Meet the Middle Ages


Mendicant orders

There were mendicant friars in most Swedish towns. Today, they are often called monks, but in the Middle Ages they were known as friars.

These friars often lived in the towns, where they stayed in a friary, which was a kind of monastery. The friary had several buildings; a church, an assembly-hall, a library, a dining-hall, guest-rooms and so on. In Sweden there were mendicant brothers in Kalmar, Skänninge and Skara.

The friaries were more open than the monasteries. People were welcome to get advice or guidance in both spiritual and practical matters. The friars could help them to write letters, contracts, legacies or wills. People could get medical treatment at the friary or spend the night here, when they came to town. The halls of the friaries were also used for political meetings or gatherings.

Since the contact between the friaries was lively, the friars were very well informed. They knew for example about new medications, or new techniques.

The friars were often out and about in town. They also felt responsible for the people in the countryside. They travelled on foot, sometimes near town, sometimes further away. In this way, they met many people. The friars were important, because they spread news from the towns and the outside world to the countryside.

The friars belonged to two different orders; the Franciscan Order, or Grey Friars (they wore grey habits) and the Dominican Order, or Black Friars (with black habits).