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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic



Here we look more closely at the lay-brothers’ life, and at various aspects of their daily routine.

Entry to the lay-brotherhood

Artist's impression of a chapter meeting
© Cistercians in Yorkshire
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Artist's impression of a chapter meeting

Anyone who wished to enter the Cistercian life as a lay-brother was received by the monks of the abbey at their daily chapter meeting. He was then received at the lay-brothers’ chapter which was held every Sunday, but might meet more frequently to welcome new members. A master was assigned to train the new recruit and teach him of the Cistercian way of life.(11) After a year’s probationary period, which was a testing time as well as an opportunity to learn Cistercian customs, the novice made his profession in the monks’ chapter-house where he professed obedience to the abbot and was formally received as a member of the Order. The recruit first renounced his possessions and thereafter prostrated himself before the monks, asking for mercy; he knelt before the abbot and swore obedience by joining his hands, and placing them in the abbot’s. The newcomer then kissed the abbot and with this gesture brought the ceremony to a conclusion.(12) He was then officially recognised as a member of the lay-brotherhood and of the wider Cistercian family, and was expected to remain faithful to his vocation as a lay-brother. This meant that he never to take the monastic habit, and was to observe the customs of the Order.

The lay-brother was subject to Cistercian discipline and was to follow regulations relating to spiritual observances, silence, food, drink, clothing, and personal grooming, and also to abide by the ideals of simplicity and poverty.

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