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The Sexton's cell and Tonsure

  • © Alex-Nollet La Chartreuse

The Sexton lived in a cell which had 2 levels. His living quarters were on the upper level, and the ground floor level was used for cutting the monks’ hair. Community life went according to the rhythm of the liturgical offices and prayer, and the sexton had two important functions.  He was both the master time-keeper and the guardian of the church treasure. The year 1551 was undoubtedly an important year for a clock was installed in La Chartreuse, a pendulum clock which drove the bell in the church belfry. Prior to 1551, time was told in a more rudimentary, uncertain way perhaps based on the cock crowing, the stars, the burning of candles, hourglasses, sundials, clepsydra or even the uninterrupted chanting of psalms.

In addition, the sexton was in charge of maintaining the liturgical vestments, furnishings and utensils.

The lower level of the sexton’s cell was known as “La Rasure” for the monks were shaved there and their tonsure was trimmed regularly. Their tonsured hair was symbolic of Christ’s crown of thorns. Water was piped into the courtyard (you can see the well in the photograph) and was very useful.

Cour du sacristin


Close-up on history.
1084-1353: SAINT-