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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Who stayed in the infirmary?


Reconstructed urinal
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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Reconstructed urinal

The infirmary was potentially a relatively busy spot. It was home to elderly and sick monks and, from at least the early thirteenth century, it was also a temporary resting place for those who had been bloodlet. Contemporary anecdotes and satirical verse suggest that in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, distinguished visitors may have been refreshed in the infirmary, presumably as meat was cooked and served here, along with other delicacies.(3) It is important to note that sick monks did not necessarily go to the infirmary. In the first instance the monk notified the chapter of his condition and unless he was gravely ill, he remained in the cloister but outside the choir. This meant that he followed the daily round of services, like the other monks, but was granted concessions, according to the severity of his ailment; he celebrated the Offices in the retrochoir of the church, which was directly behind the monks’ choir. If, after several days, his condition had not improved and the abbot deemed it necessary, the monk was sent to the infirmary.(4)

Read more about bloodletting in the monastery

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