Basic Layout Cistercian Monastery

In reaction to the development of non-basic elements in Cluniac Benedictine monasteries, the Cistercians originally adopted a very simple and strickt lay-out for their monasteries. No unnecessary elements were allowed. What were the main aspects?

Special attention was given to allowing the basic Benedictine combination in every day life of prayer and working (Ora at labora). At the same time much more attention than normal in those days was paid to personal hygiene, with daily washing of  hands and head and weekly washing of the feet and ample supply of fresh streaming water. For the latter convenience regulation of a local stream, prior to and during building of the monastery was standard procedure, allowing the water to flow under the building through arched basements. Below the standard lay-out of a Cistercian convent is illustrated.
 

Key to the numbers is as follows:

1 Narthex
2 Nave
3 Choir
4 Transepts North/South
5 Presbytery
6 High Altar
7 More Altars
8 Cloister
9 Garden / Garth
10 East Range
11 Choir Monks Dormitory
12 Night Stairs
13 Sacristy
14 Library
15 Chapter-house
16 Reredorter/Toilets
17 Water supply
18 West Range
19 Night Stairs
20 Kitchen
21 Dining Room
22 Warming Room

 

Source of illustration source site. For a virtual visit of a classic Cistercian monastery go here. An elaborated interactive version can be found here.

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