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The refectory of the Convent of Christ, Tomar, Portugal.

A refectory (also frater, frater house, fratery) is a dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools, and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminaries. It derives from the Latin reficere "to remake or restore," via Late Latin refectorium, which means "a place one goes to be restored."

Refectories and monastic culture[edit]

Summer Refectory in the Grand Masters' Palace, Malbork Castle.

Communal meals are the times when all monks of an institution are together. Diet and eating habits differ somewhat by monastic order, and more widely by schedule. The Benedictine rule is illustrative.

The Rule of St Benedict orders two meals. Dinner is provided for year-round; supper is also served from late spring to early fall, except for Wednesdays and Fridays. The diet originally consisted of simple fare: two dishes, with fruit as a third course if available. The food was simple, with the meat of mammals forbidden to all but the sick. Moderation in all aspects of diet is the spirit of Benedict's law. Meals are eaten in silence, facilitated sometimes by hand signals. A single monk might read from the Scriptures or writings of the saints aloud during the meals.

Size, structure, and placement[edit]

Refectories vary in size and dimension, based primarily on wealth and size of the monastery, as well as when the room was built. They share certain design features. Monks eat at long benches; important officials sit at raised benches at one end of the hall. A lavabo, or large basin for hand-washing usually stands outside the refectory.

Tradition also fixes other factors. In England, the refectory is generally built on an undercroft (perhaps in an allusion to the upper room where the Last Supper reportedly took place) on the side of the cloister opposite the church. Benedictine models are traditionally generally laid out on an east-west axis, while Cistercian models lay north-south.

Norman refectories could be as large as 160 feet (49 m) long by 35 feet (11 m) wide (as is that in the abbey at Norwich). Even relatively early refectories might have windows, but these became larger and more elaborate in the high medieval period. The refectory at Cluny Abbey was lit through thirty-six large glazed windows. The twelfth-century abbey at Mont Saint-Michel had six windows, five feet wide by twenty feet high.

Eastern Orthodox[edit]

Trapeza (refectory church) at Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

In Eastern Orthodox monasteries, the Refectory (Greek: τράπεζα, trapeza) is considered a sacred place, and even in some cases is constructed as a full church with Altar and Iconostasis. Some services are intended to be performed specifically in the Trapeza. There is always at least one Icon with a lampada (oil lamp) kept burning in front of it. The service of the Lifting of the Panagia is performed at the end of meals. During Bright Week, this service is replaced with the Lifting of the Artos. In some monasteries, the Ceremony of Forgiveness at the beginning of Great Lent is performed in the Trapeza. All food served in the Trapeza should be blessed, and for that purpose, holy water is often kept in the kitchen.

Modern usage[edit]

As well as continued use of the historic monastic meaning, the word refectory is often used in a modern context to refer to a café or cafeteria that is open to the public—including non-worshipers such as tourists—attached to a cathedral or abbey. This usage is particularly prevalent in Church of England buildings, which use the takings to supplement their income.[1]

Many universities in the UK also call their student cafeteria or dining facilities the refectory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]


  • Adams, Henry, Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres. New York: Penguin, 1986.
  • Fernie, E. C. The Architecture of Norman England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Harvey, Barbara. Living and Dying in England, 1100-1450. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  • Singman, Jeffrey. Daily Life in Medieval Europe. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
  • Webb, Geoffrey. Architecture in Britain: the Middle Ages. Baltimore: Penguin, 1956.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refectory — Please support Wikipedia.
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161 news items

Duke Chronicle
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 23:22:30 -0700

The Refectory's contract has not been renewed, said Laura Hall, founder and chief executive of Bon Vivant Catering, which runs the café. The decision comes several months after Hall filed a legal complaint against Duke for its actions regarding the ...

Fenland Citizen

Fenland Citizen
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 09:41:15 -0700

The longest-serving member of staff at Wisbech Grammar School has performed a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the launch of a £2.2 million project to build a new refectory. Pam Putterill, who has worked at the school for 41 years, first as a kitchen ...
Duke Chronicle
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:03:45 -0700

Unperturbed by the closing of the Law Refectory, law students prepare to eat each other. DKU—the one in China—announces it has received another application, bringing the total to like 10 or something. In unrelated news, DKU shifts marketing tactics ...
The Canberra Times
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:18:45 -0700

But players will walk about 100 metres to the refectory on the university's main campus, a deliberate step, says general manager Simon Chester, to foster interaction with the university community. Advertisement. Alexander says the walk is insignificant ...

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:03:45 -0700

Refectory bake-off winner Sandie Taylor. Photo by Simon Finlay. The competition was arranged by Simon Abel and John Holland of Norwich Cathedral. It began with a talk by Mr Blackiston, from Morston Hall at Morston and No 1 fish and chips at Cromer.

The Brown Daily Herald

The Brown Daily Herald
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 23:33:45 -0700

Students who resent last-minute runs to the Sciences Library to print materials before class may be in luck — new printing stations have been installed in the Sharpe Refectory, Andrews Commons and Arnold Lounge, Computing and Information Services ...
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:13:43 -0700

GoDuke.com: What are your three foods you can't live without? CK: My mom's chili. The Refectory grilled cheese and tomato soup, and my dad's Mac n' Cheese. GoDuke.com: Name three things you would like to do in the next ten years. CK: I want to have a ...

The Brown Daily Herald

The Brown Daily Herald
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 23:00:00 -0700

Kevin Hutchins '14, student unit manager for the Sharpe Refectory and Verney-Woooley, said BuDS designed the week to eliminate any “gray area” students may perceive. “Policy Awareness Week reinforces the authority of the student worker when it comes ...

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