According to Archaeology Magazine, St. Stephen’s monastery in Jerusalem has been excavated and the monks who lived there weren’t just consuming the bread, water and vegetables their ascetic lifestyle dictated.

St. Stephen’s monastery wasn’t the typical desert outpost, either.

Possibly the urban location of the monastery afforded the Byzantine order access to many products that other monks in remote locations didn’t have. Bone analysis has found evidence that the 5th century monks regularly consumed animal proteins, fats, and possibly even some other “luxury” items such as a fermented fish sauce.

It’s interesting that some of the affluent monasteries had a different lifestyle than the impoverished outposts. One would imagine other advantages for those monks living in an urban environment – as well as other temptations….

Here’s the link if you want to read the article (it’s very short):

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/90-1305/trenches/744-jerusalem-byzantine-monks-taboo-food

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