The Chapter House     
The chapter house was the central meeting place of the members of the monastic community, either monks or nuns, and the place where the official business of the monastery was conducted, both spiritual and secular.  The Chapter meetings served the functions of keeping the governance of the monastery in check, allowing all true members to participate and have their chance to speak and participate, and reinforcing the communal living and discipline standards of the Order. 

Chapter Meetings included a short devotion, the confession of sin, and the meting out of punishment, which, if it were corporal, was administered during the meeting itself. Key monastic officials, presided over by the Abbot, carried out the monastery business, but in front of the brethren so all would be included in the process overall. Signing official orders and documents was a shared responsibility, with the seal of the monastery kept in a chest belonging to the community, to be opened and used only in chapter. (Individual monastic establishments, of course, might differ.)

Depending on the size of the monastery, the Order and Rule of the monastery, and the wealth of the establishment, could make considerable difference to both the manner of Chapter Meeting and the grandeur of the Chapter House. In large, wealthy abbeys, the Chapter Room could be quite large, round in shape, or polygonal for better acoustics.  The monks would enter from the cloister walkway, and the door, called a Vestibule, could be extraordinarily elaborate and ornately carved.  Wealthy abbeys were run by wealthy, often titled, Abbots and as such they often ran extensive businesses, some abbeys even built castles to protect their shipping and commerce interests.

[Vestibule of the cathedral, Dalmatia]

Other abbeys (though these could still be very wealthy) focused on austere living, or were very smaller priories and so lacked the resources of the larger abbeys. The Chapter House in this instance would be plain and rectangular and perhaps be fitted with benches along the wall for seating. The focus in this case was less on running extensive commercial enterprise and more on the devotional life of the brethren or sisters.

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