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Where did medieval monks eat?

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Answered 2011-11-22 09:29:51

Originally they ate only in a refectorium (refectory, also called the "frater") which was usually sited on the south side of the cloister range, next to the kitchens and with facilities for washing hands just outside in the cloister walk (ambulatory).

Inside the refectory the long tables were arranged around the edges of the room, with the monks sitting close to the walls so that those appointed as servers could move freely around the central space.

Meals were always eaten in total silence, with a monk appointed as "weekly reader" standing at a reading desk with a Bible or other religious text at one side of the room - he would read passages throughout the meal so that the monks not only fed their bodies, but also their souls.

As time went on many monasteries began to relax the rules forbidding the eating of meat, but this was never permitted to take place in the refectorium. Another room called a misericord ("a mercy" in Latin) was reserved for the eating of meat when this was allowed, which was generally limited to a few monks at a time.

During meals and at other times when silence was imposed, communication was entirely by sign language. The Monastic sign languages are the oldest recorded sign language in the world.

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