Monks in the Middle Ages were highly educated and could typically read and write in Latin. Monks dedicated their lives to serving God and members of the community. They spent their days praying, studying and performing manual labor. Each monastery was a self-supporting and independent community that could sustain itself without outside help.
Becoming a Monk
Medieval monks came from all social classes and had to go through a lengthy process to become a monk. A person who was actively seeking to enter a monastic order was called a “postulant.” This period usually lasted for one month and then the postulant would enter the novitiate phase for one year, after which time the monk would take his first vows. Four years into the process, monks would take the solemn monastic vows and then remain a monk for the rest of their lives.
In the Middle Ages, some parents would dedicate their children to a life of service and prayer as a monk. The child, called an oblate, would then be raised in a monastic community gaining education and performing religious duties such as daily prayers.
Medieval European monasteries were typically based on the rules set forth by St. Benedict in the 6th century. Monks entering the Benedictine Order would take three sacred vows including the vow of chastity, the vow of poverty and the vow of obedience.
Monks in the Middle Ages performed a daily routine of prayers throughout the day and night. Beginning with their early morning “Lauds” prayer at 5 A.M., the monks would pray at eight set times within each 24-hour period. The monks used ''The Book of Hours'' to guide their prayers at each of these times. Each hour corresponded to a particular section of ''The Book of Hours,'' which would contain specific prayers and hymns for the monk to use at that time.
Middle Ages monks labored both indoors and outdoors. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Benedictine Monks played an important part in European agriculture. They used their education and training to copy manuscripts. The monks copied the Scriptures for use in the Church and copied other manuscripts to help preserve ancient literature for future generations.
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