Visit to Castle
Acre Priory September 2005
Castle Acre priory is a Norman monastery built around 1088. Once we were inside, in the Prior’s chambers, Professor Miri Rubin (mother of Joseph Stedman-Jones) told us about the idea of monasteries, which were later developed by the Italian thinker, Benedict. It involved three main rules for monks: the rule of Poverty (you may not own anything), the rule of Obedience (to the Prior) and the rule of Purity (no sex). Instead of the early idea of extreme suffering, many people became monks in a community and many others supported them. This was because of the opportunity for a good lifestyle¨ clean water, good food, shelter. She explained about the building of this monastery, which was founded by the Norman Lord, William de Warenne. All the monks were under the power of the Prior, and they did what he said without grumbling. After she had given us the explanation, we went outside to see the magnificent west front, which had survived all the weathering. We drew a sketch of it, while Mr Henderson gave us some important details.
The west door was the only doorway that admitted visitors and it led into the nave, the public praying area. All we could see of it now were most of the walls and very bottom part of the columns, but it was enough to show us what they were like. As Professor Rubin pointed out to us, the columns had hard flint inside them to keep them sturdy, and smooth stone outside for decoration. On the walls in certain places there were red and white bricks. Then we went from room to room, seeing the night stairs, down which monks had to climb at 2 o’ clock in the morning.
When we reached the Chapter House we had a roleplay where Mr Henderson was the Prior and we were the monks. He used punishments, rewards and tasks, as well as reading prayers.
Here are some examples :
‘Brother Jacob, Thou didst strike brother Samuel’
‘Bless me father, for I have sinned’
‘Thou shalt make peace with brother Samuel,
‘Sister Jemima Thou hast prayed diligently’
‘I thank Thee, father’
‘Thou mayest receive extra dinner tonight’
‘Brother Richard Thou art a fine shepherd’
‘I thank Thee, father’
It was an interesting experience. Afterwards I found myself wishing we could go one step further and relive that world.