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(Part 21)

(G) Cells (Monastic Colonies). (H) Further Reading.

Cells (or Monastic Colonies)

Every large monastery had depending upon it one or more smaller establishments known as cells. These cells were monastic colonies, sent forth by the parent house, and planted on some outlying estate. As an example, we may refer to the small religious house of St Mary Magdalene's, a cell of the great, Benedictine house of St Mary's, York, in the valley of the Witham, to the south-east of the city of Lincoln. This consists of one long narrow range of building, of which the eastern part formed the chapel, and the western contained the apartments of the handful of monks of which it was the home. To the east may be traced the site of the abbey mill, with its dam and mill lead. These cells, when belonging to a Cluniac house, were called Obedientioe.

The plan given by Viollet de Duc of the Priory of St Jean des Bons Hommes, a Cluniac cell, situated between the town of Avallon and the village of Savigny, shows that these diminutive establishments comprised every essential feature of a monastery,-chapel, cloister, chapter-room, refectory, dormitory, all grouped according to the recognized arrangement.

These Cluniac obedientiae differed from the ordinary Benedictine cells in being also places of punishment, to which monks who had been guilty of any gave infringement of the rules were relegated as to a kind of penitentiary. Here they were placed under the authority of a prior, and were condemned to severe manual labour, fulfilling the duties usually executed by the lay brothers, who acted as farm-servants.

The outlying farming establishments belonging to the monastic foundations were known as villoe or granges. They gave employment to a body of conversi and labourers under the management of a monk, who bore the title of Brother Hospitaller -- the granges, like their parent institutions, affording shelter and hospitality to belated travelers.

Further Reading

Dugdale, Monasticon; Fosbrooke, British Monachism; Heiyot, Dictionnaire des Ordres Religieux; Lenoir; Architecture Monastique; Viollet le Duc, Dictionnaire Raisonnée de Î'Architecture Française; Walcott, Conventual Arrangement; Willis, Abbey of St Gall; Archaeological Journal, vol. v., Conventual Buildings of Canterbury; Curzon, Monasteries of the Levant. (E. V.)

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The above article was written by: the Rev. Canon Edmund Venables, M.A., Precentor of Lincoln; author of Life of John Bunyan and Episcopal Palaces of England.

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