Approaching a monastery, you might be struck by the sight of the enclosure wall and possibly a gate leading through to the cloister where the monks life. Very often over the gate is displayed the sign: “PAX”. This means two things: “Peace dwells here because it is the house of God.” and also “Peace be with all who arrive at this gate!” Looking past the gate you would very likely looking at the facade of the “quadrangle”: a pattern followed in the construction of monasteries for hundreds of years. A “quadrangle” is a building with four wings that surround an open garden in the center. Each wing might have two or three floors. On the ground level is the chapel, where the monks pray. Adjacent to that is the “Chapter Room” where the monks gather to listen to the Abbot's spiritual teaching. Adjacent to that wing, opposite the chapel, is the “Refectory”. This is the big room with long tables where the monks gather for meals.
Finally, closing off the quadrangle is a wing for administrative offices. Above these rooms, on the second floor you would typically find the cells, where monks sleep and pray. The second floor might also feature a large library containing thousands of books which the monks will have a whole life time to read. Also, on the second floor, might be the infirmary, a tailor shop, and, adjacent to the library what is called a “scriptorium”. This room gets its name from the fact that Medieval monks copied thousands of pages of manuscripts – the bible and history books, on desks in this room. Apart from the quadrangle, monasteries typically have “work buildings” arranged like a little village around the main body of the monastery itself. Monks are required by the Rule of St. Benedict to earn their living by the work of their hands. Consequently, each morning after the prayer service of “Terce” they change into their work clothes and then have just a short walk to where ever it is they are assigned to work that day: the bakery, the dairy, the carpenter shop or garden. A monastery is designed so that the monks can pray, eat, study, work and sleep, all within the cloister where they have promised to live only for God.