The medieval monk

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Humphrey of Heath
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The medieval monk

Postby Humphrey of Heath » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:10 pm

Hello! i've been re-enacting for my third year now as a squire but since I could be going to college at the end of the schol year it may be my last year re-enacting for a while...which will be sad. Before I go I want to know stuff about being a monk for a sort of living history display.

What I need to know is what a monk would wear, stuff to tell the public and various other monkish things.

:D


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The_Kyle
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby The_Kyle » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:11 pm

Latin and lots of it.



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Dave B
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Dave B » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:39 pm

Were are you going to college? no groups handy?


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thepoorpoorsquire:(
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby thepoorpoorsquire:( » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:02 pm

ahhh sorry using my dads account at the time and didn't realise it. i'm not sure what i'm doing yet, possibly an apprenticeship. My weekends will most probably be taken up. I want to do something living history now before the end of the school year. It seems as if many re-enactment groups don't seem to have monks- strange because it seems pretty important as a topic :^)



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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:09 pm

Period and place might be useful, along with a reason for being in a field and not inside a monestry.


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Re: The medieval monk

Postby thepoorpoorsquire:( » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:13 pm

ahh yes of course. What I have learnt is that you would need permission from your abbot in order to leave the monastery.



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:44 pm

I can guarantee a very steep learning curve if you are serious about the role of a monk.

There is an expression which is just as true today as it was in the Middle Ages: "cuculus non facit monachum" - a cowl does not make a monk. Dressing in the clothes is nowhere near enough.

In my case I started into re-enactment in 2000 with zero knowledge and was "appointed" to be a Benedictine. I began logically, with the Rule of St Benedict and learned all 73 chapters by heart (not as silly as it sounds - the Rule sets out almost everything expected of a monk for almost every minute of every day and gives an insight into the behaviour expected, plus how a monk should think, as well as the appearance). The Rule of St Benedict applies to all monks, by the way, but it was interpreted differently by the different Orders.

Next I realised that Latin was essential and brushed up on my rusty classical Latin, which flowed into the complexities of Medieval or Low Latin. Then I read as much as I could find in books and on-line about the work, prayer and studies carried out by monks. Some Anglo-Norman French is handy for explaining various terms.

Then I looked at the layout of monastic houses of various sizes and got to the stage where I could find the refectory or the infirmary slype or the cellar on a site blindfold. Early on I made some terrible blunders - at one event at a monastic site I told a French visitor that the dorter was the dormitory (correct :thumbup: ) and that the rere-dorter was a second dormitory behind it ( :thumbdown: ;( ). This led into the detailed study of monastic water management, plumbing, latrines, fishpools and sewers.

All this is just the start. Visitors ask about the Holy Offices (the church services); what times were they held, how many, can you name them all, what was the content, how long did each service last . . .? They want to know about the other Orders of monks, how were they different? Give them a talk on the bizarre and extreme world of the Carthusians if you want to hold their attention . . .

Then there are the support services: lay brethren, monastic granges, servants and so on; then the complexities of the scriptorium and library, the self-sufficiency of bakery, brewery, monastic gardens and orchards, bee-keeping and fish-breeding; then the monastic diet, the infirmary and guest-house (hospital), herbal medecines, sign language, the obedientaries . . .the list goes ever on.

I am still learning more amazing things ten years later and I realise that I have only scratched the surface.

Good luck if you choose to go that way.
Last edited by Brother Ranulf on Thu Feb 04, 2010 7:09 am, edited 5 times in total.


Brother Ranulf

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guthrie
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby guthrie » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:51 pm

Brother Ranulfs post kind of summarises why I have not yet made up any kind of monkish (or indeed as a canon) persona for my alchemy.

My advice would be:
Work out which period and events you are likely to be a monk at. At a site with religious remains? Or is it just a little indoor work, talking to people about stuff?
And remember, monks, as has been said, didn't really leave their monastery, even Cadfael hardly did so except on specific business authorised by his superior. On the other hand as a friar you could move around a lot more, they were effectively competing with monks for business by the later 13th century. But as a Friar you had to be very poor and still know all the religious stuff and Latin.



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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:45 pm

Friars had to have permission to preach outside the friary, go to other Houses,etc, as well.


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Colin Middleton
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:29 pm

You've got to look at the same questions that you would for any characher. Where do I come from? What do I do with my time? How do I spend my money (and how much do I have)?, etc. The up/down side with the monks is that there's a lot of evidence, so it's easy to find things to learn, but there's lots more out there to learn.

Brother R's given you some good pointers on where to start.

Good luck.


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Re: The medieval monk

Postby gregory23b » Sat Feb 06, 2010 8:42 pm

Applauds Brother Ranulf's commitment. Excellent.


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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Langley » Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:40 pm

As Ranulf points out it is very hard to do well. Lady L has appeared as a sister of the Cistercian order at Tintern and boy did it take some research including a reason for her being at a monastery. (She was the Abbot's sister from White Ladies Aston come to work on embroidery of altar cloths. This was very close to family history - one of her ancestors was an abbot of Tintern (he was a married man appointed later in life becasue of his skill as a manager of a large estate and the family lands actuallly abutted White Ladies. His wife and grown children lived in the village and he was given time off to spend with them but not allowed to do anything which might have resulted in more children. He was also the unfortunate who got the job of handing the keys over to Henry VIII). So, a lot of the detail was stuff which she already knew because it was family history). The study of Cistercian rule was hard work though and yes - people wanted to know a great deal of detail of offices etc. The late and much missed John, who played Father John, in the Gloucester Household did a good job of his portrayal but then - he had actually been a monk in his younger days with a few years cloistered in Northern Spain to draw on. I don't reccommend that as a way of researching a role... Wythe Retinue also have a member who plays a pilgrim and has done the camino so can talk with conviction. What at first seems to be a simple role - and you see a lot of newbies don a robe because the costume is cheap and easy - is actually about the hardest to do as you can not avoid answering difficult questions.



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:37 pm

Just as an example of how the Rule was interpreted in different ways, St Benedict said nothing in his Rule about monks wearing beards. The Benedictines, taking the view that beards were not forbidden and sticking to the generally reasonable and tolerant tone of the regulations, allowed beards. The self-portrait produced in about 1155 by the Canterbury monk Eadwine shows him with a beard.

The Cistercians took the view that if a thing wasn't specifically mentioned, you couldn't have it - so no beards, no elaborate decoration of their churches, no ornate initials in their manuscripts, no fat in the diet and so on. Given a choice, I'll stick with the Benedictines . . .


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Marcus Woodhouse
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Feb 08, 2010 6:22 pm

Playing the role of a pilgrim is a fantastic way of dispelling many myths that people have about the middle ages, especially the "they never travelled" one. And unlike those who follow a religious life there is the scope for being rich, poor, serious, irreverent, a crimminal and just about everywhere!


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Langley
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Langley » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:42 pm

Here is the man himself...
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:58 pm

That's a good impression, especially of the staff, just the thing for checking river depth and fending off angry dogs.


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LittleEm
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby LittleEm » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:42 pm

... and angry ducks. :)



Langley
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Langley » Fri Feb 19, 2010 3:34 pm

Oh - I can deal with the ducks... (Note - posing only - no ducks were harmed in the making of this photo).
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Christmas Dinner coming up...



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Lindsay
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Re: The medieval monk

Postby Lindsay » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:07 pm

Why not spend a weekend in Austria and see what it's like?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8525741.stm

:thumbup:


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