Monastic Hospitality for Aristocratic Patrons
The monasteries of 10th and 11th century Europe [C.E.] were not simply communities of devout men and women living a life given over to corporate prayer and worship. Envisaged by monastic teachers as arks of salvation in a flood of worldly perils, they remained an integral part of the society which brought them into being. The Castilian monasteries were repositories of dynastic tradition, mausoleums, powerhouses of loyalty to the comital family. Links between the landed aristocracy and the monasteries were thus extremely close. Noblemen looked to the monastic houses of which they were the often very generous patrons for diverse reciprocal services and expressions of gratitude. The provision of hospitality was one of these. A patron would expect to be put up (with all his human and animal retinue), and probably in some style, in “his” monastery as in some sort of private hotel. The hospitality sought might be permanent. The active career of an aristocratic warrior might be as short as that of a 20th century footballer, and he had to have somewhere to spend what might be a long retirement. It is probably correct to envisage the monasteries of this period as containing more than a few incapacitated or elderly knights among the community. Assured of comfort and security, surrounded by fellows of their social rank to some of whom they might be related, ideally placed to receive news and gossip, they must have spent their declining years in an agreeable way.