in Middle English

in the series

Feminine Versions of the Rule of St. Benedict

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The Northern Prose Version of the Rule of St. Benedict was translated from the Latin into Middle English in the early fifteenth century. The identity of the translator and the monastery for which it was produced are unknown.

Feminization does not begin until chapter 3, except for Prologue: 19. The impression is given that someone was just beginning to masculinize an originally completely feminized text. Feminization of the language is largely consistent, though some gender-neutral and generic masculine language is used as well. Feminine pronouns are used extensively, and the names of monastics and monastic officers are feminized. Chapters 60 and 62, on priests, are translated. The monastic superior is now the abbess, but masculine language for priests, deacons and clerics is retained. As a result, these chapters do not make literal sense. Chapter 62 follows chapter 60.

The Northern Prose Version presents most of the Latin text of the Rule; a few verses are omitted from a number of chapters, and a few chapters contain expansions of the text. Particularly noteworthy is the omission of seven verses from chapters 55, on clothing. Chapter 13, and the actual content of chapter 18, are omitted; both contain long list of psalms to be used in the office. The brief text given for chapter 18 is actually verses 12 and 13 of chapter 13, on the Lord's Prayer, plus several verses of pious reflection on this prayer.

Chapters begin with large, decorated capital letters, here represented by bold-face, upper-case letters. Chapters are sometimes separated by an extra space as well. Formal titles or chapter numbers are not given. The Prologue and chapters 2 and 7 are divided into sections that are treated rather as independent chapters. Presumbly this reflects the way in which the Rule was divided for daily reading in the monastic chapter. Most chapters begin with the declaration, "Saint Benet says..."; often this includes the subject of the chapter and therefore the chapter title. Most chapters also conclude with a brief prayer. These expansions are not used in the "liturgical chapters," 8-17; the prayer is omitted as well in chapters 37 and 62.

The version presented here was transcribed from a microfilm of the original text. It has been compared with the edition of Ernst A. Koch, Three Middle-English Versions of the Rule of St. Benet and Two Contemporary Rituals for the Ordination of Nuns. Early English Text Society. Ordinary Series 120, 1902, 1987, pp. 1-47. Koch's notes may still be consulted with profit.

Koch's edition uses the character þ, and this is undoubtedly the sound and meaning intended. However, the manuscript reveals that the character actually written is "y"; this is not the "Y-like" character that is a form of þ, but a character that almost always is indistinguishable from that of the "regular y." The text presented here therefore uses "y" and not þ.

The character yogh is used frequently, but cannot be reproduced in this presentation. It is represented by the numeral 3, in 10-point type (3).

See the home page for further information regarding principles of transcription and presentation used here.

Each verse is identified by number and begins on a new line.

Each substantive expansion is identified by letter and also begins on a new line.

Notes are numbered consecutively throughout and are placed at the end of the relevant chapter.

Individual chapters of the Northern Prose Version of the Rule of St. Benedict are linked to the chapters of the following Table of Contents. (These chapter headings are taken from the translation, RB1980.)

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Kinds of Monks

Chapter 2. Qualities of the Abbot

Chapter 3.Summoning the Brothers for Counsel

Chapter 4. The Tools for Good Works

Chapter 5. Obedience

Chapter 6. Restraint of Speech

Chapter 7. Humility

Chapter 8. The Divine Office at Night

Chapter 9. The Number of Psalms at the Night Office

Chapter 10. The Arrangement of the Night Office in Summer

Chapter 11. The Celebration of Vigils on Sunday

Chapter 12. The Celebration of the Solemnity of Lauds

Chapter 13. The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days

Chapter 14. The Celebration of Vigils on the Anniversaries of Saints

Chapter 15. The Times for Saying Alleluia

Chapter 16. The Celebration of the Divine Office during the Day

Chapter 17. The Number of Psalms to be Sung at These Hours

Chapter 18. The Order of the Psalmody

Chapter 19. The Discipline of Psalmody

Chapter 20. Reverence in Prayer

Chapter 21. The Deans of the Monastery

Chapter 22. The Sleeping Arrangements of the Monks

Chapter 23. Excommunication for Faults

Chapter 24. Degrees of Excommunication

Chapter 25. Serious Faults

Chapter 26. Unauthorized Association with the Excommunicated

Chapter 27. The Abbot's Concern for the Excommunicated

Chapter 28. Those Who Refuse to Amend after Frequent Reproofs

Chapter 29. Readmission of Brothers Who Leave the Monastery

Chapter 30. The Manner of Reproving Boys

Chapter 31. Qualifications of the Monastery Cellarer

Chapter 32. Monks and Private Ownership

Chapter 33. The Tools and Good of the Monasteru

Chapter 34.Distribution of Goods According to Need

Chapter 35. Kitchen Servers of the Week

Chapter 36. The Sick Brothers

Chapter 37. The Elderly and Children

Chapter 38. The Reader for the Week

Chapter 39. The Proper Amount of Food

Chapter 40. The Proper Amount of Drink

Chapter 41. The Times for the Brothers' Meals

Chapter 42. Silence after Compline

Chapter 43. Tardiness at the Work of God or at Table

Chapter 44. Satisfaction by the Excommunicated

Chapter 45. Mistakes in the Oratory

Chapter 46. Faults Committed in Other Matters

Chapter 47. Announcing the Hours for the Work of God

Chapter 48. The Daily Manual Labor

Chapter 49. The Observance of Lent

Chapter 50. Brothers Working at a Distance or Traveling

Chapter 51. Brothers on a Short Journey

Chapter 52. The Oratory of the Monastery

Chapter 53. The Reception of Guests

Chapter 54.Letters or Gifts for Monks

Chapter 55. The Clothing and Footwear of the Brothers

Chapter 56. The Abbot's Table

Chapter 57.The Artisans of the Monastery

Chapter 58. The Procedure of Receiving Brothers

Chapter 59.The Offering of Sons by Nobles or by the Poor

Chapter 60. The Admission of Priests to the Monastery

Chapter 61. The Reception of Visiting Monks

Chapter 62. The Priests of the Monastery

Chapter 63. Community Rank

Chapter 64. The Election of an Abbot

Chapter 65.The Prior of the Monastery

Chapter 66. The Porter of the Monastery

Chapter 67. Brothers Sent on a Journey

Chapter 68.Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a Brother

Chapter 69. The Presumption of Defending Another in the Monastery

Chapter 70.The Presumption of Striking Another Monk at Will

Chapter 71. Mutual Obedience

Chapter 72. The Good Zeal of Monks

Chapter 73.This Rule Only a Beginning of Perfection

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