chapter  6
25 Pages

Monasticism and the Friars

This short passage from Orderic Vitalis, describing the growth of a dependency of St Evroult, a small priory, just to the south of Meulan, in 1076, illustrates very clearly how, during the early middle ages, the monastery had come to interact with its social environment. This house had been established through the pious donations of the laity who, in turn, expected their path to salvation to be smoothed by the prayers of the monks and by their burial in the monastery. Equally, during life, they assumed that the monastery would be accessible to them, that they could meet and talk with the monks in the cloister, that a place in the house would be available for those of their relatives who wished to enter and that at least some of their children would receive instruction in letters there. The survival of many thousands of charters recording donations to local monasteries testifies to the importance of these relationships; indeed, some families were so closely associated with a particular house that it became a target for that family’s enemies, a situation which led to agreements to defend it when required (Bull 1993b:174-5).