Roche Abbey: the library
Books that were used in the church,
refectory, infirmary and cloister were kept in the library (the
armarium), where they were closely guarded by the precentor and
succentor. The library
at Roche adjoined the sacristy and lay immediately to the south
of the church, nearest the cloister. There is, unfortunately,
no inventory of Roche’s medieval library, but a number of
books survive, most of which are now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
These include works which we might expect to find in any monastic
library, such as the writings of Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the
Great and Ambrose of Milan; more unusual, however, is Roche’s
copy of the Anglo-Norman romance, Li Romanz des Romanz.(3)
In accordance with chapter 48 of the Rule
of St Benedict, each
monk was given a book to read at the start of Lent every year,
which he was to read thoroughly during the daily period allocated
to reading. The monks sat on stone benches in the north walkway
of the cloister and read aloud, so that they could hear and feel
the holy words, but quietly, so as not to disturb the others.
Nobody was to leave the cloister during reading time and each
to make sure that his hood did not cover his face, so that it
was clear he had not nodded off. No monk was to keep his book
but return it to the book cupboard.