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In medieval monasteries, a meeting called chapter took place daily after the Office of Prime or after the morning Mass. A monk was assigned to read a chapter from the Rule (that of Benedict if the community was Benedictine; that of Augustine if it was Augustinian, and so forth), or if it was a feast day, a special reading for that day. Next, a member of the community (monk or nun) read the names of saints to be commemorated the next day in the martyrology, a compendium listing for each day the names of saints, the places in which they were commemorated, and sometimes a summary of their deeds. The reader announced the phase of the moon and recited the names of deceased monks and patrons of the monastery recorded in the necrology.

Dates in the martyrology and necrology employ the Roman calendrical system of kalends, nones, and ides. Books used in chapter were composites including the Rule, martyrology, and necrology as well as other texts that vary from manuscript to manuscript. The necrology included the names of monks in the immediate community, of those in other affiliated communities, and of powerful friends of the monastery such as aristocratic donors. An eleventh-century Cluniac customary that provides formulas for the necrology entries of various social groups (kings, dukes, countesses, bishops, monks, etc.) states that nothing specific need be written for servants who have died, except perhaps for their names.

After the readings in chapter, the assignments to various monks of chants and readings for the office were announced; the assignments were referred to in some monastic customaries as the “brevis.” At the end of chapter, monks could publicly accuse other monks of misdeeds, whereupon the wrongdoers would beg pardon or refute the accusation. The community would agree upon a just penalty in accordance with the gravity of the deed, sometimes resulting in immediate corporal punishment.

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