Life in a Monastery

Food and Drink

During the summer months the monks collected strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all of which grew in the wild.


Irish monks generally wore a long white tunic covered by a coarse woolen outer garment called a casula or cuculla.

Soldiers of Christ

Fasting was, to begin with, only practiced among the monastery leaders but soon the whole community followed their example.


A freshly slain pig might have been served up for guests - pork was the best of meats according to the sagas.   

Daily Life

Most of the manual labour on the monastery was agricultural. A good deal of this work involved cultivating the land for farming.


Animal skin, usually calf skin or vellum was used to make the pages of manuscripts. Young deer, goat or lamb skin was also used.

Books and Manuscripts

Durrow, Kells, Iona, Lindisfarne; all the main monastic centres produced manuscripts. These were used mainly as aids by travelling missionaries.

St Brigid's Cross

Hewn together from rushes, the St Brigid's Cross is one of the simplest and most distinctive examples of Celtic craftsmanship.

Recruitment and Learning

Learning had always been highly valued in the Irish scheme of civilisation but the monks bred an entirely new culture of learning.

Culture and Society

The strict lifestyle followed, for example, by Enda and his followers on Aran did not apply to most monasteries.

Monastic Sites

The Irish monastery of the sixth or seventh century was simple in appearance. It consisted of a circular enclosure surrounded by a ditch.

Celtic Metalwork: Pupil ( PDF 2.7 KB)

Key Stage 2 resource that will allow pupils to create their own digital images and animations that will bring to life the Celtic artwork.

Celtic Metalwork: Prezi

View the interactive Prezi and explore the life and learning of the Columban monasteries.

Life in a Monastery: Pupil ( PDF 1.6 MB)

Key Stage 2 resource containing the 'Big Quiz'.

Life in a Monastery: Prezi

View the interactive Prezi and explore what life was like in a Columbian monastery