The ‘Obese Medieval Monk’

A multidiscAlinary study of a stereotype

PA Patrick


The purpose of this study is to explore, through a variety of approaches, the extent to which the stereotype of the ‘obese medieval monk’ is founded in truth. The work aims to determine the ‘antiquity’ of that stereotype, by exploring the image of the monk throughout the medieval period (defined as AD 1066-c.1540), and the contribution of the medieval accusations and criticisms of monks to the evolution of the modern stereotype. Chapters focus on archaeological and historical evidence pertaining to monastic diet, and an osteological study comparing the physique and the prevalence of obesity-related joint disease in medieval monks from London with their secular counterparts. Ultimately, the evidence presented in each chapter is drawn together and considered to give a holistic perspective on the ‘obese medieval monk’.