In Neal Stephenson's Anathem, the gates of Unarian, Decenarian, Centenarian and Millenarian maths open once a year, decade, century and millennium respectively. But what is the Day Gate for? Clearly, avout cannot go out the Day Gate. But extramuros are allowed in and even allowed to interact with Decenarians. This being the case, how is the separation from extramuros maintained?

Update: When I say avout, I'm not including the hierarchs, who interact with the Saecular World. And when I say extramuos, I'm not including the officials that the hierarchs may interact with. Specifically, how could people like Flec and Quin be allowed through the Day Gate and talk to Tenners such as Orolo and Erasmas?

3 Answers 3


In addition to access for the hierarchs and essential workers such as Artisan Flec (it is stated that the work Flec is conducting could have been achieved by members of the Decinarian math, but not in the time left before the ten-year apert, hence special dispensation being made for him and his workers), the Day Gate appears to have two roles, both directly related to maintaining the relationship between the concent and those beyond its walls:

Firstly, much as the Unarian math seems to provide a role in educating those extramuros, the concent seems to provide some kind of educational outreach to the general population, accessible via the Day Gate.

She headed straight for Grandsuur Ylma, whom she seemed to recognize, and began explaining that her father, who had died three years ago, had been a great supporter of the concent and liked to go in the Day Gate to attend lectures and read books.

Secondly, the concent (presumably via the Unarian math) seems to operate some kind of hospital for those extramuros. Conceivably depending on the status of civilisation outside the concent, this is could be one of the few places someone could receive evidence-based healing, and this must also help relations with those living beyond the walls.

... she had been kept in the Unarian math, which was more convenient to Physicians’ Commons.

The Day Gate was so lofty I didn’t notice we’d passed through it. An inlaid road of red stone, wide enough to drive two mobes abreast, veered to the right and plunged under a huge Mathic pile that I mistook for the Mynster. But this was merely their Physicians’ Commons, and the red road was a sign for illiterate patients and their visitors.

  • Bravo @jaketmp. I'm not sure how I missed or forgot about these two reference.s
    – HNL
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 8:32

Erasmus offers a justification:

He (Orolo) had heard that an artisan from extramuros had been allowed into the New Library to fix a rotted rafter that we could not reach with our ladders; it had only just been noticed and we didn't have time to erect proper scaffolding before Apert.

In other words, it was a special circumstance, and the proximity to Apert made it a justifiable exception.

I'm not sure it's a question of how they got through the day gate... But how did they get through the Tenner gate? I would guess that the artisans were brought in accompanied by a Hierarch. The Hierarchs must have free access to all of the maths much in the same way that the observatory is open to all of the maths, via different routes

  • 1
    Something occurred to me when you mentioned this. You're right about the proximity to Apert. But Orolo and Erasmas were probably involved because the Unarians (who include extramuros one-offs) would simply not have been senior enough to interview an extramuros who was about to be let in. But then again, why couldn't the hierarchs themselves do the interview?
    – HNL
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 6:57
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    I got the impression that Orolo (as he usually does) was acting on his own. Erasmus regards the interview as somewhere between quaint and embarrassing. I don't think that anyone else was going to interview the artisans.
    – TGnat
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 13:20
  • I thought his embarrassment was due to Orolo asking medieval questions from a guy carrying a mobile handset and wearing a T-shirt.
    – HNL
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 2:28

My impression was that the Day Gate is for the saecular authority to interact with the Math. Otherwise they'd just break down the front door.

Presumably there are strict conventions and rules on how, when and by whom this is done.

  • People who are involved in those interactions go directly from the Day Gate to the Hierarchs. The Hierarchs too may exit through the Day Gate, I believe. But my question is how people entering from extramuros got to interact with Tenners. I'll update the question to clarify.
    – HNL
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 9:31

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