You heard it here first, uni students and medieval monks are one and the same

Procrastinating? Sleep-deprived? Hungry? Are you a uni student or medieval monk? Or both? A look at ‘uni student monk’ life…


Just in case you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, we’ve discovered that student life is practically synonymous with that of a medieval monk. The hundreds of years of progression and evolution mean nothing when your life revolves around booze, sleep and food. Uni student monk life is a thing.

Monastic life on the surface may seem a far stretch from a student’s daily routine. However, under the microscope, it becomes clear that their habits (hahahah nun joke) are not all that different.

From palaeography to religious experiences we’ve gathered a comprehensive list to suggest that medieval monks and students are one and the same. Here it is an introduction to uni student monk life, a comparison you will never be able to unsee.

Procrastinating

Indeed, we all feel quite intimately acquainted with the ‘midday demon’ who would often tempt monks from completing their religious duties and caused them instead to mill around, pace restlessly or stare distractedly at the wall for the most part of the working day.

Not today procrastination satan!

The difference is, we call this demonic fiend Procrastination and aim to vanquish it not with prayer but caffeine – probably meeting similar levels of success as our historic monastic friends.

‘Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where its going’…

The hangriness

Similarly, what with this whole lockdown and tier roller-coaster, coupled with the existential boredom of working at home for that bit too long, we are nearly always snacky. This too was an ache felt by ye olden days monk, though for admittedly different reasons. While isolation was something they too experienced, sought even, they were more often than not hungry of their own accord, as a means by which they could mortify their bodies as an act of penitence – to atone for sins. Therefore, while our situations might be quite dissimilar, a chronic desire for snack is another thing we have in common.

a snack? for me?

Intentionally sleep-deprived

As another means of penance, medieval monks would deliberately deprive themselves of sleep since (as any true university student knows) sleep deprivation exacerbates everything else that is bad.

If anything it makes you more snacky, more achy, and more irritable. Of course, monks burnt the candle at both ends to intensify their other methods of penitence, whereas as typically we university students do it because of a particularly good Netflix show, or because the midday/Procrastination demon has done their job a little too well!

Even removed from a medieval monastic context, there is an undeniably penitential element to an all-nighter, a definite sense that the pain experienced in the panicked last 24hours of essay writing somehow vindicates the organisational disaster that has lead to its necessity.

what is sleep?

Questionable time management during assignments

On the same note – have you seen medieval manuscripts? Most of these too were written by monks. It is oddly reassuring that the same affliction that means we spend hours debating how to start an essay or assignment (Calibri or Arial?) – at the expense of the rest of its content – was felt by the same monastic scholars who recorded the majority of Western history.

Monk Student procrastination meme

Spongebob knows it

A mutual love for random and stray animals

It is concerning the number of times we have all had to talk one of our mates out of adopting some stray animal, be it a fox/squirrel/pigeon from Hampstead Heath, Regent’s Park or roaming the back streets of Camden. There are also many iconic ‘collective London pets’, the Camden Cat is known to the student population of NW3, Pudding another cat famous on Cally Road and the 3 legged pigeon frequently sighted in Gordon Square.

Uni student monk

Yet, this affinity to London’s wildlife and its reciprocation is something that any medieval monk would envy. For medieval monks, depictions alongside animals typically indicated a sense of harmony with nature as well as their piety – the wilder the animal the better!

So for all UCL’s animal lovers know that even if your flatmates disapprove, you’ll find a happy predecessor in most monks of old.

Uni student monk cat

Meet Pudding everybody

Isolation Station

The earliest monks essentially removed themselves from society, renouncing the world, to abstain from material temptations, live punitively and, through this, ‘purify’ themselves and achieve greater proximity to God. In other words, they lived in isolation. Some (the stylites) even lived alone on top of tall pillars to really seal the deal of abandoning society. Though our motivators may have been different, and our methods somewhat less extreme, I think isolation is something every Uni student – in fact just everyone- can relate to this year!

extreme isolation

Beer!

In the Middle Ages, not unlike in first-year halls, beer was the most consumed beverage of the time (it was, then, safer than water). From as early as the 5th Century, monks got involved in the brewing game, and from there on would regularly drink on average four litres a day! Indeed when they were on fast, beer is where they would turn to get their nutrients – a diet not too dissimilar from that replicated and recommended by many Uni students across the UK. Though generally for the Uni students in question, the fast was due less to piety and more to waking up late and encountering a devastating shortage of pasta and/or instant noodles before resignedly having to head to the bar for pres without.

Uni student monk

Questionable Alcohol Taste on the whole

The monks in their time have made some odd drinks, Buckfast, scrumpy, chartreuse, pisco. Chances are, as a student you have drunk at least one of these odd beverages because it was the only thing left in your flat. At the end of the day, alcohol is alcohol, and that is a sacred message that monks taught us first.

Chances are, you’ve also encountered a very wealthy student who prides themselves on only drinking champagne, guess what! It’s a monastic invention as well! So truly everyone is in the same boat!

Sesh legends from the Buckfast monastery, image via https://www.buckfast.org.uk/history

If this has failed to convince you of the similarities you bear to a medieval monk no worries, I rest assured that we all have at least one certain shared feature – a mutual, universal, love for the beautiful but *haunted* cats of medieval art!!

*Disclaimer: this is written by a very bored history student as a joke and by no means is intended to denigrate or belittle the practice of monasticism or the Catholic faith, but merely to cast light on amusing and at least vaguely accurate similarities where they exist!*