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Fountains Abbey: Location

Fountains Abbey: History
Trials and Tribulations
Strength and Stability
End of Monastic Life

Fountains Abbey: Buildings
Chapter House
Warming House
Day Room
Lay Brothers' Range
Abbots House
Outer Court

Fountains Abbey: Lands

Fountains Abbey: People

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The cloister


It was the porter’s duty to select as many poor people as there were monks and lead them to the cloister after None; a monk stood in front of each poor person, washed and kissed his feet and then gave him a coin.
[Ecclesiastica Officia, 21: 7-21 (pp 100-102).]

The cloister was the setting for the weekly Maundy. This was the ritual washing of the monks’ feet in memory of Christ, who washed the disciples’ feet, and in accordance with John 13: 14-15 [If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you]. Chapter 35 of the Rule of St Benedict states that the Maundy should be carried out by the weekly cooks, who should first heat the water and then wash the brothers’ feet.(30) On Maundy Thursday the abbot symbolically washed the feet of twelve members of the community – four monks, four novices and four lay-brothers; his helpers washed the feet of the remainder of the community.(31) On this occasion a group of poor folk was led into the cloister for the ritual washing of their feet and after the ceremony to the guesthouse, for refreshment.

Fragment of altar cross
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
<click to enlarge>
Fragment of altar cross

The cloister was also the focus for processions such as those on Palm Sunday, Ascension Day and Assumption Day. These began in the church and then progressed to the cloister, stopping first at the eastern range, and thereafter at the refectory and western range. The entire community participated in these processions, which were led by the abbot or prior who was followed in order by the monks, the novices and finally the lay-brothers, walking in pairs. At the Blessing of the Water on Sundays, one of the monastic officers sprinkled water and salt around the cloister in an act of exorcism, while the community offered blessings in the church.

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