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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The incorporation of the lay-brothers and their place in the Order


Artist's impression of a lay- brother working in the forge
© Cistercians in Yorkshire
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Artist's impression of a lay-brother

The lay-brothers were therefore defined and distinguished from the monks by what they did and where, but also by their appearance. Whereas the monks were shaved and tonsured, the lay-brothers had fringes and wore beards which, it was ruled, should measure no more than two fingers in length.(4) Their clothing was simple but practical, and made from coarse animal skins. They dressed similarly to peasants and instead of the monastic habit and cowl wore short belted tunics, a cloak and often a shawl over their shoulders. ‘Unauthorised cloaks’ were confiscated and those who refused to comply were denied Communion and took the last place at meals and services in the church. Blacksmiths wore black, rounded smocks to protect their garments from sparks, and the abbot might grant extra garments to herdsmen, waggoners and shepherds, since they worked in harsh weather conditions.

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