lavabo

Period: gothic

The existence of a lavabo at Saint-Jean and its significant role in the daily and liturgical life of the community in the Gothic period are attested by the abbey customary as well as material remains from the cloister. The customary tells us that the canons came in procession from the church to their lavabo twice a day. There they washed, the younger members of the community assisting the old and the infirm, before entering the refectory, purified. Although the customary is not precise, it may be that the lavabo was also used for the reenactment of the Maundy Thursday footwashing ceremony. Although we know almost nothing about its form, the location of the lavabo has been confirmed archaeologically. It was completely destroyed in the seventeenth century when a rose mortar basin containing a fountain replaced it. The Gothic entrance to the lavabo still survives in two bays in the southern cloister alley. These bays are differentiated from the rest of the arcade by two monumental, carved gables. The low parapet wall supporting the cloister arcade never extended across these two bays, whose sill stones reveal depressions resulting from wear caused by the repeated passage of feet. Bases and base fragments that may have belonged to the lavabo have been excavated in the cloister garden near where it once stood.

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