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convents, nuns and church

CONVENT (Lat. conventus), primarily the community of monks or nuns occupying a mon astery, priory or other establishment of a mo nastic or semi-monastic character. But the word is generally used to designate rather the establishment itself, if it is simply a cloister and not a considerable monastery or an abbey. The parts of a properly equipped conventual estab lishment are the church or chapel, including the choir, namely, that portion of the church in which the members assemble to recite or chant the psalms, etc., of the canonical hours; the chapter-house, an apartment in which the inmates assemble to deliberate or discuss• corn munity affairs; the cells, or separate quarters of the inmates; the refectory or dining-hall; the dormitory.; the infirmary; the parlor for reception of visitors; the library; the treasury; the cloister, an enclosed space for recreation; and the crypt, the convent's place of burial. The word °cloister° is also used in the sense of convent: in that use cloister signifies a re ligious house access to which is restricted by the laws of the Church. In its popular sense the word is applied to an establishment con taining a sodality of nuns, the male religious being denominated monks and their establish ments monasteries. Convents are generally

classed as strictly enclosed and unenclosed, but these divisions often overlap in function and are not mutually exclusive. The former repre sent the older type of convents to which women were attracted by a desire to save their own souls and those of others by prayer, seclusion and mortification, while the latter refers to those which are devoted to active work along educational or social lines for the relief of others. Routine is prescribed; the bishop of the diocese has the inspection of the convent under his charge. In most orders the nuns are divided into choir sisters, who have religious duties only, and lay sisters who perform the manual labor of the convent. The first convent in England was erected at Folkestone in 630. The history of European convents follows the history of the monasteries. Consult Helyot, (Histoire des ordres religieux) (Paris 1792); Eckenstein, (Woman under Monasticism) (Cambridge 1896); Steele, 'The Convents of Great Britain> (London 1902).