ABBEY: A monastic house under the rule of an abbot or an abbess. The name is strictly applicable only to the houses of those orders in which these titles are borne by the superiors. While in the East the free form of a group of scattered cells (known as a laura) continued side by side with the common dwelling of a cenobite community, the West developed a distinct style of its own in monastic architecture. The extant plan of the monastery of St. Gall (820) may be taken as typical of the construction of Western monasteries in the early Middle Ages. The center of the entire group of buildings was ccupied by an open rectangular space, on the north side of which was the church, while on the other three sides ran the cloister or ambulatory, a vaulted passage open on the inner side, and serving both as a means of Communication and as a place for exercise in bad weather. Connected with the cloister, on the ground floor, were the refectory and kitchen; the chapter-house, in which the reading and exposition of the rule and the chapter of faults took place; the calefactarium or winter dining-room; and the parleatorium or reception-room of outsiders. On the floor above, opening on a similar passage which connected with the choir of the church or the organ-loft, were the vestiarium, where the clothes were kept, the library, the dormitory, the infirmary, the rooms for the novices, and the apartments of the abbot, which were supposed to be accessible from outside without passing through the enclosure into which strangers were not allowed to penetrate. The kitchen, which lay within this enclosure, had in like manner a connection with the house for the reception of pilgrims, and with the various farm-buildings, which usually formed a separate quadrangle. The entire group of buildings was surrounded by a high, solid wall, which in some cases was fortified against the dangers of rude times by towers and strong gates. The monks' burying-ground was also within the enclosure.
This system was preserved, with slight modifications, throughout the Middle Ages, the Cistercians adhering to it with especial closeness, as may be seen at Clairvaux and Maulbronn. Sometimes it was enriched by architectural decoration, as in the high-vaulted double refectories of St. Martin at Paris and of Maulbronn, or adorned with painting, as the world-famous " Last Supper" of Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie at Milan. In houses occupied by female religious the extensive farm-buildings were naturally lacking. The combination of hermit and community life among the Carthusians required a larger space, which was obtained by adding to the original quadrangle on the basis of the church a second larger one, commonly surrounded also by a cloister, with an open space or garden (containing a cemetery) in the center, and with individual dwellings for the monks around it. The mendicant orders strove for simplicity in building as in other things, and were forced by their situation in towns to a more restricted plan. The teaching orders added a wing or a separate house for their pupils. The Jesuits completely abandoned the traditional plan, and built themselves large palatial houses, while modern monasteries have little to differentiate them from other large institutions. For a more detailed treatment of the structural system of abbeys and monastic buildings, consult the exhaustive monograph by Venables in the Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. Abbey. See MONASTICISM.