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Only the choir monks refectory has survived, monks sat here at long wooden tables and ate in silence with one brother reading a passage from the bible, no-one was allowed to leave until he was finished and monks were encouraged to make a cross out of breadcrumbs to stop their minds wandering. To communicate in their silent world monks devised a system of sign language including several signs for food. The sign for pottage, which was a thick vegetable soup was a mime of chopping vegetables by extending the index finger of the left hand and miming chopping along it with the first two fingers of the right hand. Visitors especially those with children often like to try out monks sign language or invent new signs for other foods. Each monk would have their own eating equipment including a cup and spoon, forks hadn’t been invented yet! They would use the knife that they carried on their belt which was used for lots of other tasks including making quill pens. It was called a pen knife as pen is the Latin for feather. There were lots of rules for behaviour in the dinning room including using 2 hands for your cup to make sure that you did not spill and not blowing you nose on your napkin - this is a strange rule, perhaps cold weather and hot soup made the monks noses run!The floor of this room is laid with original tiles but historians disagree about when these tiles were laid. Some believe that the monks did it themselves when the strict rules about simplicity started to relax, while others believe it was another alteration made by the Victorians. The refectory also gives access to the warming room, on the left hand side of the gate, which as the name suggests is the room the monks used to get warm. Originally it contained the only source of heat that was not used for cooking and the monks were only allowed to be in there for 15 minutes a day, any more was considered to be sinful and could be punished. This fire was only lit in winter and some strict abbots would only allow it to be lit when the water in the laver or lavatorium, where the monks washed their hands was frozen! Later when rules started to relax more fires were added and this room became less important. Carry on walking around the outside of the cloister to get to the Parlour. On the way you will pass the remains of some stone sinks cut into the wall, this is where the monks would wash their hands before meals and wash each others feet each Saturday afternoon in a ritual called Maundy. This was designed to teach the monks humility.
over 2 years ago