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Roche Abbey: the guesthouse

What did the guestmaster do?

With no surviving guesthouses or visitor’s book, little can be said about the administration of hospitality at Roche, namely, the number and identity of guests who visited the abbey, where they were accommodated or how they were tended. Nevertheless, we can assume that at Roche, as elsewhere, there was from the outset provision of some kind for guests, as legislated by the Order.(18) A guest hall and perhaps one or two guest houses may have been located to the west of the gatehouse, similar to, if on a smaller scale, than at Fountains. It has been suggested that in the late fourteenth / early fifteenth century the lay-brothers infirmary at Roche was converted to a guesthouse. An arrangement of this kind would have meant that those who visited Roche would have been received by the porter and thereafter tended appropriately – according to their standing - by the guestmaster, or hosteller, as he was known. In the early days, at least, visitors would have dined here with the abbot.(19)

Would women have visited Roche?
Read about the Cistercian attitude to female visitors

Whilst little can be said with certainty about the identity of guests, or the number of visitors who stopped at the abbey seeking hospitality, the fact that Roche was near several main roads, and also within a few miles of the R. Trent and the canal that connected the Trent with Lincoln and Witham, probably meant that the abbey had its fair share of passers-by in addition to visits from patrons and benefactors, ecclesiastical and royal dignitaries, the community’s family.

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