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The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England

The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England

Volume: 16
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England
    Book Description:

    Monasteries were a dominant feature of the landscape of medieval England, but although much critical attention has been devoted to them, comparatively little has been written on the thirty abbeys of the English Premonstratensians [`White Canons'], a gap which this book, the first detailed study since the early 1950s, seeks to fill. Centred upon the remarkable visitation records of Richard Redman [d.1505], commissary-general and visitor of the English Premonstratensian abbeys, it covers topics such as the foundation and development of the English Premonstratensian province; Redman's visitation of the Premonstratensian abbeys; conventual food and clothing; misdemeanours, such as sexual immorality and apostasy; liturgical observances; spirituality and learning; and English Premonstratensian libraries. It thus offers evidence for the vitality of the English Premonstratensians, as well as re-evaluating their monastic observances.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-136-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)

    A predominant feature of the English landscape in the Middle Ages were the monasteries of the religious orders, which were located in practically every city and town, as well as the countryside, with its secluded valleys. The medieval proverb that ‘A fly and a friar will fall in every dish’ is a graphic illustration that to people of the Middle Ages, the regular clergy were as familiar as the earth they walked upon.¹ Much has been written on the religious orders in England, and much will undoubtedly be written in the future. The largest communities among them, and the most...

  7. 1 The Establishment of the Premonstratensians in England and the Development of the Provincia Angliae
    (pp. 1-19)

    The Premonstratensian canons, founded by the enigmatic St Norbert of Xanten (✠ 1134), spread rapidly across Europe after their establishment in the remote valley of Prémontré in 1121.² By the end of 1124 there were sixteen houses. The second quarter of the twelfth century was a golden age for the order, for some two hundred houses were founded during that period.³ The desire of the Cistercian general chapter (1152) to call a halt to the rapid expansion which their order enjoyed throughout Europe, coupled with the great similarity between their lifestyle and that of the white canons, contributed greatly to...

  8. 2 The Visitation Records of the Late Medieval English Premonstratensians
    (pp. 20-39)

    In dealing with the history of the exempt religious orders in later medieval England, one is all too painfully aware of the frequent dearth of information among the primary sources, for they invariably limit the attainment of a high level of understanding or detailed knowledge about the internal history of many of their individual monasteries.¹ Thankfully a number of the obstacles frequently presented by apparently inadequate primary source material have been overcome, to some extent, because of the many encouraging endeavours that have been undertaken in the field of historical investigation in recent years.² Great strides have been made in...

  9. 3 The Visitation of England’s Premonstratensian Abbeys, c.1478–1500
    (pp. 40-100)

    In the Premonstratensian Statutes of 1290 one finds written the solemn formula that each medieval English white canon pronounced in the chapterhouse of his abbey on the day of his profession. The novice offered himself to the abbot and community and vowed to live the monastic lifestyle, to undertake a process of self-reformation, stability in the same abbey, to renounce the world and all earthly belongings, and to be chaste. He committed himself to a life of perfect obedience ‘in Christo’, according to the Gospel and the Rule of St Augustine.¹ The ascetical and evangelical demands which a white canon...

  10. 4 The English Premonstratensian Liturgy
    (pp. 101-131)

    During the rationalist age of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, many of the older religious orders felt compelled to justify their continued existence within the Catholic church. The Premonstratensian canons, for their part, offered the following reasons as a vindication and characterisation of their canonical lifestyle since the Middle Ages: ‘Laudes Dei in choro; cultus eucharisticus; cultus marialis; spiritus jugis paenitentiae; zelus animarum’.¹ The presence of the liturgy is prevalent in each of these elements, which were shared in varying degrees with most of the other religious orders of the Western church. Despite this fact, the liturgical observances of...

  11. 5 Learning, Spirituality and Pastoralia: English Premonstratensian Manuscripts, Books and Libraries in the Later Middle Ages
    (pp. 132-173)

    In The White Canons in England Colvin wrote a brief, but informative, chapter on the intellectual activities of the English Premonstratensians, highlighting attitudes to reading and scholarly work within the order. The white canons ‘never claimed to be a learned order’ and basically consisted of monastic clergy who were not impelled to pursue lofty academic studies.¹ They were expected to have a working knowledge of Latin, and each canon was obliged to devote himself to some reading or Lectio Divina every day in the cloister.² While no one would doubt the basic premises of Colvin’s arguments on the intellectual pursuits...

  12. 6 Richard Redman, O.Praem.
    (pp. 174-205)

    Our study of the late medieval English Premonstratensians has shown throughout the tireless activities of Richard Redman, the most notable English white canon of that era. While we have largely considered his role as a Premonstratensian visitor, as is right, this final chapter will take a closer and ‘holistic’ examination of the multifaceted aspects of his life and career, including the controversial circumstances leading to his appointment as commissary-general, his rule as abbot in commendam at Shap, his involvement in affairs of state and his activities as the only English Premonstratensian diocesan bishop of the Middle Ages. Such a task...

  13. Conclusion: From Cessation to Dissolution
    (pp. 206-212)

    With the passing of Richard Redman in 1505 came the end of an era for the English white canons. For over forty years, Redman visited and governed the Premonstratensian abbeys. As a group of medieval religious, the white canons exhibited many of the frailties common to humanity, some more than others, but they were not, as a body, wholly depraved or completely devoid of spiritual motivation: back-sliding and mediocrity, of varying degrees, were more prevalent tendencies. The English Premonstratensians were not in a state of terminal decline. ‘Ora, labora, vita communis’ are evident in the pages of Redman’s visitation register,...

  14. Appendix One The Visitation Itineraries of Richard Redman in Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1519
    (pp. 213-229)
  15. Appendix Two Maps of Redman’s Proposed Visitation Journeys, 1478, 1491 and 1500
    (pp. 230-233)
  16. Appendix Three English Premonstratensian Visitations, 1458–1503
    (pp. 234-244)
  17. Appendix Four Fornication among the English Premonstratensians, 1475–1500
    (pp. 245-247)
  18. Appendix Five The Date of John Capgrave’s Life of St Norbert
    (pp. 248-250)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-268)
  20. Index
    (pp. 269-283)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-286)