Book Review: Anne Boyd – Life in a Medieval Monastery

Anne Boyd, Life in a Medieval Monastery: The Monk of Durham Cathedral (Durham: Sacristy Press, 2013), pp. viii, 50. UK £9.99 pbk. ISBN. 978-1-9008381-14-9.

Anne Boyd Life in Medieval MonasteryThis book is a Sacristy Press reprint of Anne Boyd’s book from 1987, though now with the addition of new photographs, maps and a bibliography. The foreword explains that the book has been republished in a ‘hope that the monastic tradition that was lived at Durham for nearly five centuries will come alive for contemporary readers’.

Throughout the book the new photographs bring life to the words on the pages and allow the reader to understand the relationship between the history and heritage of Durham Cathedral. For a quick background to the Cathedral and its history it is well worth considering. Perhaps aimed at the more casual reader than those wanting a more academically structured book.

The various chapters in the book catalogue the narrative of the Shrine of St. Cuthbert, and many aspects from the foundation of the cathedral throughout the middle ages. These are interlaced with explanations of who was St. Cuthbert, the Benedictines and life of a monk, the building of the Cathedral and how it functioned and other aspects of life around a medieval monastery.

The book offers a detailed description of Life in a Medieval Monastery, leading to an explanation of how the monasteries worked, most notably at Durham. Boyd’s research is well throughout; although there are no footnotes or direct references to material used other than in the bibliography. The book is pleasant enough though does lack a certain depth at times.

Overall, the book is a nice addition to anyone’s collection or to be given as a gift to people of all ages interested in or visiting Durham and its Cathedral. It would be particularly useful to those wanting to purchase something that would give them a general background of Durham Cathedral and its monastic foundation.