Monastic Workers

What jobs did people do in a medieval abbey

The jobs listed below are typical within a male medieval abbey based on the Benedictine Rule. You can enter a virtual medieval abbey and talk to the monks to learn about their duties. See the details below.

 

The Prior

The prior was the abbot's deputy doing much of the organisational work within the monastery and was responsible for maintaining the discipline. He was the second most important person and took responsibility when the abbot was away. He worked in conjunction with the chapter when making decisions about the day-to-day running of the organisation.

The Almoner

The almoner was responsible for distributing charity or alms to the poor. His duty was to visit the poor and sick and give whatever he could to help.

The Infirmarer

An important role of the monastery was to care for the sick and it was the role of the infirmarer to ensure this happened. The monastery had a building known as the infirmary where the the sick were cared for. Scientific knowledge is medieval times was very basic but the doctors in monasteries were possibly leaders in the field of medicine.

The Cellarer

The cellarer was responsible for purchasing all the food, drink and other supplies that the monastery's inhabitants needed. Ensuring not only the healthy people were feed, but also the sick. It was an important and highly responsible role. Unlike many of the monastic community the cellarer had daily contact with the outside world.

The Choir Monks

The choir monks were responsible for attending the many rounds of prayer that took place through the day and night. Unlike the lay brothers (see below), the choir monks were highly educated and devoted so much of their time to prayer that they did not have much time for anything else.

Lay Brothers

Lay brothers (also known as conversi) were not well educated and probably unable to read and write. They did all of the manual tasks within the monastery and outside in the fields. When they prayed they sat in the nave of the church away from the choir monks. Lay brothers were important as without them, the monastery would have had to pay labourers to do the work.

Lay Servants

Some non-monastic people were employed by the monastery and were known as lay servants. They lived in the villages or towns that were near the monastery. Lay servants were not allowed to mix freely with the monastic community as they could have a disruptive influence on the smooth running of monastic life.

Explore a Medieval Abbey

View this page on a desktop computer to explore a 3d medieval abbey.

 

Explore a medieval abbey and talk to the monks and other visitors about their duties, lives and the buildings.

You will be required to install the Unity3D plug-in.

Explore the abbey