Exclusive behind-the-scenes piece by Elly Blake:

In FROSTBLOOD, Ruby is rescued from prison and taken to a remote monastery called Forwind Abbey where the monks worship Fors, the god of the north wind. During my research phase, I loved looking at maps and layouts of medieval monasteries, as well as learning about the structure of the monks’ daily life.

The word “monastery” is derived from the Greek monos, meaning alone. It’s a place where a community, usually monks, live in seclusion for religious reasons. The idea was to be independent from the secular world, so everything essential for life was contained within the monastic lands. Within that contained world, a monk’s day was rigidly scheduled and filled with prayer, labor, and spiritual reading.

During medieval times, monasteries became the centers of knowledge and education. They maintained libraries and were responsible for copying manuscripts. The paints used in illuminated manuscripts were made from many things, including plants, insects, minerals, charcoal, stones, and metals.

Larger monasteries often contained separate areas for the production of manuscripts, called a scriptorium. (In FROSTBLOOD, the scribing and illuminating is simply done in the library. Probably because I just love libraries!)

What I loved most about researching monasteries was learning that every room seemed to have a very specific use and name. Here are a few of the ones I liked best:

Almonry: a room where alms were distributed to the needy

Buttery: a storage area for ale and wine. (Its name comes from the Latin “botaria” meaning “cask or bottle.”)

Calefactory (also called the warming-house): a warming room. It was the only room in a monastery, apart from the infirmary and kitchen, where a fire was allowed.

Cellarium: a storeroom, often underground

Chapter-house: a room where monks met daily to discuss business and to hear a chapter of the monastic rule

Cloister: an open area, often grassed, sometimes with a fountain at its center.

Garderobes: latrines/lavatory.
Locutory: a room for conversation, where monks might meet with people from the outside world.

Misericord: the part of a monastery where monks were disciplined

Night Stairs: staircase or passage from the dormitory (sleeping area) to the church for late night and early morning services.

Scriptorium: room used by clerics or scribes copying manuscripts

I based the layout of Forwind Abbey (very loosely and with changes) on maps of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. I also took liberties with the gender of monks (the monks at Forwind Abbey are both male and female.)

As you read FROSTBLOOD, I hope you enjoy spending time in Forwind Abbey with Brother Thistle and the other monks of the Order of Fors!

« Enter another reading experience