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Times: 7-8am, 9.15-11.45am, 3-5.45pm

It was St Benedict who composed the original Rule for living in monastic communities. He envisioned the monastery as a reclusive and self-sufficient community, directed by an elected abbot. To lessen dependence on the secular word, the Rule decreed that everything essential for life, such as water, mills, gardens, and workshops, be found within the monastery walls.

Aside from prayer a monk needed to be industrious to help the monastery survive. During the day, Monks worked in the monastery garden, helped with the cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and did other jobs that the abbot - the chief monk - gave them to do.

Growing crops such as wheat and barley and vegetables was the core occupation. Monks became so sophisticated at providing for themselves that many monasteries became well-known commercial operations. They also invented ground-breaking methods of agriculture that are still used today.

Because supplies of clean water were rare in the Medieval world, monasteries also specialised in beer and wine production. - a skill which many have continued into the modern world. In England some monasteries became enormously wealthy by raising sheep and selling the wool.

And then there was the maintenance of the monastery itself; opening and shutting the gates, winding the clocks, sweeping and polishing the church and cleaning out the cells.

But the chief occupation of many monasteries was creating books in the scriptorium. In the days before printing, books were written out b hand using colors combined with egg whites, even real gold and silver to painstakingly illustrate and enhance their handiwork.

Writing out long books by hand was hard, slow work. An expert monk might copy out two or three books in a year - working fulltime. But it was through the work of these mediaeval monks that many of the great works of ancient literature were preserved through the dark ages and into the modern era.

The life of a monk was on the whole, a hard one.

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