The Monks Giveth, The Monks Taketh Away

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Christine Baumgarthuber lays out the extravagant welcome provided by medieval monks to travelers stopping to rest:

[T]he monastery’s residents delighted in unexpected guests, whom they met with an effusive greeting that began with a kiss of peace and washing of hands and feet before proceeding to prayer and culminating in a rich repast. Along with good cheer the monks heaped on their visitors roast pigeon and hare, egg-thickened porridge, great planks of salted salmon, mounds of glittering whelks, fillets of bream and lamprey, thick porpoise steaks, and other fruits of sea and lake. Vegetables fresh from the monastery’s garden arrived at table, as did fruit from its orchard. And bread, loaves and loaves of bread: Four kinds the monks had, from black to white and every shade between… [N]o matter how self-denying the order, the traveler could count on it to produce a cheering cup..

On the other hand:

[I]t was those the traveler passed on his way to the monastery who often bore the cost of his night’s entertainment. Though clever and industrious, monks were not wholly self-sufficient. They depended on the toil of people who lived and worked beyond their cloisters’ gates. On fairs and markets they levied dues. They controlled local bake-houses, mills, wine presses and stud bulls. From farmers and artisans they demanded tithes, and, where permissible, they owned serfs. No mere Peter’s pence, such exaction burdened folks who in most cases lived at or slightly above subsistence. Indeed the old rules of hospitality were such that a free lunch often meant someone went without supper.

(Video clip from The Name Of The Rose, which is available in its entirely on Youtube starting here.)