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Church Service

Times: 2-3.30am, 4-5am, 6-6.30am, 8-9.15am, 11.45am-12.00pm, 2.45-3pm, 6-7.15pm, 7.45-8pm

Mass and the worship of God formed the heart of a monk's life. Communal prayers averaged about five hours per day, while private prayer and contemplation could take up to four further hours.

A monk's day began with the ringing of bells, some time between midnight and two a.m., signaling the first prayers of the day, which included hymns, psalms and readings. After a short nap, prayers were again held at sunrise, and then at three-hour intervals throughout the day.

The 6am prayers were called Prime. Around 11.45am the monks would conduct the Chapter Mass, which is similar to the Catholic service of today.

In the early evenings the friars chanted Vespers in the monastery chapel. As each psalm came to an end they stood up and bowed in praise of God.

On Sundays the Psalms were sung in one or other of the eight plainchant modes. Later, before bed, came the final choir office, Compline or completion with its brief and beautiful 'anthem' to Mary at the end.

If anyone was late and missed processing with the other monks, he would have to come in alone to the chapel and stretch himself out on the floor in the middle of the choir, as a sign of apology for being late. When the sub-prior gave a signal, the latecomer was allowed to rise and go to his place.

Alongside the official liturgy, private prayer, especially mental prayer, always held an important place, with the monks spending many hours in personal contemplation of God and their faith.

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