The Calefactory   (Warming House or Common Room)             

The Calefactory, also called the Warming House or Common Room, was a place for the monks to relax together, and, in winter, enjoy the benefit of a hot fire, especially after night offices.  Monks had warm,  specially issued ‘night boots’ and robes so that they could be as warm as possible, but the churches were large and unheated and often draughty.   After the night and early morning offices, they were allowed time to congregate together by the fire and warm up.

Monks also practiced ritual bleeding, where two to six monks at a time (depending on the size of the house) were bled by the Infirmarian, or someone qualified to perform the procedure.  Being blooded was considered a health regimen, and it was thought to purge the body of impurities.  Perhaps in the days when heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) were used in plate glazing and water pipes, periodic bleeding helped purge the body of this metal buildup. 

Each monk was blooded once a year, or occasionally twice, on a rotating basis.  Strict rules followed all aspects of the ritual.  The operation took place during in the afternoon in the Calefactory (common room or warming house) by a warm fire with a styptic and a basin.  After, the monk’s arm was wrapped tightly in bandages and for four days he was excused any activity that would risk a resumption of the bleeding, such as too much standing or kneeling, or any activity where the bandages might be accidentally brushed or bumped.  The monk was excused choir duties (though he was still expected to attend the offices) and, though he still had to wake up during the night for prayer, he could go to the infirmary chapel instead of the church, where the service was quicker and simpler.  An easier schedule in general was allowed, rest encouraged,  and foods such as an extra egg and beef broth, were given to help build strength.  



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