Click here to skip to content

Hours for Meals, in the Rule of St Benedict

Hours for Meals, in the Rule of St Benedict

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1000

Shelfmark: Harley MS 5431

Item number: f.68v

Length: 23

Width: 8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Written in the 5th century by Benedict of Nursia, the Rule of St Benedict became the most widely accepted manual for religious communities in western Europe. It was written to guide communities of monks and nuns in a life of reasonable asceticism, establish a daily framework of prayer and outline spiritual goals. The early Anglo-Saxon monasteries were becoming familiar with Benedict's rule, but not until after the disruptions of the Viking invasions and subsequent reform of monasteries in the 10th century was it uniformly in place. This manuscript copy was made at St Augustine's, Canterbury, at the end of the 10th century when monasteries had begun to follow St Benedict. A chapter of his rule would have been read aloud from this manuscript each day after early morning prayers (called 'prime', at about 6 am). St Benedict's key to success was practicality and moderation. His rule on meals makes a good example. He does not recommend extreme fasting at all and makes adjustments in the meal schedule for extremes of weather, seasonal changes in daylight hours (meals should be taken during daylight to conserve fuel), and the farm work that was a source of livelihood for many religious communities. He gives community's head authority for some flexibility. The beautiful, detailed drawing of the animal heads and the ingenious design of the large letter 'A' is typical of high-end late Anglo-Saxon manuscript decoration.

Search within this collection

Elsewhere on our websites


Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: