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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. The term is rare at American colleges, although Brown University calls its main dining hall the Sharpe Refectory (nicknamed the "Ratty").[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "Sharpe Refectory (the Ratty)". Brown Dining Services. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 


  • 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.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

2764 news items

International Falls Journal

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Twilight Walk at Woodenfrog Refectory, 8:30 p.m., Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center. WEDNESDAY. Boat tour to Kettle Falls, 10 a.m., Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center. Sing and Play in the Park, 10-11 a.m., Ranier Playground. Littlefork Ambulance Thrift Shop ...

New York Times (blog)

New York Times (blog)
Tue, 26 May 2015 13:03:45 -0700

The contemporary refectory in the heart of the city's under-resourced Greco neighborhood will host a coterie of Bottura's most charitable colleagues, beginning with Eleven Madison Park's Daniel Humm and former Chez Panise chef Seen Lippert, eager to ...


Mon, 27 Jul 2015 06:48:36 -0700

Alternate floors would accommodate each age range and each floor would have micro-kitchens and baths per resident, along with a refectory and a library/den on each floor and a refectory and living room and laundry facilities for the residents on one of ...

Gotham Magazine

Gotham Magazine
Mon, 27 Jul 2015 23:56:15 -0700

Beautiful and historic architecture is de rigueur at venues in NYC, like the refectory room at The High Line Hotel. Love that will withstand the test of time deserves an equally fitting locale, like the 132-year-old Brooklyn Bridge. Love makes the ...


Wed, 29 Jul 2015 05:56:15 -0700

Jan Kulczyk offered substantial funds for the conservation of the Chapel of Our Lady, monastery tower, refectory, the Old Library as well as for art exhibitions in the Pauline Museum. He also provided funds for the Stations of the Cross in the Pauline ...

Columbus Crave

Columbus Crave
Mon, 09 Mar 2015 13:19:21 -0700

Jeff Elasky doesn't want to say this when asked how he manages The Refectory's 520-selections-deep wine cellar, because he does keep spreadsheets of inventory and prices. But his unspoken answer is this: He just knows. This is what it's like to have ...

New York Times

New York Times
Fri, 10 Jul 2015 13:48:36 -0700

“I love old houses,” she said, sitting at the handsome antique refectory table in her kitchen. “But we couldn't find anything that was old and big enough for our family, so in the end we found a piece of land that we loved, and we thought, 'Maybe we ...

Mansfield Chad

Mansfield Chad
Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:00:00 -0700

Rev Leaning was the inspiration behind major developments at the Minster, such as the original development of the refectory and shop in its present building, the education centre, and the unveiling of the new Great West Window. Educated at Keble ...

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