Benedictine Abbey

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conanthelibrarian
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Benedictine Abbey

Post by conanthelibrarian »

Hi All,

I know this may seem like a cop out, but I urgently need information on what skills would be provided by a female lay person to a Benedictine Abbey. The time period is 1490 - 1520.

I already know about kitchen maids, but need to know about another skill.

Thanks,
Conan.

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Brother Ranulf
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Benedictine Abbey

Post by Brother Ranulf »

St Benedict would be revolving in his grave like a washing machine.

The Benedictines did not use "lay brothers" in the way that the Cistercians did (effectively to do any manual or physical work). They certainly employed lay servants, but my feeling is that they would have been men in an environment of monks and women in an environment of nuns.

Mick Aston mentions these lay servants in his numerous books on monastic sites and they crop up in various chronicles, charters and records from the time (a male lay servant fell out of a tree at Durham and was killed by the fall in the "Life of St Cuthbert").

In a convent, you would expect lay women to mend clothes, wash, cook and clean, and perform any other work that was required. They would not do these tasks instead of the nuns, but alongside them. It's a fact that in many monastic houses the numbers of professed religious were quite small, so lay servants could have outnumbered them and consequently taken on more of the daily tasks.

As a footnote, there are mentions of an "extern sister" at some Benedictine nunneries. She was usually a lay servant and was "porteress" or gatekeeper, welcoming and directing guests and ensuring that services were not interrupted by visitors.
Last edited by Brother Ranulf on Thu Oct 04, 2007 10:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
Brother Ranulf

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

I have never come across any reference for women working in an official capacity for a monastery during that period. Of course Cromwell, ( may the devil tickle his soles) found "lots" of them in "unoffical" capacities during the dissolution but I've always regarded this gem as being propaganda. Of course, in a modern Benedictine Abbey you'll find "lay women" running the shop, serving in the cafe, acting as secretary to the Abbot and so on, but they're still not actually part of the monastic community, any more than the congregation is.
OSTENDE MIHI PECUNIAM!

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conanthelibrarian
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Post by conanthelibrarian »

Thanks, chaps.

I can now answer the question, quoting your good selves.

Marcus Woodhouse
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Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Can you quote me as"Marcus Woodhouse, Best Italian Mercenary (circa 1450-1500) portrayed by an Irishman, season 2006/2007" please. :D
OSTENDE MIHI PECUNIAM!

the real lord duvet

Post by the real lord duvet »

AFAIK the term lay woman in a bendictine abbey explains all.

I lot of places ignored the celibacy rules back then! evidence supported by the papacy being heriditery at times.

some nuneries were openly refered to as priest whorehouses.

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