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An interesting & enlightening talk was given by Geoff Hutchinson, AKA Brother Geoffrey, who emerged from a cupboard to atmospheric music/words, complete with Monk’s habit & shoes. Benedict came from Italy and The Rule of Benedict was quite hard, punishments were whipping & humiliation. He commenced in 1538 at Battle, in the Benedictine Order of Monasteries. He was a Roman Catholic Monk for 45 years, before his life changed.

People were sent to assess the Monastery, King Henry 8th had already been married 3 times & still had matrimonial problems. He needed finances from his Abbeys for his Castle upkeep. He calls the Monks corrupt. There is an average of 40 at the Abbey, just 18 this year + the Abbot. It is the 15th wealthiest estate in the land, attained by discipline, obedience and hard endeavour.

Brother Geoffrey spoke of his life – Many of the Novice monks came from local families, he was initially placed in the care of a Novice Master & had his hair shaven, kissed the Abbott’s feet & wore a black robe. Each day he has 4 hrs prayer & 4 hrs spiritual readings & will live at the Abbey all his life, will sleep 5 hrs & attend 7 services, commencing at 2 am. He would also have to undertake domestic crafts & gardening. The Heart of the Monastery is the Church, the heart of the Church is the choir and so he had to learn all the music & words by heart.

At mealtimes, he would wash his hands 1st and there would be no talking, in fact, not much at any time! On Sun, Tues, Thurs = meat + some fish; sometimes egg and 1 pt of wine per day! All food was home produced. The Abbey sometimes had Royal Guests.

The Friar was the 2nd in command – day to day running of the finances. Sacarist = general maintenance of the Church Alter, cloaks, etc. Precestal = Church singing etc. Guest Master = to receive guests – towels, tankards etc. Abbey had an Infirmary/ Cloister / Library with many books. Chamberlain = responsible for clothes, bedding, bathing, shaving. Sleep was bleak & basic = a mattress, pillow (in cold weather lots of clothes) but coarse & woolly)

Clothes were your only possession & beds were inspected for any personal possessions. The toilet facilities had 20-30 toilet seats under a flush with water from the hills and you could only visit at certain times of the day, so bladder/bowels would have to get used to this routine.

27 May 1538 – has left the building & now faces an uncertain future. Pray for God, who will guide him now. Prayer was profitable, pray for the souls of people to go to heaven.

Advertisements – many now ended monasteries by mid 16th C as corrupt. One monk had 3 kids, some had Armies, last Monk retired with £100 p/a pension, some had £10 p/a.


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