Page The life of the monks in Chamalières sur loire du site de la commune de Chamalières sur Loire en Haute-Loire 43

The life of the monks in Chamalieres


A life of daily prayer

Monks arrived at the monastery with their trousseau consisting of a tunic, stockings, cowl, and a large piece of cloth in heavy wool. In winter they added a warm cloak.
A large part of their life took place within the church, either with the services which took place every 3 hours from 2 o’clock in the morning, or for private masses booked by rich donors. The services were chanted. Each hour of the day or the night had its own psalms, music, and alternating chanting and responses.
This demonstrates how church was continuously filled with music, an essential part of the daily life of the monk. The thirty echea (sounding vases) which are situated in the vault of the choir bear witness to this, and give the building its exceptional acoustics.

Monks and nuns followed their Rules

The monks followed the Rule of Saint Benedict, but, because Chamalières was a priory and not an abbey, they were not expected to follow them to the letter.
No one had breakfast in those days. Only manual workers would eat before going out to fell trees or harvest the fields. The monks themselves waited patiently for mealtime at the sixth hour (that is, 6 hours after sunrise).
Meals were taken communally in the refectory. Organising this appears to have been difficult at Chamalières. In 1163, the Prior, Pierre de Beaumont, was so concerned that the brothers did not always have enough to eat that he made a personal donation from the family estate in order to guarantee sufficient provisions. In exchange, every year, the day after the feast of Saint Giles, the monks would hold a mass for the donor’s parents.
The monks’ diet was based on bread, peas, cheese and wine, together with salmon from the Loire, and a little honey on feast days.

When the Loire was rich in salmon

The consumption of fish was high because of the number of days of abstinence each year.
Salmon returned to Chamalières to spawn after an exhausting 900km journey from Saint-Nazaire.
During the 14th Century, the locks and fisheries meant that the Prior, working together with neighbouring Lords, could ensure there was fishing for the ‘King of the Atlantic’.