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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic


The death and burial of a monk

Artist's impression of a tabula
<click to enlarge>

The actual moment of death was a private affair, but preparations for this were highly ritualised and involved the entire community. The monk who was nearing death was laid on the ground upon a cloth set on a cross of ashes. The infirmarer then sounded the bell four times and beat the wooden clapper, the tabula, twice as fast as normal to notify the monks and lay-brothers that they should come immediately to their brother. If this occurred when the community was celebrating either Mass or one of the Canonical Offices only the abbot or prior went to the dying man and the rest of the brethren remained in church. Otherwise everyone gathered around the monk to witness the last rites (unction, confession, absolution) and to say the Credo three times. The abbot stood before the monk as the sacrist and precentor handed him his crozier, stole, Holy Water, Cross and Collectaneum. The infirmarer judged when it was necessary to administer unction, after which the community departed, leaving the monk to die alone.

What if a monk died suddenly and was not able to prepare for his death in this way?
Click here to find out.


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