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The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism

The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism

Edited by JAMES G. CLARK
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism
    Book Description:

    The cultural remains of England's abbeys and priories have always attracted scholarly attention but too often they have been studied in isolation, appreciated only for their artistic, codicological or intellectual features and not for the insights they offer into the patterns of life and thought - the underlying norms, values and mentalité - of the communities of men and women which made them. Indeed, the distinguished monastic historian David Knowles doubted there would ever be sufficient evidence to recover "the mentality of the ordinary cloister monk". These twelve essays challenge this view. They exploit newly catalogued and newly discovered evidence - manuscript books, wall paintings, and even the traces of original monastic music - to recover the cultural dynamics of a cross-section of male and female communities. It is often claimed that over time the cultural traditions of the monasteries were suffocated by secular trends but here it is suggested that many houses remained a major cultural force even on the verge of the Reformation. Professor James G. Clark is Reader in Later Medieval History at the University of Bristol Contributors: DAVID BELL, ROGER BOWERS, JAMES CLARK, BARRIE COLLETT, MARY ERLER, G. R. EVANS, MIRIAM GILL, JOAN GREATREX, JULIAN HASELDINE, J. D. NORTH, ALAN PIPER, AND R. M. THOMSON.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-530-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    James G. Clark
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction: The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism
    (pp. 1-18)

    The cultural remains of the medieval English monasteries have always been a source of scholarly fascination. Even at the Dissolution when their personnel were dispersed and their physical structures dismantled there were vigorous efforts to preserve the greatest of their treasures, their decorative objects, their vestments, their illuminated manuscripts and those whose contents were held to be of historical importance.¹ The enthusiasm for collecting and conserving former monastic fragments intensified in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and, with the inauguration of the Rolls and other record series in the middle years of the nineteenth century, monastic culture emerged at the...

  8. Observant Culture

    • An Early Tudor Monastic Enterprise: Choral Polyphony for the Liturgical Service
      (pp. 21-54)

      Among at least the better-favoured of the English monasteries, their first half-century under the Tudor regime appears to have been a period not at all unpropitious. In these houses, numbers of monks or canons appear to have been predominantly stable, sources of revenue were secure, and provision was made for higher education in the universities for the younger monks able to benefit thereby.¹ This prevailing level of stability and even vitality sufficed to generate and sustain certain instances of the promotion of real intellectual and artistic enterprise. One which hitherto has been somewhat overlooked was the recognition at many houses...

    • Monastic Murals and Lectio in the Later Middle Ages
      (pp. 55-72)

      Only a small and unrepresentative sample of monastic murals survives from late medieval England. However, this diverse corpus does retain a discernible character. Not only do monastic murals often depict subjects which are distinct from those found in the much larger number of surviving parochial paintings, but they appear to exhibit a certain ‘bookishness’ in their content and particularly their combination of text and image. Patterns of survival may have served to emphasise this aspect of monastic imagery. However, this tendency is interesting given the prominence of the production and study of books in monastic culture. This paper will seek...

  9. Learned Culture

    • The Meaning of Monastic Culture: Anselm and his Contemporaries
      (pp. 75-85)
      G. R. EVANS

      Is there a ‘monastic culture’? It is important to keep in mind the difficulties of bridging the enormous divide between the understanding the mediaeval monk had of what he was doing and the relatively modern ideas the word ‘culture’ is likely to bring to mind.Cultusto a medieval monk meant simply ‘worship’. It was a long and largely post-medieval journey from there to a sense of the English term ‘culture’ which would fit my title. We are not concerned with cultivation or tillage but with the metaphorical developments ofculturawhich led in one direction to the notion of...

    • The Monks of Durham and the Study of Scripture
      (pp. 86-103)
      A. J. PIPER

      The evidence for the resources available to the Durham monks for the study of Scripture is fuller than for any other medieval monastery in Britain. More books belonging to the community survive than for any other house and there are important inventories of its holdings from the twelfth and the late fourteenth centuries, together with records of substantial gifts, notably those by Bishop William of St Calais (d. 1096) and Bishop Hugh of Le Puiset (d. 1195). The picture that emerges over the span of more than four and half centuries during which the monks formed the cathedral chapter in...

    • Worcester Monks and Education, c. 1300
      (pp. 104-110)
      R. M. THOMSON

      One of the outstanding features of Worcester Cathedral library is the number of surviving books, dateable from the late thirteenth century onwards, associated with the monks’ studies at Oxford.¹ The impetus behind these studies is well known: a growing awareness by the Benedictine Monks generally that they needed to participate in the intellectual life of universities in the same way as the Friars. From 1277 on, the General Chapters of the English Black Monks issued decrees aimed at the formation of a house of studies at Oxford, and in 1291 the newly formed Gloucester College was made the common property...

  10. The Culture of Women

    • What Nuns Read: The State of the Question
      (pp. 113-133)

      In 1995 I had occasion to publish a study of books and libraries in the nunneries of medieval England. It was entitledWhat Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medieval English Nunneries[hereafterWNR]¹ and was divided into two parts. The second part comprised a list of all those books, manuscript and printed, surviving and not surviving, which (at the time) had been traced to English nunneries. The first part contained a summary of the second part, and also (especially in Chapter 3) a discussion of what could be learned from these materials with regard to the learning and literacy...

    • Private Reading in the Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century English Nunnery
      (pp. 134-146)

      When we think of monastic reading we imagine it performed in common: in the refectory during meals, or at collation in the evening, or in the daily chapter. Although private prayer was from earliest times part of the monastic day¹ and private reading is mentioned in Benedict’s Rule, opportunities for such reading expanded at the end of the Middle Ages. Such private practice represented a shift away from the more common, older form of reading – that is, by listening – to the newer form of reading by looking.² In particular, moments for individual reading in the monastery may be...

    • Holy Expectations: The Female Monastic Vocation in the Diocese of Winchester on the Eve of the Reformation
      (pp. 147-166)

      Just months before Martin Luther propounded theological ideas that later contributed to the dissolution of monasteries, the Bishop of Winchester, Richard Fox, translated the Benedictine Rule for nuns,Here Begynneth the Rule of Seynt Benet, published by Richard Pynson in January 1517 [see plate 10]. A few months earlier he wrote the ‘Fourme and order of the ceremonies perteinyng to the solempne profession of benediction and consecration of holy virgins’, using the original Latin ordinal (based upon chapter 58 of the Rule), but adding explanations and instructions in English.¹ Fox’s expansions and interpolations in these works reveal much about his...

  11. The Culture of the Community

    • Culture at Canterbury in the Fifteenth Century: Some Indications of the Cultural Environment of a Monk of Christ Church
      (pp. 169-176)

      Daily life and routine in an English medieval monastic institution can be fairly accurately described. There is an abundance of source material for a prosopographical approach to these close-knit communities that lived under obedience to a rule, were governed by customs and regulations covering almost every waking moment, and carefully preserved a written record of past acts and achievements. Individual biographical details, however, are scarce and depend largely on the survival of a few personal notebooks and letters that contain little information that would be considered essential for successful biography today.

      The cultural environment within the medieval monastic context is...

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
    • The Monastic Culture of Friendship
      (pp. 177-202)
      Julian P. Haseldine

      The culture of friendship in pre-modern Europe was broadly commensurate with political culture. Friendship could provide a conceptual vocabulary for almost any relationship of importance outside the ambit of close kin. Some notion of friendship seems to have been inextricable from most social or political institutions, such as patronage, lordship and military allegiance – indeed even ideas about kinship itself were interwoven with friendship. But it is hard to recover the precise role of so ubiquitous, even apparently commonplace, a concept. References to friends and friendship scattered throughout the texts of chronicles, charters, histories, letters, sermons and so forth, can...

    • Monastic Time
      (pp. 203-212)
      J. D. NORTH

      The Middle Ages might have had no quartz watches, no satellite time signals, no laws of entropy, no relativistic electrodynamics, but they were familiar enough with the numerous shades of meaning that inform our own daily uses of the word ‘time’ and its cognates, if we allow for slight differences of vocabulary and nuance. ‘Time when’ and ‘time how long’, both of them judged on scales of minutes, hours, years, centuries, were distinguished then more or less as now. The finiteness of human life was – then as now – what led ordinary people to wax philosophical on the subject...

  12. Index
    (pp. 213-220)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-223)