Monks at the Priory

Monk Cartoons © Andy Gammon

See also Top Monks in Education Packs

These monk cartoons are featured on the interpretation signs at the Priory site. They illustrate some of the roles assigned to monks living at the Priory.


The Abbot

The Abbot was based at the Abbey of Cluny in France. He was in charge of all the Cluniac monks throughout Europe. Monks had to bow low before him and his word was law. He occasionally visited the Priory in Lewes but more often sent his representatives there to report to him.


The Prior

The Prior was in charge of the Priory. His word was law at the Priory but he had to accept orders form the Abbot in Cluny (France).


The Chamberlain

The Chamberlain was in charge of all the money going in and out of the Priory. Money could come from rent and produce from the many farms the Priory owned and benefactors gave money and property to the Priory in return for the monks agreeing to pray for them when they died.


The Circuitor

The Circuitor worked secretly, noting bad behaviour such as laziness, laughter and whispering. If he found a monk sleeping during night services he would shine a lantern in his face to wake him up.


The Precentor

He was in charge of organising all the church services. He sorted out the singing and the service books. He was also in charge of all the parchment at the Priory. Parchment was a type of paper made from animal skin. It was extremely expensive and was used by the monks when they copied out religious books in the Scriptorium.


The Provost

The Provost was in charge of punishment. These punishments were often harsh. If a monk did wrong he could be beaten with rods and made to lie face down to ask for pardon.


The Kitchener

He was in charge of the kitchen where usually two meals each day were prepared. The monks mainly ate bean stew and cheese or eggs. fish was eaten on Thursdays, Sundays
and feast-days. Monks were allowed one pound of bread (about 500 grams) each day. during Lent (before Easter) only one meal was served at sunset.

Keeper of the Infirmary

Keeper of the Infirmary

Monks thought that it was good for their health to be bled. This involved the Keeper of the Infirmary making cuts into the arm of the monk to release a flow of blood into a basin. Sometimes leeches (small blood-sucking creatures) were attached to the skin. After being bled the monks were allowed to rest and eat the better food provided in the infirmary.

Gardening Monk

Gardening Monk

Cluniac monks spent most of their time attending services and reciting psalms in the church. Although the rule by which they lived (the Rule of St Benedict) said that they should work as well as pray the monks at the Priory only did a token amount of manual labour.

Monk having a bath

Monk having a bath

Cluniac monks usually took a bath twice a year, at Christmas and Easter.

Monks on the loo

Monks on the loo

At the Priory there were 59 toilet cubicles. The monks only had very short breaks between the church services they had to attend and so it was important that they didn?t have to queue for the loo.