Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Erik Inglis


Cistercians, Fontenay, Architecture, Blacksmithing, Forges, Medieval, Art, Clairvaux, Sound, Silence, Communication, Work, Lay brothers, Monks, Monasteries, Monasticism, Abbey


This research considers the place of artisans and manual labor, specifically blacksmiths and metalworking, within Cistercian monasticism in 12th and 13th century Europe. Stressing the dual importance of daily prayer and manual labor in strict silence, the Cistercian order of monks sought to reform traditional monastic practices they saw as excessive and far removed from their guiding set of regulations, the Rule of St. Benedict. Their growing numbers in the 12th century led them to establish a second class of monks, known as lay brothers, who provided the majority of each monasteries’ manual labor and who were largely prevented from moving outside the spaces and buildings designated for them in the monastery. Drawing from archaeological studies of forge buildings in France and England, as well as from legislative and regulatory documents that shaped the social structure and economic growth of the Cistercian Order, this project seeks to present the spaces of Cistercian metalwork as centers of experience and knowledge distinct but inextricable from the monasteries they supplied and supported. This focus brings greater attention to the relatively unexplored topic of monastic blacksmiths and their experience of monastic life, specifically the Cistercians’ strong restrictions on speech and communication. This allows us to better understand tensions between manual labor, communication, and the transmission of knowledge that come out of medieval monasticism.