Monks at Work

Monks live in a monastery, some monasteries are also known as an abbey. The leader of the monks in an abbey is the abbot. The word ‘abbot’ comes from the Latin word "abba," which means ‘father.’ The abbot is the father of the community of monks. The prior and sub-prior are next in line of superiority. The abbot, prior and sub-prior are called superiors. All other monks are equal.

There are many jobs for the monks to do in a monastery. They have existed since the first monasteries were built. Some of the titles of the jobs may have changed or vary slightly from one Order (community of monks) to another, but otherwise life in a monastery has remained very much the same over the centuries.

The monks ‘share’ the jobs on a rota basis. No monk stays in the same job for a long period of time. This is so that the monks do not get too possessive and begin to tackle things ‘their way.’ It is also healthy to have a change of role within the monastery.

The list of job titles is a general list of jobs which monks have in most monastic communities, regardless of which Order they belong to.

Many ‘outsiders’ gave the early monasteries gifts of land, money or jewels and so many monasteries became rich. People wanted to please God and thought that they could do this by giving gifts to the monks.

Some money was used to buy land which the monks turned into farms. The monks could then produce the food they needed for themselves, the poor and pilgrims. Surplus food was sold in order to purchase food which they could not grow.

Many monasteries kept hives of bees. The honey was used to sweeten food and drink (there was no sugar) and the beeswax was used for making candles.

As the monasteries developed more buildings were added. The simple wattle and daub huts of the early monasteries were replaced with stone buildings. Workshops were built for carpenters, blacksmiths and other trades so that repairs could be carried out on the buildings.