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Refectory of the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Archangel in the Krka National Park in Croatia

The refectory (of lat . Refectio recovery, relaxation, refreshment), the German also refectory called, is the dining room of a Christian or Buddhist monastery . Originally a free-standing structure, the refectory was often connected to a wing of the cloister in the Benedictine tradition . Along with the church and chapter house , the refectory is one of the most important rooms in a monastery.

Orthodox tradition: Trapesa

Refectory in Deir er-Raiyan Monastery in the Libyan Desert
Floor plan of the trapesa with sigma-shaped tables in the great Lavra on Mount Athos (18th century)

The Greek word actually means “table” and denotes both the refectory and the altar .

In Orthodox monasteries, the trapesa, the dining room ( Russian трапеза , Greek τραπέζι ), is viewed as the opposite of the Katholikón , the prayer room. Ideally, this is also expressed in the architecture, as both buildings are on one axis. From the elevated place of the abbot in the Trapesa, with the doors open, he can look up to the king's door of the iconostasis in the Katholikon . The walls of the Trapesa are painted, which makes the room look like a church. The tables of the monks traditionally have the shape of the Greek letter sigma (or a semicircle), with the curve towards the wall and the straight side towards the center aisle, so that they are easily accessible for the servants. A suitably curved bench extends around the table. The table top can have a circumferential channel for easy cleaning.

The painting of the dining room is dictated by tradition and connects different feeding pericopes from the Bible:

“First paint the mystical meal in the dome over the abbot's table . And outside the dome on the sides the Annunciation of the Theotokos . And all around the miracles of the Lord: Christ feeds with the tax collectors, the apostles pluck the ears of wheat, Christ blesses the five loaves, Martha's hospitality, Christ breaks the bread in Emmaus, Christ on the sea of ​​Tiberias, and parables that you will [ ...] (painter's handbook) "

Western church tradition

Winter refectory in St. Georgen Monastery . Under the stone canopy on the left was a stove that could be fired from the vestibule. The wall niche on the right was used to set up a washbasin .

The plan of the monastery of St. Gallen shows that the refectory and church (or oratorium) have a special relationship to one another even in early medieval monasticism with Benedictine characteristics, and that they are built in parallel. In a Cistercian monastery, however, the refectory is located across the church on the cloister. The inner-city mendicant monasteries adapted to the respective local conditions. The refectory is only highlighted as a special room by its representative shape.

Ettal and Neresheim as baroque monasteries express the correspondence between church and refectory through the use of similar architectural elements.

A fixed pictorial program as in Orthodoxy did not develop in the West for the painting of the refectories. In Italy, however, many refectories were painted with frescoes of the Last Supper during the Renaissance.

At times in some monasteries, such as the Benedictines or Cistercians , there were separate refectories for clerics and conversations or choirs and lay sisters . In the Baroque in particular, there was often a heatable winter refectory and an often non-heatable summer refectory, which were usually lavishly decorated (for example in the Geras monastery ). These separations usually no longer exist today.

Sometimes there are separate dining rooms for guests. In some monasteries there was or is a separate dining room for the abbot to entertain special guests.

In some monasteries, meals are taken in silence by the religious, while during the table reading, sections from the monastery necrology , the martyrology , the rules of the order , spiritual or secular literature or news from the press are often read out.

There are famous refectories, for example. B. in the Marienburg and in the Trinity Monastery of Sergiev Posad .


Web links

Commons : Refectory  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Refectory  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Guido Fuchs: Mahlkultur: grace and table ritual . Pustet, Regensburg 1998, ISBN 978-3-7917-1595-7 , pp. 136 .
  2. Guido Fuchs: grinding culture . S. 138-139 .
  3. Guido Fuchs: grinding culture . S. 141 .
  4. Guido Fuchs: grinding culture . S. 145 .
  5. Guido Fuchs: grinding culture . S. 146 .
  6. ^ Johann Thomas Ambrózy, Ambros Josef Pfiffig, Gerhard Trumler: Geras Abbey and its art treasures . Verlag Niederösterrisches Pressehaus, St. Pölten 1989, ISBN 978-3-85326-850-6 .