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the chapter house  

About 9 o'clock every morning all the monks gathered in the Chapter House, one of the largest in the country with a roof rising to some twelve meters. The Abbot had his special seat at the east end and the monks sat on stone seats built into the walls on either side. This was the daily family meeting when none but monks attended. The benefactors and saints of the day were remembered, there was a short service, a chapter was read from the rule of St. Benedict under which the monastery ran and the monks made their confessions of failure before their father Abbot and spiritual brothers. When necessary the Abbot imposed actions to be undertaken as penance; this might include undergoing scourging during the Chapter House meeting. The business for the day was gone over, orders were given for special jobs to be done or overseen around the monastery, for monks with special aptitude and interest took on manual and craftsman's tasks such as gardening or stone-carving and others had responsibilities for the smooth running of this town within a town. 

It was at such meetings here that important letters were read to and considered by all the monks, and it was in the Chapter House that important men were heard when they came on affairs, usually religious but sometimes secular, that touched the whole community. It was probably in the Chapter House that the meeting took place between the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Henry II. Jerusalem was under threat from the Saracens and the Patriarch had travelled to Europe to offer the crown to a king who would in return save the city.

click to go to the Patriarch of Jerusalem and Henry II

Left - The patriarch of Jerusalem offers the crown to Henry II. Right - The chapter house today.

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click to go to the chapter house today
Copyright Reading Museum Service from "Reading Abbey", published by Reading Museum & Art Gallery 1988.

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