Obedientiary
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Basic Information

An obedientiary is a monk (or nun) who is, effectively, a departmental manager within their community, having responsibility for a specific set of duties or operations. Depending on their order and its traditions the monks in question might be appointed by their abbot or prior, elected by their brothers, chosen by lot or rotated through the community. Presumably the bigger the monastery and its operations, the more it mattered who was in a specific job.

Traditional obediences included:

  • The precentor: who organised and directed the worship services. Traditionally the monastery's director of music. Might or might not be a priest - priesthood was not universal amongst monks (and certainly not nuns) so any given community might have an attached priest or might have one or more ordained brothers.
  • The sacristan: who was in charge of the monastic church, its vestments and sundry "worship equipment". Usually in charge of the sacred texts and therefore library (if any) and often the scriptorium (copying house) as well.
  • The cellarer: in charge of the monastery's estates and responsible for making sure the house was fully supplied.
  • The refectorian: ran the mess hall and was responsible for its fixtures and fittings.
  • The kitchener: in charge of the monastery kitchens, which could be a big job as a monastery could have several - often separate - serving the monk's refectory, the guest house, the abbot's lodgings and the lay brethren's quarters (although not all houses separated all of these functions).
  • The novice master: responsible for the training of new recruits and the running of the monastery school (if any).
  • The infirmarian: responsible for the infirmary where sick or elderly monks were cared for - and the monastic hospital if one existed. Actual medical training might vary.
  • The guest master: ran the guest house which provided hospitality to travellers.
  • The almoner: responsible for the giving of assistance to the poor (sometimes the same person as the guest master)
  • The chamberlain: who was in charge of the monks clothing and bedding.

Specific monasteries might combine roles (presumably refectorian and kitchener had significant scope for combination, especially in smaller houses, as did the guest master and almoner), or have additional ones if a specific activity consumed a lot of time and effort. Some or all of the actual duty could also be "delegated" to a lay brother of the community (so the cellarer might actually have a lay steward, master baker, master brewer and other similar trades reporting to him who were nominally lay brothers of the order but actually employees in all but name).

Presumably martial orders might have had others such as armourer, master of horse and other military specialities depending on the order such as siege engineers, masters of scouts and the like
-again, some of these roles might be fulfilled by lay brothers or non-knightly serjeants of the order. Modern monks might require a webmaster or general head of IT.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

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