While the texts associated with the ideological program of the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine reform have been carefully studied for evidence of their regulation of sexuality, their persistent concern with another biological process – eating – has gone unexamined. My paper explores these issues by focusing not on the monastic consumption of food itself, but on the space where it occurs: the refectory. While rules controlling the refectory’s bounds are an intermittent feature of monastic regulation from the Benedictine rule onward, their rhetoric takes on a new urgency, ubiquity, and unexpected anti-urbanity in late Anglo-Saxon works. I contrast legal, ecclesiastical, and regular texts which try to forestall social contact between monastic houses and elite lay nobility with documentary evidence that implies a far more porous line at the refectory’s threshold, ultimately suggesting that the refectory is a site for the policing of the boundary between monk and layman because it is a potential site for a bond – the sharing of a meal – between them.
As giants of the 11th and 12th centuries, much has been written about Gregory VII and Bernard of Clairvaux. Both saints are well known for their support of the Church and the need for adherence to its moral and spiritual teaching, as well as their involvement in a range of contemporary politico-ecclesiastical affairs. However, as to their individual approaches to dietary needs, they were undoubtedly heavily influenced by their different monastic backgrounds. This paper explores the attitude of both men to food and diet in its spiritual, as well as its physical form.
This paper seeks to rectify an imbalance in analyses of food in medieval religious life – namely, the overemphasizing of fasting. Comparison of constitutional documents for monastic and contemplative (Benedictine, Augustinian, Carmelite), mendicant (Franciscan, Poor Clares, Dominican), and military (Templar) orders, by contrast, reveals deliberate and nuanced choices made about food and food consumption. The paper argues that founders and legislators deployed food as a powerful tool for the formation and maintenance of religious communities, tailoring its use to each specific vision for the religious life. Furthermore, this attention extended beyond the quality and quantity of food, providing for rituals of consumption and commensality distinct to each community.