Home >> Collier's New Encyclopedia, Volume 6 >> Medici to New Jersey >> Monastery

Monastery

monks, house, church and cloister

MONASTERY, a class of structures which arose in the Middle Ages to meet the requirements of the large number of monks that then existed. Records of abbeys as early as the 7th century show that the arrangements were similar then to those of the 12th century. There was, however, one entirely new element, the church, the largest and most important building, which regulated the position of all the rest. In N. climates the cloister was usually situated on the S. side of the church, for the sake of the sunshine and warmth. It was composed of an open courtyard, square or oblong in shape, surrounded by an open arcade, or covered way. The church formed the N. side, and on the E. side was situated the chapter house, with the monks' dor mitory over it. The chapter house in the Cistercian monasteries was usually di vided into three compartments by the pillars bearing the arches. The abbot's seat was opposite the entrance door, and a stone seat all round accommodated the monks. The sacristy is placed on the N. side of the chapter house, with a door from the church. A similar cell or "par lor" occupies the S. side; then comes a passage or "slype'R leading from the cloister to the gardens, etc. Beyond this is the fratry or day room of the monks, a long vaulted apartment running S., having a row of columns in the center and open windows.

The S. side of the cloisters generally gave access to the refectory, a large, rather ornamental chamber, usually with an open wooden roof. It was sometimes

placed parallel and sometimes at right angles to the cloister. Opposite the door to the refectory and in a vaulted recess stood a fountain or basin where the monks might wash. Adjoining the refectory were the kitchen and offices.

Along the W. side of the cloister, and sometimes extending much farther, lay the hospitium or guest-house, where all travelers were received. A very impor tant room in the monastery was the scriptorium or library, in which the MSS. were written and illuminated. The abbot's lodge formed a separate edifice, as also did the infirmary. The whole establishment was surrounded by a wall, and provided with proper gates and de fenses.

In later times the simplicity of the plan was broken in on. The monks, de sirous of more comfortable quarters, di vided the dormitory and made it into cells. The early simplicity was departed from, and the monastic buildings of the 15th century are rich in decoration. The monasteries of the other orders were, generally speaking, similar to those of the Cistercian, except in the case of the Carthusians. In their convents, where absolute solitude and silence were re quired, each monk had a small house and garden to himself.