The Priory Church of St Mary and the Holy Cross,


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The Chapter House

Chapter House ruins Binham Priory

(Left) Chapter House seats: (above) Chapter House from the Cloisters

A Chapter House was normally a room accessed from the east wing of the cloister, which was the first part to be built after the Church's frame was constructed – the monks had to have somewhere to meet and make decisions about the building of the Church, Abbey or Priory. It could be quite a large, impressive and ornate room in a major building such as Durham Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, but in priories like Binham the space would be smaller, having to accommodate fewer monks. The door of the Chapter House was often more ornate than other doors leading off the cloister, to emphasise its importance.

So what was its importance? Around the walls were stone benches, (which we can still see in the picture above) and after morning mass the monks would meet daily in the Chapter House to read aloud a chapter from the founder's rule book – in Binham's case this would be the Rule of St. Benedict – and to discuss matters about the welfare of the priory, its lands and tenants. They would sit in strict age-order, so there could be no doubt about a particular monk's seniority. This was important, as after discussing the business of the day, the monks would confess their sins to each other and (if they failed to mention something important) they could be denounced by their fellow monks.

The Chapter House originally had an apse on the end (late 11th century), but was rebuilt internally in the 14th century when the whole of the east end of the priory was reconstructed.