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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

The parlour

Plan of Rievaulx abbey showing the location of the parlour(1/1)

The monks were expected to observe silence in the claustral area and communicated by signs when necessary. However, it was recognised that there were times when conversation – but not idle chat - was necessary. This took place in the parlour, a narrow chamber situated to the south of the chapter-house which had stone benches and a vaulted ceiling. The monks also gathered here each day after the chapter meeting for the allocation of tasks. The master of novices was permitted to speak with novices in the parlour during the first two months of their probationary period and also with visiting monks; during the time allocated to reading the prior could hear novices’ confessions here. The parlour may also have been used by the monks to hang their cowls.(1)

A tabula
© Cistercians in Yorkshire Project
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The tabula

The German Cistercian, Idungus of Prufung, criticised Cluniac monks for chatting and complained that they eagerly gossiped after the daily chapter meeting ‘by permission of the order’. He compared the noise they made to the din in a tavern full of sots where the men talked ‘with their fellow spouses’ and the women drinkers chatted with their companions. Idungus warned of the perils of such behaviour: ‘From the permission to chatter arises the wherewithal for brawling. From the brawl come threats and acrimony, so much so that at times it is necessary to recall the chapter by striking the wooden tabula’.(2)

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