In his foundation charter, Boson states that out of all existing forms of religious life (in the late 900s), he chose the canonical form, and that canons were to settle down in the small Saint-Pierre church.
Canons are monks who have taken no oath; who follow no particular rules. They are secular monks, which means they live “in the century”. They live in communities and share resources based on communal heritage, and they say service in the collegiate church, all day and all night long.
« Chapter » is the name given to a community of Canons. Up until the French Revolution, there were 20 Canons in Le Dorat. At their head, was an abbott. Not in the monastic sense of the term, even if his role was quite similar to that of an abbott : in other words, he was the leader, the father of the community.
The chapter also had a cantor who would guide new monks into the choir stalls and whose mission was disciplinarian, during the services. The community lived all around the collegiate church, in an enclosure, or cloister (not as in an architectural cloister, but rather as in an enclosed district). This cloister, as it was often the case in the Middle Ages, included the canons’ individual dwellings, the abbott’s house, still standing today, and several communal buildings which no longer exist today. They were used either to store the community’s resources, or as an area where community members could have a meal together, or sleep. There is evidence of a medieval dormitory, refectory, cellar (referred to as a « wheat and wine cellar »), a garden and a barn for hay.
Chapters had three different roles, in fact. The first of course, was a religious role: celebrating each hour in the collegiate church as a permanent link between heaven and earth, and invoking God for the souls of the deceased. The second role was economic, since the chapter’s income came from private means and from the land in and around the town. The third role was judicial since the chapter held a court up until the 16th century, at least. All offences committed in town were judged there.
From the church to the Bergere Door
- 1. Foundation of the Chapter
- 2. La communauté de chanoines The canon brotherhood
- 3. The collegiate church and its homogenous architecture
La communauté de chanoines The canon brotherhood
Le Dorat chapter was made up of canons. Anne Massoni, a Medieval History lecturer at the University of Limoges, explains the role played by these monks and how their lives were organized in the city.