Canonical Hours: Measuring the Day by Timed Acts of Worship

        Medieval Christians structured their daily lives around prayers uttered periodically throughout the day.  Because not every Christian was free from work or other duties and able to utter the prayers in person, priests and clerks prayed for them, a task usually equated with the warriors who did battle against their enemies for them, and the laborers who grew the crops that fed them.  Prayer defended the soul and nourished it.

        The canonical hours divided the day into the first service, called matins and lauds (3:00), followed by services at prime (6:00), terce (9:00), sext (noon), none (3:00), vespers (6:00), vigils (9:00) and compline (midnight).  Cathedral bells would ring to remind those living near which prayers were being sung, and those who could do so would say the prayers wherever they were.  This creates a mental/spiritual community that unites the entire local community in continuously reinforced patterns of thought and feeling.