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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

Cistercian Life






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Plan of Fountains Abbey.(1/3)

The library

From all your readings strive to make progress in virtue.
[Stephen of Sawley, one time monk and abbot of Fountains]

Books that were used in the church, refectory, infirmary and cloister were kept in a cupboard [armarium], under the auspices of the precentor and succentor. This was situated beside the sacristy, adjacent to the south transept of the church. There was also storage space for books in the westernmost part of the chapter-house. At the start of Lent, each monk was given a book for the year which he was to read thoroughly during the daily period allocated to reading, as stipulated in chapter 48 of the Rule of St Benedict. He was not to keep his book overnight but to return it to the book cupboard for safekeeping. The monks sat on stone benches in the north walkway of the cloister and read aloud, but quietly. Nobody was to leave the cloister during reading time and the monks were to make sure that their hoods did not cover their faces, just in case anybody was tempted to catch forty winks. The monks spent more time reading in winter and during Lent, when less time was allocated to work; on Sundays they read during the work time as well as the reading period.

Reading material
According to Stephen of Sawley, the more mature novice should ‘indulge in more solid food’ by studying the Old and New Testaments. He should not simply read these works to acquire knowledge for that was ‘merely curiosity’, employ the Scriptures as a mirror to detect what was corrupt so that he might correct this, and to see what was beautiful. Stephen also urged the novice to memorise what he had learnt.
[Stephen of Sawley, Treatises, ‘A Mirror for Novices’ ch. 15, pp. 106-7.]

What else did novices read ?

The community might lend some of its books to outsiders. To make sure that these were treated with care and returned to the monastery, there was often an ‘Ex libris’ on the flyleaf (essentially a ‘This book belongs to …’), and sometimes also a caution to or a curse upon anyone who dared to damage or retain the book.

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