MS Yates Thompson 31, f.226 - Sign Language

Sign Language.jpg


MS Yates Thompson 31, f.226 - Sign Language

Catalog Entry

The artifacts are scrolls that are called latin cluniac sign lists that explain the way sign language was used and taught to young monks practicing the vow of silence. It also shows how the deaf people were seen as punishment of god because of their disability during the medieval ages. One artifact is from spain titialed Yates Thompson 31, miracles of christ. The three pictures located next to the text is a deaf man that is believed to be possessed by demons being healed. A religious figure is standing over the man. You can see a greenish shape, or the body of the devil coming out of the deaf man’s mouth for a symbol of him being healed by religion. The man is kneeling and praying. The author of this artifact is Matfrè Ermengau of béiers, and the text next to the pictures is spanish and hebrew written around the years of 1288 and 1292. The second artifact is a medieval manuscript blog titled Silence Is A Virtue: Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language that is not directly related to deaf monks but it is written about monks taking a vow of silence and using sign language. This blog was published on november twenty-eighth, 2016. The text gives a background of the anglo-saxon religion as well as the monks daily life and common uses for sign language.

Medieval monks have to follow very strict rules when practicing their religion. The silence of monks is an important part of their daily life. They also follow a day to day schedule. The vow of silence comes from the belief that staying quiet gives you the control to only say what is necessary. Refraining from gossip and laughter was one also of the rules. They were not allowed to talk to each other or the outside visitors of the monastery. The monks only communicate verbally when the statement is crucial. Depending on the monistarty rules some monks were allowed to talk during prayer but others thought it wasn't necessary. Something that is common with monks is throughout the day within their divine office such as their home or private property for five to fifteen minutes they can talk very quietly. Even though these sentences are short they are filled with religious thoughts and prayers.

Communication in some form was needed to set rules and instruct others. The monks needed a way to say simple commands. Caused by the vow of silence the monks created their own version of what is now known as modern day sign language. Invented in the late 10th century in england, monastic sign language was used by monks to communicate daily. Using common hand gestures they were taught from a young age by their parents or menours. This alternative to speaking or whispering originated from Old english manuscripts. The monks called this indicia which means signs, indications, or marks. The signs were short and easy to understand. All of the signs were easily interpreted so they could be used by anyone since they had to learn from a young age. Even though the language has only one hundred and twenty six signs it covers the basic everyday commands.

Using sign language does not always mean you are disablied. The deaf uses it for communication because they can not hear or talk. Some people use it just because they have a family or friend in the deaf community. In the case of this article that I have received as an artifact people also use sign language within religion.

Artifact Owner

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Kylli Wade, Student, Fitchburg State University



“MS Yates Thompson 31, f.226 - Sign Language,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed January 27, 2020,

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