Life in monastery in Vyšší Brod

Life inside of monastery in Vyšší Brod (called in Latin Altum Vadum) was strictly ruled by charter of order from year 1334. This order was in territory of Bohemian kingdom under protection of Pope, it did not pay tributes to bishop but directly to Pope and the monastery was subordinated only to order what means to "father" in Wilhering. The state of monastery's novices joined only fourteen years old boys. The legitimate origin of novices was strictly demanded, novices had to be able to sing and read. Rules stated that novices must "stay in hood without blessing, until they learn the whole Psalter by heart". Novices pursued just to prayers and pious meditations. So just to religious life. Name konvrš came from Latin "flatres conversi". Their other name was "fratres barbati", because all of them wore beards. The konvršes had the same rights as monks and priests, but their main work was in field or hand work. They learned these skills as they were novices. They worked from early morning till night in absolute silence with modest food. When they grew old, the other brothers covered them with respect till the end of their lives.

Vyšší Brod, historical layout map of the monastery

Refectory was called communal dining room in monastery. This room served to convention and it was placed right beside kitchen for easy delivery of food. Another, smaller refectory was used during winter, because of easier heating. Convention (monks) was called to refectory by the bell. Each monk stood behind his chair and after prior's sign (prior was senior of monks) sat down. The meal was served by two brothers - during meal was read to monks. Reading around table was a duty of lecturer. In monastery in Vyšší Brod were read passages from work of St. Bernard, which contain many mystic parts and lessons about order life. Meal started with memory of poor and it ended by collection of leftovers for poor. The table was cleaned in front of convention. Cook first picked knives than tankards, covered rest of bread and after prior's sign and prayer went pairs of monks to church singing "Miserere". First went young, in middle was prior and behind him walked older brothers.

The most frequent food was mush, bread sometimes egg. During the whole year was meat never served in monastery. Only sixteen times a year received monastery exactly described refinements called pitance. So for day of St. Benedikt received convention figs, pastry and wine. For Annunciation of Virgin Mary they received a pike, eggs, almonds, pastry and wine was served twice. During the fast received brothers just pickled fish. Monks drank beer produced by their own brewery, first mentioned in 1380. Four times a year, in February, April, in June around celebration of St. Jan and in September the minute was done to all monks. It was a healing blood run carried out in warming room. For minute were appropriated three days. On the first day received monks besides normal bread a half pound of white one and for refreshment a mistum, what was wine mixed with water. If someone was by minute too weakened, brothers cut for him in refectory extra slice of bread.

Dormitory was communal bedroom in convention. Beds were placed side by side, they were equipped with palliasse, one light and one heavier blanket and pillar. Monks used woollen blankets, konvršes had furry ones. During dressing and undressing the naked body could not be shown. When temperature in bedroom was too high could monks uncover their legs up to knees, heads and shoulders. Into dormitory were brothers coming together after sunset and they were leaving it before sunrise. In dormitory had to be kept strict silence, which could be broke (according to rules) only "to call a fire or to quench thieves". It was strictly prohibited to watch others, even lying and disturb night rest.

With dormitory relates problems with washing. According to rules was not washing obligatory. When the morning bell was rung could everyone wash his hands, just in case he wanted to. Everyone had to wash his feet every Saturday evening. Rules ordered to brothers to stay away from "laughter and other fun". The main rule of dormitory was to remove everything what could soil the soul. Regulations on clothing and shoes in monastery in Vyšší Brod were related to ideals of poverty and humility. Clothing of convent was one of the greatest expenses for monastery, which is why a special attention was paid to these problems. Clothes had on his duty brother called "camerarius". He inspected sewing, stock of fabric and kept records of accounts. He stored winter or summer clothes after season changed. Another brother called "vestiarius", guaranteed production of clothes and he also managed tailors and weavers.

The view of the Cistercian Monastery in Vyšší Brod, Kraví hora in the back sight, foto: Lubor Mrázek

In head of monastery's weaving mill was magister monk. For winter season was to monks prescribed a shaggy mask, for summer the old one was enough. When was monk sent for journey, he received from vestiarius pants, which he had to gave back washed after his return. Monks wore a white robe and black pinafore, that protected them against getting soiled. Balaclava and pinafore could be put down only by scribes, cooks and brothers in monastery's hospital. Shirts could wear only brothers smiths and rules stated that these shirts had to black and close-fitting. On their journeys wore abbot and monks simple cloaks. Other important part of clothing was shoes. The skin was processed in monastery for its use, monks wore shoes called "botas", which reached up the ankles. Monks received these shoes once a year, the konvršes obtained only used shoes from monks.

Monastery's rules were strict about treatment of ill brothers, so shortly after monastery also hospital for monks and konvršes was found. The Konvršes followed milder rules, with better, heartier food. Rules reduced requirements for silence. The ill could whisper to their keeper called "infinmárin", whenever they had to. Ill brothers did not have to join choir, because they could pray in hospital. Except for that the ill who had problems with kneeling did not had to kneel on both knees. Ill monks could also from time to time get even meat. This exceptionality always had to approve an abbot. Ill person had to get everything for his healing.


Further information:
History of the Vyšší Brod Region
Monastery in Vyšší Brod
History of the Church in region Český Krumlov
Monastery in Vyšší Brod - Monasterial pharmacy
Capitular hall in Vyšší Brod monastery