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The English Benedictine Cathedral PrioriesRule and Practice, c. 1270-1420$

Joan Greatrex

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199250738

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199250738.001.0001

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The early years of monastic life

The early years of monastic life

(p.50) II The early years of monastic life
The English Benedictine Cathedral Priories

Joan Greatrex

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter follows the would-be monk from the day of his arrival at the monastery, seeking admission, to his profession, which usually took place at the end of the first year. It describes his tonsuring and clothing in the habit and the period of probation during which he listened to regular readings of the Benedictine Rule and received instruction in the customs and daily routine of the house. He was expected to memorize the Rule and psalter and to begin his studies, academic as well as spiritual, under a monk master.

Keywords:   probation, profession, novice, Rule, psalter

1. Admission and clothing

Noviter veniens quis ad conversationem, non ei facilis tribuatur ingressus.

RB, C.58, 11

Procedures for admission

In September 1298 Archbishop Winchelsey addressed the prior and chapter of Christ Church cautioning them not to accept recruits with undue haste even when there were empty places to fill.2 St Benedict's recommendation to keep the eager young postulant waiting outside the monastery gate for several days served, no doubt, in his day as a test of character to discourage the faint hearted at the outset.3 Prerequisites for admission to the cathedral monasteries in the later middle ages included letters of character reference and scholastic attainment. Although bishops, like Ralph Walpole of Ely, were quick to admonish the monks when numbers had fallen, the surviving evidence indicates that all applicants underwent a selection process which was never a mere formality. Walpole himself was concerned on both counts. Following his visitation of the cathedral priory in 1300 he ordered the prior to raise their numbers to the statutory total of seventy by accepting any scholaris or clericus who, moved by the Holy Spirit, humbly petitioned to be received provided that he was worthy of approval and was litteratus. The bishop then went on to order the examination of those who sought admission by a committee consisting of the prior with the assistance of three or four monks elected by the chapter, after which the successful applicants were to be presented to the community.4 Eighty years later William Wykeham raised the same issue of declining numbers at St Swithun's while insisting that the monks’ genuine problems, brought on by rising costs and decreasing revenues, were to be swiftly eliminated by better management of their resources; in the 1380s this was surely an unrealistic hard-line approach.5 Walpole had been presented with the reverse side of the problem in his day and had been sufficiently astute to relate it to the very different circumstances of the pre-Black (p.51) Death era. When the approved candidate was presented to the chapter, he had told the monks to let no objections be put forward based on the pretence that there was insufficient income to provide for their maintenance.6

Some of the details of what was expected of prospective candidates can be drawn from exchanges of correspondence between priors, bishops, teachers, and patrons. The subject of one of these exchanges was Edmund de Basyng, who applied for admission to Christ Church Canterbury in 1324. A letter of refusal or, rather, postponement was sent from the prior and chapter to his patron [alumpnus] stating that they had discussed Edmund's case and were impressed by the favourable report concerning his personality and potential. Nevertheless, for the present they found him insufficiently skilled in the arts of singing and reading and deficient in knowledge of grammatical terms; when his competence in these subjects had improved they would welcome him into the community.7 A protégé of Edward III was turned down unequivocally by the prior and chapter of Worcester in 1328 after an inquiry into his character and his family background in les parties ou il nasquit; on obtaining some disturbing information they decided to reject him on the grounds that il n'est pas convenable.8 The following year the bishop of Worcester, Adam Orleton, fared no better when he urged the prior and chapter to accept his friend, Reginald de Thurtlestane, who was apparently already a clerk. Upon examination he was discovered to be ‘in litteratura et aliis ut est moris minus sufficientem’.9

From time to time Christ Church had applicants from among the secular clergy, from Benedictines of other houses of the order and from monks and canons of other orders. These were also subjected to an examination before acceptance. In the case of Henry de Selverton, a novice at the Augustinian priory of Kenilworth in 1336, the prior arranged for a trusted deputy to conduct the interview and examination ‘super articulis contentis in quadem cedula praesentibus interclusa’.10 When it was a notable monk graduate desiring to transfer to Christ Church from Abingdon ‘on account of his devotion to St Thomas and the other Canterbury saints’—the usual formula—his acceptance was not in doubt. All that seems to have been required of Henry de Wodehull, D.Th., in 1361 was the necessary licence from his abbot. One may presume that he was well known to the Christ Church monks studying at Canterbury College Oxford.11

(p.52) The fourteen articuli that were copied into the Christ Church priory Register ‘L’ deal exclusively with questions of physical fitness, moral rectitude, and freedom from any obligations and from servile status.12 More precise details of the scholastic requirements are not supplied, but the above examples make it clear that in addition to the references as to character and status a certain level of elementary education was essential which included singing, reading, and [Latin] grammar. By the early fourteenth century, and even before, this learning was available in grammar schools in many urban centres; grammar schools in the cathedral cities of Canterbury, Durham, Ely, Worcester, and Norwich had been founded and were maintained by the bishop.13 Elsewhere, in the absence of local schools informal teaching was undertaken by chantry priests, chaplains, and parish clerks. In addition, there was Winchester College, established by Bishop Wykeham to prepare boys for further, advanced studies at his recently founded New College in Oxford; in its list of Winchester alumni only one became a monk at St Swithun's. He was Nicholas de Bysshopestone who left the College to enter the monastery in 1402 and was ordained acolyte the following year by Wykeham himself.14 The monastic cathedral chapters had also been educating young boys in their almonry schools, but the evidence that these provided a training ground for future monks is surprisingly scanty. Only five names have been recorded, four of them together at Christ Church in 1468 and so outside the limits of this study.15 The fifth was John de Bradefeld, who was elected bishop by his fellow monks at Rochester in 1278 and was reported as having received his early education in the monastery.16

There is one other documented example of a monk with an almonry school background whose qualifications have also been recorded, confirming and supplementing the details given above. He was Robert de Weston, a Worcester monk, who spent his early years at the abbey school of Glastonbury near his parental home at Weston, Somerset. Letters of recommendation were furnished by his schoolmaster, Master Edward, and by the abbey precentor, John de Wygornia. Their report explained that his father held lands of the abbey by free tenure, praised his character (p.53) and behaviour, and stressed his potential in singing. There was no hesitation about his acceptance at Worcester and he was admitted in November 1323.17

Neither the Christ Church articuli nor, as far as we know, any of the letters of reference produced by the applicants for admission to the cathedral priories mention an age qualification. Nevertheless, the minimum age for entry had been laid down by the English Black Monk chapter in 1278 as eighteen.18 Infractions of this ruling can be found but their frequency remains in doubt because precise data are rarely obtainable. It is clear, however, that this was not considered to be a regulation to which strict adherence was required and cases were decided on their individual merit.19 When we have the means of determining the length of time between admission and ordination to the priesthood it is possible to make an approximate calculation as to the age of entry because the minimum age for priestly ordination was set by canon law at twenty-four; nevertheless, here too there were exceptions made particularly in time of plague and pestilence and the consequent high mortality among priests as well as laity.20 On the basis of the admittedly patchy information available for the years between 1300 and 1540 a rough calculation suggests that only a few monks were admitted to Canterbury, Winchester, Worcester, or Durham below the age of eighteen.21

There was a frequent exchange of correspondence between bishops and priors not only over the suitability of candidates for admission but also over admission procedures. As stated earlier this problem was one of those relating to their respective rival claims to jurisdiction.22 The Canterbury archiepiscopal and priory registers reveal the persistent attempts on both sides to safeguard their prerogatives while reiterating the principles on which they believed their respective positions to be based. In practical terms, however, the result in any particular case was often a working compromise acceptable to both ‘on this occasion’ [hac vice].23 This bargaining policy is especially evident during the time of Archbishop Stratford (p.54) (1333–48) who had been promoted from the see of Winchester where the bishop had no say in the admission of monks to St Swithun's. In 1337 he ordered Prior Oxenden not to accept anyone into the Christ Church community without first obtaining a licence from him as had been the custom recorded in the registers of his predecessors.24 This led to a spate of letters in which the prior's personal deference and conciliatory approach were in contrast to the strongly worded declaration by the corporate body of the prior and chapter who stated their rights clearly: to them ‘pertinet clericos ydoneos ad habitum et ordinem regularem…admittere quandocumque viderint expedire’. As for the archbishop's rights: to him they said ‘pertinet…clericos…admissos antequam habitum recipiant regularem, quando commode fieri poterit, intueri et ipsos, sine difficultate quacumque benignis affectibus acceptare’.25 During this period of contentious exchange between the chapter and the archbishop, Prior Oxenden was succeeded by Robert Hathbrande, who attempted to improve relations while still pressing the monks’ case by notifying the archbishop that he was in the process of admitting new monks to replace the lately deceased; he suggested that Stratford might desire to have them presented to him, si fieri posset commode before they received the monastic habit or, if this should prove difficult to arrange, ‘on that occasion’ [ista vice] would he kindly authorize them to go ahead with the clothing ceremony.26 Several years later, in 1341, after the admission of eight ‘worthy persons’ the prior and chapter requested the archbishop, ista vice de gratia speciali, to dispense with the necessity of introducing them to him before clothing.27 A second letter followed, in reply to one from the archbishop, insisting on their unequivocal rights which could be traced back ‘beyond the memory of man’; the request for the dispensation concerning clothing was repeated and the ista vice.28 Dissension over admission procedures at Christ Church may have reached a dramatic climax in Stratford's day but there were a few lesser repercussions visible both before and after his time. We are, of course as always, dependent on the surviving evidence of which in this case there is little. Intimations of the presence of a strain between the convent and Archbishop Winchelsey are suggested by the guarded wording of his letter to the prior in 1304. In it he conceded ista vice that they should go ahead with the clothing of a monk because he was agentibus in remotis.29 Archbishop Islip seems to have side-stepped the issue, probably avoiding confrontation, by authorizing the prior in 1361 to receive twelve monks, hac vice, whom he had neither seen nor approved as was his right according to custom, provided that they were habiles, decentes et honeste [persone]. He did not refer to the prior's claim to have the right to admit, but (p.55) did make it clear that he was granting permission to clothe.30 In the early 1370s Archbishop Wittlesey issued four commissions to the prior to clothe monks in the habit.31 When his successor, Simon Sudbury, sent a commission to the prior and chapter in 1376 he gave instructions that five or six worthy clerks were ‘to be admitted to the habit’ without being presented to him ista vice.32 By resorting to the regular use of commissions of this kind the later archbishops succeeded in holding on to their prerogative in principle while generally ceasing to intervene in practice.33

A cursory investigation into the procedures at Worcester cathedral priory gives the impression that in practice the bishop had more control over the admission of monks than we have seen at Canterbury; this, however, is far from certain. In c. 1309 we find Prior John de Wyke explaining to Bishop Walter Reynolds the custom of their church on this point: clerks who applied to enter the monastery were admitted by the prior and chapter after which they were presented to the bishop for his assensum; they were then clothed in the monastic habit. In this particular instance, the prior continued, he found it necessary to clothe them at rather short notice; and, since the bishop was absent from Worcester, would he kindly appoint his official to take his place.34 Consistent with this explanation is the heading of an entry in the priory register under the year 1317, which is a copy of the vicar-general's commission to the prior and chapter and which reads ‘Commissio pro clericis monach [?aliter] vestiend[is]’.35 Confusion and doubt arise, however, when this document is compared with another entry, also dated in the same month and relating to the same function, that survives in the episcopal register. The latter is entitled Commissio pro admissione monachorum Wygorniensium; it requires one of the bishop's officials to perform his episcopal duties in respect of two clerks ad ordinem monachalemadmittendis whom he, in compliance with the customs of the church, is required to examine for their suitability.36 The prior and chapter are clear as to what is involved, but it is not certain that the bishop's secretarial staff were as clear and concerned about precision with regard to enrolling the details.37 The careful wording found in the priory records and the ambiguity in those of the (p.56) bishop are continued in later documents. The monks, for example, gave to their enrolled copy of a commission from Cobham in 1323 the title Commissio pro noviciis examinandis which suggests that since they were referred to as novices they had already been admitted.38 Bishop Adam Orleton's two commissions, on the other hand, use the heading ‘…ad recipiendum et examinandum j clericum ad ordinem monachalem presentatum’.39 In 1341 Wulstan de Bransford, former prior and now bishop, was careful to state in his register that he had admitted two clerks, presented to him by the prior and chapter, to the monastic habit.40 The latest episcopal commission concerning admission to appear in the Liber Albus, dated 1352, appoints the prior to act on behalf of Bishop Thoresby ‘ad admittend[os] monach[os] ad habitum religionis’.41 Although Bishop Tideman de Winchcombe in 1399 appointed two commissaries to act for him when three persone in the priory were waiting to be presented, it seems that in the second half of the fourteenth century most bishops followed Thoresby's example in commissioning the priors to perform the ceremonies attached to admission, thus obviating any further need to spell out the respective rights and responsibilities of the parties involved.42

Comparatively little information has survived concerning the admission of monks at the other cathedral priories. Procedures at Durham and Winchester had long been an internal affair arranged by the prior and chapter; and at Bath, Coventry, and Ely there is no evidence of episcopal intervention in priory affairs before the ceremony of profession. The Rochester monks apparently followed the Canterbury custom, with no known periods of strain and possibly aided by the fact that five of the bishops were Benedictines whose combined episcopates covered ninety of the one hundred and fifty years under study. In the only priory register to survive there is a single entry recording a commission to Prior John de Shepey II from Archbishop William Courtenay in 1389 during the vacancy of the see; it authorized the prior to admit, receive, and clothe two clericii.43 In 1392 when an Augustinian canon of St Osyth's priory applied to join the Rochester community—a move which meant a change both of house and of order—only the prior and chapter were involved.44 The one episcopal register containing commissions to the prior and chapter concerning the admission of monks is that of William Wells, formerly abbot of St Mary's York. Although they are later than the period of this study by some twenty years they probably followed those of his predecessors, which have not survived. In one of them the bishop stated that he had received and examined the two novices in question and ordered the prior and chapter to clothe and instruct them.45

(p.57) There must have been serious dissension at Norwich over the disputed rights of bishop and prior pertaining to the admission of monks. Unfortunately, the mutilation of the episcopal registers after the dissolution and the incomplete state of those surviving from the priory deprive us of the kind of evidence that survives from Canterbury and Worcester. However, the problem comes to light in a sheaf of documents preserved in the cathedral archives of Norwich; they include papal and archiepiscopal instruments and reveal details of the longstanding dispute between Bishop Henry Despenser and the monks which came to a head in the 1390s, was brought to an end by Archbishop Arundel's decree in 1411 but seems to have flared up again in the 1440s.46 The case between prior and bishop was, in the course of a succession of appeals and counter appeals, taken before the courts of Canterbury and Rome and also before the king's council after it had reached the ears of Richard II.47 Despenser's death in 1406 before a permanent settlement was in place, was followed by Arundel's decree five years later; this upheld the customary rights of the cathedral priory over the admission of monks concerning which they had petitioned Pope Boniface IX in 1395. According to their account at that time the newly arrived novices were first received by the prior and convent and afterwards presented to the bishop for his blessing and the kiss of peace.48 Arundel's articulum de monachandis stated that the prior and chapter should retain their authority over the examination and admission of monks before presenting them to the bishop prior to clothing.49

It is not surprising that all the cathedral priories aimed to have the right to regulate what they considered to be their own community affairs. The bishop's role as titular abbot had, with regard to admission and other matters, developed into a mutually obstructive relationship from which neither side could escape without loss of dignity. It is regrettable but not surprising that controversy and antagonism between the bishop and the prior and convent tended to be recorded in detail and carefully preserved by both sides for future reference. A case in point is the prolonged and bitter dispute between Bishop Reginald Bryan and Prior John de Evesham at Worcester in the 1350s where there is little doubt that personal animosity fuelled both sides and ended only with Bryan's death on the eve of his translation to Ely.50 Nevertheless, we should not be misled into thinking that rancour dominated the cathedral precinct. The warmth and affection exhibited by Archbishop Stratford and the Christ Church community in their later (p.58) correspondence show that they had put their quarrels behind them and had embraced reconciliation and peace in the true spirit of Christian charity.51

Dies ingressus: entry into the novitiate

When the monastery gate closed behind the newly admitted monks-to-be they understood that they had left one world to enter another. This transition was soon to be made visible by the exchange of the secular clothes in which they had arrived for the religious habit. For those who had been accepted at Canterbury and Ely we have extant lists of the essentials prescribed, the ‘necessaria noviciis noviter ad religionem venientibus providenda’, as the heading reads in an Ely manuscript of the fifteenth century:52

‘In primis debent provideri ij cannas.


Item j matras.


Item ij paria blankettys.


Item ij paria straylys.

bed covers

Item iij coverlytis.


Item j furytpane.

Item j blewbed de Sago.

?blue cloth

Item j cuculla cum froco.

cowl (monastic outer garment) and frock

Item j tunica nigra furrata.

black tunic with fur

Item j tunica nigra simplex.

black tunic

Item ij tunice albe.

white tunics

Item j amica nigra furrata (amicto).

black hood with fur

Item j amica simplex.


Item j zona cum j powch, cultello, tabulis, et pectine, filo et acu in le powch.

belt, pouch, knife, writing tablet, comb, thread and needle or pen

Item j parva zona pro noctibus.

small belt for night wear

Item iij paria staminorum.

woollen shirts

Item iiij paria bracarum cum Brygerdel et poynts.


Item ij paria caligarum.


Item iiij paria de le sokks.


Item ij paria botarum pro diebus.

day boots

Item j par botarum pro noctibus.

night boots

Item j pylche.

fur lined cloak

Item iij paria flammeole.

?cloths, bandages

Item iij pulvinaria.

cushions or pillows

Item j pileo albo pro noctibus.

white night cap

Item ij manitergia.


Item j pokett pro vestibus lavandis.

laundry bag

Item j schavyngcloth.

Item j crater.


Item j ciphus murreus.

cup of maple wood

Item j cochlear argenteum.’

silver spoon

(p.59) The necessaria may be usefully compared with the only other list surviving from the cathedral priories, namely the one in the notebook of William Glastynbury, a Canterbury monk who recorded the items and their cost at the time of his admission in 1415:53


In primis pro j lecto de Wynchester

xxij s. viij d.


Item in j lecto de say

x s. vj d.

bed of woollen material

Item in ij paribus de strayl’

x s.


Item in j pari blankettis

viij s. iiij d.


Item in uno materas

iiij s. ij s.


Item in iij paribus vestium secretarum

vj s.


Item in iiij velaminibus

iiij s. ij d.

Item in j pulvinari

iiij s. iiij d.


Item in j bolster

iij s.


Item in j pilio albo

iiij d.

white (night)cap

Item in j pelvi

iij s. xj d.


Item in ij paribus ocrearum

iiij s. viij d.

thigh boots

Item in j pari ocrearum nocturnarum

v s.

leggings for nightwear

Item in viij paribus meteynys

xx s.

Item in j sona cum bursa et cultello

xviij d.

belt, purse, knife

In iij amisicis (?amictis)

vij s. iij d.


In j panno pro rastura

xij d.

shaving cloth

In j panno pedali

viij d.

?foot cloth

In velamine pro pressura

iiij s.

In iij habitibus

xxviij s.

monastic habits

In ij tunicis albis

v s. vj d.

white tunics

In j tunica nigra

vj s. viij d.

black tunic

In ij tunicis furratis

xxiiij s.

tunics with fur

In j nigro pilio

vj d.

black cap

In j braccali cum punctis

vij d.

breeches with?

In j canamas


In j pari pyncis

vj d.

In j pari tabellarum cum pectine eburneo

tablets with comb of ivory

In barbitons’

v d.


In ij paribus caligarum

xviij d.


Summa viij li. ix s. v d.’

(p.60) Although a century probably separates these two lists, aptly described by W. A. Pantin as ‘the monk's trousseau’, they are remarkably similar.54 Both, for example, require bedding and specify mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets; both include items of clothing worn by monks like the tunic, amice, footwear, and night caps; both also require a belt with pouch attached containing the essential multifunctional knife. It is noteworthy that Christ Church novices were provided with three habits, costing over nine shillings each, presumably acquired through the chamberlain and made by the tailor under his direction. The term ‘habit’ was generally taken to include such items as the cowl and froccus and perhaps the shirt, all of which are listed as separate items at Ely.55 Unfortunately there is only one specific reference to novices’ clothing on the surviving chamberlain's accounts at Canterbury, that of the purchase of grey cloth in 1336/7 for the purpose of making hose or stockings (caliga) for five novices; ordinarily, it seems, he made no distinction between their clothing supplies and those of the rest of the community.56 There was one occasion, however, in 1373/4, when the Canterbury treasurers’ account showed a payment of £11 19s. to diversis fratribus pro habitibus, possibly because the chamberlain's account showed a deficit of about £20.57 Writing equipment in the form of writing tablets occurs on both lists, but only the Ely novice was expected to have towels, a laundry bag and, for his own use in the refectory, a wooden drinking bowl or mazer and a silver spoon. Most, if not all, of the Christ Church monks are also known to have had the use of their own mazers and spoons assigned to them for life; they were often of silver and were used by successive generations of monks. A 1328 indenture, for example, records cuppe, ciphi, coclearea and other items of silver being returned to the treasury on the death of several (p.61) monks.58 In this Canterbury probably followed the custom that prevailed at Norwich where the novices purchased their mazers from the refectorer to whom they had been returned for safekeeping and repair after the death of the previous owners.59 In reminiscences, written down in the late sixteenth century, an elderly ex-monk of Durham recalled that: ‘every Monke had his Mazer severally by himself that he did drink in’.60

If the would-be Benedictine had been obliged to acquire at his own cost all the items listed he would have faced a considerable burden of expense according to William Glastynbury's evaluation of £8 9s. 5d. which in fact omits mazer and spoon, surely two of the more costly items on the Ely list. The provincial chapter of the English Black Monks was not slow to recognize that the need to find this sum was proving a deterrent to potentially desirable candidates who applied for admission, and that it had the effect of prompting them to turn to other orders which made no such charges. Accordingly, in 1343 the chapter issued a statute to the effect that 100s. should henceforth be provided toward meeting the expenses of a new monk's clothing.61 It is clear that from the outset this was inadequate in many instances and, not surprisingly, we find that from time to time monk obedientiaries made donations to impecunious novices: in 1375/6 the precentor at Norwich gave 7s. 8d. to a novice ad ingressum and in 1377/8, 6s. 8d. to another ad intrationem de gratia.62 Again, in 1391/2 the Worcester almoner contributed 20s. to three novices ‘propter eorum paupertatem in primo ingressu’.63 The extent of the financial assistance offered to newcomers to the cathedral priories remains uncertain; it is likely that at Canterbury the 100s. provision did not apply because the Christ Church monks distanced themselves from the provincial chapters by persisting in their refusal to attend.64 It may be that the majority of recruits accepted by this prestigious house would have been able to afford the outlay, but not all. In the case of James Hegham, in 1370 the chamberlain spent £8 5s. 7d. ‘pro habitu et necessariis ad ingressum’ for which sum he petitioned the monk auditors for an allowance on his account, thereby suggesting that this may have been an unusual occurrence.65

The Durham chamberlain's annual accounts record substantial purchases of cloth and other supplies for novices, some of which were for the outfitting of the new arrivals. The reference to the Rastura noviciorum on the accounts in the 1360s (p.62) and later distinguishes them from the senior novices because the tonsuring ceremony usually took place at the time of clothing; under the heading Rastura noviciorum in 1402/3, for example, the chamberlain listed his expenses in providing six novices with bedclothes, boots, knives, belts and, for each, two capucia and one pellicia.66 Several of these items have their counterparts on the Ely and Canterbury lists, the capucium presumably being an alternative for cuculla and the pelisse being rendered by ‘pylch’ at Ely. To complete their monastic wardrobe the Durham novices had probably acquired other essentials at their own expense before entry, and the chamberlain himself may have included in his account additional items for their use without supplying the necessary detailed information on which the historian depends.

For details of the procedures followed at the cathedral priories for the clothing ceremony of novices we must rely on the Constitutions of Lanfranc and ordinances found in several Christ Church registers and manuscripts which would have guided those who were about to be clothed as monks in the correct way of presenting their petition to receive the monastic habit.67 No preliminary instructions are mentioned although undoubtedly there would have been an introductory programme at every monastic house; in the St Augustine customary, for example, the novices were given two or three days of instruction based on the Rule and Hugh of St Victor's De institutione noviciorum together with practical details concerning the monastic routine and the novice's deportment.68 On the appointed day the Christ Church novices were escorted into the chapter house, each accompanied by the magister to whom he had been individually assigned.69 Prostrating themselves before the prior or the presiding official (presidens) they made their request to receive the monastic habit: ‘…requirimus misericordiam dei et vestram totiusque conventus ut habitum monachi nobis concedere velitis’. On rising they listened to an admonition stressing the hardships that awaited them if they embarked on the way of holy obedience according to the Rule. Their response was ‘presto sumus et parati ad faciendum quicquid nobis precipietur pro salute animarum nostrarum’.70 Each novice in turn genuflected before the prior and kissed his feet in humble subjection; (p.63) returning to their places the novices prostrated themselves a second time and repeated their petition begging the:

misericordiam dei et vestram ut oretis pro nobis dominum quatinus concedat nobis ita suscipere habitum monachi quod sit ad honorem dei et ad salutem animarum nostrarum et honorem huius ecclesie et ad utilitatem omnium nostrorum.

The prior replied to this request by commanding the brethren to make fervent prayer on their behalf. The novices then departed with their magistri to be clothed and to be tonsured at the same time.71 A set of instructions for Christ Church novices, which was derived from Lanfranc's Constitutions, has been preserved in a late thirteenth-century copy entitled ‘Instructio noviciorum secundum consuetudinem ecclesie Cantuariensis’. This omits the ceremonies of admission and clothing, and begins with the directions for the tonsuring which was to take place immediately after admission in a private and appropriate place; the church before the introit during mass, the infirmary chapel or the abbot's chapel were suitable places recommended by Lanfranc in his Constitutions. The novice was to be shaven and shorn (tonsus et rasus) and to shed his old clothing signifying that he had put off the old man and put on the new. No mention of the new clothing occurs, however, until the third chapter which states that on the day following his tonsuring the novice was to be taught by his master how to put on and take off the habit and how it was to be worn with fitting modesty and dignity.72 The Benedictine general chapter's instructions issued in the 1270s describe in more detail the ceremonies of tonsuring and clothing in the habit. The former was to take place during the singing or chanting of the seven penitential psalms and the litany, while the latter began with the washing of the novices’ feet. New drawers, hose, and daytime footwear were then put on followed by the shirt, tunic, and/or pelisse, this last item to be provided by the novices’ magister. Next the cowl and froccus were put on by those who were already clerici, and the scapular replaced the froccus for those who were still laici; finally, the hood and the belt with its attached purse containing knife and comb.73 Two Worcester monks received the monastic habit in October 1277 and two Winchester monks were given their prima tonsura in February 1362, both statements presumably referring to the same ceremony of ‘making the monk’; unfortunately, even such meagre details are rarely found for monks of most of the cathedral chapters.74

Now duly clothed and tonsured, the novice commenced his year of probation.

(p.64) 2. Probation, claustral studies, and profession

Si adhuc stetirit, tunc ducatur in…cellam noviciorum et…probetur in omnia patientia;…certis temporibus occupare debent fratres…in lectione divina.

RB, C.58, 11; C.48, 175

The monastic background of study

The year of probation was given over to learning in preparation for profession. The new recruits embarked without delay on a programme of study in which there were two principal objectives. Instruction in the monastic way of life was the primary aim, as prescribed in the Rule of St Benedict and interpreted in its later commentaries; and this was accompanied by an introduction to the customs of the house in which the novice had received the habit. The English Benedictine monasteries were independent of one another but, apart from Christ Church Canterbury, were members of a federation which met periodically to discuss matters of mutual concern and, where it was deemed necessary, to reach joint decisions regarding conduct, routine, and policy. Before 1336 there was a general chapter in each of the two provinces of Canterbury and York, and after that date a single provincial chapter for both provinces.76 The newly agreed directives at these assemblies were intended for incorporation into the customary of each house while remaining subject to alteration over the course of time, both at the discretion of the individual chapters and by consensus of the general, and later the provincial, chapters. By contrast, the Cluniac and Cistercian reform movements of the tenth and eleventh centuries developed, within the Benedictine framework, a centrally organized system in which Cluny and Cîteaux were the mother houses whose authority extended over all subsequent foundations made by their respective orders.77

Although all Benedictine monasteries compiled their own individual customaries, the similarities between them were more striking than the differences because all had their source in the Rule. The latter, however, was cast in fairly general terms, apart from the notable exception of the detailed requirements concerning the performance of the daily sevenfold office.78 The purpose of the customaries, therefore, was to spell out the precise regulations and practical arrangements by which each monastic community was governed and which were essential to its smooth functioning. No particulars were omitted, from the number and kind of dishes to be served to each monk in the refectory and the sleeping arrangements in the dormitory to the appropriate chants for the seasonal antiphons and responses at mass and office and the distribution of clothing and other allowances during the year.

(p.65) Unfortunately, we cannot look to the customaries of the cathedral priories to furnish us with many details of the day-to-day arrangements for each house because, with the partial exception of Norwich, none survive except in an incomplete or fragmentary state. Nevertheless, we can piece together enough to enable us to visualize the pattern of daily and seasonal activities within the cloister by means of these; and they can be supplemented by other records among the cathedral priories’ muniments which contain information of the kind usually supplied by customaries. We can also have recourse to a few other extant Benedictine customaries such as those of Bury St Edmunds, St Augustine's Canterbury, Eynsham, and Westminster.79

The section devoted to novices attached to the St Augustine's customary was ‘drawn up apparently by the authority of the general chapter, and…[probably] intended for use in all of the houses of the province of Canterbury’.80 Whether or not it was universally approved and adopted throughout the southern province is unknown.81 In the sections concerned with novices post ingressum there are several allusions to their educational programme. The intervals between the canonical hours during the day, for example, were to be spent in cellam seu scolam under instruction by their master, who was to begin by expounding chapters five, six, seven, and eighteen of the Rule; these deal with obedience, silence, humility, and the order in which the psalms are to be said (in the daily office). The novice master was also to comment on the daily readings of the Rule in order to encourage the novices to strive after perfection in accord with both Rule and Gospel and to remain at all times inwardly attentive to the doctrina Christi.82 It should be noted that these daily readings of the Rule in chapter were followed by a brief exposition in the vernacular or in French by the prior or presiding monk.83 As for the local (p.66) observances which are described as variae…et multae, the masters were to carefully select for the novices those which were relevant to their status during their probationary year.84 It is significant that the doctrina Hugonis, that is Hugh of St Victor's De institutione noviciorum, was mentioned not only here, post ingressum, but also previously, ante ingressum, where it was coupled with the Rule. The prospective novice had thus been informed in advance as to the basic texts that he would be required to study.85 In the same years, 1277–9, the chapter of the southern province also drew up and published a new body of statutes, one chapter of which regulated the novices’ study programme by spelling out some of the practical details. It was laid down that every novice was henceforth expected to demonstrate his mastery by heart of the entire psalter, the Rule, hymns, canticles, versicles and responses, antiphons, invitatories, and other prescribed liturgical material before [priestly] ordination.86

Monastic routine

We may compare the general chapter proposal with the set of instructions drawn up for novices at Christ Church Canterbury that survives in a mid-thirteenth-century manuscript inscribed with the name of Richard de Wynchepe.87 The volume is written in one neat but pedestrian gothic book hand throughout and consists of a collection of treatises of which the ‘Instructio noviciorum secundum consuetudinem ecclesiae cantuariensis’ is only one. The other items, however, would also have been suitable for novices.88 Knowles summed up the Instructio as ‘a directory derived from Lanfranc's Constitutions’ to the relevant section of which it bears some resemblance; but Lanfranc makes only brief references to the novices and there is virtually no information about what is required of them during the first twelve months.89 The Instructio makes up for this deficiency, at least in some respects, but leaves many questions unanswered. For example, it makes passing references to the obligation to study, but only in naming the times during the day when the novices were required to go with their books to the west side of the cloister; there, seated on their bench [forma], they could easily be observed and any questionable behaviour reported.90

(p.67) The Christ Church Instructio and the St Augustine's treatise follow a similar arrangement in introducing the newly clothed novices to the daily regimen, first showing them their allotted places in choir, dormitory, and refectory and explaining the correct comportment and gestures that were relevant to each. Both sets of instructions next proceed to go through the horarium for ferial (ordinary) days and for festal days, together with an explanation of the changes that occur to mark the seasons of the liturgical year.91 Further instruction in these liturgical and other observances would continue during the course of the year while the novices were acquiring familiarity with the complexities of ceremonial variations as they actually occurred. Both the sweetness and the severity of the Rule are made clear as are the necessity of the discipline of outward conformity in gesture, word, and act accompanied by prompt obedience to every command; only in this way would the young monk attain to an inward spirit of humility and mutual love grounded in the monastic zeal of St Benedict.92 This spirit was nourished by the frequent homilies and daily readings in the chapter house which was described as the ‘refectory of the soul’, where the ‘bread’ shared was the ‘verbum vitae’ and where ‘dominus nobiscum loquitur, instruit, docet, corripit, arguit et castigit et punit’.93 In order to deepen his understanding of this ‘word of life’ the novice had much to learn: prayer and meditation to enlarge his spiritual capacity and study to enlighten his intellect.

An extract from what appears to have been an Ely customary with instructions for novices occurs in a collection of miscellaneous tracts possibly bound together by Robert Wells (alias Steward), the last prior of Ely and first dean of the new foundation. The quire in which they occur, in what is now Lambeth Palace Library MS 448, also contains two folios describing monastic sign language and the list of clothing and equipment required by the novice at the time of admission.94 Comprising seven folios the quire is written in an early to mid-fifteenth-century secretary hand, and may have been copied from a lost Ely customary or from later extracts. The fact that it has features in common with the Christ Church and general chapter directives suggests that all three may have ultimately been derived from a common source. However, the Ely fragment introduces a few homely details that breathe life into the novices’ routine. Ely novices were also assigned places for study [sedilia] in the western walk of the cloister where, after the conventual mass, they were allowed to converse, but only about matters concerning the Rule and the monastic observances [of the house]. At meal times in the refectory they were to (p.68) make use of table napkins to avoid soiling their habits, and at bedtime before settling down to sleep they were to sit on their beds and say a paternoster and an ave.95 Juniors are distinguished from the novices in being assigned certain duties such as the distribution of psalters among the group of novices waiting at their sedilia for the bell calling the community to vespers.96 At certain times during the day the novices were occupied with their books at their sedilia, and at other times, e.g., before the evening collatio, they sat there in contemplation.97 Towels, which were kept hanging in the dormitory, were brought down to the cloister for the daily washing of feet at the sedilia.98 The Durham novices also pursued their studies in the west walk of the cloister where, by the early fifteenth century and probably earlier, they were allocated wooden ‘pewes or carrells’ with a desk for their books, in full view of the stall of the novice master who sat opposite them.99

In preparing his several volumes on Canterbury College Oxford, Pantin reconstructed in outline the academic programme of study for novices and junior monks in the Christ Church cloister prior to the selection of the most promising among them for higher learning at the university. In so doing he, too, noted that they ‘had to go through a double training, [both] religious and scholastic’.100 After brief comments on the former he proceeded, in line with his purpose, to focus his attention on the latter. In this study, by contrast, the attempt will be made to view the whole monk in whom both the spiritual and the intellectual formation were intended to advance together.

Our aim to preserve this wholeness, however, does not preclude us from making use of the distinction noted by Pantin; indeed, it will be followed here. However, it is important that at the outset we become aware of the intimate connection between the two as demonstrated, for example, in the study of the same texts in two complementary but different ways. Soon after their admission the novices were introduced to the practice of reading and listening to the Scriptures prayerfully;101 this lectio divina was both a public or communal activity and a private occupation. In the lessons heard at Matins (Vigils) and at Collatio, which took place between Vespers and Compline, the assembled community listened together while other times during the day were set aside for private reading.102 The purpose of these (p.69) readings was to nourish the monk's meditation and prayer and enable him to progressively appropriate ‘the Word in view of forming his life’ by, in and through it.103 This Word, in order to be taken to heart, must first be imprinted on the mind, that is, memorized. Jean Leclercq has succinctly described the close link between reading, meditation, and memorization, this last being ‘what inscribes…the sacred text in the body and in the soul’.104

Devices for training the memory had been in use since classical times in all areas of learning including, for example, the rules of Latin grammar, and the organization of historical data; the technique was also applied to the memorization of the Rule and the psalter, obligatory for novices. Hugh of St Victor maintained that memory was nothing less than the basis of learning; the use of mnemonics, far from our present-day restrictive meaning of rote, furnished its practitioner with an inner storehouse of wisdom, a library of texts, neatly catalogued and indexed, and available for instant use.105 In the prologue to his Chronica, a handbook of historical materials, composed c. 1130 for his students embarking on the first stage of scriptural exegesis, Hugh propounded a practical method for acquiring the ars memorativa. By way of illustration, he turned to the psalms to show the way to visualize each one by its number and incipit.106 In our eyes the usefulness of this stratagem should have been marked by the widespread circulation of copies, but the evidence to date suggests that this may not have been the case; among the cathedral priories, however, Canterbury, Durham, Rochester, and Worcester are known to have possessed Hugh's Chronica.107 Indeed, his more popular Didascalicon, or medieval scholar's guide to the arts, (p.70) suggests by inference that mnemonic techniques were widely known and practised.108

Academic instruction

In contrast to the strictly monastic and spiritual training, the academic or scholastic instruction given to the novices was in part a continuation of the basic education they had previously received in order to qualify for admission. Nevertheless, these studies were also primarily designed to provide the intellectual skills that would enable them to penetrate more deeply the meaning of the sacred texts: credo ut intelligam came first, but it was to be followed by intelligo ut profundius credam.109 Knowledge of the liberal arts was seen as the stepping stone to an understanding of the Scriptures of which grammar formed the foundation. A study of the surviving grammatical manuscripts shows that the medieval definition of grammar extended far beyond the rules governing Latin syntax, the rudiments of which at least had to be mastered prior to admission to the monastery. The purpose of the course in grammar was to teach students ‘to write correctly, to pronounce correctly what is written, to understand correctly what is pronounced and to explain or expound what is understood’.110 In order to achieve this end it therefore included both orthography, concerned with writing and spelling, and prosody, introducing metre and accentuation; the practical aspect of the latter was of particular significance when applied to pronouncing correctly the words and phrases constantly chanted or intoned in the performance of the divine office. Although the 1337 Constitutions of Benedict XII prescribed instruction in grammar, logic, and philosophy for cathedral priories and all Black Monk houses in England, Pantin expressed doubts that Canterbury monks were taught anything more than grammar in the Christ Church cloister; it was surely due to the lack of explicit evidence that he thought logic and philosophy were reserved for the select few who were sent up to Oxford.111 This conclusion fails to take into account the presence, among the library volumes in the cathedral cloisters, of grammatical texts that speculated on (p.71) the nature of grammar itself by raising logical and metaphysical questions. During most, or perhaps all, of the first year, the novices’ physical and mental energies were expended in acquiring familiarity with the monastic horarium and in applying themselves to the task of learning the prescribed texts.112 While the whole of Compline, the final office of the day, was normally recited from memory and during the winter months took place after darkness had fallen, at Ely an episcopal ordinance of 1300 commanded the provision of books and candles in choir for the novices so that they could take part before they had become word perfect in the recitation of the psalms and prayers.113

Prescribed texts

About half a century later, also at Ely, three novices presented a petition to the prior or, perhaps, the novice master. From his reply we may infer that it probably contained their request to be admitted as full members of the chapter, which usually took place towards the end of the year of probation.114 The reply, headed Exortacio facienda Noviciis post petitionem, cites short passages from a number of authorities, for which accurate references are supplied in the text; these quotations may have been derived from a reading list prescribed for use in the novitiate some of whose contents, by this time, would have been introduced to the novices. These books are the Rule, the Old and New Testaments, St Ambrose's commentary on Luke, Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job, Bernard of Clairvaux's De praecepto et dispensatione, Hugh of St Victor's De institutione noviciorum and probably his De beatae Mariae virginitate, and Hugh de Folieto's De claustro animae; there are also three references to canon law, two of which quote the Liber extra de statu monachorum. The only surviving medieval library catalogue compiled for novices in the cathedral priories comes from Durham and is dated 1395. Comparison with the Ely list of references shows that both included the Rule, Bernard's De praecepto, and Hugh of St Victor's De institutione.115

Taking these few titles at Durham and Ely as required texts for novices we will proceed by checking for copies in the other cathedral monasteries and taking note of any treatises bound with them in the same volume on the grounds that their physical proximity may be indicative of a common purpose. Let us begin with the Rule, the cornerstone of Benedictine monasticism and the day-to-day handbook for the individual monk. For this reason, although no copy of the Rule survives from Bath cathedral priory, there must have been at least several available to supply the needs of the twenty-five or so monks in the community before the Black Death. However, in light of the fact that all but a dozen volumes once belonging to this (p.72) house have disappeared, the loss of the Rule is hardly surprising.116 Among the seventy volumes so far identified as having belonged to St Swithun's no copy of the Rule has been found. St Mary's Coventry, however, with a survival rate in books and book catalogues only slightly higher than that of Bath, does include the record of one copy in a mid-thirteenth-century list of thirty-three titles; all of these were copied by John de Bruges, possibly a precentor/librarian, but they have subsequently been lost.117 Only a single copy is known to have belonged to Norwich priory—the one that still survives—despite the fact that, with its satellite cells, it was the largest community after Durham and Canterbury.118 The monks of St Etheldreda's possessed a well-worn, late twelfth-century text of the Rule annotated in the margins by a variety of hands, one of which warns the reader that ‘obedientia est melior quam virtutes’.119 This is a composite volume in which eighteen booklets and treatises on diverse subjects were bound together.120 A single copy of the Rule is recorded in an early twelfth-century catalogue of Rochester books but there are no known copies extant.121 The earliest surviving text of the Rule in England belonged to the monks of Worcester; written in Latin it dates from the eighth century.122 A second copy dated some three centuries later is in Anglo-Saxon with a Latin gloss.123 Most of these copies of the Rule, including the one in the Durham novices’ book cupboard and the Ely copy, formed only part of a volume; at some point of time they were united with other treatises and booklets for reasons which will be discussed below.124

For Christ Church and St Cuthbert's there is a fortunate conjunction of surviving texts and medieval book catalogues that enable us to form a more complete picture of the contents of these libraries than of those in the other cathedral monasteries. At Canterbury it is clear that multiple copies of the Rule were the norm, and the current depleted figures arising from the vagaries of more substantial loss and destruction elsewhere must not be allowed to influence and distort our judgement. Five copies of the Rule from Canterbury survive, dating from the eleventh to the sixteenth century.125 Some fifteen copies (one of these in English) are listed in the library catalogue compiled under Prior Eastry in the early (p.73) fourteenth century; this number would have been sufficient to supply the text of the Rule to each of the five or six novices who were in the process of memorizing it and there would have been another ten copies available for use by the remaining sixty or sixty-five members of the community.126

Surviving Durham copies number six, four of which remain in situ. Both the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon texts of the Rule are found in Durham Cathedral MS B.IV.24, a late eleventh/early twelfth-century manuscript in which the Latin version is so well-thumbed and marked by notations in the margin that it may have been at one time the copy used for the daily readings in chapter; bound with it were a martyrology and the customs of Canterbury, no doubt those of Lanfranc.127 According to an inventory of 1391/2 it was then kept in the communi armariolo in the Spendement, a small storeroom on the west side of the west cloister walk close to the novices’ carrels.128 Durham Cathedral MS B.III.8 contains a late fourteenth/early fifteenth-century copy of the Rule; MSS B.IV.26 and B.IV.41 of approximately similar date include the text with an alphabetical index. Cambridge, Jesus College MS 61 is the fifth copy and is dated c. 1400; in addition Jesus College MS 41 contains an imperfect fifteenth-century copy. In the novices’ book cupboard at Durham there was also a tabula to the Rule in addition to the Rule itself but in a separate volume; both of these, the tabula and the Rule, were bound with other treatises and have subsequently been lost.129 Among the items under the heading Cronicae in a 1416/17 book catalogue occurs a volume of which the description suggests that it was similar to Durham Cathedral MS B.IV.24 in having two texts of the Rule, Latin and Anglo-Saxon, along with other treatises which appear to be the same in both the medieval catalogue and Rud's Codices…Dunelmensis; in 1416/17 it was in the hands of the prior.130 The fact that, in comparison with the Canterbury catalogue of Prior Eastry, the Rule is less well represented in the Durham medieval catalogues may seem surprising since the element of post-dissolution loss is not such a significant factor that has to be taken into account here. How copies of the Rule were distributed and shared among Benedictine novices remains ultimately uncertain; memorization may have been facilitated by vocal repetition in concert (p.74) as well as by individual study, but some method of sharing must have been in operation.

Some of the treatises that were often found with the Rule were undoubtedly intended for the instruction of novices in their introductory year of monastic life; the text of the Rule assigned to the Durham novices, for example, was bound with Hugh of St Victor's De institutione noviciorum and St Bernard's De praecepto et dispensatione, both of which we have already noted at Ely. These two popular works were written some time before the middle of the twelfth century, the former for Augustinian novices at St Victor in Paris where Hugh was master of the abbey school and the latter by the Cistercian abbot of Clairvaux (d. 1153) at the request of two Benedictine monks of Chartres.131 Both treatises came to be highly regarded by novice masters because they were recognized as practical, introductory guides for those who had left the world to set out on the way of perfection, ad perfectionem conversationis, by means of which they were led to expect that they would arrive ultimately ad celsitudinem perfectionis.132 In strict accord with the teaching of St Benedict, encapsulated in these two phrases from the final chapter of the Rule, it was made clear to the novices that conversion (conversatio) was an ongoing process to be learned through unceasing self-discipline in gesture, speech, and act which, as Hugh explains, produces the fruit of virtue and humility. Bernard stresses stability within the cloister and obedience to the abbot or superior, but at the same time he defines in some detail the limits of obedience and the circumstances under which the monk would cease to be bound by his promise made on the day of his profession.133

These were not by any means the only instruction manuals for beginners in monastic life, but the cathedral priories’ medieval library catalogues and the volumes that still survive combine to imply that they were the two most often prescribed formative texts.134 Either with or without the Rule the presence of one or both of them should be noted in manuscripts consisting of an apparently miscellaneous collection of treatises bound together. In some cases, if the binding predates the dissolution, there may be fairly convincing reasons to consider this ‘miscellany’ as a compilation of reading material deliberately selected for use in the novitiate. One of the volumes in the Durham novices’ book cupboard may be taken as a model to demonstrate the possible range of preferred choices found with the (p.75) Rule. In addition to two indexes (tabulae), one to the Rule and another to the De praecepto, there were about a dozen items including the following:135 an exposition on the Lord's prayer; a tract on confession; Uthred de Boldon's De substantialibus regulae monachalis;136 Abbas vel prior, which was an exposition and commentary on monastic law and discipline in the light of the papal reforms implemented by the constitutions of the 1330s;137 several sermons of St Bernard on the compassion of Christ and the compassion of the Virgin Mary; Richard of Wetheringsett's Summa of ecclesiastical discipline;138 and an imperfect text of the Constitutions of Otto.139

Recommended reading material

These items may be loosely classified within the following categories: works on prayer and the spiritual life of the cloister, on monastic discipline and profession, on the faith and teaching of the Church, and on papal legislation pertaining to Benedictines along with statutes issued by the English provincial and general chapters of the Black Monks. Either with or without the Rule these texts, one or more of them, frequently appear in volumes which on first sight seem to be merely a miscellaneous collection of treatises bound together for no obvious reason. In at least some cases, however, there are fairly persuasive if not completely convincing reasons to consider them as collections incorporating reading and reference material compiled for the use of novice masters and novices. An examination of several potential candidates for this category among the many composite manuscripts formerly held by the cathedral priories should serve to strengthen this hypothesis.

Since the compilers of both the Eastry and Durham catalogues have kindly itemized the contents of many of the volumes listed it is not difficult to pick out several examples from those that appear to have miscellaneous contents. Eastry item number 1579 is one of these in that it includes the Rule, the De institutione of Hugh, meditations of Bernard, an exposition of the Lord's prayer, an anonymous treatise on the sacraments, and another entitled Questiones de theologia.140 Number 1576, which lacks both the De institutione and Bernard's De praecepto, contains a Tractatus super regulam beati Benedicti together with some fundamental teachings essential for newcomers to the monastic life; these comprise explanatory treatises (p.76) on the ten commandments, the creed, the Lord's prayer, the virtues, and several incentives to true repentance in the form of a commentary on the psalm Miserere mei domine, Pope Innocent III's De miseria hominis [sic] and a questionnaire used in preparing for confession.141 Another, item number 542, has some twenty titles in addition to the Rule, the De praecepto and the De institutione; these include a De professione monachorum possibly by the Dominican William Peraldus, the Institutio [Instructio] noviciorum secundum consuetudinem Cantuar. Ecclesiae, meditations attributed to Bernard, the De cognitione verae vitae by Honorius Augustodunensis (here attributed to Augustine), sermons of which one was on the passion of Christ, and Richard Praemonstratensis on the canon of the mass.142 Finally, there can be no doubt that one volume at Christ Church had been compiled for use in the novitiate, namely item number 1300, which had only four items: the Rule, an unattributed De professione monachorum, and two sets of rubrics, one ‘De usu divini officii in ecclesia Cantuar.’, and the other ‘De sonitu et consuetudinibus Cantuar. Ecclesiae’.143 There is one surviving Christ Church manuscript from the second half of the fourteenth century which may also have been among those recommended for use in the novitiate because it, too, was a compilation of instructive texts. Now Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 137, the contents include the popular commentary on the Rule by Bernard Aiglerius, abbot of Monte Cassino (d. 1282), expositions of the Lord's prayer, and the Salve Regina, homilies addressed to monks by ‘Eusebius Gallicanus’ and two treatises of Hugh of St Victor, one being the De instructione noviciorum.144 Also bound in this volume is a well‐worn copy of the anonymous Philosophia monachorum which portrays the life of charity enjoyed by religious in the cloister in stark contrast to the life of misery and sin persistently afflicting men in the world; it urges the renunciation of ambition to excel in acquiring knowledge of the schools in favour of learning the divine wisdom which indwells the heart.145

(p.77) Dover priory's dependence on Christ Church was, in most respects, less than that of the Durham and Norwich cells, and one sphere which enjoyed autonomy was its library. It did not rely on the cathedral to supply its literary needs but operated independently and, by 1389, it had built up an impressive collection of more than 400 volumes. In that year the precentor, John Whytefeld, compiled a catalogue of ‘precocious sophistication and astonishing detail’.146 Its fortunate survival enables us to pinpoint a section in which at least five volumes can be identified as intended for novices; all contained the Rule and one or both of Bernard's De praecepto and Hugh of St Victor's De instructione along with other items such as Hugh de Folieto's De claustro animae, William Peraldus's De professione monachorum, Signa monachorum Dovorre, Norma professionis monachorum Dovorre, and Decreta concernentia ordinem monachorum. Another volume in this same section of the catalogue is the Formula noviciorum of David of Augsburg, a fourteenth-century Franciscan friar.147

It is clear that the Durham novices were not restricted to the study of the few books recorded in the 1395 inventory of their cloister book cupboard. Other books were listed as on loan to them from the Spendement collection: for example, in 1416 to one novice a volume in which Smaragdus's Diadema monachorum, Augustine's De vita et moribus clericorum and Collationes abbatum were bound together; in the same inventory, to another novice, the [Soliloquium] de arta animae of Hugh of St Victor and a De fide, spe et caritate also attributed to Hugh; to a third, Hugh de Folieto's De claustro animae.148 All of these works can be described as in the category of spiritual reading appropriate for beginners in the religious life, and copies are known to have been held by most, probably all, of the cathedral priories. There was also at Durham one composite volume no longer extant whose contents, itemized in the 1395 inventory of the communi armariolo, suggest that it would have been very profitable for novice reading. It consisted of Hugh of St Victor's De informatione [sic] noviciorum and Bernard's De praecepto et dispensatione, Hugh de Folieto's De claustro animae, a treatise De professione monachorum, probably the one by the Durham monk John de Beverley (d. 1349), letters [epistolae] by Bernard and Jerome, sermons to monks by ‘Eusebius Gallicanus’, and the Diadema monachorum of Smaragdus.149

Several of the surviving manuscript compilations would also have provided instruction and spiritual nourishment for the probationary year Durham novices. (p.78) Some of the writings to which they were introduced were in-house products, composed by two members of their own community whose combined careers spanned the greater part of the fourteenth century; these were John de Beverley, who was active in the 1330s and 1340s, and Uthred de Boldon, who died in 1397 after more than fifty years in the monastery. Both men championed the cause of defending and promoting the Benedictine form of monasticism in response to two contemporary problems: the competing attraction of the mendicant orders and the increasing threat of heresy that had been aggravated by John Wyclif's attacks on ecclesiastical and clerical orthodoxy. Both men served as priors of Durham college and both played an influential role in the triennial Black Monk chapters, John de Beverley between 1338 and 1343 and Uthred in the 1360s.150 One form of response to the challenge from other orders lay in demonstrating ‘the antiquity, sanctity, and dignity of Benedictine monasticism and its services to the Church and to learning’.151 These circumstances also brought home the periodic need for self-examination, that is for the reinterpretation and reassessment of the essentials of monastic life in order to convince the contemporary generation of its intrinsic value and continuing relevance. With such thoughts in mind John de Beverley wrote a commentary on the Rule which, alas, has not survived; nor, surprisingly, has it been recorded in any of the medieval Durham book catalogues.152 Testimony to John's concern for the novices lies in his tract De professione monachorum of which there are two remaining copies in Durham manuscripts.153 With frequent reference to Bernard's De praecepto this short composition makes amply clear the penalties of breaking the profession promises of obedience, stability, and convers[at]io morum and spells out the extent and limits of obedience.154

Uthred was a prolific writer on a variety of themes several of which were informative for novices; the De substantialibus regulae monachalis, for instance, begins with the words Novicio inquirenti.155 It then proceeds to demonstrate at some length the ‘origin and lawfulness of the monastic life’ by identifying its presence in the prophets of the Old Testament, in Christ and the Apostles in the New Testament, and in the early Church before the time of St Benedict. The substantialia of the ‘monastic life’ as envisaged by Uthred are continence, abdication of material possessions, and obedience, to all of which every man is naturally subject in varying degrees according to circumstance, status, and so on. St Benedict's profession promise introduced a distinctive form of obedience ‘according to (p.79) the Rule of St Benedict’ as the basis of his ordering of monastic life directed toward a more perfect observance of the law of Christ. The treatise is cast in a dialectical framework by means of argument, counter-argument and resolution. It is probable that it had only a limited circulation since few copies seem to have survived, and among the other cathedral priories only Norwich is known to have possessed a copy.156 A second work of Uthred, the De perfectione vivendi, was probably designed as a continuation of the De substantialibus.157 Both are considered by Pantin to be ‘an attempt to work out a constructive theory of the religious life’ firmly founded in biblical history, and Uthred's aim was to demonstrate that monasticism is ‘something deeply rooted in man's nature as a rational being’.158 The complex development of Uthred's themes in these two texts prompts a question regarding the level of intelligence and understanding of the inquiring young novice to whom it was purportedly addressed; it would surely have required some interpretative commentary on the part of a senior monk or novice master.

A second question arises as to the actual method of presentation of these and of other novice texts in general. When first introducing them to his charges the novice master must have taught them by means of a judicious exposition, probably in the vernacular, adapted to suit their abilities. Only after this initial period of instruction would the texts have been put directly into their hands. With this mise-en-scène in place it would be a reasonable assumption to view the selection of treatises in some manuscripts as having been made for a dual purpose: to provide essential source material for the masters and study material for the novices. This conjecture draws attention to a perplexing question with regard to more precise details of the curricular programme: which treatises were on the agenda during the probationary year and which were studied later during the second and third years, after profession? On the basis of the response to the Ely novices’ petition for admission to profession a partial answer may be inferred; but there is no indication as to how or when, in practical terms, they actually acquired familiarity with the chosen texts.159

At Canterbury most of the evidence relating to manuscripts containing collections that bear upon our present inquiry is, as we have seen, dependent on the entries in the thirteenth-century Eastry catalogue. At Durham it is possible to examine surviving manuscripts, which furnish fuller detail than the itemized lists of contents of Christ Church as the latter are often so concise as to be difficult to interpret with any certainty. In several of the Durham manuscripts it is possible to discern a pattern of choice similar to that identified above at Canterbury and Dover. Thus novice masters appear to have been making similar selections but, a wide range of choice being available, there is some variation. For example, the Durham volume now Tanner MS 4 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, contains a (p.80) collection of treatises in thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century hands, including the Formula noviciorum of David of Augsburg complete in three books and a Speculum de utilitate religionis regularis; other treatises were also incorporated into this collection which may reflect the interests of the monk owner[s] more than the specific needs of the novices. Nevertheless, sermons of which some are attributed to Augustine, a Flores (i.e. choice extracts) Augustini and portions of biblical and psalm commentaries in this volume would have provided informative and stimulating matter for both teacher and taught.160

A second example may be found in MS 41 of Jesus College Cambridge. It is one of several Durham compilations that have been described by Pantin as ‘a useful collection of tracts on monastic discipline’, bringing together items such as the Rule, St Bernard, Abbas vel prior, papal constitutions for Benedictines with provincial chapter statutes, and treatises on monastic origins and hagiology.161 In this instance fourteenth- and fifteenth-century hands have copied the Rule which is accompanied by a tabula, an imperfect Speculum religiosorum, that is, a treatise on ecclesiastical discipline and doctrine, several more tabulae, one on Bernard's De praecepto by Uthred and another on Abbas vel prior, also perhaps by Uthred, who may have been the original author of this latter work; the volume also contains the Constitutions of Benedict XII as well as provincial chapter statutes of 1343 and Durham chapter ordinances of 1417. In the light of what has been postulated above, this volume, and possibly others, may have been compiled with a specifically instructional role in mind as a reference for the instructors and, at some appropriate stage, for those being instructed. It would also, of course, have served as a readily accessible reference for general consultation.

The presence of manuscripts with similar contents in the libraries of other cathedral priories suggests that, although novice masters were free to make their own choice of texts for novices, their selection also revolved around similar themes if not identical treatises. A Norwich priory volume, for example, whose binding dates from the middle of the fourteenth century, consists of the Rule together with six other treatises. One of these, which immediately follows the Rule, is the Tractatus de professione monachorum of William Peraldus which here lacks both title and author;162 the other works included are two Flores attributed to Augustine and Bernard, a brief Summa theologiae magistralis and Richard of St Victor's De contemplatione. The De claustro animae of Hugh de Folieto and the Speculum religiosorum of Peraldus were also available to Norwich monks and novices in two (p.81) separate volumes; the former is written in a clear late thirteenth/early fourteenth-century hand with many elongated pointing fingers in the margins and profile sketches of stern monks saying ‘nota’; the latter in a hand of similar date has been provided with a tabula of subjects arranged alphabetically. Both these treatises are the sole contents of their respective volumes with one, probably both, inscribed with the name of Henry de Lakenham, prior (d. 1310). The Speculum has few annotations apart from one in the margin of the prologue which reads: ‘Nota in isto capitulo quod monachos nolentes erudiri’, perhaps a comment from a frustrated novice master!163 Two of the volumes purchased by Simon Bozoun during his priorate (1344–52), which do not survive, have been tentatively identified as commentaries on the Rule by Bernard of Monte Cassino.164 If so there were three copies of this work at Norwich in the mid-thirteenth century since Robert de Donewich, a contemporary of Bozoun, possessed a volume which contained Bernard on the Rule, along with copies of the treatises of Folieto and Peraldus named above.165

No such collections are in evidence at Worcester, but there are two separate volumes which feature the two best known of the surviving works of the ninth-century Abbot Smaragdus. Both date from the twelfth century; both were continuing to be consulted in the sixteenth century and, presumably, during the time between. Brother Thomas Wulstan noted that he perlegit the Diadema monachorum in 1529 while he was a young priest monk serving as chaplain to the prior, and brother Roger Neckham D.Th., inserted his name in the commentary on the Rule.166 Additional evidence of the persistent borrowing of the Diadema is provided in a Christ Church list of books sent away for repair in 1508; it included a tenth-century copy which still survives.167 In fact, five other copies are known to have been in the library collection at Canterbury, four in the Eastry catalogue and another surviving early fourteenth-century copy now in Lambeth Palace Library.168 The borrowers at Worcester and Canterbury cannot be identified as novices, but a brief perusal of the seventy short chapters of the Diadema is sufficient to indicate that the contents would have been valued for the (p.82) clear and direct exposition of topics beginning with prayer which, the author stresses, is foremost in importance. In the second chapter, De disciplina psallendi, he describes the virtuous monks in choir ‘non solum voce, sed corde psallentes’.169 Succeeding chapters on obedience, penitence, confession, the virtues, love of God and neighbour, and the contemplative life confirm that it was a handbook of spiritual teaching which could survive the test of time and remain applicable at all stages of monastic life, to instruct and inspire the young and to refresh and invigorate the jaded. The presence of copies of the Diadema also at Durham, Rochester, and Winchester provide further evidence of the esteem in which Smaragdus's teaching continued to be held, at least within the cathedral priories.170

Among the comparatively small number of manuscripts known to have belonged to the Ely monks there is one which survives as an apparently miscellaneous jumble of some twenty-eight items, many of them short and incomplete or fragmentary. The attempt to disentangle why and when the contents were bound together may never be successful but, in light of the evidence presented above from other miscellanies, it takes only a slight stretch of the imagination to see a possible motive in amassing some of the collection especially if a novice master had been responsible. We find in this volume the Rule, amplified by many marginal annotations in a variety of hands; there are also spiritual treatises and meditations by Augustine and Bernard, treatises on penitence, a short exposition on the Lord's prayer and several items for reference purposes including the biblical Distinctiones of Peter Cantor (d. 1197) and an elementary grammatical treatise by the English Augustinian Alexander Nequam (d. 1217).171 The presence of the textbook on grammar introduces a question concerning the amount of time devoted to teaching this subject in addition to the strenuous schedule set before the first‐year novices during the course of their monastic and spiritual formation.172 One may assume that growth in knowledge of Latin vocabulary and in solving the complexities of grammatical construction, together with a certain amount of biblical exposition especially of the psalms, would have been given some place in the timetable. Again, it must not be forgotten that within the study programme musical training played a significant role. Lengthy periods of frequent practice would have been required to ensure that the chants for mass and office were performed not only with due reverence and devotion but also as perfectly as the musical talents within the community could be trained to achieve. The lament of a novice monk that survives in a Norwich manuscript dramatically expresses the difficulties that he, and no (p.83) doubt others, were experiencing in learning to follow written notation in the mid-fourteenth century.173

We also need to make room for the times allocated to the novices for recreation, generally within the monastic enclosure and the gardens inside the precinct during the first year. Periodic bloodletting, or flebotomy, would also have interrupted the regular schedule of studies several times in the year and was always followed by a few days of relaxation of routine and a more appetizing diet. There were community celebrations in the refectory on certain feasts and occasional entertainments by travelling musicians, actors, and jesters, all of which relieved the monotony of the daily timetable. Some of these themes will receive attention in the appropriate section in later chapters.

In this preliminary search among the book collections held by the cathedral priories we have singled out some that appear most likely to have been earmarked for use in the novitiate. Since it is impossible to determine at what point any particular text was introduced, I have selected and described those which were probably the most easily assimilated and digested by a novice in his first year of monastic life. The following chapter will discuss the later stages of the novitiate study programme that continued after the solemn rite of profession had been celebrated.

Profession: procedures and ceremony

Our knowledge of the procedures leading up to profession is derived from two main sources, namely the biographical detail available for individual monks, and the regulations laid down in surviving customaries and chapter ordinances. It is again necessary to tread circumspectly because the records are patchy and any resulting interpretation of events will inevitably bear the marks of this deficiency.

Biographical information in a limited number of cases provides dates for both the admission and profession of monks, and the range of variations exposed may be seen as sufficiently broad to allow us to consider that we have to hand a typical cross-section. For Thomas Talbot and John de Teukesbury at Worcester, for example, there was a ten-month interval in 1352 in the wake of the plague when numbers had been greatly reduced; there was an even shorter interval for Peter de Oxney and John Bertram at Canterbury who waited only a brief four months and six months respectively before their profession in March, 1373.174 The four Norwich monks who entered the cathedral priory in June 1415 but were not professed until April 1418 were probably kept waiting because they had been admitted under age, at about fifteen or sixteen years.175 An unusual case occurred at Canterbury in 1336 after a group of seven had been received into the novitiate. (p.84) Five of them were so eager for profession that Prior Richard de Oxenden was persuaded to request the necessary permission from Archbishop Stratford for fear, as he reported, that if disappointed they might leave the monastery. The archbishop was adamant in his refusal.176 In the event all five remained and were professed at the appropriate time, like the great majority for whom the relevant dates are known. The required year of probation was a healthy safeguard for both the monastic community and the novices in that it offered an adequate testing time for both parties.177

For all but two of the cathedral priories preparations for the solemnization of profession required adroit handling similar to those preceding admission.178 When the time came for the prior to inform the bishop and request his presence at the ceremony there was an exchange of correspondence, some of which survives in episcopal and priory registers, providing details of the dates involved and of the candidates’ names. As noted above the bishops remained in principle opposed to any diminution of their rights of jurisdiction over their monastic chapters, but in practice they frequently commissioned the priors to deputize for them. The day and hour set by the prior were often inconvenient for prelates whose many other responsibilities necessitated continual journeying within the diocese and beyond.179 It is to be noted that the treatise drawn up by the c. 1277–9 general chapter and copied into the St Augustine Customary includes regulations concerning episcopal participation in the profession ceremony ‘in cathedrals and other churches’ where the bishop's presence was normative. It specified a three-month advance warning of the date proposed by the abbot or prior and compliance on the part of the bishop or his commissary within the month after the date. There is no firm evidence that these prescriptions were strictly adhered to in the cathedral priories.180 Durham and Winchester, however, had earlier gained their independence from episcopal control in matters of the admission and profession of novices; it is for this reason that, in these two cathedral priories, there exists little or no information regarding names and precise dates. The majority of the monks of St Swithun's and St Cuthbert's do not make an appearance in the records until their first ordination, and it is fortunate that the Winchester episcopal registers survive, with their ordination quires more or less complete for all but eighteen years of the century and a half of this present study. At Durham, by contrast, the registers for (p.85) more than half of these years are missing; however, the lists of monks in the Durham Liber Vitae, which are grouped by date, go some way towards providing a chronological framework although there are several gaps in this record.181

Having obtained the requisite licences from all the parties concerned, a professed monk occasionally moved from one monastery to another. This transfer (migratio) necessitated a second profession because the original promises of stability in his previous monastery and obedience to its superior ceased to be valid.182 Henry de Wodehull, a monk of Abingdon of twenty-eight years’ standing, obtained permission in 1361 to transfer to Christ Church because of his devotion to St Thomas [Becket] and the other Canterbury saints, together with his desire to lead a stricter life. This was the usual formula employed which at times concealed more practical motives; in this case it was probably a dispute between Wodehull and his abbot at the time of his inception at Oxford. No doubt, as a doctor of theology he was highly acceptable to the Canterbury monks, who assigned him a place among them in the order of seniority to accord with the date of his former profession at Abingdon in 1333.183 Despite their quasi-subservient relationship to Christ Church, Dover monks were also subject to this second profession when they transferred to Canterbury because their original profession had been to the prior there; the single known instance of this is John Marchall I, who, transferring from Dover, was professed with six other Christ Church monks in 1401.184

By the close of the probationary year the Rule in its entirety had been read to the novices three times: after two, eight, and twelve months respectively.185 If, after the final reading, they had convinced the novice master that they remained steadfast in their intent they were then given a final and solemn warning that they should now be ready to commit themselves for life, fully aware that in so doing they would no longer be free to depart.186

According to the early fourteenth-century manuscript which contains a copy of the customary of St Augustine's Canterbury the novices were to assemble three days before the profession rites were scheduled to take place in order to receive instructions for writing out their own professions.187 The general chapter treatise is similar but less precise. Both follow almost identical wording:

(p.86) Ego, frater N.,…promitto stabilitatem meam et conversionem morum meorum et obedientiam secundum regulam sancti Benedicti, in hoc monasterio, quod est constructum in honore N. sancti vel sanctorum, coram Deo et sanctis ejus, et in presencia domini archiepiscopi, episcopi…vel prioris vel procuratoris N.188

An early thirteenth-century profession slip which survives at Durham has been reproduced in Plate No. 31 in Rollason, Symeon of Durham where the saints named are the Virgin and St Cuthbert, the Prior Thomas [Melsonby], and the monk concerned, William, priest.189 Seven fifteenth-century fragmentary slips of Durham monks, which are also extant, have been dated by Alan Piper as c. 1420.190 Unfortunately, profession slips record only the baptismal names of the monks and, therefore, identification is rarely possible. The problem is highlighted at Bath in 1326 when Bishop Drokensford was present in the cathedral for the profession of twelve monks, five of whom were named John!191 The only known exception is the occasion of Henry Fouke's profession at Worcester which took place on 4 February 1303 in the Lady chapel of the cathedral priory. His profession slip was copied into the sede vacante register kept by the Worcester priors and was followed by a statement giving his full name and those of the three others professed with him. Brother Henry, acolyte, made his promises in the presence of John de Wyke, prior ‘auctoritate curie Cantuariensis gerentis curam officium et administracionem spiritualium in civitate et diocesis Wygornie sede vacante anno elapso post mortem domini Godefridi episcopi’.192 This clause appended to the profession makes clear the unique status of the priors of Worcester who, in 1268, had acquired the right, during vacancies of the see, to exercise episcopal jurisdiction in spiritualities within the city and diocese. Sede plena, the bishop's approval and presence had to be requested, with dramatic timing in September 1310, when two Worcester novices made their profession on the day of Walter Reynolds’ installation as bishop; they did so before the reading of the gospel at the high mass immediately following the installation.193

Most professions were less spectacular but, for the novice, no less solemn occasions. The candidates were carefully rehearsed by their novice masters in the (p.87) order of proceedings according to the details approved by the 1277/9 general chapter of English Benedictines. Later copies of the form in use at Christ Church differ only slightly from the one earlier agreed for all monasteries, a strong indication that, at Canterbury and probably elsewhere, there was little change in the later middle ages right up to the dissolution.194 What follows is a reconstruction based on all four sources.

On the morning of profession the novices were led by their master into the chapter [house], where the community was already assembled and, prostrating themselves before the president (the archbishop, bishop, or prior), made their petition to receive the habit of profession and the blessing of the president. They were warned once again of the harshness of monastic life and replied Presto sumus et parati…as on the day of admission the year before. After they had begged for the forgiveness of God and of all the brethren whom they had offended, the president also begged the monks to pardon the novices’ offences; in addition, he urged the entire assembled community to be reconciled one with another ex intime cordis totaliter. The chapter ended, everyone processed out, the novices bringing up the rear and following their master to their quarters. If the profession slip had not been written out previously it was now to be prepared by each novice in readiness for the mass that was about to follow. Immediately after the gospel had been read and the creed chanted the cantor began to intone the Miserere mei, Deus (Psalm 50/51) followed by the convent, while the novices processed in order to the steps in front of the altar where carpets had been put down and their profession habits, consisting of cucullae and frocci, laid out in readiness. During the chanting of this psalm they lay prostrate in front of the altar, but rising at once after the closing Gloria Patri, each in turn read out in a clear voice his profession, marking it with the sign of the cross in his own hand in place of a seal; then, after genuflecting, he placed the slip on the altar symbolizing that, with this document, he was offering himself. Returning to their former [prostrate] position, the novices repeated together the words of Psalm 118/119: ‘Suscipe me Domine secundum eloquium tuum et vivam; et non confundas me ab expectacione mea’, the convent responding with the same words; this was done thrice in succession, each time in a higher tone. A series of prayers followed and the Holy Spirit invoked in the hymn Veni Creator. After being sprinkled with holy water, the novices arose and their profession habits were blessed. One by one in order they genuflected before the officiant and with hands raised had the cucullae and frocci they were wearing removed, the officiant addressing each novice personally ‘Exuat te Dominus veterem hominem cum actibus suis.’ Next, clothing them in the garments just blessed he said to each in turn ‘Induat te Dominus novum hominem qui secundum Deum creatus est [in justicia et sanctitate veritatis]’. The whole assembled community commencing with (p.88) the officiant then embraced each of the newly professed. The mass then continued and the novices all received communion. For three days following they remained in seclusion, head and face covered by the hood of the cuculla.

It is unclear whether or not the profession habit of froccus and cuculla differed in any respect from the two garments which had been removed during the ceremony. The cuculla, or cowl, was a workaday garment, ankle-length and with little or no sleeve; the froccus, froggus, or frock was a more formal garment, full-length with ample sleeves. They were the two outer garments and at the profession rite both were worn together, the froccus possibly on top of the cuculla although the wording is ambiguous.195 Since no distinction between these two sets of garments is mentioned it seems likely that for profession the novices were provided with fresh, clean, if not new, cucullae and frocci to symbolize their putting on the ‘new man’.

Now fully-fledged monks, with profession behind them, the novices were eligible to participate actively in the daily chapter meetings, sharing with their brethren the secreta capituli from which they had hitherto been excluded.196 For the next few years their studies would continue in preparation for priestly ordination which by the late thirteenth century had become the norm for all monks.


(1) Kardong, RB, 462–79

(2) CCA DCc Cart. Antiq. A.193e.

(3) RB, C.58, 1–5.

(4) Evans, Ely Chapter Ordinances, 14–15

(5) Reg. Wykeham, ii, 389–90.

(6) Evans, Ely Chapter Ordinances, 15

(7) Sheppard, Lit. Cant., i, no. 131; he did not reapply. W. A. Pantin refers to this case and neatly summarizes the entrance requirements for admission to Christ Church in Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 52.

(8) WCM Liber Albus, fo 133; the king's reply, fo 133v, expressed his understanding and acceptance of the decision. The inquiry may have uncovered canonical impediments to admission or deficiencies of character. In a customary of St Augustine's Canterbury, written in the first half of the fourteenth century but containing earlier material, there is a lengthy passage listing the questions that should be put to a candidate in order to ascertain his true character and intentions, Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, i, 261.

(9) WCM Liber Albus, fo 134.

(10) Sheppard, Lit. Cant., ii, no. 606; see also BRECP, 284.

(11) The fact that Wodehull, a monk of 28 years standing at Abingdon, had come into conflict with his abbot over the manner of his inception at Oxford seems to have proved no barrier to his reception at Canterbury, BRECP, 322.

(12) Sheppard, Lit. Cant., i, no. 314; these may be compared with the list in the Customary of St Augustine, note 8 above, but they are expressed in different terms.

(13) English SchoolsChapter 5passimA. F. Leach, Early Yorkshire Schools, 2 vols, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, record series, xxvii, xxxiii (1899–1903), xxxiii, 60–2, 84–7

(14) BRECP, 679–80. Bysshopestone/Bishopstone, now Bushton in Wiltshire was one of the priory manors, J. Greatrex, ‘The Reconciliation of Spiritual and Temporal Responsibilities: Some Aspects of the Monks of St Swithun's as Landowners and Estate Managers, c. 1380–1450’, Hampshire Studies, 51 (1996), 77–87 at 78–9.

(15) Chronicle Stone, 106. Dobson apparently assumes without providing evidence that ‘the great majority of Durham monks entered religious life after education at the convent's almonry school’, Durham Priory, 61. Two fifteenth-century priors, Wessington and Ebchester, stated that they had received their early education in the convent ‘grammar school’, presumably the almonry school, DCM Locellus II, 4, Locellus XXI, 23; but no others are known by name.

(16) BRECP, 593.

(17) BRECP, 891–2; the precentor, John de Wygornia/Worcester may have been influential in Weston's choice of a distant cathedral monastery in preference to Glastonbury or another abbey nearer his home.

(18) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, i, 99; this repeated the decisions of the first chapters of both the southern and northern provinces of the English Black Monks in 1219 and 1221 respectively, ibid., i, 10, 99, 234. However, there is a slight change in wording: infra vicesmum annum in the ones of earlier date and nisi nonum decimum annum attigerit in the later one; the minimum age thus appears to have been lowered by a year in 1278.

(19) The 1219 and 1221 statutes, referred to in the previous note, added the qualifying clause ‘nisi commendabilis utilitas vel necessitas…’ which probably continued to prove useful as guidelines. Stephen de Howden, for example, was about sixteen when he entered Durham cathedral priory in 1281, DCM 3.6.Pont.10; for his monastic career see LVD, iii, C.723.

(20) These calculations are based on BRECP. See Harvey, Living and Dying, 119–20 for a discussion of the comparable situation at Westminster Abbey. See also Greatrex, ‘Prosopographical Perspectives’, 130–2.

(21) For Durham see also Foster, ‘Durham Priory’, 53–4 and Dobson, Durham Priory, 61. Calculations made by Alan Piper led him to conclude that although the evidence is patchy and frequently uncertain an average age of 20 at the time of entry is a reasonable estimate.

(22) See pp. 12–13.

(23) Hac vice or ista vice are phrases occurring frequently in letters of the archbishops and of the Canterbury priors.

(24) Sheppard, Lit. Cant., ii, no. 630.

(25) Ibid.

(26) Ibid.

(27) Ibid.

(28) Ibid.

(29) Reg. Winchelsey, 1326. The monk is named as M. Richard de Haselarton, who appears neither in BRUO nor BRECP; Causton's entry for 1303/4 has one magister, Richard Vaughan, whose name was inserted there, although he did not enter the monastery until 1352, thus according to him the appropriate seniority of rank in the community, a rare privilege.

(30) LPL Reg. Islip, fo 180 headed Commissio ad recipiendum xij monachos in ecclesia…

(31) LPL Reg. Wittlesey, fos 56v, 57v, 62v (2); in each case the heading of the document is Ad induend’, with both ‘admit’ and ‘clothe’ included in the text of three of them.

(32) LPL Reg. Sudbury, fo 30; the marginal title is Commissio ad induendum clericas personas in habitu regulari.

(33) Probably the commissions had been discussed with the prior in advance before final copies were sent in order to try to forestall the possibility of rejection.

(34) WCM Liber Albus, fo 41v. The custom, or customs, mentioned do not survive; there is nothing relevant in the 1224 composition (Acta Stephani Langton, 160–3).

(35) WCM Liber Albus, fo 80v.

(36) Reg. Cobham, 10–11. The form of the word ‘admittendis’ suggests a future action, and the introduction of the word ‘examinacio’ seems to add a new dimension to the bishop's right of receiving them. Moreover, there is no reference to clothing in the monastic habit. Note that this entry also appears at the end of Bishop Maidstone's register, 106 (the manuscript is paginated).

(37) The two letters are not identical, the one in the priory register was sent from London on 14 September, and the other was from the bishop himself in Yorkshire on 13 September. There seems to be a duplication of orders, but this does not affect the case.

(38) WCM Liber Albus, fo 113v.

(39) Reg. Orleton, items 513 and 776 dated 1328 and 1330 respectively.

(40) Reg. Bransford, no. 1024.

(41) WCM Liber Albus, fo 210v and WRO Reg. Thoresby, 24.

(42) WRO Reg. Tideman de Winchcombe, 73c.

(43) BL MS Cotton Faustina C.v, fo 42v.

(44) Ibid.

(45) CKS DRb Reg. Wells, fo 33; the second commission on fo 67 is similar.

(46) The collection of documents is in NRO DCN 42/2/16–29; the composition between Bishop Thomas Brouns and the prior and chapter in 1444 is in NRO DCN Reg. I, fo 267 and also in NRO DN Reg. Brouns, fos 110v–11v; on fo 109v of the bishop's register, two monks were received by the bishop ad osculum et benedictionem as prescribed in 1411.

(47) CPL, 5 (1396–1404), 318.

(48) CPL, 4 (1362–1404), 526.

(49) NRO DCN Reg. I, fo 267v–68.

(50) Bryan's register and the priory's Liber Albus record the successive stages of the conflict through mutually accusatory letters, episcopal inhibitions, and appeals to Canterbury and Rome; the matters in dispute included at least one over the admission of novices (WRO, Reg. Bryan, i, 42) and, among others, over the prior's right to pontificalia and the bishop's visitatorial rights, see Greatrex, ‘Prior John de Evesham’, 69–71.

(51) R. M. Haines in Archbishop John Stratford: Political Revolutionary and Champion of the Liberties of the English Church ca. 1275/80–1348, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Studies and Texts 76 (Toronto, Ont., 1986), 59–63LitCant

(52) Stewart, Architectural History of Ely, 232–3

(53) Pantin, Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 118

(54) Pantin, Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 119. There is a resemblance to the corresponding section of the regulations for novices formulated by the general chapter of the Benedictines of Canterbury province c. 1277/9. These regulations concerning the observance to be followed in the novitiate were inserted at the end of the customary of St Augustine's Canterbury (now BL MS Cotton Faustina C.xii) transcribed by Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 389ff. Pantin regarded this as a ‘small customary’ that was part of ‘a very ambitious attempt at the enforcement of uniformity’, Black Monk Chapters, i, 109.

(55) Compare Barbara Harvey's lecture describing the clothing worn by the monks at Westminster Abbey in Monastic Dress.

(56) CCA DCc chamberlain's account 12.

(57) CCA DCc treasurers’ account 5; there were two treasurers in office together at Canterbury.

(58) Sheppard, HMC IXth Report, 90BRECPBRECP

(59) See above, 39–40.

(60) Rites of Durham, 81.

(61) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, ii, 50; in 1444 this statute was reissued with no increase in the amount, ibid., ii, 206.

(62) pro intrationeibid.

(63) WCM C.181.

(64) See below, ■.

(65) CCA DCc chamberlain's account 53 (1370/1); in this account his expenses exceeded his receipts by £15 6s. 8d., half of which went to his contribution to Hegham, who must have been without any financial support.

(66) DCM chamberlain's accounts for 1362/3, 1365/6, 1366/7, and 1402/3.

(67) Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, 154–6; CCA DCc Reg. A, fo 391; BL MS Cotton Galba E.iv (Prior Eastry's memorandum book), fo 72–72v; there are also sixteenth-century copies in BL MS Arundel 68, fo 73 and LPL MS 20, fo 1v. These are similar to but less detailed than the comparable section in the St Augustine customary, Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, i, 402–6; in this volume the section 389ff was drawn up by the Benedictine general chapter c. 1277–9 at which Christ Church was not represented.

(68) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, i, 402

(69) In Lanfranc's Monastic Constitutions, the novice was brought in by the guestmaster, 154. The novice master at Christ Church was known as the magister ordinis; he was assisted in his responsibilities by a number of senior monks or magistri each of whom was charged with instructing a single novice; see Pantin, Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 53–4. There was probably a similar custom at Durham as there were seven magistri noviciorum in 1344/5, DCM hostiller's account for that year; again, in 1398/9 the feretrar referred to the noviciis et magistris suis, ibid., feretrar's account.

(70) Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, 154presto sumus

(71) Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, 156

(72) Excerpts from the Instructio noviciorum (contained in MS 441 of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, fos 359–91) have been printed in Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, 198–220, the chapter concerning tonsure being on 198, and on the habit, 200. The Instructio has been dated to c. 1250–75; ibid., liii.

(73) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 405

(74) BRECPibid.

(75) As Fry, RB, 447 points out, St Benedict ‘does not specify…studies for novices’ other than these readings and the Rule itself. See also C.48, passim.

(76) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, i, xi–xii

(77) MOibid.

(78) RB, C.8–C.18, and Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, xx–xxv.

(79) The customaries of Bury St Edmunds and of Eynsham were both edited by Antonia Gransden: The Customary of the Benedictine Abbey of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, Henry Bradshaw Society, 99 (Chichester, 1973) and The Customary of the Benedictine Abbey of Eynsham in Oxfordshire, ‘Corpus Consuetudinum Monasticarum’, 2 (1963). The other two were edited by E. M. Thompson and published together as Customary of the Benedictine Monasteries of Saint Augustine, Canterbury, and Saint Peter, Westminster. The Customary of the Cathedral Priory of Norwich, edited by J. Tolhurst, Henry Bradshaw Society nos 23 and 28 (London, 1902–4), is largely confined to liturgical rites. Surviving customaries at Winchester and Worcester are concerned with priory estates and tenants; for Winchester there is also A Consuetudinary of the Fourteenth Century for the Refectory of the House of S. Swithun in Winchester, ed. G. W. Kitchin, as well as a mixed collection of customs and probably chapter ordinances, mainly twelfth century, in BL Add. MS 29436, fos 72v–80. Also, for Worcester and Ely there are tantalizingly brief references to the precentor's purchase of vellum and paper, in 1388 ‘pro libro consuetudinar’ claustri…copiando’, WCM C.366 (Worcester) and in 1373/9, CUL Add. MS 2957, 45 (Ely).

(80) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, i, 109 and Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 389–429; on 407 this treatise is referred to as an opusculum for the use of novice masters. (The manuscript reference is BL Cotton Faustina C.xii fos 186–99.)

(81) Greater uniformity was certainly the aim, but could never be enforced.

(82) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 406Studies in Norwich Cathedral History

(83) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 390; Ibid., 409 and 402.

(84) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 407.

(85) Ibid.

(86) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, i, 73–4; these requirements were stated in the 1277 statutes, and they were reaffirmed in the statutes of 1343 after the publication of the constitutions of Pope Benedict XII in the bull Summa Magistri, ibid., ii, 50. See also Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 420.

(87) Wynchepe is not known to have been a novice master, but he served as chamberlain and sacrist before being sent to Dover as prior in 1268; see BRECP, 331.

(88) This manuscript is now Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 441 where the Instructio occurs on 360–91 (paginated in red by Archbishop Parker). In the Eastry catalogue (James, ALCD) item no. 1420 can be recognized as this manuscript of which the contents remain virtually identical to the list entered by the monk compiler of the catalogue. See footnote 72 above.

(89) Lanfranc, Monastic Constitutions, liii. Lanfranc had confined his directions with regard to novices to three paragraphs, ibid., 156–8. See also ibid., 212–20.

(90) Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 441, p. 385. The Eastry catalogue records two copies: James, ALCD, item nos 1352 and 1420 (pp. 115, 121). There would almost certainly have been a supplement to the Instructio outlining a study programme for the use of novice masters at Christ Church but possibly only in notebook form.

(91) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 409–20

(92) RB, the final chapter [72]: ‘De bono zelo quod debent monachi habere’.

(93) ibid

(94) David Sherlock, Signs for Silence: The Sign Language of the Monks of Ely in the Middle Ages (Ely Cathedral Publications, Ely, 1992)ALCDInstructio signorum monasticorum

(95) LPL MS 448, fo 100v, 101.

(96) Ibid.formulaesedilia

(97) LPL MS 448, fo 101 bis.

(98) Ibid.honeste

(99) Fowler, Account Rolls, i, 225 (almoner, 1416/17), ii, 464 (feretrar, 1423/4); see the description of the carrels in Rites of Durham, 83, 84–5. There is also an earlier reference to carrels in Durham MS C.iv.24. The Christ Church novices’ school is shown on the west side of the cloister in a plan produced in Collinson, History of Canterbury Cathedral, Plan I, xxvi. In Eastry's day there is a reference in CCA DCc Reg. K, fo 220 to a cistern iuxta schola noviciorum, which is also shown on the plan. One of Prior Thomas Chillenden's achievements, between 1391–1411, was a nova schola monachorum, Sheppard, Lit. Cant., no. 992 (p. 116).

(100) W. A. Pantin, Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 53

(101) RB, C.4, 55; C.48 passim; the writings of the Fathers would also be included here.

(102) Kardong, RB, 384lectio divinaRBRBCollatio

(103) Fry, RB, 447.

(104) Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990)Love of Learningex corde recitandaRB

(105) ibid.passim

(106) Ibid., 82; the prologue itself, which is entitled De tribus maximis circumstantiis gestorum, has been transcribed by Carruthers in Appendix A, Book of Memory, 261–6; see note 104 above. In her Appendix C of this book (281–8), she provides a translation of Thomas Bradwardine's De memoria artificiali (i.e., on acquiring a trained memory); the only identified copy in Benedictine cloisters was at Durham where it had been copied by Robert Embleton II (LVD, iii, C.1096; fl. 1423–48). This manuscript of ‘miscellanea’ is now Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum MS McClean 169. See also Grover Zinn, jr, ‘Hugh of St. Victor and the Art of Memory’, Viator 5 (1974), 211–34.

In memorizing the psalms it is almost certain that the novices began by spending some time repeating assigned verses aloud together under supervision, and there can be little doubt that this discipline taught them the correct pronunciation and intonation long before they fully understood the meaning of the words. On this point it is of significance to note that Tibetan monastic teaching today gives memorization a prominent role from the day of admission to the monastery.

(107) Reg. Anglie de LibriscALCDCatVetDurhamponitur in claustroJulian Harrison, ‘The English Reception of Hugh of Saint-Victor's Chronicle’ in The Electronic British Library Journal (2002), 1–33 at 2–3

(108) De memoriaHugonis de Sancto Victore Didascalicon De Studio Legendi: A Critical TextBook of MemoryJerome Taylor's English translation: The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor (Columbia University Press, London and New York, 1961), 93–4, 120

(109) St Anselm's phrase is in chapter 1 of his Proslogion, vol. 1, p. 100 in S. Anselmi Archiepiscopi Opera Omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, 6 vols (Edinburgh, 1946–61); the second phrase is my own addition.

(110) J. N. Miner, The Grammar Schools of Medieval England: A. F. Leach in Historiographical Perspective (McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 1990), 151, from BL MS Harley 5751, fo 246v

(111) Wilkins, Concilia, ii, C.7, 594. Pantin, Canterbury College Oxford, iv, 54–5. It must be admitted that although a monastic visitor was expected to inquire whether or not the young monks were being taught grammar, logic, and philosophy we have next to no information as to the answer to the question or if, indeed, it was actually asked; see Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, ii, 82, 84 where the date when these visitation articles were drawn up is given as c. 1363.

(112) See above, 64–6.

(113) Evans, Ely Chapter Ordinances, 7; the elderly monks who had forgotten the words were also included in this dispensation. A statute was issued by the general chapter of the Black Monks in 1343 ordering the distribution of candles at the night office (matins) to the indigentibus so that the chanting plenius atque melius decantetur, Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, ii, 35.

(114) CUL EDC 1B/6.

(115) Cat. Vet. Durham, 81–2.

(116) The Reg. Anglie de Libris lists nineteen titles from Bath (no. xiii, 317–18) and Leland noted only six in the 1530s, Sharpe, EBL, at B8.

(117) The list is in Sharpe, EBL, at B23, where the Rule is item 9.

(118) Now CUL MS Kk.3.26, fos 135v–146v (coll. 491–536).

(119) Oxford, Bodley Laud misc. 112, fos 92v–103; the added quotation is on fo 94. I am indebted to Michael Gullick for examining this manuscript at my request; he judges that it has probably existed more or less in its present form since the time of Prior Robert de (Longchamp) Ely, c. 1194–7.

(120) The name Robert Steward [Wells] is on fo 432v, at the end of the volume and Archbishop Laud's hand is on fo 1v.

(121) Sharpe, EBL, at B77.71

(122) Now Oxford, Bodley MS Hatton 48. The facsimile edition of the Rule based on this manuscript is vol. 15 in the series Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, ed. D. H. Farmer (Rosenkilde & Bagger, Copenhagen, 1968). It has been associated with Worcester since at least the late eleventh century.

(123) Now Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 178.

(124) See below 75–6.

(125) These are BL MSS Royal 7 E.vi (fos 574–93), Cotton Tiberius A.iii, Arundel 68; Oxford, Bodley MS Lyell 19; LPL MS 20 (abbreviated version).

(126) James, ALCDc

(127) R. A. B. Mynors, Durham Cathedral Manuscripts to the End of the Twelfth Century (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1939), 44

(128) Cat. Vet. Durham, 30; it is listed among the books in the section Cronicae.

(129) Ibid.tabula

(130) Cat. Vet. Durham, 107A2; although the initial words on the second folio of each differ, in the later 1416/17 entry these words have been struck out, thus suggesting that they had been written in error. The prior was probably John Wessington, who was elected in November 1416.

(131) CatVetDurhamDe institutionePLR. Goy, Die Überlieferung der Werke Hugos von St. Viktor (Hiersemann, Stuttgart, 1976), 340–1De instructione novitiorum, De informatione novitiorum, Speculum monasticae disciplinaeSBernardi OperaDe praecepto

(132) RB, C.73, 2.

(133) The two treatises also occur with the Rule in James, ALCD, the Eastry catalogue, item nos 542 and 1063 (Canterbury).

(134) By way of comparison and in order to stress that our knowledge is dependent on the chance survival of evidence, it should be noted that a fifteenth-century catalogue of selected authors in the library of St Mary's Abbey, York, had six copies of the De praecepto and ten of De institutione. Of the monastic cathedrals only Canterbury and Durham are known to have had multiple copies and there is no extant record of any copies of either at Bath and Winchester.

(135) Cat. Vet. Durham, 82K.

(136) This treatise goes by a variety of titles; in the list here it is De professione monachorum but the inclusion of the incipit ‘Novicio inquirenti’ resolves any doubt that it might have been John de Beverley's De professione monachorum.

(137) This treatise probably comes from the pen of a Durham monk who may well be Uthred himself; see Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, ii, xviii and Sharpe, Latin Writers, 699.

(138) Other titles used are ‘Speculum ecclesiasticorum, Summa theologiae de symbolo de officio sacerdotum’; its incipit by which it is also often known is ‘Qui bene presunt [presbyteri]’.

(139) That is, the constitutions of the papal legate, Otto (1238) directed to the reform of the English Black Monks; these were reported in detail by Matthew Paris in Chronica Majora, iii, 499–517. One further item bound in this composite volume and entitled Sinonoma is almost certainly the work of Isidore of Seville, Synonyma de lamentatione animae peccatricis, the description of the spiritual journey from despair to hope through repentance and amendment of life. The printed text is in Isidore Hispaniensis, Opera Omnia, ed. F. Arevalo, vol. 6 (Rome, 1802), 472–523.

(140) James, ALCD, 131.

(141) James, ALCDSermo super regulam beati BenedictiLatin WritersMiserere mei, DomineDe moribus et vita honesta

(142) James, ALCD, 66De divinis scripturisDe professione monachorumLatin Writers

(143) James, ALCD, 112

(144) F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone (eds), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997), 574–5De instructione noviciorumDe disciplina clericorum

(145) The theme of human misery and its remedies was dwelt upon at length by many medieval writers, including Pope Innocent III in his widely read De miseria humanae conditionis. Jean Leclercq has commented at length on this, the only known copy of the Philosophia monachorum, in his ‘Études sur le vocabulaire monastique du moyen âge’ in Studia Anselmiana 48 (Rome, 1968), 145–50; he includes extracts from this Christ Church manuscript, now Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 137. It shows, he says, the continuity of monastic tradition in its frequent citations from patristic writings, with little attempt at originality for which there was felt to be no need.

(146) Stoneman, Dover Priory, vi

(147) Ibid.Tractatus super regula monachorumFormula noviciorum

(148) Cat. Vet. Durham, 95I, 97C; the spendement or treasury was situated near the north-west corner of the cloister under the dormitory. The Collationes abbatum were probably the sayings of the desert fathers, i.e. the Collationes patrum recommended by St Benedict in RB, C.73, 5. More details of the novices’ books and studies are given by Piper, ‘The Libraries of the Monks of Durham’, 232.

(149) Cat. Vet. Durham, 70G where the De informatione noviciorum is ascribed to the wrong Hugh and the sermons of ‘Eusebius Gallicanus’ are ascribed to Caesarius of Arles.

(150) The careers of both monks are summarized in BRUO, i, 183, 212–13, and LVD, iii, C.838, C.888.

(151) Pantin, ‘Origins of Monasticism’, 189

(152) Its existence is known through several references, e. g., by Uthred in De substantialibus regulae monachalis (DCL MS B.IV.34, fo 80). Richard de Wallingford, abbot of St Albans (1327–36), also wrote a commentary on the Rule which has been lost; see Sharpe, Latin Writers, 518.

(153) DCL MS B.III.30, fos 42–43v; BL Add MS 6162, fos 42–4.

(154) The title listed in Rud's Codices…Dunelmensis was De declaratione professionis nigrorum monachorum, 172. There is also in this work a reference to Abbot Richard de Wallingford's prologue to the lost Rule of St Benedict.

(155) It is to be found in DCL MS B.IV.34, fos 80–96v, and is listed in the 1395 inventory of books, Cat. Vet. Durham, 71F with his De perfectione vivendi.

(156) Sharpe, Latin Writers,

(157) In DCL MSS B.IV.34, fos 93–111 and A.IV.33, fos 116–21; the latter is only an extract.

(158) W. A. Pantin, ‘Two Treatises of Uthred of Boldon on the Monastic Life’, in R. W. Hunt, W. A. Pantin, and R. W. Southern (eds), Studies in Medieval History Presented to F. M. Powicke (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1948), 363–85 at 382 and 383.

(159) See above 71, for the texts quoted by the novice master.

(160) From the binding it would seem that the manuscript is the result of a medieval compilation, but the incomplete state of the biblical commentaries remains unexplained unless the portions were deliberately selected. There is another incomplete copy of the Formula noviciorum still in Durham in DCL MS B.IV.42; it is included in a volume that otherwise consists mainly of indexes (tabulae) to facilitate the process of tracking down references to the most frequently cited sources such as the Dialogues and Homilies of Pope Gregory the Great, the Diadema monachorum of Smaragdus, and writings of Augustine.

(161) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, ii, pp. ix–x, xv, xviiiAbbas vel prior

(162) Now CUL MS Kk.3.26 The Rule is on fos 135v–46v and the Tractatus fos 147–62v (modern numbering); the latter is identified by its incipits to the prologue ‘Tractatus iste qui est de professione monachorum, tres habet partes’, and to the work ‘Cum displiceat domino infidelis…’

(163) CUL MS Ii.4.35 (Folieto), CUL MS Ii.4.15 (Peraldus). The name Henry de Lakenham has been almost obliterated in the latter manuscript because of the shorn margins and the title appears only as the Tabula erudicionis religiosorum at the end; the marginal quotation is on fo 5.

(164) I.e., Bernard Aiglerius (d. 1282); the list of Bozoun's books is in Sharpe, EBL, at B58 where the two probable copies of Bernard are items 12 and 16.

(165) CUL MS Kk.2.21; for Donewich see BRECP, 501–2.

(166) The Diadema takes up the whole of BL MS Royal 8 D.xiii and contains the inscription of three other sixteenth-century monks’ names in addition to Wulstan; Oxford, Bodley MS Hatton 40 consists entirely of Smaragdus's commentary where Neckham's name appears on fos 62 and 164v. For these two monks see BRECP, 896, 855–6.

(167) ALCDibid.BRECP

(169) PL, 102, cols 593–690; the quotation is found in col. 596.

(170) There are two Durham copies, one in a list in Cat. Vet. Durham, 70D dated 1395, and the other survives as DCL MS B.II.33 (early thirteenth century). The Winchester Diadema is written in a late twelfth-century hand and is in a volume also containing Vitas patrum; until recently it was Winchester College MS 18, but is now housed in Winchester Cathedral. There was one copy at Rochester according to the early twelfth-century catalogue, Sharpe, EBL, at B77.61.

(171) This manuscript is now Oxford, Bodley MS Laud misc. 112. See note 119 above.

(172) It must not be forgotten that everyday use of the monastic sign language was another skill to be acquired during the formative year. At Ely this consisted of some ninety different gestures; see note 94 above which also provides details of the Christ Church book Instructio signorum monasticorum.

(173) In the context of a poem in old English; BL MS Arundel 292, fo 70v.

(174) BRECP, 882 (Talbot), 883 (John de Teukesbury I). Bertram was clothed in September 1372, ibid., 88 and Oxney/Stone in November of the same year, ibid. 251; both were professed in March 1373.

(175) For minimum age requirements for admission see above 53.

(176) BRECP under Robert de Duffelde (141), John de Exeter (155–6), Thomas Gyllyngham (185), Henry de Selverton (284), James Whyte I (319). Sheppard, Lit. Cant., ii, no. 621 (p. 155). Selverton had previously been a novice at the Augustinian priory at Kenilworth and had arrived at Christ Church only a few weeks before the request was made to the archbishop.

(177) Pantin, Black Monk Chapters, i, 99

(178) The two exceptions were Durham and Winchester.

(179) On occasion the bishop sent an official of his household to take his place. One wonders if the priors ever connived to arrange dates when they were fairly sure that the bishop would be absent.

(180) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 422c

(181) The Liber Vitae commemorates by name not only the monks of Durham but also many benefactors, and religious and laity associated in confraternity with them. It has received exhaustive scrutiny by recent scholars in the three-volume LVD in which the biographical register of Durham monks compiled by Alan Piper has supplied most of the missing names, LVD, iii, 129–436.

(182) For a résumé of transfers by cathedral priory monks see Greatrex ‘Prosopographical Perspectives’, 133–5.

(183) BRECPibid.

(185) RB, C.58, 9–13; one hopes that they were well on the way to memorizing it.

(186) Ibid.Studia Anselmiana

(187) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine, 13

(188) Thompson, Customary of St Augustine,RB

(189) The reference for the original document is DCM Misc. Charter 6067a. Another profession slip of similar date is Misc. Charter 1a.

(190) These slips are listed as DCM Misc. Charter 7221. I owe many of the details given here and elsewhere to the unfailing kindness of Alan Piper. An inventory of the feretrar's office dated 1418 states that the profession slips were kept ‘in armariolo qui subest proximo pavimento ex parte boriali’, Fowler, Account Rolls, ii, 461.

(191) Somerset Record Office, D/D/B. Reg. I (Drokensford/Droxford), fo 270. It seems surprising that at a date when there were probably not more than thirty-five to forty monks in the priory such a large number of novices would have been accepted together. It is to be noted that, on this occasion, the form of profession has been copied into the bishop's register.

(192) WCM, Reg. A.1 (Sede Vacante), fo 15 where there is a profile of a monk drawn in the margin; and the full names of all four monks are supplied below the profession: Henry Fouke, David de Presthemede, Simon de Solers, Roger de Stevintone; see BRECP, 807–8, 864, 874, 877. The profession has been omitted from the printed edition of the Register.

(193) WCM Liber Albus (A.5), fo 45v. The two monks were Wulstan de Bransford and Simon Crompe (de Wygorn’); see BRECP, 779–80, 792–3.

(194) For the reference to the 1277/9 customary issued by the general chapter see above 66; the relevant pages in Thompson, Customary of St Augustine are 423–6. The three surviving manuscripts containing the Christ Church rite of profession are (1) priory Register A (CCA DCc Reg. A) in a brief section also containing early fourteenth-century chapter ordinances, fo 391–391v; (2) BL MS Arundel 68, fo 73–73v (15th century); (3) LPL MS 20, fos 2v–3 (early 16th century).

(195) The 1277/9 regulations are ambiguous. Barbara Harvey supposed that the two were never worn together, Monastic Dress, 14; perhaps this occasion was an exception? It would appear that the professed monk's cuculla and froccus differed from those of the novice.

(196) They continued to be known as novices, or sometimes juniors (juniores) at least until they had received priest's orders.