Norwich Cathedral was founded as a Benedictine priory so, from the outset, it required those buildings necessary for the communal life of a monastery. In standard fashion, the principal monastic buildings (the conventual buildings) were ranged along the outer sides of the covered walkway of the Cloister, itself built against the south side of the Nave of the Cathedral. Although these buildings were made redundant at the Dissolution, the Cloister has survived, along with significant parts of the surrounding monastery.
The Chapter House
The administrative centre of the Benedictine priory, the 12th-century chapter house was rebuilt in the 1290s, then demolished at the Dissolution. The late 13th-century rebuilding created a vestibule between the Cloister and the chapter house proper, and it is the screen of this vestibule that survives today, occupying three bays of the side wall of the eastern walk of the Cloister.
The function of the main conventual building, constructed against the west side of the Cloister in the 12th century, is unclear but, by the early 14th century, this was the Hostry or guest hall. The western doorway of c.1300 survives intact and more walls have been revealed by archaeological excavation.
Slypes or passages
Two passages, or slypes, provided access to the Cloister. That immediately south of the south transept was demolished in the 1830s, although its blocked doorway to the Cloister survives. At the south-east corner of the Cloister the barrel-vaulted 12th-century Dark Entry still provides access, and previously communicated with the infirmary.
The covered walks of the Cloister were central to the monastic buildings of the Benedictine priory. Although one or two early features survive, essentially the Cloister today is as rebuilt in 1297 to c.1350, different from the Romanesque precursor in that it has stone vaults (with decorative bosses) and an upper storey.
The Refectory was built against the south side of the Cloister, and comprised a large open dining hall, with a gallery running around the upper level. The heavily restored Romanesque first-floor windows survive on the north side, now opening into a later upstairs room over the Cloister.
The dormitory range
To the south of the chapter house, there was a monastic building occupying the space of the road that now leads towards the south transept. The first floor was occupied by the dormitory, and the early 14th-century doorway to the dormitory stairs survives in the east walk of the Cloister. Below the dormitory were the warming room (again the doorway survives) and, probably, space for the novices: scars of the vaults of this undercroft are visible in the west wall of the Deanery. The Deanery also preserves fragments of the latrine block, or reredorter, that joined the first-floor dormitory.
Between the Hostry and the south side of the Cathedral is the outer parlour or Locutory of the priory: that is, a place where monks could meet lay visitors. The eastern part of the Locutory is 12th century, with the western bay being an extension of c.1300. The whole building was heavily restored in 1867.