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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Sickness and health


Before all things and above all things care is to be had
of the sick, that they be served in very deed as Christ
Himself … Let the sick themselves remember that they
are served for honour of God and not to grieve the
brethren who serve them with unnecessary demands.

[Rule of St Benedict, ch.36] (1)

Treatment of brain disease, from the 'Omne Bonum'
© British Library
<click to enlarge>
Treatment of brain disease

Care of sick and weak members of the community was integral to monastic life. It was important that the monks were fit and healthy, so that they could participate fully in communal activities, from celebrating the Offices in the church, to administration and everyday daily chores to keep the abbey up and running. Care of the sick was not simply a practicality; it was also in accordance with Biblical teaching and imitative of Christ, the healer.

Healthcare within the monastery was preventative and restorative. The monks were routinely bled, in groups, as it was believed this kept them in good health.
[Read more about bloodletting]

Any member of the community who was sick or injured was sent to the infirmary, where he was tended by the infirmarer and his helpers. Those staying in the infirmary followed a less rigid way of life and were permitted better foods.
[Read more about the infirmarer and the infirmary]