Mine is a fantasy story, but it's heavily based on mostly Western European history from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance (and perhaps a bit beyond). I'm not bridled by stuff fitting into exact time periods, since with fantasy you can blur the lines a bit.
My character is an orphan boy who is raised in a Western Eurpoean-style monastery from birth to age 15 or 16. For reasons of plot, I would like him to not be completely paralyzed when attempting to talk to a woman, whether she is a girl he likes or a vendor woman he wants to buy an apple from at a market.
I suppose it depends on the order of monk (Gregorian, etc.) or how rigid their vows of celibacy were (*is totally clueless*), but how often would monks be exposed to women? Were they completely not allowed? Would they go to market and see them there? Would people come peddle their wares to the monestary? Could women be allowed to take sanctuary in a monestary in a time of need?
Any help on boundaries between monks and the outside world, particularly concerning women, would be awesome.
Plus, if anybody has an easy way to tell the differences between the monastic orders in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, by all means share it with me!
Thanks again! You guys rock my flipflops. (Happy Summer, officially!)
UH OH, FORGOT SOMETHING...
Also, could monks receive visits from friends or family, or leave the monastery to visit their parents or siblings?
And finally, did some monestaries double as schools or places of education/learning for children in the area to be taught to read and write?