Borvo, Christianity, Denny Bradbury, How to be a monk?, King Alfred, monastery, monk, What it takes to be a monk? why did people become monks in medieval times?, Why do monks take a vow of silence?, Winchester
In Denny Bradbury’s new book ‘Borvo‘ her main character attends a monastery in Winchester during the Anglo-Saxon era.
We have already explored the progression of a new recruit from postulant to novice (Monastic Life – From Postulant to Monk), also looking into the clothing that they wear and symbolic significance (Monastic Life – A ‘habit’ of a lifetime).
Now we will study the daily practices and ask why anyone would choose to leave their loved-ones for a life of strict rule.
Monasteries around the time of King Alfred followed Benedictine rule – a strict regime of prayer, divine reading, and manual labour.
The Liturgy of the Hours was an official set of daily prayers. They consisted mainly of psalms with hymns and readings.
Traditionally it was an 8-hour set routine:
- Matins – overnight/midnight
- Lauds – Dawn or 3am
- Prime – 6am
- Terce – 9am
- Sext – Noon
- None – 3pm
- Vespers – 6pm
- Compline – 9pm
Monks who were ordained in Holy Orders to carry on the teaching i.e. priests were ‘choir monks’. They had to recite the Divine Office daily in choir which was in Latin. Their life within the enclave consisted of prayer, divine office and mass.
‘Lay brothers’ was the term associated with those not part of the Holy Orders, monks who did not involve themselves in spreading the word of God. They provided the material needs of the community i.e. growing food, preparing meals and maintaining the grounds.
Those who could not read Latin learnt The Lords Prayer and Hail Mary and recited those up to 150 times a day.
Secular clergymen and lay brothers had ‘shorter’ prayer routines to fit in with their different lifestyles.
The vow of silence is found in many monasteries however not all orders practised strict silence. Some had a ‘silent period’ overnight; others would only talk when it was deemed necessary to fulfil their duties.
But why would you leave your families and villages, choosing to sacrifice your independent life for one of servitude and hard labour?
As many would have you believe at the time, they went to monasteries purely to find God and live a good existence. Of course we cannot deny that some people did sacrifice their freedoms to be closer to their Lord.
What we cannot forget, however, is that monasteries were centres of knowledge and learning, sometimes the only places for scholarship and learning in Europe. Many contained big libraries including important ancient texts. The copying of these texts formed a large part of the monks’ life.
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