Religion had a central importance in the medieval times and religious zeal manifested itself in various forms. One of these forms was monasticism and medieval monks usually spent their lives within the confines of large monasteries.
These medieval monks shunned all the pleasures of life and immersed themselves in religious rites and rituals in the monasteries. They led ascetic lives and were devoted to the ideals of Christianity as laid down in the scriptures.
History of medieval monks can be traced to early medieval times. In fact, it had started soon after the death of Jesus Christ and after Christianity came to Europe, the practice of monasticism continued to gain popularity.
Saint Anthony the Great, who lived during the third and fourth centuries AD in Egypt, is generally considered the founder of Christian monasticism. During the early medieval times, the practice of monasticism was introduced in Europe and monasteries were built all over the continent.
Daily life of medieval monks was governed by rigorous worship as well as manual labour. The spiritual components of the daily life of medieval monks included attendance at church, readings from the Bible, and meditation.
Prayer times were fixed and were called Lauds, Matins, Prime, Sext, Nones, Terce, Vespers, and Compline. Medieval monks also indulged in various manual tasks such as washing and cooking, producing wine and ale, doing community work, copying classical manuscripts, and others.
The clothes of medieval monks were fairly simple. They usually wore two tunics and two cowls in addition to shoes and stockings. A leather belt was used to tie the tunic around the waist and the cowl was attached to the scapula.
It was also common to wear a cross around the neck. Thus the clothing of medieval monks was very simple and was designed to be uniform.
The duties of medieval monks can be divided into spiritual and manual duties. The spiritual duties, of course, required the medieval monks to attend the church at the required hour and take part in the readings of the Bible.
Manual duties included participation in the community work such as providing medical assistance to the population, preserving and copying the classical manuscripts, providing hospitality to pilgrims, and such.
Medieval monks were usually highly educated particularly in the classical studies and Latin. Other than having sound knowledge of the Bible, they also possessed the knowledge of Aristotle and other classical writers. Some medieval monks came to the monasteries as children and were educated there in religious duties as well as classical education.
The hobbies of medieval monks revolved around spiritual and intellectual life. They hardly had any time for independent hobbies. Thus some monks would take up classical studies and spend their time studying and copying the classical manuscripts.
Sometimes medieval monks would also study treatises on astronomy, medicine, psychology, alchemy, and mathematics in addition to spending their time writing music and fiction.
The culture of monasticism became common during the medieval times in Europe mainly due to the dominance of Christianity. Medieval monks built many monasteries throughout Europe where they would spend time worshipping and doing various intellectual works such as copying of classical manuscripts and reading treatises on science and philosophy.