He was the head of a religious community and was in control of internal and external administration. In a priory, he was known as a prior.

Act of Supremacy

Through this Act of 1534 Henry VIII (1509-47) declared himself head of the Church in England. Members of religious orders were required to take an oath (the Oath of Supremacy) to acknowledge Henry’s status and pledge their allegiance to him; anyone who resisted him was deemed guilty of treason.


This was the area either side of the nave or chancel.


This was a stone table consecrated for the celebration of the Eucharist, which often contained relics.


A semi-circular or polygonal passageway running behind the High Altar.


A hanging for the front of the altar, originally of cloth but used to describe any kind of decoration in this position. Also called a frontal.


Area projecting eastward from the church (rectangular, circular or polygonal in shape).


A series of arches supported by piers or columns: a blind arcade is applied to the surface of the wall.


A curved structure across an opening or recess which comprises wedge-shaped elements and whose centre is higher than its sides.


A horizontal stone supported by columns or piers. (an alternative to an arch).


Canons who observe regular life but who also engage in pastoral work, unlike monks who withdraw from the world.


The moulded foot of a column, half-column, pier or pilaster, usually resting on a plinth.


A recess or division of space along a wall or roof, such as a section of arcading between two piers.


The tower or bell chamber of a tower where bells are hung, also known as the bell chamber.


These were independent monastic communities who follow the rule of St. Benedict. They were also known as the Black Monks.


A structure build against another to support it.


The warming house was one of the few rooms in a medieval monastery which was heated and was where the community gathered.

Canonical Hours

Also known as the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, this is the division of the day into regular periods of prayer. There are seven daytime Offices of Lauds (at daybreak), Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline (at sunset) and a night Office of Vigils.


The carved or sculpted top of a column which supports an arch.


Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded by a group of hermits on Mount Carmel in Palestine or modern Israel in the 12th century. They follow the Rule of St. Albert, which centres upon prayer, poverty, manual work and a life of contemplation.


A diagonal surface made when the sharp edge of a stone block is cut away, usually at an angle of 45 degrees to the other two surfaces.


The east end of a church where the altar is situated usually reserved for the use of the clergy and choir.

Chapter House

The room where the community met on a daily basis to listen to readings and for business and disciplinary matters to be addressed. It was normally situated on the eastern range.


Also known as the White Monks, the Cistercians were a monastic order that broke away from the Benedictine Order so that they could observe a stricter adherence to the Rule of St. Benedict. Their piety made them a very popular order and led to the rapid growth of the order throughout Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.


The uppermost storey of the walls of an aisled church, pierced by windows.


This is an open quadrangle, known as the garth, which is surrounded by a covered walkway, known as the arcade or alley. It connects the domestic offices with the church.


A round or polygonal pillar, consisting of a shaft crowned by a capital.


A small column.


A man-made water supply.


A corbel is a projecting block of stone or timber to support a feature above.


A moulded ledge, projecting horizontally along the top of a building or feature such as a screen etc. It allows rainwater to flow away from the building’s walls.


The central space at the junction of the nave, chancel and transepts of a cruciform church.

Crossing tower

The tower over a crossing.


In the shape of a cross, a common layout for a church.

Daystairs stairs

providing monks’ access to the cloister from the dormitory.


A member of the Mendicant Order of Friars Preacher, also known as Black Friars. The order was founded by St. Dominic (d.1221) and recognised by the pope in 1216. Observing poverty, they followed the Rule of St. Augustine and placed a focus upon scholarship and theology.


The room where the members of the community slept.


The overhanging edge of a roof.

Engaged column

Column attached to, or partly sunk into, a wall or pier.


A decorative carved ornament at the top of an object (arch, dome, roof, etc.)


A Mendicant Order known as the Friars Minor or Grey Friars. They were founded by St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) in 1209. They exercised corporate as well as individual poverty and lived by begging and occupied urban environments and preached to the populace. they


A member of the Mendicant Orders, who appeared in the 13th century and grew in popularity. They were committed to poverty and were actively engaged in the community, in contrast to monks who remained within their monasteries.


The triangular upper portion of a wall to carry a pitched roof.


A storey above the aisle, opening on to the nave, also called a tribune; it is as wide as the aisle below it, and usually has its own windows.

General Chapter

The annual meeting attended by the head of religious houses.


Carving or sculpture of a figure, animal or hybrid.


The customary monastic garb.


The room or complex where the sick and infirm were cared for.


The side support of an archway, doorway, window or other opening.

Inclined jambs

Jambs arranged so they lean inwards towards the centre of the opening; a system more common in Ireland than elsewhere in the British Isles.


The central stone in an arch or vault.


A tall narrow window with a pointed head.

Lay Brother

This was a non-monastic member of a religious community. They took vows but was more involved in the manual labour of the community.


A semicircular surface, often used as a field for carving; if it is above a door or window opening, it is a tympanum .


Someone who relies on charitable donations to survive. Mendicant Orders did not possess individual or collective property.


A religious house which founded another, known as a daughter house.


A decorative strip of an arch or window.


The main body of the church in the western part of the building.


A recess in a wall usually to contain a statue.

Night stairs

A staircase that allowed monks move from their dormitory to the choir in the east of the church at night for the Office of Vigils.


Someone who undergoes their yearlong probationary period (known as a Novitiate) in the monastery before being professed a monk.


A square or composite pillar performing a similar function to a column.


The flat version of a column against a wall.


A carved feature at the top of spires, domes, etc. usually of pyramidal or conical shape.


A basin free-standing or set in the wall near the altar, usually on the south side, for washing vessels used in the Eucharist.


A block which projects from beneath a column of wall.


The head of a priory or second-in-command in an abbey to an abbot. In a nunnery, they were known as a prioress.


The cross or crucifix.

Rood beam

A beam running across the chancel arch of a church carrying a cross or crucifixion, often flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist.

Rood screen

A screen across the entrance to the sanctuary, topped by a rood beam.


A strong room usually attached to the north side of the chancel where vestments and the utensils belonging to the altars were placed.


The area immediately around the main altar of a church.


A structure of wood, stone or metal dividing the clerical and lay areas of a church.


Holy water basin at the entrance to a church, usually on a pillar or set in a niche.


A small tower, surmounting or attached to a building, usually used as a staircase.


The Trinitarian Order was founded near Paris at the end of the 12th century. Also known as the Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of the Captives, the order was created in response to Christians held by non-Christians as a consequence of the Crusades and Mediterranean piracy.


The segmental field filling the head of an arch, generally over a doorway. It usually rests on a lintel.


An arched ceiling of stone.


A vault produced by the intersection at right angles of two tunnel vaults. The curved intersections are called groins.