Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Question for medievalists out there

I'm working on draft 2 of a novel partially set at a small 12th century Burgundian monastery. A few questions for you:

1. would they have a stable of a couple of horses?

2. if so, I'm assuming they'd be palfreys and not chargers?

3. would they name their horses? would they name their monastery cat?

4. what is the role of lay servants in helping to manage the monastery? would young children work as servants?

5. would baskets be used to store items in the kitchen (and the monastery generally)? if so, what kind would they be in Burgundy (e.g., bent willow?)


  1. I'd say the answers to 1,3, & 5 would be yes, but I'm not sure on specifics. I'll let someone more educated give you a real answer.

  2. 1. Quite probably.
    2. Most likely; I can't imagine a monastery would have much use of warhorses.
    3. Probably. Or at least, those most in charge of the animals would probably have pet names for them.
    4. That depends. What order is your monastery? A Benedictine monastery in the Cluny style had such an extensive prayer regime for its monks that lay servants probably did significant manual labor under the supervision of monastic officials. I would imagine boys might be included. Such a monastery might also include some oblated child monks. A Cistercian monastery of the same period would probably have most of the manual labor done by lay brothers and monks, not by hired servants.
    5. That seems reasonable. Casks and barrels might be likely, too.
    Though I'm a medievalist, I can't answer a lot of these questions unequivocally; I'm giving you my sense of what seems likely.

  3. Awesome, thank you both!