I would like to know which was the spoken and literary language in German cloisters during the High Middle Ages. Is it possible to differentiate between social groups in the cloister (monks, laymen, etc.)? I would also be thankful for any further information.

  • +1 and welcome to SE History; for consideration: differentiation between orders (e.g. Benedictines vs. Franciscans) could also be relevant
    – Drux
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 21:31
  • yes, good point! Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 21:33
  • 2
    and not just order, but location. German as a single language didn't exist at the time.
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 6:51

1 Answer 1


Latin was the lingua franca of the Church, provided a means of communication between people of different areas. It was also the prescribed language of the liturgy. However not all would have known it (especially laypersons and new trainees) so local languages would also be spoken (and quite possibly commonly spoken in non-official capacity).

I seriously doubt much has been preserved to indicate what languages were used in everyday communication between people in convents and monasteries, all official documents would have been either in Latin (if meant for use within the church) or possibly in the local dialect/language of the region if meant for local officials who were literate but not versed in Latin.

It would have been too early for French to have become the fashion language of high society (and most monks and nuns were commoners anyway so wouldn't know it upon entering).

  • Wouldn't it be too early for French as the language of polite society? I thought it only became so ascendant in the 18th century or so - maybe I got it wrong. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 12:06
  • @FelixGoldberg that's just what I said, that it'd be too early for French (except maybe in areas close to what would later become France).
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 13:53
  • <blush> Oh, right. I was reading way too rapidly... Sorry. Commented Feb 8, 2013 at 14:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.