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Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Later Middle Ages

Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Later Middle Ages

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the Later Middle Ages
    Book Description:

    In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the history of the numerous houses of monks, canons and nuns which existed in the medieval British Isles, considering them in their wider socio-cultural-economic context; historians are now questioning some of the older assumptions about monastic life in the later Middle Ages, and setting new approaches and new agenda. The present volume reflects these new trends. Its fifteen chapters assess diverse aspects of monastic history, focusing on the wide range of contacts which existed between religious communities and the laity in the later medieval British Isles, covering a range of different religious orders and houses. This period has often been considered to represent a general decline of the regular life; but on the contrary, the essays here demonstrate that there remained a rich monastic culture which, although different from that of earlier centuries, remained vibrant. CONTRIBUTORS: KAREN STOBER, JULIE KERR, EMILIA JAMROZIAK, MARTIN HEALE, COLMAN O CLABAIGH, ANDREW ABRAM, MICHAEL HICKS, JANET BURTON, KIMM PERKINS-CURRAN, JAMES CLARK, GLYN COPPACK, JENS ROHRKASTEN, SHEILA SWEETINBURGH, NICHOLAS ORME, CLAIRE CROSS

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-662-5
    Subjects: Religion

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)
    Janet Burton and Karen Stöber
  5. List of contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction Monasteries and Society in the British Isles in the later Middle Ages
    (pp. 1-8)

    In 2001 Joan Greatrex wrote in her chapter on recent developments in monastic history that ‘in the last twenty years there has been an impressive increase of interest in the study of monastic history’.¹ The present volume is reassuring testimony that the developments so welcomed by Greatrex have not ceased since she applauded them some five years ago. On the contrary, monastic history continues to go from strength to strength: scholars continue to explore uncharted territories and they are reassessing the findings of earlier generations of historians such as dom david Knowles through the use of previously neglected sources, documentary,...

  8. The Meeting of the Worlds

    • 1 The Social Networks of Late Medieval Welsh Monasteries
      (pp. 11-24)

      They were never numerous: little more than forty houses of monks, canons and nuns ever flourished in late medieval Wales. yet the religious houses of the Principality were so inextricably linked to the society in which they operated that they can scarcely be separated from it at all. Laymen and laywomen, after all, were responsible for the foundation of Wales’s abbeys and priories¹ and contributed to their upkeep, as well as maintaining a range of other types of contact with their abbots and priors, as varied as trading connections and religious services.

      The last quarter of the eleventh century saw...

    • 2 Cistercian Hospitality in the Later Middle Ages
      (pp. 25-39)

      The monks of Meaux abbey, yorkshire, likely welcomed the general chapter’s decision that men and women of honest character might enter their abbey church to view the miracle-working crucifix recently commissioned by abbot Hugh (1339–49). However, they were soon to regret this, for according to the chronicle of the house hoards of women flocked to the abbey not out of devotion, but rather to have a good look around the church and take advantage of the monks’ hospitality. no doubt news that the crucifix had been carved from a nude model had made a visit to Meaux all the...

    • 3 Cistercians and Border Conflicts: Some Comparisons between the Experiences of Scotland and Pomerania
      (pp. 40-50)

      The political, social and economic landscape of Europe changed significantly between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries. this change was also very noticeable in the ways in which religious houses functioned and interacted with the society around them. the traditional view, which now survives only in popular literature, presents a contrast between the image of twelfth-century monastic life – one of strictness and simplicity – with that of the ‘corruption’ of the fourteenth century and beyond.¹ Although this antithesis is clearly oversimplified, there is no doubt that for cistercian houses in many ways – the layout of their precincts, the use of their...

    • 4 ‘Not a thing for a stranger to enter upon’: The Selection of Monastic Superiors in Late Medieval and Early Tudor England
      (pp. 51-68)

      Medieval England is not known for democracy. indeed, it has been remarked that the selection of heads of autonomous religious houses by their communities comprised ‘the only consistently “free” and comparatively democratic elections in late medieval England’.¹ To a certain extent, the freedom of late medieval English monasteries to elect their own heads serves as an indication that these institutions were no longer of central importance in the political life of the kingdom. this right had only sporadically been allowed to their anglonorman forbears at a time when the heads of major abbeys occupied a position of much greater public...

  9. Religious Houses and their Patrons and Benefactors

    • 5 Patronage, Prestige and Politics: The Observant Franciscans at Adare
      (pp. 71-82)

      The village of adare in co. Limerick is one of the principal tourist attractions in the south-west of ireland. the efforts of the local landlords, the Wyndham-Quin earls of dunraven, in the late nineteenth century produced a picture postcard streetscape more reminiscent of the cotswolds than of rural Ireland. At the heart of the village lies a remarkable ensemble of medieval ecclesiastical and secular buildings dating from the village’s heyday as the manorial caput of the Fitzgerald earls of Kildare.¹ The Fitzgeralds gained possession of the manor in the early thirteenth century and it remained theirs until it was forfeited...

    • 6 The Augustinian Priory of Wombridge and its Benefactors in the Later Middle Ages
      (pp. 83-94)

      The extent and richness of the late fifteenth-century cartulary of the augustinian priory of St Leonard at Wombridge (BL, MS Egerton 3712) means that for a relatively ‘unexceptional’ community, in terms of the numbers of brethren and value of endowments, it is remarkably well documented.¹ The majority of donations to Wombridge occurred from the thirteenth century onwards, when the canons resolutely built up and maintained their properties and rights, chiefly within close proximity to the priory. Moreover, during the late medieval period the community not only attracted benefactions from its patrons, but also from a wide circle of knightly families...

    • 7 The Rising Price of Piety in the Later Middle Ages
      (pp. 95-110)

      It was a universal belief in late medieval England that religious benefits could be bought.¹ From well before the adoption of the official doctrine of purgatory in 1215 it was thought that the sufferings of the dead could be relieved by prayers and other good works, which could even be performed after death and financed on instalments from endowments. Witness the thousand or so religious houses, another thousand hospitals, numerous preceptories and colleges, and several thousand chantries that were endowed over nine centuries.² Many of these institutions endured until the Reformation, until the dissolution of the Monasteries of 1536–40,...

  10. Female Communities:: Nuns, Abbesses and Prioresses

    • 8 Looking for Medieval Nuns
      (pp. 113-123)

      It has been rightly pointed out that just because a monastic house was, for whatever reason, small and poor, it does not follow that it is poorly documented.¹ Among the smallest and least well endowed houses in medieval England were priories of regular canons and of nuns. However, as andrew abram’s paper in this collection demonstrates, the augustinian priory of Wombridge may have numbered only a handful of canons and been classed as a lesser monastery at the dissolution, but its cartulary bears witness to the significant role the canons had in the locality.² That other type of ‘small and...

    • 9 ‘Quhat say ye now, my lady priores? How have ye usit your office, can ye ges?’: Politics, Power and Realities of the Office of a Prioress in her community in Late Medieval Scotland
      (pp. 124-142)

      Historians have claimed that Scottish female religious houses and their inhabitants are not worthy of study. traditionally the reasons they have given are the paucity of the sources about convents and nuns, the smallness of the houses themselves, the lack of importance that convents had in the locale, and the claim that female houses are simply ‘too different’ from male houses and therefore prove problematic in any study of medieval monasticism. Because of these assumptions, little work has been done on any aspect of female religious houses and nothing at all on female heads of houses. indeed, Scottish historians have...

  11. Monasteries and Education

    • 10 Monasteries and Secular Education in Late Medieval England
      (pp. 145-167)

      At the dissolution of the Monasteries, as aspirational gentry and territorial nobility pestered cromwell and his master for their portion of the spoil, an altogether more altruistic proposal emerged from the circle of humanist scholars and moderate reformers assembled around the king: the former abbeys and priories should be transformed into public schools not only for the social elite but also for the benefit of the whole commonweal.¹ The precedents for such a proposal were clear. Since the Black death several ecclesiastical and secular patrons had recycled monastic resources for the purpose of scholastic foundations.² The most conspicuous contemporary case...

    • 11 ‘Make straight in the desert a highway for our God’: The Carthusians and Community in Late Medieval England
      (pp. 168-180)

      The carthusians were exceptional among medieval religious in that they were, in theory at least, in business for the salvation of their own souls. Guiges de Saint-Romain, fifth prior of the grande chartreuse, who wrote the order’s customs before 1133, said that ‘it was not for the temporal cure of other folk’s bodies but for the eternal welfare of our own souls that we took refuge in the retirement of this desert’.¹ While that was the reason for discouraging guests and hospitality, a central tenet of Benedictine monasticism, it underlined the separation and exclusiveness that were the carthusians’ contract with...

  12. Monasteries and Urban Space

    • 12 Early Franciscan Legislation and Lay Society
      (pp. 183-196)

      The members of religious communities organised their lives according to the guidelines usually set by charismatic founder figures and eventually formulated into written norms. Apart from the rule which offered the foundation for all activity within and by the community, there could be customs (consuetudines), summarising past practices, and constitutions or statutes. Such legislative texts performed a number of functions. They were to ensure uniformity in liturgical practice, dress, food, work and discipline in a single monastery or in groups of convents geographically remote from each other, thus defining a religious order as a distinctive and separate legal body. In...

    • 13 The Austin Friars in Late Medieval Canterbury: Negotiating Spaces
      (pp. 197-210)

      Boundaries were closely defended in late medieval towns and urban records are full of territorial disputes among individuals and institutions, who sought to guard against possible encroachments into their space. Much was at stake because control brought financial and judicial rights and privileges, issues that were of special importance to town governors and to others, including the friars, who at times resisted the demands of those in authority. Even though conflict was not inevitable, many studies of the role of urban monastic houses have highlighted the ways leading citizens attempted to wrest lordship from their powerful ecclesiastical neighbours.¹ Other studies...

  13. Religious Houses in the Regions

    • 14 Monasteries in Medieval Cornwall: Mediocrity or Merit?
      (pp. 213-228)

      It is said that the Devil, having travelled through Devon, reached the edge of cornwall and decided to go no further. ‘Over there everywhere’s called Saint this and Saint that, and anything strange that moves they put into a pasty.’ Medieval monks were more adventurous, but for them too cornwall was unrewarding territory. Although it acquired twelve monasteries after 1100, most of these were small foundations dependent on religious houses elsewhere. as a result few cornishmen became monks, since the opportunities to live the monastic life were limited even for those who wished to do so.¹

      Cornwall had no monasteries...

    • 15 Monasteries and Society in Sixteenth-Century Yorkshire: The Last Years of Roche Abbey
      (pp. 229-240)

      Between 1536 and 1540 the government of Henry VIII destroyed seventy-nine religious houses in yorkshire containing well over a thousand monks, friars and nuns. At first sight there would seem to be little cause for singling out the apparently unremarkable cistercian abbey of Roche, but the fortuitous survival of three manuscripts, a near contemporary account of its suppression, an ordination certificate of 1555 alluding to the apparent revival of the monastery, and, most intriguingly of all, topographical notes on neighbouring churches attributed to one of its members, provides more detailed information on the process and consequences of the dissolution both...

  14. Index of Religious Houses mentioned in the text
    (pp. 241-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-252)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-257)