Monks’ Habits!

Benedictine monks, or brothers, followed the strict rules of St Benedict and were expected to reach the highest summit of humility.

Silence – They were generally to remain silent; if a monk did speak it had to be quietly, gently and briefly. There was to be absolutely no gossip, and definitely no laughter.

Work – Brothers had to do as they were told and not try to get out of the horrid jobs. They were not to grumble or whinge. They should regard themselves as poor and worthless workmen. They had to do cooking, serving, and washing up; wash the clothes; run errands; be nice to people; farming; look after the sick, and a lot of reading and writing.

Religious services – there were several a day that they had to attend. Matins was at midnight, Lauds at 3am, Prime at 6am, Terce, Sext and None before dinner; Vespers was at 6pm.

Bedtime – the monks went to bed at 8pm in the winter and 9pm in the summer. They had to sleep in dormitories of 10 or 20.  They slept fully clothed except that they had to remove their knives in case they cut themselves when they were asleep. Hopefully no one snored.

Food – no meat except for sick people. Meals were at midday and, in the winter, mid-afternoon and a little later in the summer. At both meals there were two cooked dishes, and fruit and fresh vegetables were added when they were available. Each monk had a pound of bread and half a bottle of wine a day. Younger monks were given less than their elders, and those who did the hardest physical work had a little extra. Throughout the summer the monks fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, which meant they went without the midday meal unless they were working in the fields.

Bathing – monks bathed sometimes, and slightly more often when they were sick.

Clothes – for each monk shoes or sandals; two tunics and two hoods made of coarse cloth, and a scapular (a bit like an elongated poncho). Underclothes only when they were going on a journey. When they returned to the priory they had to wash the underclothes and give them back in case another monk needed them. Monks were not allowed to own anything at all; even their clothes were owned by the monastery.