Life in Sant Jeroni de Cotalba
Origins of the monks
Despite the ongoing relationship between the monastery and the ranks of power, there were not many noblemen among its ranks; most of the monks were of rural origin, generally from the area surrounding the monastery. Thus, during the 18th Century sixty five percent came from the same district, and the towns of Pego, Gandia and Oliva provided the greatest number of devotees. The number of monks varied around 35, with an average of 6 entering the monastery every 7 years.
Young men used to enter the monastery when they were between 13 and 20 years of age, and stayed for approximately 40 years. They were usually the sons of labourers and well-off families who were able to afford themselves the luxury of having one family member less for agricultural work. These young men had to fulfil a series of requirements before being accepted into the community; they had to contribute a sum of money, know Latin and have good eyesight and voices.
But monks were not the only ones living in the monastery; there were also servants and lay brothers, the latter of which wore the habit of the order but did not profess their faith.
Laypeople also played an important role in the life of the monastery; advocates, delegates, veterinarians, ministers and guards were all vital to the proper operation of the monastic cogs.
Life and internal organisation
The monks were organised as a hierarchy, the top position of which was held by the prior, followed by the vicar-president, the ex-priors, hieromonks, novices and lastly the lay brothers.
The economic administration of the monastery was in the hands of the monks themselves, who organised the activities into different sectors, each of which under an administrator: the administrator of the oven, the orchard, the olive oil storehouse, the grain storehouse... Similarly, there was the figure of the procurator, who took charge of revenue from the different geographical areas in which the community had economic interests; there was a procurator for Gandia, another for the districts of Alfauir, Llocnou and, in general, for the area of Palma, and finally, the procurator for Valencia.
The liturgical cult and the lessons of the Fathers of the Church constituted the main activity of the monks at Cotalba. As part of the liturgy, particular emphasis was placed on the choir, which was considered as a route to heaven. The organ was renovated in 1759 and an Office of Music was created.
Agriculture was a fundamental part of the economic activity of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba, particularly the cultivation of olives and vines, as well as carob trees and, to a lesser extent, fruit trees.
Commercial crops took on an importance in the 17th and 18th Centuries, particularly mulberries, due to the booming silk industry that developed all over the Kingdom of Valencia. It is worth mentioning that small-scale cattle farming was practised at the monastery, for internal consumption.
Economic organisation was based on two fundamental pillars. The first of these was made up of the feudal estate, formed of the Cotalba lands along with the feudal rent and revenue from the places that formed part of the monks' estate: Alfauir, Lloc Nou de Sant Jeroni, the farm of Rafalet de Bonamira, and the manor houses of Tavernes Blanques and Orriols.
The second pillar comprised the revenue obtained from the different modes of investment that the Cotalba Hieronymites used in each historical period: emphyteutic leases, feudal rent, letters of grace and, lastly, the purchase of freehold property.