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Roche Abbey: the parlour

Plan of Roche Abbey showing the location of the chapter house.(1/1)

The monks were expected to observe silence in the claustral area and to communicate with one another when necessary by signs. Still, it was recognised that there were times when conversation was necessary and this was allowed in the parlour, a narrow, oblong chamber with a doorway at either end, which adjoined the chapter-house. There were probably benches set against the wall, but nothing of these remain in the parlour at Roche. After the daily chapter meeting the monks gathered in the parlour 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.(7)

The perils of gossip
The German Cistercian, Idungus of Prufung, criticised the chatter of Cluniac monks and complained that they eagerly gossiped after the daily chapter meeting ‘by permission of the order’, and compared the noise 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’.
[Idungus, Dialogue, I: 23 (pp. 36-7).]

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