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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

View Movies The lay-brothers’ choir


Artist's impression of Cistercian lay-brothers in their choir
© Cistercians in Yorkshire
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Artist's impression of the lay borthers at prayer in the choir  Cistercians in Yorkshire

The lay-brothers’ choir occupied three or maybe four bays, but with the demise of the lay-brothers in the mid-thirteenth century, their stalls were removed and replaced gradually by a series of chapels, since the increased number of ordained monks and a greater demand for prayers from benefactors meant that additional altars were required. Whenever the lay-brothers celebrated their Hours in the church they would have occupied inward-facing wooden choir stalls, similar to those used by the monks. The seniormost amongst them was seated nearest the altar for Mass and the Hours, but this order was reversed for the grace after dinner. The rood screen which separated the lay-brothers’ half of the church from the monks’ half had a central door that allowed for some contact, but otherwise maintained the division between the two communities. There may have been an altar against the rood screen where the lay-brothers received Communion, rather than proceeding to the High Altar. The lay-brothers celebrated their Hours in silence whenever they were in the church and the monks would have been scarcely aware of their presence. Whilst the lay-brothers would have heard the monks chanting the offices they would have seen little of what transpired beyond the rood screen.

Like the monks the lay-brothers had two entrances to the church. During the day they used a door in the west front, which probably also served as a processional entrance; at night they probably entered through a covered pentise that ran from their dormitory to the church via the western range.

[Take a tour of the reconstructed church]

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