The layout of the infirmary
The infirmary complex usually consisted of a large stone aisled
hall and chapel, a latrine block, kitchen and perhaps also a bath-house.
Fresh air and gentle exercise were important to aid recovery and
the infirmary often had its own cloister with open arcades where the
could sit or take a stroll; part of the arcade at Rievaulx has
been reconstructed in the north alley. The large aisled hall would
have been spacious, airy
and warm, or at least warmer than the monks’ dormitory, where heating
was forbidden. Original fireplaces survive at several sites, including
Rievaulx and Tintern (Monmouthshire). Early infirmary halls were generally
designed as open-plan wards, with the beds arranged around the walls.
In the later Middle Ages, greater emphasis was placed on privacy and
comfort, which often led to the creation of individual cells. This was
the case at Meaux Abbey (Yorkshire) in the fourteenth century, and at
Tintern (Monmouthshire) in the fifteenth century.