Carlisle Cathedral © The Richard III Foundation, Inc.


Superior of a monastery or nunnery.


A monastic community of eiher monks or nuns. Ruled by an abbot or abbess, an abbey is usually founded by a monastic order and bound by their rules.


A renunciation, under oath, of heresy to the Christian faith, made by a Christian wishing to rejoin the church.


Special Papal envoy charged with various missions, such as bearing the official insignia to newly– appointed cardinals.


The formal remission of sin granted by a priest.


The highest minor order. Responsibilities include the lighting and carrying of candles, preparing the wine and water used at mass, and assisting the priest at mass.


The right of presentation to a church or spiritual living; patronage of an ecclesiastical office or benefice.


An extremist and heretical religious sect of southern France. The ‘Albigensian crusades’ were directed against them between1209 and 1229, and resulted in the culturally distinct south being brought under north French control.

Alien Priories

Monastic houses, such as the Cluniacs, owing allegiance to a motherhouse outside England; because of the foreign affiliation, special taxes were the Queen Consort's endowment.

All Saints’ Day

A Christian holy day in honor of all saints, both known and unknown, celebrated on1 November.

All Souls’ Day

A Christian holy day on which prayers are said for souls believed to be in purgatory, celebrated on 2 November.


1) Official dispenser of alms; usually the household chaplain of a prince or nobleman. 2) Item of clothing: also almoniere; first use 1330, Syr Degarre. An almspurse, looped by a cord to the girdle, used for almsgiving.


1) Place where alms were dispersed. 2) Residence of the almoner.


Money or goods given to the poor.


Earlier form of amice. First use 1430 by Lydgate; article of clothing worn by the religious orders, made of or lined with grey fur. The almuce took various forms, originally being a cap for the head, afterwards a hood, or hood and cape.


An elevated structure or table at which religious ceremonies are preformed.


A condemnation of heretics, similar to excommunication. Complete exclusion from Christian society.


Female anchorite; religious hermit; one who has withdrawn from the world.


One who leaves religious orders after taking final vows. Considered a serious crime in the eyes of the church, for it breaks faith with God but also with the founders and benefactors of their religious house.

Apostolic Life

The way of life of the apostles, emphasizing their poverty and preaching; a powerful religious ideal, particularly in the12th and 13th centuries.

Apostolic Succession

The doctrine that the authority of Jesus was passed down in an unbroken line from the apostles to their successors, the bishops.


A revered title at first used to denote only the immediate followers of Jesus of Nazareth, then in the Middle Ages applied to any bishop, to be later restricted only to popes.


Transfer of the receipts of a parish to a monastery, usually in exchange for the promise to support a vicar.


A bishop of the highest ranking, head of an archdiocese or of an ecclesiastical province.


The belief that Jesus was not the same as God, but was the greatest of all creatures; defended by Arius, a 4th–century priest in Alexandria, Arianism was the version of Christianity held by important Germanic kingdoms, including the Visigoths and the Lombards, between the 5th and 7th centuries.


Contemplative religious order active in medieval England which was a branch of the Augustinians; canons.


To sprinkle with holy water.


To absolve (from sin). Commonly used in reference to the dead.


The right of a bishop to protect a fugitive from justice or to intercede on his behalf. Once asylum has been granted, the fugitive cannot be removed until after a few months have passed. Fugitives who find asylum must give an oath never to return to the realm. If they are found within the realm in a month’s time, they may be hunted down with no right of asylum to be granted again.


Community of clerics, also known as Augustinian Regular Canons. They followed the Rule of St. Augustine. First recognized in the11th century, one of their earliest houses being St. Botoph's Colchester; one of the most famous – Bolton Priory.


Recess or cupboard to hold the sacred vessels for the mass.

Austin Friars

Congregations of hermit friars brought together under the Rule of St. Augustine in 1256. Also known as the Hermit Friars of St. Augustine. One of their larger English foundations was Waltham Abbey.

Ave Maria

"Hail Mary"; Opening words of the prayer of supplication to the Virgin Mary; principal prayer of the rosary. Its ten repetitions preceded by a Pater Noster and concluded with a Gloria Patri constitute a "decade", or segment of the Rosary.

Babylonian Captivity

A historical term used to refer to the"captivity" of the papacy in Frankish territory, 1308–78, during the period the popes held court at Avignon. The term alludes to the earlier challenge to the faith of dislocation in the deporting of the Jews to Babylon in the first millenium BC.


A title of honor given to a church building either because of its antiquity or its role as an international worship center.


Since the 12th century, a name for pious women who lived in small voluntary groups for religious purposes, but did not take religious vows. They were free to own property, to leave the group and to marry. Beghards were men who lived the same sort of life. They were prominent in the Low Countries and the Rhineland; sometimes suspected by church authorities of heresy.

Benedictine Rule

A guide for living written by Saint Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century that became the standard for monasteries and convents.


The oldest religious order; monks, often called "Black Monks" because of the color of their habits, who followed the Rule of St. Benedict. The order was founded by St. Benedict in 817 at Monte Casino, Italy. An order of nuns was established by his sister St. Scholastica. The wealthiest and one of the most firmly established orders in England, even before the Conquest, their more important houses included Christ Church (Canterbury), Westminster Abbey, Tewkesbury Abbey, St. Albans, Durham, St. Mary's (York), and Crowland (Croyland), to name a few.


An endowed church office.

Benefit of Clergy

A privilege enjoyed by members of the clergy, including tonsured clerks, placing them beyond the jurisdiction of secular courts.


A church officer consecrated to the highest of the holy orders; usually the head of a diocese with spiritual authority over the other clergy and laity in that diocese; believed to be a successor to the apostles.

Black Canons

Augustinian Canons, taken from the color of their robes.

Black Monks

A member of the Benedictine order, due to the color of their habits.


Priest brethren, under a rector, established at only two English houses ( Ashridge and Edington) and following the Rule of Augustine.


Provisions in a Papal benefice.


Religious order founded by Bridget of Sweden in the 14th century; double order of nuns with resident monks as advisors; introduced in England by Henry V. Probably their most famous house was Syon, on the site of which now stands an 18th–century manor house that is part of the Percy holdings.

Byzantine Empire

The eastern Roman Empire with its capital at Constantinople; it was closely intertwined with the Greek Orthodox church; the empire's long history of advance and retreat ended in 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks.


Feast of the Purification, or Presentation of Christ – 2 February.

Canon (New Testament)

The list of books accepted by the church as scripture; the accepted list of twenty–seven items in the New Testament was worked out between the 2nd and 4th centuries.

Canon (Regular Canon)

A priest living with others under a common rule.

Canon Law

The body of rules governing the faith, morals and organization of the church.

Canonical Hour

Any of the seven times a day when specific prayers are said.


1) One who leads a religious congregation in singing. 2) A soloist who sings liturgical

music in a synagogue.

Capella Ante Portas

A chapel by the gate of a Cistercian house for the use of travelers and other visitors. An example still stands at Kirkstead in Lincolnshire.


A high church official just below the Pope.


Originally the 12th–century Order of Our Lady at Mt. Carmel; later reorganized as friars ("white friars") in the 13th century. One of their most important houses, now an impressive ruin in Northumberland was Hulne Abbey.


Contemplative order of monks, bound to silence, founded by St. Bruno in 1084 at La Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble, France. First brought to England in the 12th century, they did not flourish to any great extent until the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Henry V founded a Carthusian house at Sheen and one of their largest foundations, Mount Grace (Yorkshire), was built in the 15th century.


See also Albigensians.

Cathedral Church

The church of a diocese where a bishop has the throne and where he presides.

Catholic Church

Derived the the Greek word catholicos, adopted in the 2nd century by one group of Christians to distinguish themselves from their rivals, particularly the gnostic Christians; more generally, 'Catholic' describes those Christian groups which accept the ancient creeds, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Anglicans.


The state of being unmarried; required of western clergy in the major orders (bishop, priest, deacon, subdeacon) since the 12th century.


The area by the high altar of a church usually reserved for the clergy.


A chapel, sometimes only an altar, endowed by its founder with sufficient funds to maintain a priest to sing masses for his soul, those of his family, or for the health and good fortune of the founder, if the chantry was completed and functional during his lifetime. They are sometimes also called "colleges" and their founding was a popular form of religious expression during the Middle Ages, for anyone who could afford the expense.

Chantry Chapel

A chapel, often attached to or inside a church, endowed for the continuous celebration of Masses for the soul of the founders and any others designed in the license.

Chapter House

Place of assemblage for a religious order, usually attached to a cathedral. Guests could be housed here as well.


A house of Carthusian monks.


Long, sleeveless vestment worn by the priest at Mass.


A small box or other vessel, usually of metal, for keeping of holy oil.


The collective name for those territories inhabited primarily by Christians.


The part of Christian theology which is particularly concerned with Jesus Christ. Medieval Christological debates centered around the predominant importance of Jesus' divine or human nature. The Christological positions of Nestorianism and Monophysitism in the 4th century played a significant role in the formulating of Roman Christian orthodox Christology.


A type of medieval written work having something in common with medieval histories in that it recorded the past. Whether universal or particular in character, a chronicle, was often written with picturesque details and anecdotes, to be a pleasing rather than an instructive historical account of the past.


A chalice–shaped vessel, with a lid, for the consecrated bread (the reserved Host).


Reformed Benedictines, established at Citreaux by Robert of Molesne in 1098; later expanded under the leadership of Bernard of Clairvaux; also known as "white monks." One of their most famous houses was Fountains in Yorkshire, but they had communities all over England. For example, Beaulieu and Netley (Hampshire), Hailes (Gloucestershire), Tintern (Monmouthshire).


An open space in a religious house, usually square and bounded by an arcaded, roofed passage, that the members of the order used for exercise and study.


A collective term for men having any of the holy orders of the Christian church, as distinguished from the unordained members of the church, who were called the laity.


1) Refers to those men who were planning to become priests and had therefore already taken first tonsure and vows in the form of one or more of the minor orders; 2) Used to refer to "regulars", those living under a rule in monasteries, friaries, priories, and nunneries, or as priests in a secular setting.


A covered exercise and study space, usually to the south of a monastic church.


Reformed Benedictines of an earlier generation who took their example from Cluny Abbey in Burgundy, which was founded in 909. They later organized into a far–flung monastic family under the leadership of the abbot of Cluny. Castle Acre in Norfolk was one of the their houses.


The eighth and last canonical hour – the last liturgical prayer of the day said just after nightfall – around 6 p.m.


The doctrine that the supreme authority in the church is vested in a general or Ecumenical council; extremely influential during and after the Great Schism (1378–1414) , especially at the Councils of Constance (1414–18), and Basel (1431–49).


The public or private acknowledgement of sinfulness regarded as necessary to obtain divine forgiveness.


1) A community of nuns under the authority of a superior, bound together by religious vows; 2) The building(s) occupied by such a community.


Of (or belonging to) a religious house.


1) A person who entered a monastery as an adult, in contrast to an oblate; 2) A lay brother in a monastery.

Corpus Christi

Special feast honoring the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

Corpus Christi Guild

Benevolent religious association.

Corpus Christi Plays

Religious dramas, "mystery" plays, staged by members of the trade and craft guilds in celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi. For students of the history of drama, these "miracle" or "mystery" plays, along with their secular counterpart, the "morality play," are an important, medieval contribution to the development of theatrical art. The York Cycle is still performed in the city of York.


A pension or agreed maintenance in food, clothing and lodging, usually obtained by the individual corrodian in return for a gift of money or land.


Ecclesiastical meetings of several sorts, including: 1) a meeting of bishops with their archbishops or metropolitan, called a provincial council; 2) a meeting of a bishop with his diocesan clergy, called a diocesan synod; 3) a meeting of all (at least in theory) bishops under the emperor or the pope, called an Ecumenical council.


1) The hood of a monk’s robe. 2) A hooded robe.


Brief formal statement of belief; the most famous were the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed.


A bishop’s outer garment. Often worn by monarchs as well.


A clergyman holding the holy order just below the priesthood.


A papal letter or an excerpt from one which rules on a point of canon law.


An ecclesiastical division of territory under the supervision of a bishop; there were more than 500 dioceses in the Western church by the 14th century.

Divine Office

The religious services sung or recited by priests and religious at the canonical hours, seven fixed times during each day and once during the night.


Religious order founded by St. Dominic for the purpose of preaching and study; also known as the "black friars." They were a mendicant order, who owned no property, but depended upon the generosity of the laity, especially of the wealthy, to support them and their work.


The lowest of minor orders. This person tended the door and admitted only those qualified to enter.


Common sleeping chamber for members of a religious order; dormitory.

Double Monastery

Combined monastery for both men and women but sexually separated. Ruled by either an abbot or abbess.

Double Truth

The theory that the studies of philosophy and theology impart two separate truths.


The theological view that the universe is divided between two radically different powers, one good and one evil; groups holding dualistic views included Gnostics in the ancient church and Cathars during the Middle Ages.


The religious celebration of Christ's resurrection, held on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after 21 March. It was the oldest and greatest annual Christian religious feast.

Easter Sepulchre

Recess, usually in the chancel of a church, to receive the effigy of Christ for Easter celebration.


The part of Christian theology which is particularly concerned with understanding what is meant by the Christian "Church". Periodically throughout the Middle Ages, but especially in its later centuries, attention turned to ecclesiology as discussion arose about what group of Christians was considered to comprise the "true Church": the saints, or the saints and clergy alone, or all who affirmed belief.


An adjective meaning 'universal', derived from the Greek work oikoumene 'the inhabited world' or 'the whole world'.


Celebrated 6 January, observing the manifestation of Christ's divinity to the Magi, and His baptism.


The Communion, or Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.



Adjective meaning 'pertaining to the gospels'; derived from the Greek word euangelion, 'good news'.


The formal suspension or expulsion of a person from the communion of the Church; in the Middle Ages, excommunication had serious social and legal consequences.


The study of interpreting a written text, usually used with reference to the Bible. During the Middle Ages, there were four levels of interpretation: the literal or historical sense (often conveying a statement of fact); the allegorical sense ( in which facts or events are treated as metaphors); the moral sense; and the angogical sense (in which the meaning alludes to and is thereby seen to uplift toward the eternal mysteries of Christianity).


The second highest minor order. This person exorcised evil spirits.


A shrine constructed to house important relics.


Religious order founded by Robert d'Arbissel at Fontevrault in 1100; double order of monks and nuns headed by the abbess of Fontevrault. The order and, indeed, its original house made its greatest impact on English history as the final resting place for early Plantagenets: Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, their son, Richard, "The Lionhearted," and his wife, Berengaria of Navarre.


Religious order founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209 and vowed, like the Dominicans, to corporate poverty. Also known as the Friars Minor or "grey friars." The most famous Franciscan house was Walsingham Priory and the Grey Friars' in Leicester was the final resting place of Richard III, until the Dissolution under Henry VIII.


Monastic refectory.


Member of one of the mendicant orders (E.g., Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites or Austin Friars) who vowed to operate in poverty.


Covering, often ornate, for the front of an altar.


Chapel or vestibule enclosing the porch at one of the main entrances to a church.


Originally a community of nuns who followed the Cistercian Rule. It was a native English order, founded by St. Gilbert at Sempringham, Lincolnshire in the 12th century. It was later reorganized as a double order of nuns and canons, but many of the houses converted to canons only, who followed the Rule of St. Augustine. One of the most successful double houses was Watson Priory in Yorkshire.

Golden Legend

15th–century collection of devotional writings, written in English, focusing on the suffering and death of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Lives of the Saints; geared toward an increasing interest in the mystical and a rapidly expanding literacy rate, it also fulfilled the demand for a more personal and intuitive form of devotion.


Originally, the 'good news' of Jesus; then a word for certain documents telling of Jesus' life and teachings; there were numerous early Christian gospels of which four – those attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were regarded as canonical by the 2nd century.


Religious order founded at Grandmont by Stephen of Muret, dedicated to austerity, poverty and silence. Distinguished by the amount of power vested in the lay brethen. There were only three English houses: Grosmont, North Yorkshire, and the only Grandmontine house to survive until 1536, and Alberbury and Craswell in the Welsh Marches.


The garb of a religous order.

Hair Shirt

A rough undergarment made of animal hair, worn by a sinner as penance.


Feast of All Hallows', or All Saints' Day – 1 November.


Any religious doctrine that inconsistent with the orthodox beliefs of the Church.


A person who commits heresy.


A person who leaves society for religious motives; a solitary religious often contrasted to monks who lived in a community of some sort.


Refers to either the six days of the Creation or to the Biblical text of Genesis (and commentaries) dealing with the Creation.

Holy Rood Day

Feast of the Holy Cross – 14 September.

Holy Water

Water that has been blessed by a priest.


An inn for travelers, especially one kept by a religious order.


Segments of canonical Divine Office – Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, Nones, Vespires, and Compline.


To adminster the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.


A college of secular priests.


A sacred image or picture of Christ or a saint; venerated with particular fervor in the Greek Orthodox tradition.


The destruction of icons; iconoclasm was a policy of some Byzantine emperors between 725 and 842; eventually repudiated by the Christian churches of the medieval east and west.


1) Remission of sin, or a portion of the post–mortem punishment for a sin, as the result of a specific offering or set of prayers; 2) Relaxation of an ecclesiastical law or obligation.


Anyone having a strong adversity to Christianity.


A tribunal established by the Church to identify and correct those committing heresy.


Papal ban forbidding the clergy to administer the sacraments to anyone, for any reason, in the territory paced under interdict. For example, the whole of England was placed under the ban following the murder of Thomas á Becket, and the ban was not lifted until Henry II's public penance at Becket's tomb.


The act of formally putting someone into an office or a landholding; it was a major occasion of dispute in the 11th and 12th centuries when reformers opposed lay rulers who invested clergy with the symbols of their positions.


The religion founded by the Arab prophet Mohammed (570–632); an Arabic word meaning 'submission to the will of God'.


1) Sculpture of a kneeling figure; 2) Hassock or kneeling cushion in a church or chapel.

Lady Chapel

Chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


The unordained people of the church; as distinct from the clergy.


Feast of St. Peter in Chains – 1 August.


Week following the Feast of St. Peter in Chains.


The second or with Matins the first canonical hour, usually sung at dawn – 5 to 6 a.m.

Lay Brother

A man, usually illiterate and of lower social status than a monk, who had nevertheless taken the vows of the order and was employed by the community to do manual work.


The second lowest minor order. One whose chief duty is to read lessons in a church service.


A representative or ambassador, usually a cardinal, sent by the pope to represent him in a particular territory or for a particular purpose.


A cleric licensed by his order to hear confessions and administer the sacraments.


Licensed beggar; generally a friar or member of one of the mendicant orders, such as the Dominicans.


The formal prayers and rituals in the Church, including such things as the Mass, the Divine Office, and the annointing of kings.


Religious movement, 14th–century precursor of the Reformation of the 16th century, inspired by the teachings of John Wyclif. In general, the Lollards were very critical of the immense temporal power of the hierarchy of the Church, denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, and promoted the right of each individual of read the Scriptures in the vernacular, to which end, Wyclif made the first English translation of the Bible. Though never quite the sweeping movement that would come, with government sanction, in the 16th century, the Lollard philosophy was embraced by the burgeoning number of apprentices, craftsmen and industrial workers in 15th–century England. And though, in the main, there was official ecclesiastical and governmental abhorence of Lollard tenets, Wyclif Bibles found wide acceptance at all levels of the increasingly literate public. See Wyclif Bible.


Feast of St. Martin – 11 November Traditional autumnal celebration of the harvest at which fresh–killed beef was served up in gigantic joints in manor house and castle, along with the first wines of the new vintage from Gascony. The plenty was shared with not only retainers and the manor's villeins, but special arrangements were also made to feed the beggars and poor in the area in honor of St. Martin, the patron of the poor and homeless.


The public celebration of the Catholic ritual, including the Latin liturgy and communion.


The liturgical night office, combining with Lauds the first and chief of the canonical hours and including hymns, prayers, psalms, and scripture readings – between 2:30 and 3 a.m.

Maundy Thursday

The day before Good Friday. It was marked by the ceremonious washing of the feet of the poor by royalty and nobility; the number of poor for each participant in the ceremony being determined by his or her age. It was also customary to give the owners of the feet gifts of clothing and money when the ceremony was over.


Friars vowed to poverty and bound by their rule to maintain themselves by begging.


Feast of St. Michael – 19 September, An important English fiscal date in the Middle Ages, it is still a quarterly rent date.


See Franciscans.

Mirroure of the Worlde

Vincent of Beauvais text which was the first illustrated book printed in English, date 1481. It dealt with the Commandments and Articles of Faith, and other religious matters.


1) Chamber in a monastery where meat, otherwise forbidden by the Rule, could be eaten; 2) A shelf placed on the underside of of a hinged choir chair which, when raised, supported the occupant of the stall during long periods of standing.


Tall, decorative peaked hat worn by bishops and archbishops.


A community of persons, especially monks, bound by vows to a religious life and often living in partial or complete seclusion; the dwelling place of such a community.


Generally, a man who joined a religious house called a monastery, where he took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; he most common form of monk was a man living under the provision of the Rule of St. Benedict.


The theory that the human and divine in the person of Jesus Christ constitute only one nature which is regarded either as thoroughly unified or as complete.


Lands and tenements which could not be alienated by the holder; generally the method used to endow a religious institution or chantry.

Muslim (Moslem)

A follower of the religion of Islam.


See also Galilee.

National Monarchy

A form of government that arose in the 13th century in western Europe; a king and his bureaucracy gained effective control over the loyalty and taxes of their subjects, often at the expense of the church; the most successful medieval national monarchies were those of England and France.


A building housing an abbey’s latrines.


The concept that the divine and human of Jesus were joined in perfect harmony but remained distinct with the concept that Mary should not be called the Mother of God.


The sixth canonical hour – between 2 to 3 p.m.


A person new to a religious order who has not yet taken vows.


Woman dedicated to the religious life; usually a member of a religious order.


A monastic house for women.


An official in a monastery charged with a specific "obedience".


A memorial Mass celebrated annually on the mind–day of a deceased person, usually the anniversary of his death.


A child who was offered to a monastery by his/her parents.


See Franciscans.

Orders (Minor/Major)

The grades or steps of the Christian ministry; the so–called minor orders were acolyte, lector, exorcist, and doorkeeper; the so–called major orders, which bound their holders to Celibacy were bishop, priest, deacon, and subdeacon.

Orthodox Church

The dominant form of Christianity in the Byzantine Empire and in the Slavic lands converted from that empire. Its leaders were the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch.


A name for the Holy Spirit, meaning comforter.


Generally a subdivision of a diocese; administered by a resident priest who might have other clergy as his assistants; it was the basic unit of ordinary church life in western Europe.

Pater Noster

Literally, "Our Father...".

Peace of God

A movement that arose in southern France in the 10th and 11th centuries to place limits on fighting; it placed certain classes of people – non–combatants, women, clergy and the poor – under the protection of the Church and threatened those who used violence against them with excommunication; see also Truce of God.


The first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.


A journey to a holy place for the purpose of worship or thanksgiving or doing penance; there were many local, regional and universal sites that drew pilgrims in the Middle Ages; among the greatest pilgrim destinations were the places connected with Jesus's life in the Holy Land, the city of Rome and the shrine of St James at Compostela.


The official charged with the distribution of monastic allowances or doles.


The holding by one person of more than one church office or benefice at the same time.


Originally a term for any bishop; in the West it came to be restricted to the Bishop of Rome, who as successor of St Peter, was regarded as the Chief Bishop of the Church; in the West, the pope became the dominant figure in the governance of the church; in the Orthodox churches that position of dominance was rejected.


An endowed religious community; the word was commonly applied to the older orders – Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians and others – to distinguish them from advocates or evangelical poverty like the mendicants.


Revenues granted to a cleric (prebendary) as his stipend.


A monk or canon or who leads the singing in the choir.


A high-ranking member of the clergy, especially a bishop.


An order of canons, also known as "White Canons", founded in 1120 by St. Norbert.


A man who held the second highest of the holy orders, after that of bishop and above that of deacon.


The first of the daytime canonical hours – around 7 a.m.


In Benedictine monasteries, the second in command after the abbot; also a term for the head of a religious house that did not have the legal status of a monastery.

Priory Cell

A dependent priory, having three or four monks, usually functioning also as an estate–center.

Private Church

A church owned by a landlord or a monastery; most rural churches were founded by the owner of the land on which they stood and remained under the control of his family.


Nomination or appointment to a church office; in the 14th century the papacy gained the right of provision over thousands of Church offices all over Europe.


Small book containing psalms and drawings relating to them.


A partition, often of stone, separating the monks’ choir from the nave.


A vessel, usually a box, for holding the consecrated bread.


The head priest of a church or a religious institution.

Regular Clergy

Monks, canons, friars and other clergy who lived in communities under a rule.


An object venerated by believers because it was associate with a saint; a relic could be something owned by the saint, such as a piece of clothing or a book, but more often was part of the saint's body.


A receptacle, usually small, for the storing of holy relics.


An altar–piece; a painting or frame holding sculptures, fixed to the back of an altar.


Laws prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members.


Christian religious ritual commemorating events significant to the life of Jesus and in the lives of believers thereafter, as it is believed to impart the truth and grace of Christian mystery. Baptism and Eucharist, or the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles, were the earliest sacraments practiced by Christians. By the 13th century, the Roman Church had recognized in theology and ritual five more sacraments: confirmation, penance, marriage, bordination, and extreme unction.


A room inside a church or cathedral housing sacred vessels and vestments.


A colony of hermits founded at Savigny in 1105 by Vitalis of Mortain and later developed as an order of monks, merging with the Cistercians in 1147.


A formal split in the church over a disagreement about a matter of practice; distinct from heresy because the split was not over belief; the schism of 1054 marked the formal break between the Roman Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox church; the Great Schism (1378–1414) was the split in the western church between those loyal to the pope at Rome and those loyal to the pope at Avignon.


The room in a monastery in which manuscripts were copied by monks; also, a writing shop where professional copyists produced and sold books.

Secular Clergy

The clergy who were not separated from the world by a written rule or by life in a monastic community; it included the bishops and priests who worked with the laity; often contrasted to the regular clergy who lived under a rule.


The fifth canonical hour – noon.


The buying and selling of sacred things, such as sacraments and ecclesiastical positions.


Properties or revenues obtained in return for spiritual services.


The chanter in a monastic or cathedral choir, who takes up the chant following the precentor.


An ecclesiastical meeting; see also council.

Te Deum

Latin hymn, Part of the Mass; either the music of such, or its text, "We praise thee, O God...".


The material possessions and revenues of a religious house.


The fourth of the canonical hours – 9 a.m.


An order of monks founded at Tiron by Bernard (d. 1117) and much influenced by the contemporary Cistercians.


A tax, payable to the rector, of the tenth part of all agrarian produce.


A clipping of the hair or shaving the top of the head; tonsure was the ceremony that dedicated a person to God's service; it was the first step of entry into the clergy.


1) To move a bishop from one diocese to another; 2) To move a saint's relics from one place to another, often from the original burial place to a reliquary.


A doctrine stated formally by the Roman Christian Church in 1215 that in the celebration of the Eucharist the bread and wine, though they appear unchanged, actually become the body and blood of Christ.

Truce of God

A movement that began in the 11th century, which sought to forbid fighting on Sundays and the chief religious seasons and feasts; see also Peace of God.


The official residence of the pope; the papal government.


The seventh and next to last of the canonical hours – around 4:30 p.m.


In its basic meaning, a person who substitutes for another; in many medieval parishes the resident priest was not the legal holder of the parish; the legal holder was a non–resident person or was a monastery and the resident priest was the vicar for the legal holder, who carried out the latter's duties in return for a portion of the parochial income.


A priest acting as a deputy to a bishop in the administration of the bishop’s diocese.


Augustinian canons of St. Victor (Paris), known in the 12th century for the superior quality of the scholarship and observance.


Formal, voluntary promises to God. Any adult could make a vow, and it was a common practice in medieval religion. However, vows are usually associated with those who entered religious houses.


A follower of Peter Waldo, a 12th–century advocate of the Apostolic Life, who broke with the church over his claim to the right to preach without authorization.

Wyclif Bible

The first version of the Bible to be translated into English. Attributed to John Wyclif.


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