolgelly, where, however, a short north aisle or chapel was built later near the west end of the nave. Such a plan may have been used in many small houses, where there were only two or three brethren in priest’s orders, and very few altars were needed in addition to the high altar. It was, in fact, the characteristic plan of the churches of certain orders. (1) Nuns’ churches, such as Nun Monkton in Yorkshire, were very generally planned as aisleless rectangles, for the obvious reason that little more than one altar was necessary. It is rare to find a nunnery church planned on the scale of Romsey, with a full complement of aisles and transepts and a carefully contrived processional path. Sometimes, as at Lacock, a chapel was added to the church, but this was an excrescence which did not conceal the character of the original plan. (2) The ascetic Carthusian order preferred this plan, which was adopted at Mount Grace. It was modified, however, some years after the church was built, by the insertion of a tower upon arches between the presbytery and nave, west of which transeptal chapels were built out from the nave walls on either side. Still later, a long chapel, containing two altars, was built at right angles to the south wall of the presbytery. (3) The plans of friars’ churches, which frequently, as at Lynn and Richmond, had a tower between the nave and presbytery, bear a strong family likeness to that of Mount Grace; and in some cases, as at Brecon and at Hulne, near Alnwick, they were without a structural division. The naves, however, of some of their later town churches, where large congregations attended the preaching of the Dominican order, were built, as in the splendid example at Norwich, with north and south aisles. (4) It is evident that churches of Gilbertine canons, as at Malton, sometimes followed an ordinary aisled plan. But in the double houses of the order, if Watton is typical of the rest, the church was a long aisleless building on one side of the nuns’ cloister, and was divided lengthways by a wall, the division next the cloister being appropriated to the nuns, and the outer division, which had its own doorway, to the canons. There was a doorway in the wall between the two altars, which could be used for processions and by the celebrant at the nuns’ altar; but the seclusion of the two portions of the convent was carefully maintained, and the holy-water and pax were passed from the nuns’ to the canons’ quire through a turn-table in the wall. The canons also had a chapel on the south side of their own cloister, which was a simple aisleless rectangle.

CHAPTER III – THE CLOISTER AND ITS BUILDINGS

The cloister (claustrum) was, as its name implies, an enclosed space, surrounding all four sides of a rectangular court. The four walks of the cloister were roofed in: the walls next the court were pierced at first with open arcades, and later with large window-openings. One walk adjoined the nave of the church, and part of the east walk was overlapped by the adjacent transept. On the east and the two remaining sides of the cloister were the buildings necessary to the daily life of the convent, the chapter-house being invariably at the back of the east walk and the refectory or frater at the back of the walk opposite the church. The entrance from the outer court varied in position according to the site of the monastery: in many houses, as at Torre, it was a passage through or at one end of the western range, but at Durham, Worcester and some of the larger Benedictine houses it was a vaulted entry at the end of the east walk furthest from the church. There were, as we have seen, two doorways from the church, of which the eastern was the ordinary entrance used by the convent in the daytime. The Sunday procession left the church by this doorway, and passed along the east walk; and, after visiting the chief buildings on three sides of the cloister, returned into church by the doorway at the end of the west walk.

Gloucester: south walk of cloister with monks' carrelsIn all monasteries, save in those of the Carthusian order, the walk next the church was the ordinary place where the convent spent the hours of the day allotted to study and contemplation. For this reason the cloister was normally planned on the south, the sunnier side of the church, where the high walls of nave and transept checked the north and east winds. This walk, which was omitted from the route of the Sunday procession, was sometimes enclosed at either end by screens. In early times the brethren seem to have sat side by side on the stone benches which, as at Worcester, were set against the church wall between the buttresses. But at a later date the part of the walk next the court was divided by short partition walls into a number of small studies called carrels (caroli, i.e. enclosed spaces). At Durham, where the walk was ten bays long and was lighted by ten three-light windows, there were thirty carrels, three to each window. The carrels remain at Gloucester, twenty in number, two to each of the ten four-light windows. They were roofed at the level of the window-transoms, so that the upper portions of the windows gave plenty of light to the walk behind. Each contained a desk for books: at Durham they were wainscoted, and entered by doors, the tops of which were pierced, so that each monk as he worked was under survey. As private property was forbidden, no religious was allowed to keep books of his own in his carrel. Manuscripts in use were kept in special cupboards or almeries (armaria), which at Durham were ranged against the church wall. Such book-cupboards were placed in the cloister where there was room for them. At Worcester there are two in the east walk near the chapter-house door, while at Gloucester the easternmost carrel and two small cupboards projecting into the court from the east walk were probably used for this purpose. In Cistercian houses a special place was set aside for the library; but in the houses of most orders no definite part of the plan was so distinguished, and it is not until a late date that, at Canterbury and Durham, we hear of separate rooms assigned to the library, as distinct from the cupboards and presses in the cloister6.

In the ordinary Benedictine plan, which, although subject to some variation, was the model, founded on convenience, for the other monastic orders, the eastern range of buildings had a ground-floor and upper story, and projected some distance to the south or north, as the case might be, beyond the cloister. The upper story was the dorter (dormitorium) of the convent, which normally was carried through the whole range as far as the transept of the church. On the ground-floor, the chapter-house, entered by a doorway near the middle of the east walk, was a long building which projected eastwards at right angles to the range. It was very frequently separated from the church, as at Durham and Worcester, by a vaulted passage which gave access to the graveyard at the east end of the church. This was the parlour (locutorium), where the rule of silence was relaxed and necessary conversation could be held. At Durham, merchants were allowed to bring their wares here for sale, but for this purpose an outer parlour was often provided, as at Gloucester, in the western range, and the eastern parlour was reserved for the convent. Occasionally, as at Rochester and Wenlock, the chapter-house joined the church without the intervening parlour; and at Westminster the place of the parlour was taken by the chapel of Saint Faith, the only entrance to which was from the south transept.

The chapter-house (domus capitularis) was the place where, every day after prime, the convent met together for the confession and correction of faults and for the discussion of business concerning the house as a whole. At these meetings a chapter (capitulum) of the rule was read daily, and from this circumstance the name of chapter was transferred both to the meeting and the building. Here too the visitor of the monastery held his periodical inquiries, prefaced by a sermon from one of his clerks or of the senior members of the house. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as at Durham and Fountains, the chapter-house was the customary burial-place for abbots and other heads of houses. The dead bodies of monks rested in the chapter-house at Durham, and matins of the dead were sung for them here before they took their last journey through the parlour to the graveyard. The building was normally oblong in shape, undivided by columns into aisles, and was usually vaulted. At Durham, Gloucester and Reading it ended in an apse. The abbot or prior occupied a raised seat at the east end, with the principal officers on his right and left. The rest of the convent sat on stone benches round the walls; while near the centre of the floor was the desk or lectern (analogium) from which the daily lection from the martyrology and the chapter for the day were read. The breadth of the chapter-house generally corresponded to three bays of the cloister, with a doorway in the middle of the west wall and a window on either side.

Bristol: chapter-house, looking westIn most houses, as in the Augustinian abbey of canons at Haughmond and of canonesses at Lacock, the chapter-house roof was on a level with that of the cloister, to allow of the continuation of the dorter or of a passage from the dorter to the transept across its western end. But in the larger houses, especially of the Benedictines, it was often an aisleless hall occupying the whole height of the range. Where, as at Canterbury, Gloucester and Reading, it was of this type and opened directly from the cloister, the dorter was obviously shut off from direct communication with the church. But at Bristol, Chester, Westminster and elsewhere, the lofty chapter-houses stood entirely at the back of the eastern range, and the dorter was carried across a vaulted vestibule, which was divided by columns into three or, at Westminster, into two alleys, and was either open to the cloister, as at Bristol, or, as at Chester, was entered by a doorway with a window on either side, like the doorway of the chapter-house beyond. It has been said that the chapter-house was usually planned without aisles: this was the case in the larger Benedictine houses, and in such houses of moderate size as Haughmond, the Premonstratensian abbey of Dryburgh in Scotland, or the Benedictine nunnery of Saint Radegund at Cambridge. But the Cistercian order preferred chapter-houses divided into alleys by rows of columns, and the influence of their beautiful buildings may be seen in the aisled chapter-houses of Lacock or of the Premonstratensian abbey of Beeleigh. Nor was the chapter-house always oblong. Apsidal examples have been given; and, when that at Gloucester was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, it was finished with a three-sided apse. There are also circular and polygonal chapter-houses. At Worcester the twelfth-century chapter-house is a circular building, entered directly from the cloister, and vaulted from a central column. In the fifteenth century, when the abutments shewed signs of giving way, it was remodelled externally into a ten-sided polygon. No vestibule was necessary here, as the dorter was placed in another part of the cloister, and more room could accordingly be given to the chapter-house. At Dore, the chapter-house was polygonal; at Margam it was internally circular, externally twelve-sided. The Benedictine chapter-house at Evesham was ten-sided. Between 1245 and 1250 was built the octagonal chapter-house of Westminster, the prototype of the secular buildings at Salisbury and Wells, raised upon an undercroft and divided from the cloister by a long vestibule; and there was another octagonal chapter-house in the Augustinian priory of Carlisle. The most peculiar plan was that of the twelfth-century Premonstratensian chapter-house at Alnwick, where a rectangular western vestibule was combined with a circular eastern portion of the same height, roofed in one span without a central column.

Where the infirmary buildings stood due east of the cloister, as at Canterbury, they were approached by a passage through the east range, next the chapter-house. Their position, however, was variable; and in such instances the infirmary passage represented a bay cut off from the vaulted undercroft of the dorter, which formed the rest of the ground-floor of the eastern range. At Westminster, where this sub-vault belongs to the earliest portion of the monastery, the ordinary custom was followed of dividing it into two apartments. The northern and smaller, occupying the two bays at the south end of the east walk, was the treasury, known at Westminster as the chapel of the Pyx, because the currency, contained in a box or casket (pyxis) was brought there for trial. The southern division extended for five bays beyond the cloister, and was the common house or warming-house (calefactorium), which contained the fireplace where the monks warmed themselves in winter. In Cluniac monasteries this was also the bleeding-house of the monks. If, however, the Westminster arrangement may be quoted as typical, it was not invariable. The customary position for the warming-house was beneath the dorter; and consequently, if the dorter, as sometimes happened, occupied an abnormal situation, the warming-house followed suit. Thus, on the contracted site at Gloucester, the dorter was on the first floor of a building at right angles to the cloister, parallel to the chapter-house. At Worcester, it was at right angles to the west walk of the cloister. Probably the early plan at Durham was like that at Westminster, but eventually the dorter and common house were removed to the west range. The plan of Saint Agatha’s, which in more than one respect resembles that of Durham, also shews the dorter and common house in the west range; but, while the treasury at Durham was the part of the dorter sub-vault between the common house and the church, the treasury at Saint Agatha’s, as in many canons’ houses, was probably the sacristy in the east range, between the church and chapter-house, where at Durham we find the parlour. The dorter and common house at Canterbury were in the usual place; but the treasury was in quite a different part of the monastery, between the infirmary and one of the chapels of the apse; and at Gloucester, at any rate after the fourteenth century, the treasury was a first-floor room above the monks’ parlour, between the chapter-house and north transept7.

The dorter generally communicated with the transept of the church by the night-stair, of which a splendid example remains at Hexham, the head of the stair being divided from the dorter by a lobby or a room over the parlour. Even where, as at Haughmond, the dorter did not extend over the chapter-house, there was sometimes a passage or gallery which led from it to the transept. There was always a day-stair to the dorter from the cloister, the ordinary position for which, as at Westminster, was between the chapter-house or its vestibule and the treasury or the common house; and when, as in examples already cited, the chapter-house entirely cut off the dorter from the church, this stair would be used for the night-services as well as for ordinary access in the daytime. In such cases, the entrance to the church was through the eastern processional doorway, but at Canterbury the monks, on their way from the dorter to the night-service, passed through a gallery on the first floor of the eastern or infirmary cloister to the doorway in the north-eastern transept. In smaller monasteries there was often some difficulty in fitting the day-stair into the plan of the eastern range. In the Premonstratensian house of Saint Radegund the day-stair was a straight flight of steps from the lobby between the dorter and the church wall, at the other end of which was a turret containing the night-stair. At Lacock there was a single stair next the church, parallel with the east walk and dividing it from the large sacristy which filled the space between the church and chapter-house.

Wainscot partitions divided the dorter internally into a series of cubicles with a passage down the centre. Each cubicle was lighted by a window, and at Durham each contained a desk at which monks could work, if, as for example at the mid-day siesta in summer, they were unable to go to sleep. This was the ordinary late arrangement: it is probable that in early monasteries the beds stood against the wall between the windows without any partitions. Although several monastic dorters are still roofed, as at Westminster and Durham, where they are in use as chapter libraries, at the Cistercian abbeys of Cleeve, Ford (where the dorter is now divided into many small rooms) and Valle Crucis, and at the Premonstratensian abbey of Beeleigh, the internal partitions have disappeared. At the further end of the dorter or at right angles to the further wall from the cloister, there was always a building known as domus necessaria, necessarium, or in English the rere-dorter, which was a long gallery with a row of seats against one wall, each lighted by a window and divided by a partition from the next. Beneath the seats was a drain or running stream, above which the partitions were carried by transverse arches: on the ground-floor the drain was shut off by a wall from the vaulted undercroft of the gallery. The necessarium at Canterbury, known as the third dorter, was 145 feet long: it opened from the north-east corner of the great dorter, and was at right angles to the east wall, parallel to the second dorter, in which the obedientiaries or officers of the house slept. It contained 55 seats at first, 50 later. At Lewes the later necessarium, a separate building on lower ground than the dorter and connected with it by a bridge and stair, was 158 feet long and contained 66 seats. At Furness the necessarium stood east of the dorter and parallel to it, with a two-storied building connecting the two. Here the seats were arranged back to back against a middle wall, with a passage at either side.

In the monasteries of all orders, the Cistercian order alone excepted, the range of buildings opposite the church, uniting the eastern and western cloister-buildings, had its major axis parallel with that of the church, and was entered by a doorway from the cloister near its west end. There was often at its east end a vaulted passage through the range, which continued the east walk of the cloister, and led either, as at Durham, into the outer court, or, as at Gloucester and Peterborough, to the infirmary buildings, and from this passage or ‘dark cloister’ at Westminster the common house beneath the dorter was entered. The larger part of the range was devoted to the frater or dining-hall of the monastery (refectorium). In several cases, the frater was raised upon a cellar, which was in many such instances, as at Gloucester, the great cellar and buttery of the house. Where such cellars existed, a stair led up through the frater doorway to the west end of the hall, which, as in ordinary houses, was partitioned off from the rest by screens. The screens, entered on the level where there was no cellar, formed a passage to the kitchen at the back of the range, and had a pantry on the west side. This passage existed at Durham and Saint Agatha’s, where, above the pantry, the roof of which was of course on a much lower level than that of the hall, there was a loft, used in later days at Durham for the daily meals of the monks, who used the frater only on certain festivals, leaving it to the novices on ordinary days. The frater itself was an aisleless hall with a wooden roof. Across the east end was the high table for the principal members of the convent: the others sat at two or more tables set lengthways in the body of the hall. Near the high table, in the wall opposite the cloister, was the pulpit, from which a portion of Scripture or of some homily in Latin was read by one of the brethren during meals. A window-recess was generally enlarged to form the pulpit, the floor and parapet of which were corbelled out towards the hall: it was entered by a stair, as at Chester or in the beautiful Cistercian example at Beaulieu, in the thickness of the wall, with an open arcade in its inner face. There were also cupboards and shelves in the frater for plate, linen and earthenware. In the Cistercian abbey of Cleeve there remains above the high table a mural painting of the Crucifixion: a similar painting was made in 1518 at Durham upon the upper part of the west wall. At Worcester a sculptured figure of our Lord in majesty occupies the middle of the east wall.

The kitchen was, as has been said, external to the cloister, though necessarily in close connexion with the frater. In some of the greater houses, as at Canterbury, Durham and Glastonbury, it was a detached building, which was rebuilt in the fourteenth century on a square plan, with fireplaces in the angles, the arches of which supported an octagonal superstructure and vaulted roof, the smoke being conveyed through flues to a central louvre. A passage connected the kitchen with the frater and screens, and at Durham food was served through an opening in the frater wall called the dresser window. The great kitchens of Durham and Glastonbury are still entire. In the majority of cases, the kitchen was probably a rectangular building; and sometimes, as at Lacock, it stood west of the frater, in the angle between it and the western range. Here, where the frater was upon an upper floor, the lobby at the foot of the stair was the entrance to the kitchen, and the fireplaces were in the outer walls.

Worcester: lavatory in the west walk of the cloisterIn the cloister, near the entrance to the frater, was the lavatory (lavatorium), where the brethren washed their hands before meals. In some cases, as at Durham and Wenlock, an octagonal or circular building, projecting into the cloister-garth opposite the frater doorway, contained a great laver, filled by taps from a pipe in a central pillar. Each monk could wash at his separate tap, the water from which fell into a basin at the foot of the laver and was carried away by a waste-pipe. The ingeniously contrived water-supply at Canterbury served three such laver-houses and a fourth laver in the so-called north hall8. The great laver-house in the infirmary cloister was used by monks on their way from the dorter to the night-office, when they entered the church through the eastern transept: this still remains, as well as the arches and the base of the trough of that near the frater. At Wenlock there remains a small apartment in the west wall of the south transept, close to the eastern processional doorway from the cloister, which contained a lavatory for use before the night-office: in this case, the lavatory evidently followed the more usual arrangement and was not an isolated laver, but a trough fed by a horizontal pipe in the wall behind and emptied by a waste-pipe at one end. This is the form of which traces most commonly remain in cloisters, where the lavatory and its towel-cupboards were placed in arched recesses either, as at Peterborough or in several Cistercian houses, in the wall of the frater, or, as at Worcester, Haughmond and Hexham, in the wall of the western range, not far from the frater doorway. The lavatory at Gloucester, on the trough principle, remains within a rectangular building projecting from the wall opposite the frater into the cloister-garth: the towel-cupboard was in the north wall of the cloister next the frater. Towel-cupboards also were formed by recesses in similar positions in the south wall at Durham9.

The ground-floor of the western range of buildings, as at Canterbury, Chester and Peterborough, was usually the cellarer’s building (cellarium), containing the great cellar and buttery of the monastery, and frequently divided from the church by a vaulted passage, which was the main entrance to the cloister from the curia and was the outer parlour, where necessary business could be done with lay-folk. But the variable position of the curia with regard to the cloister made the use of this range liable to variation; and sometimes, as we have seen, the great cellar was a vault beneath the frater. In two convents of women, the Benedictine house of Saint Radegund at Cambridge and the Augustinian house at Lacock, the ground-floor was divided into separate rooms. The outer parlour at Lacock was a passage near the centre of the range: the rooms next the church may have been used by the chaplains of the convent, while a large room north of the passage may have been the guest-hall where inferior visitors or pilgrims were entertained by the cellaress. The upper floor probably contained the abbess’ lodging or camera, with her guest-hall, in which visitors of the better class were accommodated, above the cellaress’ hall. It was at any rate a very general custom, save in Cistercian monasteries, for the upper floor to form part of the abbot’s or prior’s separate lodging, and to contain his guest-hall. Originally the head of the house slept in the dorter with his brethren; but before the end of the twelfth century he began to occupy separate rooms, which in the larger monasteries developed into a house of some size. At Peterborough the abbot’s lodging, now the bishop’s palace, consisted of a separate block of buildings standing to the west of the cellarium, and entered from the outer court through its own gatehouse. It was joined to the cellarium by a wing, on the upper floor of which was the abbot’s solar or great chamber; and this communicated with the guest-hall on the first floor of the cellarium, between which and the church, above the outer parlour, was the abbot’s chapel. The older abbot’s lodging at Gloucester, afterwards appropriated to the prior, and now used as the deanery, was also separated by a small court from the cloister, and a wing next the church contained the abbot’s chapel above the outer parlour; but here there was no western cloister range, and consequently the abbot’s guest-hall was not within the claustral buildings. The archbishop’s palace at Canterbury occupied practically the whole space west of the cellarium, with entrances to the cloister at both ends: the curia was on the north of the cloister, and the outer parlour was a passage between the west end of the frater and the cellarer’s building.

Durham: ceiling of corter, now the chapter libraryAn important variation of plan in the western range occurs in three prominent instances. In each case the peculiarity is determined by the fact that a river forms the western boundary of the site, and afforded special convenience for drainage, while in two cases, at Durham and Worcester, the western range was on the side furthest from the town houses near the monastery. (1) At Worcester the cellarage was beneath the frater, and there was no western range parallel to the cloister. The dorter, with the common house below, was at right angles to the west walk of the cloister, and the rere-dorter was at the further end of this building next the river. A passage between the common house and the church led to the infirmary. (2) At Durham the older dorter and common house seem to have been, as at Peterborough, in the eastern range and its southward extension, next the chapter-house. But in the thirteenth century a long range was built at the back of the west walk. The great dorter occupied the whole of the upper floor. Its southern end, which crossed the west end of the frater range, was appropriated to the novices; and a stair into the cloister, close to the church, at the northern end, served for day and night use alike. The vaulted ground-floor next the cloister was divided into a treasury next the church and a common house. In the bay at the junction of the south and west walks a passage led through the range to the infirmary, which, as at Worcester and for the same reasons, was on the west side of the monastery. The bays beyond this contained the cellar and buttery, now known as the crypt, with entrances at one end from the infirmary and at the other from the cellarer’s checker or office and the kitchen buildings in the outer court. A part of the old eastern range next the chapter-house was used as a prison for refractory monks, while the place of the rest was taken by the prior’s lodging, now part of the deanery. (3) In the Premonstratensian house of Saint Agatha, the dorter was on the first floor of the western range and extended southwards, as at Durham, across the west end of the frater: its stair descended to the cloister at the south end of the west walk, dividing the common house and adjacent cellarage from the cellarer’s guest-hall, which formed the five southern bays of the dorter sub-vault. There was, however, a large two-storied annexe west of the dorter, the upper story of which seems to have been used for lodging guests of the better class, while, of the three divisions of its ground-floor, the middlemost and largest may have been occupied by their servants, with a narrow cellar on the east, and a drain, crossed by transverse arches, on the west side. The whole arrangement is quite exceptional and was probably unique; but the plan of the dorter sub-vault, allowing for some difference in use, bears a strong resemblance to the plan at Durham.

CHAPTER IV – THE CISTERCIAN CLOISTER

Having thus traced the position of the various buildings in the normal cloister-plan, we may consider the features peculiar to cloisters of the Cistercian order—features for which the internal arrangement of their churches have in some degree prepared us. It has been pointed out by Mr Micklethwaite that the plan of the Cistercian cloister is indicated by the order in which the buildings are directed to be visited in the Sunday procession—viz. chapter-house, parlour, dorter, rere-dorter, warming-house, frater, kitchen, cellarer’s building. It will be observed that the parlour in this list comes between the chapter-house and dorter, and was therefore on the further side of the chapter-house from the church. On the other hand, although at Furness and Waverley the chapter-house directly joins the south transept of the church, there was in most Cistercian houses an intervening building. The ground-floor of this, however, was not a passage—for the way to the graveyard was through the doorway in the opposite transept—but was divided into two parts by a transverse wall. The eastern division, entered from the transept, was a vestry (vestiarium): the western, entered from the cloister, was probably the library (librarium), outside which, in the west wall of the transept, was the book-cupboard (armarium commune), a wainscoted recess in which the books wanted for constant use in cloister were kept. At Furness, where the chapter-house was entered by a short vestibule, the entrance-arch was flanked by two similar arches, each of which opened into a rectangular apartment: these rooms probably formed the library. In the later middle ages the partition-wall between the library and vestry was taken down at Fountains, and the double chamber was converted into a passage. The books appear to have been removed into closets formed by enclosing the western bays of the north and south alleys of the chapter-house.

Netley abbey: south transept and south aisle of nave, showing doorways to the sacristy and dorter, and eastern processional doorwayLofty chapter-houses, like those of Gloucester and Bristol, are not found in the Cistercian plan, in which the dorter was almost invariably continued as far as the church and was provided with an annexe above the eastern projection of the chapter-house. Furness is a case in which the chapter-house, as already stated, had a vestibule; but here the vestibule is not a passage through the whole width of the eastern range, but a porch, above which a gallery was carried from the dorter to the night-stair. The roof of the chapter-house itself was somewhat higher, but there was the usual room on the upper floor. The chapter-house was usually an oblong, as at Fountains, or, as at Furness, a nearly square building, divided into alleys, generally three in number, by rows of columns which supported vaulting. The entrance, in most cases, followed the customary plan of a central doorway with a window on either side. Vaulted chapter-houses may still be seen at Buildwas, Kirkstall and Valle Crucis. That at Buildwas is of the normal plan, vaulted in three alleys. At Kirkstall the western part is vaulted in four alleys and has two wide archways from the cloister, while the eastern part beyond the range, rebuilt at the close of the thirteenth century, is vaulted in two alleys. The Valle Crucis chapter-house is a fourteenth-century rebuilding with the usual three alleys, but has a thick west wall, in which, on the south side of the central entrance, is the day-stair to the dorter, while on the north side is a vaulted book-cupboard, entered from the interior of the building. At Ford, where the chapter-house is now used as a private chapel, it is a vaulted building of the twelfth century, undivided by columns.

The monks’ parlour (auditorium juxta capitulum) was a narrow vaulted apartment in the ground-floor of the eastern range between the chapter-house and the sub-vault of the dorter. It was occasionally used, as at Beaulieu and Waverley, for a passage to the infirmary; but a separate passage, where the infirmary stood east of the range, was also made, as at Fountains, through the adjacent bay of the dorter sub-vault, which was walled off from the rest. The sub-vault, a long apartment, which at Furness extended no less than twelve bays south of the passage, was generally divided into two vaulted alleys by a central range of columns. It may have been partitioned off and applied to various uses, but at Furness it seems to have been undivided. From arrangements which are known to have existed at Clairvaux in 1517, it is now supposed to have been used, at any rate in part, as the house of the novices, possibly divided into a day-room, dorter and lodging for the novice-master. In a few instances, as at Croxden, Furness and Jervaulx, one or two of the southernmost bays originally formed an open loggia, with piers and arches taking the place of the outer walls: this space, however, in the two latter cases, was walled in after no long time. It may be noted that in the Benedictine houses of Peterborough and Westminster, where the common house was, according to the ordinary plan, in the sub-vault, a chapel was built as an eastern annexe, which was probably used at Peterborough as the chapel of the novices. This appears to bring corroborative evidence to the prevailing theory of the use of the Cistercian sub-vault, of which no part, however, was employed as the common or warming-house.

The Cistercian dorter and rere-dorter shew no important variation from the habitual plan. The position of the rere-dorter, at the end of the dorter or at right angles to it, or, as at Furness, in a separate building, was dictated by convenience for drainage. The room above the chapter-house was sometimes separate, as at Kirkstall and Valle Crucis, but was open to the rest of the dorter at Buildwas and Fountains. It may possibly have been appropriated to the abbot in the first instance, and afterwards, like the second dorter at Canterbury, may have been used by the obedientiaries or by the prior. At Valle Crucis the room contains a fireplace and is entered by a passage on the north side, which also leads to a small room next the church. Originally the day-stair to the dorter was placed in the eastern range of buildings, between the parlour and the dorter sub-vault: clear indications of this remain at Fountains and Kirkstall, and the day-stair is still in this position at Cleeve. But in most cases the stair was afterwards removed and placed against the west side of the sub-vault, between the eastern range and the range opposite the church, in the position which in Benedictine houses is generally occupied by a passage to the outer buildings. By a most unusual arrangement, the dorter at Waverley was on the ground-floor of the range, raised only by a few steps above the cloister. There was no upper floor, although a room between the dorter and parlour was divided into two stages10. The chapter-house was an undivided oblong building, vaulted in three bays; and there was, of course, no special night-entry to the church.

Fountain abbey planThe buildings connecting the east and west ranges of the Cistercian cloister were divided into three parts, with the warming-house on the east, the frater in the middle and the kitchen on the west, all entered from the cloister. It is probable that in the first instance the Cistercian frater was built in the usual way, with its major axis from east to west. This was always the plan of the frater at Sibton in Suffolk: there are clear traces of it at Kirkstall, and evidences of foundations at Fountains. In the Savigniac houses, afterwards Cistercian, the frater seems to have been built from east to west, and at Buckfast this position was apparently never altered. But such fraters were cramped in size by their position between the warming-house and kitchen, and, before the end of the twelfth century they were built or, as at Fountains and Kirkstall, rebuilt at right angles to the cloister with their major axes from north to south. This gave more room for the kitchen on the west: it also permitted a readjustment of the warming-house, and left room at the east end for the insertion of a wide and convenient day-stair to the dorter, with a landing at the head, from which, as at Fountains, access was given to a room, possibly the treasury or muniment-room, above the warming-house. We have no definite reason for the change of plan; but that it was due to the uncontemplated growth of numbers in Cistercian houses is at least probable. At Furness, where the dorter was of remarkable length, the frater, built in place of the old frater of the Savigniac monastery, had to be lengthened during the thirteenth century, the only reason for which can have been that, even on the new plan, it afforded insufficient room for all the brethren.

The warming-house was a rectangular building, which at Fountains is vaulted in four compartments from a middle pillar. The fireplace was usually in a side-wall or, as at Waverley, in the further wall from the cloister. Two huge fireplaces remain in the east wall at Fountains, one of which has been blocked. At Tintern the fireplace was a middle hearth, surrounded by open arches and connected by smaller arches with the end walls. The outer wall was generally pierced by a window and a doorway which led into a yard at the back. Here at Fountains, against the west wall of the dorter sub-vault, was the wood-house from which the fire was replenished. The west wall of the warming-house was part of the east wall of the frater, and two openings in it at Fountains may have been intended to give the frater some of the benefit of the fire. The arrangements of the frater, of which a perfect example, now used as a church, remains at Beaulieu, were similar, allowing for the difference in plan, to those of Benedictine and other houses, but were less elaborate. It was raised a step or two above the cloister, and on one or both sides of the entrance were the lavatory arches. The magnificent frater at Rievaulx had a sub-vault, entered from the foot of the stair to the pulpit; but this is a rare instance of a feature often found in Benedictine houses. At Fountains the frater was divided by a row of columns into two alleys, each with its separate wooden roof; but the undivided plan, as at Beaulieu, was general.

The position of the kitchen was so planned as to communicate readily on one side with the monks’ frater, which was served from it through a turn-table in the wall, and the frater of the lay brothers on the other, which was served at Fountains through a hatch in the west wall. It had a doorway from the cloister, which brought it into close connexion with the cellar and buttery in the western range; while at the back a door opened into a yard, where fuel could be kept. The fireplaces at Fountains and Kirkstall, where the kitchens were vaulted, were placed back to back in the middle of the room. Kitchens of the size of those at Durham or Glastonbury were unknown in Cistercian houses, where, even after the relaxation of the ordinary simple diet, meat was never cooked in the frater kitchen. The plan, which provided for the simultaneous supply of two fraters when necessary, was more compact and less secular in some of its features than the Benedictine plan; while the actual admission of the kitchen into the cloister buildings was made possible by the fact that the monks themselves did their own work, instead of using hired servants under the superintendence of the kitchener.

Fountains abbey: cellarium, looking northThe western range of a Cistercian cloister was sometimes separated from the west walk by an intervening passage or yard, as at Kirkstall, Pipewell and a few other houses, probably more in number than has been supposed. At the end of this yard was the western processional doorway of the church, the position of which depended on convenience for the Sunday procession, which always passed outside the west cloister, through the ground-floor of the western range. If the church extended west of the range, the doorway, as at Fountains, was in the building itself, or, as at Jervaulx, where the building did not directly join the church, in the bay west of it. If the range was to the west of a short nave, as at Hayles and Tintern, and there was no intermediate yard, the doorway was cut obliquely through the corner of the building which touched, or was near the church. The whole of the first floor was given up to the dorter of the lay brothers, to which was attached a rere-dorter, the arrangements of which are still remarkably perfect at Fountains. A night-stair descended into the church, as at Fountains, or, as at Jervaulx, just outside the western processional doorway: in houses where there was an intervening yard, the night-stair was placed against the east wall of the range. The ground-floor was divided by a passage, which was the outer parlour and main entrance of the cloister and entered the west walk close to the kitchen, into a long apartment on the side furthest from the church, and into a series of smaller rooms adjoining the church and cloister. The large room was the frater of the lay brothers: the rooms on the other side of the outer parlour were the buttery and cellars, and could be entered by doorways from the outer court and cloister-walk, while there were doors in the partition-walls between them. The building varied much in length. The splendid example at Fountains is twenty-two bays long, divided by columns into two alleys. The marks of the original partitions and doorways shew that two bays next the church were possibly the earlier outer parlour. The cellar was in the four bays following. Two bays were occupied by the buttery, two by the main entrance-passage; while the remaining twelve were the lay brothers’ frater, two bays at the north end of which were screened off and had an outer doorway to the cellarer’s checker. The western face was covered by one of those wooden pentises which were a very general feature in medieval buildings to cover doorways from a court or yard and form a sheltered means of access from one building to another. The day-stair to the dorter was naturally on this side of the building, and mounted against the north wall of the cellarer’s checker, the upper floor of which was a lobby to the dorter. The arrangements at Furness were very similar, but there were only fifteen bays, of which the cellar seems to have occupied only two, the cloister-entry one, and the lay-brothers’ frater eight, the buttery and the two bays next the church remaining as at Fountains. The division into alleys, although it occasionally was employed, as at Furness and Waverley, was not general, and the building was frequently narrow in proportion to its length. When the cloister of Waverley was enlarged in the thirteenth century, the cellarer’s building was taken down to make way for the west walk, but its southern part, containing the lay brothers’ frater and dorter, was rebuilt and extended southward.

In the later middle ages the Cistercian plan underwent some modification. The disappearance of lay brothers from the convents caused the disuse of a large part of the western range, which at Hayles was converted into the abbot’s lodging. In some instances, as at Furness and Hayles, new processional doorways were made into the church from the west walk of the cloister, so that the course of the Sunday procession no longer differed from the Benedictine usage. At Waverley, on the other hand, after the destruction of the old cellarer’s building, the procession still returned to the church outside the cloister, through a narrow passage between the cloister and an outer wall on the west. A further approximation to Benedictine use is seen in the fifteenth-century rebuilding of the frater at Cleeve upon a plan parallel to the church and adjacent cloister walk. Relaxation of discipline and the diminished number of monks allowed for more individual privacy: thus at Jervaulx some bays of the sub-dorter were cut off to form small rooms, each with its own fireplace. An important change was introduced in some houses owing to the removal of restrictions upon flesh-diet, which went so far that in the fifteenth century flesh was eaten on three days a week11. Hitherto a special flesh-frater or misericord (misericordia, i.e. indulgence) for monks undergoing bleeding had been provided in connexion with the infirmary buildings and kitchen. It now became convenient to place the misericord in closer communication with the cloister, and at Ford and Kirkstall this was done by dividing the frater into an upper and lower floor, the lower floor being probably used as the misericord. A new and smaller two-storied frater was built at Furness. In such cases meat was never cooked in the old kitchen, but a special meat-kitchen was provided; and the south end of the destroyed frater at Furness may have been kept for this purpose. At Jervaulx a new misericord was built at right angles to the east end of the frater, and a meat-kitchen was made about the same time on the other side of the sub-dorter.

The chief peculiarities of the Cistercian plan were without influence on the houses of other orders, which adhered to Benedictine precedent in such points as the position of the warming-house, frater and kitchen. Thus the plan of the Augustinian house of Haughmond, allowing for special exigencies of site, is that of a Benedictine monastery, with the exception that the building between the church and chapter-house appears, as at Saint Agatha’s and many smaller monasteries, to have been a sacristy, while the canons’ parlour, as again at Saint Agatha’s and at Repton, was in the Cistercian position, south of the chapter-house. At Alnwick the sacristy and parlour stood side by side south of the church. Variations may be found in such points as the connexion of the dorter with the church: in the Carmelite friary of Hulne, for example, the night-stair opened, not into the church itself, but into a small court next it. But the collation of plans, such as those of the Augustinian Saint Frideswide’s at Oxford and the Premonstratensian Saint Radegund’s at Bradsole, with those of other orders, shews clearly that the arrangement of canons’ and friars’ cloisters was modelled upon the convenient Benedictine plan. The same conclusion applies to nunneries, as may be gathered from the foregoing pages. Little is known of the buildings of Cistercian nunneries, but the nuns’ cloister at Watton was upon the Benedictine plan, with the exception that the ground-floor of the western range was probably the house of the lay sisters. The canons’ cloister was very similar in plan; but its vaulted chapter-house, like others already mentioned, may shew the architectural influence of the Cistercian order. The two cloisters were connected by a long passage, in which was the turning-window (fenestra versatilis), where necessary communication was carried on between the two divisions of the monastery.

The plan of the Carthusian cloister, however, owing to the solitary life prescribed by the rule, was unique. The monastery at Mount Grace consisted of two courts, the northern or cloister-court being surrounded on three sides by a series of separate cells, each with its own garden. On the south side were the chapter-house and the cells occupied by the sacrist and prior; while the frater occupied the south-west angle of the court. The church stood at the back of the chapter-house and part of the south range, next the outer court. The chapter-house was, in fact, a northern annexe to the church, parallel and almost exactly equal in dimensions to the presbytery. Some years after the foundation of the priory, owing to an increase in endowments and the number of monks, a second cloister was formed south of the church by enclosing a long rectangular space in the north-east part of the outer court: later still, the north-west angle of the same court was divided by partition walls into one or more courts covering the west front of the church and the west wall of the new cloister. The outer court, thus curtailed, contained as usual the storehouses of the convent, the building on the west side, through which the monastery was entered, being probably devoted to the use of guests.

CHAPTER V – THE INFIRMARY AND THE OUTER COURT

Of the extra-claustral buildings of a monastery, the most important was the infirmary (domus infirmaria, infirmitorium). This was not merely used for the accommodation of the sick, but was the dwelling-place of those who were too infirm to take part in the regular routine of the cloister, known in most orders as stagiarii or stationarii, and of the sempectae who, in the Cistercian order, had been professed for fifty years. It was also generally used by the minuti or religious who were undergoing their periodical bleeding (minutio) for the sake of their health. Each of the Augustinian canons of Barnwell was allowed to be bled once every seven weeks, if he so desired: he might even be bled once a month, if his health demanded it, but in this latter case he was not allowed to take his furlough in the infirmary. The leave allowed at Barnwell lasted three days, and canons were permitted during such periods to talk to each other and take walks within a limited area12. Thus there were usually a few minuti on leave, whose absence made little difference to the number of those in quire; and in the larger houses it is clear that opportunities of bleeding took place once a week. In the Cistercian and Carthusian orders the rules were stricter: the monks were bled in batches appointed by the prior at fixed seasons in the year—four seasons in Cistercian, five in Carthusian monasteries. According to the statutes, Cistercian minuti were obliged to take their meals in the frater, but this rule appears to have been gradually relaxed, and monks probably went into the infirmary, as in other orders, and were allowed a flesh-diet13. In Cluniac houses the actual operation of bleeding took place in the common house. Several Benedictine houses—e.g. Bardney and Croyland—sent their minuti to small houses or granges at a little distance from the monastery, under the supervision of a prior.

Haughmond abbey plan; the chapterhouse was originally rectangular; the present ending was built after the suppressionThe buildings of the infirmary, known colloquially as the ‘farmery,’ consisted of a hall, chapel and kitchen, close to which was usually a hall in which the convent might eat flesh-meat on certain days. This hall was commonly called the misericord: it was known at Canterbury as the deportum and at Peterborough as the ‘seyny.’ As already stated, access to these buildings, which formed a self-contained group, was obtained by a passage through the east range of the cloister or at the further end of the east walk. Their position, however, was dictated by convenience, and they followed no very consistent plan. Thus, at Durham and Worcester, where the dorter was west of the cloister, the infirmary was also on the west side, between the cloister and the river. At Canterbury the infirmary was on the east side of a smaller eastern cloister, of which the west side was occupied by the great dorter and its sub-vault, the north side by the second or obedientiaries’ dorter, and the south side by the laver-house and the night-passage to the church on the upper floor of the cloister. The infirmary at Gloucester was entered from the north-east side of a small cloister north of the great cloister. At Peterborough it was a detached building to the north-east of the cloister. In Cistercian abbeys it was generally connected with the east walk of the cloister by a long covered gallery or passage, which usually threw off a branch, nearly at right angles, to the eastern part of the church. The twelfth-century infirmary at Rievaulx is in this position, and its plan, with the major axis north and south and a chapel opening from it on the eastern side, was followed in the later infirmary at Fountains. But at Jervaulx the earlier infirmary appears to have been beneath the rere-dorter, and its successor formed an eastern continuation of the same building. Similarly, at Netley there is a hall with a great fireplace beneath the rere-dorter. At Furness, where the eastern part of the site is much contracted, the old infirmary, to the south-east, was converted into a lodging for the abbot: the new infirmary, with its chapel, was built south of the cloister in the fourteenth century. In Cistercian houses a special infirmary was also needed for the lay brothers: the remains of this at Fountains are on the west side of the western cloister-range, with which they are connected by the lay brothers’ rere-dorter.

Peterborouch infirmary, looking westThe infirmary hall in its simplest form was an aisleless oblong, on either side of which was a row of beds. From the east side or end opened the infirmary chapel. The hall, however, was sometimes too wide to be roofed in one span without support, and consequently aisled halls became very usual, divided either by regular arcades with a clerestory above or by upright posts of wood. The beds were placed within the aisles, the nave forming a central gangway. This was a common plan in medieval hospitals, many of which were quasi-conventual establishments following the rule of Saint Augustine: Saint Mary’s hospital at Chichester, a long hall running east and west, with a wooden roof of one span supported on each side of the nave by upright posts which are bound together by longitudinal trusses, and with an aisleless chapel screened off at the east end, is a famous surviving example of its use. At Ely and Canterbury the Norman infirmaries were divided by stone arcades and clerestoried; while at Gloucester and Peterborough there are substantial remains of aisled infirmaries of the thirteenth century. Most of the south aisle at Peterborough is now included in one of the canons’ houses, while the chapel at the east end of the infirmary forms the dining-room of another. In the infirmary hall at Fountains, which ran north and south, with the chapel and kitchen on its eastern side, the arcades were returned across the ends, and there were large fireplaces in the end walls. A fireplace was a necessity, and, where no original fireplaces can be traced in the side or end walls, there was presumably a middle hearth, the smoke from which escaped through a louvre in the roof. As a rule the beds were arranged at right angles to the side walls. At Furness, however, where there were no arcades and the hall was lighted by windows in the upper part of the walls, the north and south walls contained a number of arched recesses near the floor, each lighted by a small window and wide enough to contain a bed with its side against the wall. Similar recesses have been noted in a portion of the east aisle of the infirmary of the lay brothers at Fountains, against the end wall of the lay brothers’ rere-dorter. In later days it became the general custom to divide the aisles into separate rooms, often with their own fireplaces. This was usual by the beginning of the fifteenth century: it is known to have been done at Meaux before 1396, and there is much evidence for it in the Lincoln episcopal registers of the next fifty years. At Canterbury the south aisle was walled up before 1400 and divided into rooms as a lodging for the sub-prior. In Cistercian infirmaries, as at Fountains, Kirkstall, Tintern and Waverley, there are abundant traces of this practice. A peculiar arrangement was adopted in the fourteenth-century infirmary at Westminster, where the hall was removed and a number of separate rooms were arranged round a cloister, the aisled chapel of the hall being retained on the east side. At Jervaulx, where the infirmary hall was not large, part of the sub-vault of the dorter was partitioned off into separate rooms, probably as an annexe to the infirmary.

A special kitchen, where more delicate food (cibi subtiliores) could be cooked for the infirm, was a necessary adjunct to an infirmary, and is usually found divided from it by a narrow yard, crossed by a covered passage, as at Fountains. The infirmary kitchen at Furness was octagonal, but the normal plan was rectangular. The Furness kitchen served the old infirmary: when this was converted into the abbot’s lodging and a new infirmary built, it probably served both; but in the fifteenth century a kitchen was made in the abbot’s lodging, the octagonal kitchen seems to have been taken down, and the infirmary was probably served from a meat-kitchen which, as has been explained in the previous chapter, also served the new frater and misericord. The misericord or flesh-frater had no fixed position in the plan of the infirmary buildings. At Fountains, it was an aisleless hall, lying between the infirmary hall and the abbot’s lodging, and must have been served through the infirmary hall from the kitchen.

Heads of religious houses were provided, as time went on, with separate lodgings (camerae, i.e. chambers), which, as has been seen, frequently occupied or were partly upon the upper floor of the western cloister-range. In Cistercian abbeys, where the western range had its own use, the abbot’s camera was very generally built, as is recorded of Croxden and Meaux, on the east side of the dorter, between the eastern cloister-range and the infirmary. As the first floor of the lodging generally communicated with the monks’ rere-dorter, the spirit, if not the letter, of the custom which required Cistercian abbots to sleep in the dorter was still observed. The construction of these separate lodgings in Cistercian monasteries seems to have become general towards the beginning of the fourteenth century; but at Kirkstall there is a three-storied house of the later part of the twelfth century, standing between the rere-dorter and an eastern annexe of the thirteenth century in which were additional rooms and the abbot’s chapel. At Fountains the abbot’s lodging was made by remodelling an older block of buildings between the dorter and the infirmary. Additions were made to this in later times: the living rooms were upon the first floor and must have included the abbot’s great chamber or solar and his bedroom and chapel or oratory. It has been suggested that he used the misericord, to which there was a passage from the ground-floor of his lodging, as his hall for the entertainment of guests; and monastic visitations shew that in houses of other orders the abbot’s hall was sometimes used as the misericord. The upper floor of the long passage which led from the cloister to the infirmary at Fountains was apparently the gallery of the abbot’s lodging, and another gallery over the passage which branched off to the church led to a pew overlooking the nine altars, which allowed the abbot and his guests to hear mass without leaving his lodging. The connexion with the dorter, which was to some extent preserved at Fountains, was entirely severed at Furness, where the old infirmary hall was converted into the abbot’s hall, and a new block, containing his great chamber, chapel and bedroom was built on the narrow space between the hall and the low cliff on the east. It has been noted before that the western range at Hayles was turned into an abbot’s lodging. The same change took place at Ford, where, not long before the suppression, abbot Chard built the magnificent abbot’s hall, which, extending westwards from the site of the lay-brothers’ frater, forms part of the existing dwelling-house. Evidence of additional camerae is often found in the neighbourhood of the abbot’s lodging and infirmary of Cistercian houses, as at Kirkstall, Furness and Waverley. These may have been applied to the use of the visiting abbot; but it is clear that in houses of other orders, as in the Cluniac priory of Daventry, such lodgings were appropriated to abbots or priors who had resigned their office, and this may account for the existence of more than one such camera at Furness14.

The normal position of the abbot’s lodging in monasteries of other orders was, however, west of the cloister. Exceptional positions are found, for example at Haughmond, where the thirteenth-century abbot’s lodging was a building south of the cloister, nearly parallel with the dorter and its sub-vault. The abbot seems to have used the ground floor, while the upper floor was used as part of the infirmary, the great hall of which, parallel with the frater, adjoined it on the west. In canons’ houses, however, the abbot or prior might entertain his guests in the frater, and there was consequently no need for the large hall which was a feature of his lodging in the great Benedictine houses. In these, and especially in monasteries where pilgrimages were frequent, considerable provision had to be made for housing guests. In such houses as Canterbury, Durham and Worcester, where the prior was the actual head, under the archbishop or bishop, of the cathedral priory, he had his own lodging with its hall and guest-chambers. At Durham and Worcester these were to the south-east of the cloister, near the great gatehouse of the monastery: at Canterbury the prior’s lodging was at the north-east angle of the infirmary cloister, where it is shewn in the famous Norman plan of the monastery. The same plan shews another building further east, called the nova camera prioris, divided from the older lodging by the kitchen and necessarium of the infirmary. This was the prior’s guest-house. Both lodgings underwent much enlargement, and a third lodging or guest-house, which is now the deanery, was built by prior Goldstone (1495-1517) on a site north of the infirmary and north-east of the old lodging. The ruins of the prior’s guest-house at Worcester still remain: it was destroyed as recently as 1860. The older abbot’s lodging at Gloucester, west of the cloister, was in course of time devoted to the prior, while the abbot built himself a new house north of the monastery. As at Peterborough, the abbot’s lodging became in 1541 the bishop’s palace, while the prior’s lodging was appropriated to the dean. In monasteries where cathedral chapters were founded by Henry VIII, the prior’s lodging, as at Durham, was usually occupied by the dean. It was the deanery at Worcester until some seventy years ago, when the dean removed to the old bishop’s palace on the north-west side of the cathedral. Part of it is used as the deanery at Ely: the prior’s chapel, built in 1325-6 by prior John of Crauden, adjoins a portion of the lodging now converted into a canon’s house.

The hospitality of the abbot or prior, however, was accorded only to distinguished guests. For the more ordinary type of guest a special hostry or guest-house (hospitium) was built in the outer court. In the ninth-century plan of Saint Gall, there are two hostries, one on each side of the main entrance, one of which was the general guest-house, while the other was the lodging for the poor. At Canterbury this double division of guest-houses existed. On the west side of the outer court, immediately to the left of the main gatehouse, was the hall known as the north hall, a long building with a sub-vault, entered by a covered stair which is one of the most celebrated examples of Anglo-Norman architecture. This, in close connexion with the almonry, is generally recognised to have been the casual ward, to borrow a modern term, of the monastery. From the other side of the gatehouse, a pentise along the west wall of the court formed a covered way towards the north-west angle of the cloister, where a small gatehouse gave admission to a court between the kitchen on the east and the cellarer’s guest-hall on the west. About the beginning of the fifteenth century, the accommodation for guests under charge of the cellarer was enlarged by the building of a range of guest-chambers on the north side of the kitchen15. In the Rites of Durham there is no mention of a special guest-house in connexion with the almonry; but there is a description of the guest-house on the east side of the curia, with its aisled hall and central fireplace, and its separate chambers or lodgings. It was served from the prior’s kitchen and was conveniently situated with regard to the cellarer’s checker and the cellar. The guests, however, were as a rule under charge, not of the cellarer, but of a special guest-master or hosteller (hospitarius), who was known at Durham as the terrer (terrarius), a name implying other duties in connexion with the lands of the monastery. The office of the hosteller is minutely described in the customs of the Augustinian priory of Barnwell: he had complete supervision of the guest-house and its furniture, and was in close communication with the cellarer and kitchener, from whom he obtained supplies for his guests. In Cistercian abbeys the usual division between classes of guests appears to have been observed: thus at Fountains and Kirkstall there are remains of two guest-houses in the outer court. A special infirmary for lay-folk was a feature of Cistercian monasteries, and at Fountains there seems also to have been an infirmary for the poor. A Benedictine infirmary for lay-folk existed at Durham, where it stood outside the monastery gates.

In addition to the guest-houses, the outer court generally contained the brew-house, the bake-house and granary of the monastery. In Cistercian houses, where the statutes required that all the offices should be within the precinct, there was generally another court outside the main gatehouse. In the great monastery of Clairvaux this additional court was of large extent and included workshops and smithies with numerous other offices. It may be seen on a smaller scale at Beaulieu, where the mill of the monastery adjoins the outer gatehouse, and at Furness. There was frequently, near the outer gateway and, as at Furness and Fountains, just within it, a chapel (capella extra portas), provided for the use of persons not allowed within the great gateway. Such chapels, at Merevale in Warwickshire and Tiltey in Essex, were enlarged in the later middle ages to serve as parish churches. At Kirkstead in Lincolnshire the chapel is perfect, though now disused, and chapels at Coggeshall and Rievaulx have been repaired and are used for service. At Beaulieu and Whalley there was a chapel upon the first floor of the main gatehouse, and one was begun at Meaux to supersede an older capella extra portas16. Such chapels are to be distinguished from the parish churches which are often found, as at Bury Saint Edmunds or Coventry and in the small example at Barnwell priory, close to the precinct of a religious house.

Kirkham priory gatehouseMonasteries of other orders were generally content with a single outer court, although there is evidence, for example at Gloucester, of some of the offices being arranged round a smaller court entered from the curia17. The great gatehouse of the curia, of which many fine examples remain, was the main entrance to the monastery, and was usually a building with one or more upper floors and a vaulted passage or gate-hall on the ground-floor. In the earlier examples, as at Peterborough, the gateway was a single wide arch, as is also the case in the early fourteenth-century gatehouse at Kirkham. This gave entrance to carriages and foot-passengers alike. Later gatehouses were built on a larger scale, and the gate-hall was entered by a wide portal with a low doorway or postern at the side for pedestrians, as at Bridlington, Christchurch gate, Canterbury, Torre, and Saint Albans. On one side of the gate-hall was the porter’s lodge. Occasionally, as at Peterborough, the chamber on the upper floor was used as a chapel. The finest of all existing English examples is the gatehouse at Thornton, remarkable for the barbican which gives it as important a place in military as in monastic architecture; but the Christchurch and Saint Augustine’s gatehouses at Canterbury, and the two gatehouses at Bury Saint Edmunds are hardly second to it in interest and beauty. The southern and earlier gatehouse at Bury was the porta coemeterii directly opposite the west front of the church, and is a square Norman tower, not unlike the great tower of a Norman castle: the northern gatehouse, built in the fourteenth century, was the entrance to the outer court of the monastery. Large monasteries were frequently provided with more than one outer gatehouse: thus the Christchurch gateway at Canterbury was the entrance to the cathedral and the part of the churchyard set apart for lay burials, while the main gatehouse was in the western wall of the outer court. Special entrances to the lay-folks’ cemetery are also found at Gloucester and Rochester; while at Norwich, as at Bury, one of the two western gateways leads directly to the cathedral, while the other was the main entrance to the precinct.

Close to the gatehouse of the curia, and, as at Canterbury, immediately outside it, was the almonry (domus elemosinaria), where the daily dole of broken meat from the tables of the monastery was given to the poor by the almoner (elemosinarius). The almoner at Durham had control of the infirmary without the gate, where four old women were maintained. Such monastic almshouses, which had parallels in the bede-houses attached to some secular colleges in the later middle ages, were not uncommon: it is clear, from a passage in the Ripon chapter act-book, that the chamber over the outer gateway at Fountains was used for the same purpose. In the upper part of the almonry at Durham were lodged the ‘children of the almery,’ who were educated at the expense of the monastery and were taught daily in the outer infirmary. Elsewhere, as at Barnwell and Thornton, these children were known as the clerks of the almonry, and their position was similar to that of the clerici secundae formae, who in secular colleges were under the direction of the chancellor. They were educated with the intention of entering holy orders. Some of them, no doubt, became novices in the monastery, but ordination lists shew that many of them became secular clergy, who obtained their titles to orders from the religious houses in which they had received their education. In 1431 a papal dispensation was granted to the abbot and convent of Saint Augustine’s, Canterbury, to build a grammar school outside their gates for the poor boys of their almonry and to appoint a special master or rector, and it is evident that, although there was some doubt as to the canonical propriety of the application of alms in this direction, the education of poor children was a common part of the activity of monasteries18.

CHAPTER VI – DISCIPLINE AND THE DAILY LIFE

The chief object of this book has been to explain the position and use of the various buildings of a monastery, and in its course reference has been made to several leading features of the life which was led within them. The sketch may be completed by some brief notes on the arrangements for monastic discipline and the ordinary life of the house. The abbot was the head and father of the house, who presided in chapter and was responsible for the due correction of erring brethren and the treatment of the complaints which monks and canons were encouraged to make publicly in the daily chapter-meeting. His duties, however, were largely delegated to the prior, who was the officer charged with the maintenance of order in the cloister19. Where the prior was head of the house, the sub-prior took this secondary position. In monasteries where the number of brethren was large, as at Lewes or Peterborough, the prior was helped in the cloister by other monks, who were known as the sub-prior and the third and fourth prior. An old name for the junior priors was circae or circatores: their duty was to make periodical rounds of inspection in the cloister and dorter. But, in addition to these disciplinary officers, there were other officials, each of whom administered a special department of the convent. Their offices, held by commission from the abbot, were called obediences (obedientiae), and they themselves were known collectively as obedientiaries (obedientiarii). In the great monasteries the abbot had his own household officers, chosen from the monks: at Peterborough in 1440 he had his own seneschal, receiver or bailiff, cellarer, chamberlain, and chaplain20. Of the obedientiaries usually found in connexion with the convent, two, the precentor and sacrist, were in charge of the church. The precentor was responsible for the singing, the direction of processions and the repair and proper notation of the quire-books: he also, as at Barnwell, filled the office of librarian (armarius). The sacrist had control of the clock, bells, lights and ornaments of the church. They were sometimes assisted in their offices by a succentor or sub-chanter and sub-sacrist. The sacrist at Peterborough was excused from attendance in quire save on certain festivals. The same excuse applied for more obvious reasons to the cellarer and almoner, and to the monks who filled the offices of treasurer and master of the works, the second of whom controlled the repairs of the church and monastery. The cellarer and almoner were invariably found in all monasteries. The cellarer was the chief means of communication between the house and the world outside: he marketed and went to fairs, and bought the necessary provisions and furniture. The duties of the almoner have already been noticed: he and the cellarer were frequently assisted by a sub-almoner and sub-cellarer. The cellarer, whose checker was usually in the neighbourhood of the cellarium and kitchen, was in close touch with the fraterer (refectorarius) and kitchener (coquinarius), whose chief duties were to arrange the meals in the frater and to regulate the activities of the cook and his assistants21. He also was, as we have seen, responsible in some degree for the hospitality of the house, which was administered directly by the hosteller (hospitarius). Equally necessary to the conduct of the monastery were the infirmarer (infirmarius), who looked after the brethren in the infirmary and sometimes, as at Peterborough, had his separate lodging in its neighbourhood, and the chamberlain (camerarius), who attended to the clothes of the brethren and their bedding in the dorter. The receiver (receptor), treasurer (thesaurarius) or bursar (bursarius) collected rents in money: the garnerer or granger (granatarius) collected the tithe in corn which belonged to the monastery, and supplied the cellarer with his stores of bread and beer. These offices of course varied in different houses, and in the later middle ages some are found in combination; but, as the needs of all orders were to some extent the same, the differences are trifling22. Each was bound to render an account of his administration yearly or quarterly, and, where such accounts survive, the information which they give is from the social and economical point of view of the highest value.

The time-table of a monastic day in church and cloister must be reckoned with attention to the fact that the day, between sunrise and sunset, was divided, irrespective of the season, into twelve equal parts. The hours in winter were thus some twenty minutes shorter than in summer, and, with this in view, a different arrangement was adopted during the winter months, which began on Holy Cross day (14 September) and lasted till Easter. Artificial light was impossible in the cloister after sunset, and consequently in winter the brethren went to bed earlier. Their night was divided into two equal portions, between which came the night-office of matins followed by lauds. The rule of Saint Benedict contemplated an undivided night, with matins as the first day-office, said before daybreak; but the general practice followed in all orders was to rise in the middle of the night for matins and to return to the dorter afterwards. At Durham the monks dressed by the light of cressets—bowls filled with oil and floating wicks, and set in hollows in square stone stands at either end of the dorter. In most monasteries the brethren entered and left the church in procession before and after matins by the night-stair, and the time between dressing and the signal to go to church was occupied in private prayer. After preparatory psalms, the service began with the invitatory, which included the psalm Venite exultemus. It was divided into nocturns, each consisting of a group of psalms followed by three lessons: on ordinary days matins consisted of a single nocturn, but on most feast-days there were three. Lauds followed: this service derived its name from the three final psalms of the psalter, known from their opening words, Laudate Dominum, as the laudes. The whole night-office was of considerable length—equal, in fact, to that of the day-hours taken together—and was further increased by the addition of the office of our Lady and on certain days of Placebo, or matins of the dead. When it was over, the brethren returned to bed and rose, at daybreak in winter, at sunrise in summer, for prime, when the sub-prior unlocked the day-stair and the church was entered by the ordinary doorway from the cloister.

The day-hours were said every three hours, as their names imply—prime at the first, terce at the third, sext at the sixth, none at the ninth. In summer prime was followed in Benedictine and Cistercian houses by chapter. This began with the versicle Pretiosa (‘Right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints’) which preceded the martyrology or account of the saints commemorated on the day: this was followed by the necrology, or list of the dead to be remembered, and by a chapter of the rule with a sermon or commentary. The work of each monk was allotted for the day, and the meeting closed with clamationes or individual complaints, public confessions and corrections by the head of the house. The interval between chapter and terce was occupied by the monks in work in the cloister or in their various offices. Terce was followed by the chapter mass, during which at Durham half the monks in priest’s orders said their private masses. The other half said their masses during high mass, which was sung about an hour after the chapter mass and immediately before sext. During this time, no food was taken. Bread soaked in wine (mixtum) was allowed to those whose strength was hardly equal to the long morning. In the Premonstratensian order, where, as in Augustinian houses, the chapter mass seems to have been sung immediately after prime, and chapter was followed after an interval by terce, the mixtum was distributed after terce to the infirm and the novices. All spare intervals were filled by work, and silence was rigorously maintained, all necessary conversation taking place in the parlour.

The first meal (prandium) took place at mid-day in the frater, soon after sext. During the meal the reader for the week, who had taken his repast before the rest, occupied the pulpit and read from the Bible or some pious book. Grace after meat ended with the Miserere, which was sung in procession through the cloister, the concluding collect and suffrages being said in church. The brethren then retired to rest in the dorter, until none. Work of various kinds filled up the time between none and vespers, a service which corresponded in its general structure to lauds. After vespers and the usual grace came supper (caena). During the interval between supper and compline (completorium), the last office, the convent met in the chapter-house for collation, at which the Collationes of Cassian or a chapter from some other monastic author were read. Compline ended the day, although, in times of lax discipline, there arose a custom of sitting up late in the warming-house which called for correction from episcopal visitors. The strict rule, however, required that the brethren should repair directly after compline to the dorter, and that all doors in the church and cloister should be locked until prime. At Durham the sub-prior went the round of the dorter towards the middle of the night to see that all was in good order. The rule required constant vigilance on the part of the officers, especially with regard to the maintenance of silence and the prevention of the accumulation of private property by the brethren.

In winter the morning or chapter mass was sung between prime and terce, and terce was succeeded by chapter. High mass and sext followed. Between sext and none the convent was at work. After none came the mid-day meal, and the rest of the day was spent as usual until compline, with the omission of the post-prandial rest, which in a season of long nights was not needed. In orders in which manual labour played a large part—the Cistercian and Premonstratensian, for example—special portions of the day were set aside for such work. The Cistercians worked in the morning between chapter and terce, and in the afternoon between none and vespers. In winter they usually worked from chapter after terce till none, apparently saying sext privately: in Lent they also said none at their work, and did not have their meal until after vespers. Their periods for reading and contemplation were an interval between matins and lauds in all seasons, the time between the morning mass and sext in summer (for in this order there seems to have originally been no high mass before sext), and part of the interval between vespers and compline. Premonstratensian canons worked in summer from chapter to terce, and in hay-time and harvest spent the greater part of the day in the fields, saying their hours privately, and dining and sleeping in the granges, if necessary. In winter work was done after terce. The Premonstratensian hours for reading were between sext and the mid-day meal in summer or none in winter, and again after none or the mid-day meal till vespers. In the summer the canons were allowed their daily bevers or draught of wine before vespers in the frater. The conduct of the daily life in the various orders applies equally to houses of female religious, where the officers corresponded to those in male convents, the night and day-hours were said and chapters were held on the same model, and the only important difference was that chaplains had to be imported to say mass and hear private confessions, the hour for which in all orders was usually after chapter.

It is probable that the observances of all orders in the two centuries before the suppression tended to become very similar. Records of visitations in the fifteenth century shew that there had grown to be scarcely any difference between the ordinary customs of Benedictine monks and Augustinian canons: injunctions delivered to a house of one order were repeated in almost the same terms to a house of another. The Carthusian order stood apart from the rest, however, by virtue of its ascetic rule—a rule stricter and more frugal even than that followed by the early Cistercians. Each monk lived his own life in his cell, going to church for the night-office, the early masses and vespers, and to the frater for the mid-day meal and supper on Sundays and certain feast-days, but otherwise saying his offices alone and served with his two meals a day through a hatch in the wall of his cell. On Sundays and chapter festivals all the hours, except compline, were said in church, and two chapters were held, one after prime and the second after none. In this life of lonely austerity, given up to contemplation and precluded even from the field-work and farming which were part of the activity of the strictest orders, later medieval sentiment found much to admire; and the popularity of the Carthusians in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was probably a recognition of their maintenance of the primitive simplicity from which the older and greater houses had declined.

– text and illustrations taken from English Monasteries, by Alexander Hamilton Thompson, M.A., F.S.A., published by the University Press, Cambridge, England, 1913; online text used was produced by MWS and the Online Distributed Proofreading for the Gutenberg Project
  1. Conversi were found in houses of other orders, e.g. the Augustinian, but their position in such cases was less definite than in the Cistercian order. Male conversi were attached to houses of Cistercian nuns: examples of this are known in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
  2. In 1301 the Benedictine monks of Gloucester were allowed a frock and cowl out of the wardrobe at least once a year, day-shoes once in 18 months, boots once in five years, pairs of woollen shirts (langelli) once every four years. They could change when necessary a thick and thin tunic, their pilch or fur cloak (pellicea), ordinary boots, under-shirt (stamen) and drawers (femoralia).
  3. In 1230 the monks of Saint James’, Bristol, a cell of Tewkesbury, petitioned the bishop of Worcester against the consecration of the Dominican church in Saint James’ parish. Various documents in the York episcopal registers between 1279 and 1296 deal with the rivalry between the custodes of the alien priory of Scarborough and the local Dominicans. In both cases the root of ill-feeling was the diversion by the friars of the oblations due to the parish altar.
  4. At Waverley, late in the twelfth century, there were 70 monks, 120 conversi. That the monks sometimes found the conversi difficult to manage is shewn by the action of abbot Richard (1220-35) at Meaux, who removed them from the granges and confined them to menial and craftsmen’s work.
  5. The order in which the parts of a monastery were built followed the immediate needs of the convent. Thus at Evesham the eastern part of the church and the eastern range of the cloister were built first: the frater and western range, with the permanent outer buildings and the rest of the church, were not finished till later. At Meaux a temporary two-storied building, church above and dorter below, was used for some years until permanent buildings were ready.
  6. At Saint Albans, where we have much information about the library, two-thirds of the demesne tithes in Hatfield and some tithes in Redbourn were assigned between 1077 and 1098 ad volumina ecclesiae (i.e. the church-books) facienda.
  7. At Evesham two of the obedientiaries’ checkers or offices were in the sub-vault of the dorter. Here also was the misericord, which had a door into the infirmary garden. The bleeding-house was a vaulted room beneath the rere-dorter.
  8. Notices relating to water-supply are frequent in monastic chronicles. In 1216, when the old spring at Waverley dried up, a monk named Simon brought the waters of several springs by a culvert into a conduit which was called Saint Mary’s fount. The new lavatory at Malmesbury was finished in 1284.
  9. The weekly maundy (mandatum) or foot-washing took place at the lavatory; the arrangement is well seen at Fountains, where the monks sat on an upper ledge with their feet in the trough below.
  10. The upper stage was probably the treasury, which the account of the flood of 1265 shews to have been on an upper floor.
  11. In Benedictine houses the use of the misericord for monks in ordinary health was permitted at an earlier period. Abbot Colerne (1260-96) made regulations in 1292 for the daily use of the misericord at Malmesbury by a certain number of monks.
  12. Jocelyn of Brakelond says that in bleeding-time ‘monks are wont to open to one another the secrets of the heart and to take counsel together,’ and describes how at such a time, in the vacancy before his election as abbot of Bury, Samson the sub-sacrist sat in silence, smiling at the gossip of the brethren.
  13. Abbot Paul (1077-98) ordained that the minuti at Saint Albans, instead of feeding on meat pasties, should have a dish of salt-fish and slices of cake, known as ‘karpie.’
  14. At Saint Albans there was a large camera for infirm abbots close to the infirmary. This, known as the pictorium or painted chamber, was destroyed by the insurgent tenants in 1381.
  15. Abbot Brokehampton (1282-1316) built two guest-chambers at Evesham upon vaulted undercrofts on the west side of the curia. In 1378 parliament sat in the guest-house and other buildings at Gloucester: the account shews how the cloister life was disorganised by the crowd of visitors.
  16. This was due to the removal of a chantry of six monks and a secular priest from Ottringham to the monastery.
  17. In Benedictine monasteries there were usually several offices outside the precinct, e.g., at Tewkesbury the mill and the guests’ stable, burned in 1257, were extra portam abbatiae. The building of permanent offices in the curia at Bury by abbot Samson is described by Jocelyn of Brakelond.
  18. The almonry at Saint Albans, built by abbot Wallingford (1326-1335), included a hall, chapel, chambers, kitchen, cellar and other buildings necessary for the scholars and their master.
  19. The prior was usually nominated by the abbot, or the names of several nominees were submitted to the convent for election. Jocelyn of Brakelond gives a detailed account of the election of a prior at Bury.
  20. The abbot’s household at Gloucester, as regulated by archbishop Winchelsey in 1301, included five lay esquires and several lay servants, each with a definite office. Of the esquires one was seneschal of the guest-hall, another marshal, who was charged with regulating accounts, a third cook: the other two were appointed to serve the abbot’s table and bed-chamber.
  21. Thus the cellarer of Evesham supplied the frater daily with 72 loaves.
  22. The officers and obedientiaries at Evesham in the thirteenth century were the prior, sub-prior, third prior and other custodes ordinis, the precentor, dean of the Christianity of the vale of Evesham, sacrist, chamberlain, kitchener, two cellarers, infirmarer, almoner, warden of the vineyard and garden, master of the fabric, guest-master and pittancer. The last official distributed the money allowances of the brethren.