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Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON 6* Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 





FEBRUARY 13, 1897. 


IN these two volumes I venture to bring before 
the notice of English readers the history of the 
English benedictines, or "black monks," as they 
were called in the olden times. To the student the 
names are well known of men who have devoted 
large and costly books to the past glories of the 
monks of this country. These works, however, are 
difficult of access ; and from their very multiplicity of 
detail, require a mastery of the subject (to be gained 
only by long and patient study), before a just and 
general idea of the history as a whole can be ob- 
tained. Besides, such works as the Monasticon of 
Dugdale, and others of the school of antiquaries 
connected with his labours, professedly deal only 
with the black monks, among other orders, up to 
the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry 
VIII. Their subsequent history, known but to a 
very few even of their descendants, has in course 
of time become obscured by a legendary growth 
which does not bear the test of research. It is as 


an attempt at completing in broad lines the picture 
of English benedictine history, both ancient and 
modern, that these pages have been written. The 
vastness and importance of the subject would 
require many volumes to treat it adequately, and 
would be a task beyond my present purpose. But 
here for the first time is given a definite account of 
the history, for the last thirteen hundred years, of 
men who have played no mean part in the making 
of England, and whose names have ever been re- 
vered and cherished. 

Writers on the later history, whether in manu- 
script or otherwise, have drawn their information 
mainly from the Chronicles of Dom Weldon, a 
choir brother of St. Edmund's, Paris. That he was 
often misinformed and also did not understand the 
nature of the documents he had in hand is a con- 
clusion one is bound to arrive at when his statements 
are brought to the test. In the present work, I 
have contented myself (with two most important 
exceptions noted below) with going to the first-hand 
evidence contained in the wealth of printed and 
manuscript material at the disposal of the public ; 
and I feel sure that any further light to be obtained 
from private sources will only go to illustrate, not to 


alter, the lines here given. Every statement has 
been verified, and every reference has been given. 

My grateful thanks are due to the many friends 
who have helped me in what has been a work of 
love. It is also a tribute of the affection and esteem 
which I, an outsider, have for the English monks. 
But I cannot let these pages go forth without a 
special acknowledgment of my sincere gratitude 
to the Very Eev. Dom Anselm Burge, O.S.B., 
prior of St. Laurence's monastery, Ampleforth, for 
giving me full access to Dom Allanson's voluminous 
manuscripts ; and to Mr. Edmund Bishop for allow- 
ing me the free use of his manuscript collections 
relating to the English benedictines of the middle 
ages. From these latter I have selected, as most 
proper for my purpose, the consuetudinary of St. 
Augustine's, Canterbury, contained in the Cotton MS. 
Faustina C. xii., the transcript of which (completed, 
as the date tells me, just five-and-twenty years ago) 
has served me for the appendix to the present volume. 
This document has the further recommendation of 
having been hitherto practically overlooked by the 
ecclesiastical antiquaries. 

E. L. T. 

LONDON, August 6, 1897. 





The vision of St. Benedict He destined to be "The Father of 
many Nations " The growth and influence of the benedictine 
monks and what England owes to them The landing of 
Augustine and his companions His instructions from Gregoiy 
the Great His institutions The attitude of the remnants of 
the British church to him The acknowledgment of his plan 
by Irish and Scottish monks The growth of monastic institu- 
tions in England Wilfrid and Benet Biscop Bede the 
Venerable The Danish invasion and destruction of the 
Saxon abbeys The restoration of religious houses and of 
civilisation by the monks Archbishop Dunstan and bishops 
Ethelwold and Oswald : their work as restorers and their in- 
stitutions The daily life of the monks under the Concordia 
Regularis of Ethelwold 1-17 



The growth of the Anglo-Saxon church : its second devastation 
The Norman invasion Lay abbats and the disorders they pro- 
vokedThe confederation of Cluni and the character and 
growth of the cluniacs The Italian Lanfranc : he becomes 
prior of Bee William of Malmesbury's account of the Christ 
Church monks in the eleventh century The Norman attitude 


to the Saxon monasteries and how far it was justifiable Lan- 
franc as archbishop of Canterbury : his reforms and statutes : 
the spread of his changes and their unwelcomeness to the Saxon 
monks The incoming of the cluniacs and their settlements in 
England The growth of monasticism coeval with the growth 
of chivalry Bishop William of St. Carileph and his founda- 
tions The development of constitutional organisation . . 18-30 



The nature of the benedictine constitution : the absence from it 
of the forms of government and special objects peculiar to 
other orders : its aims and vows : the resemblance of its basis 
to the family basis of society Lanfranc's definition of St. 
Benedict's Rule The autonomy of the individual houses and 
their mutual confederation The embodiment of this principle 
in the twelfth decree of the Fourth General Council of Lateran 
Instances of the observance of the decree in England The 
decree enforced by a bull of Benedict XII. The observance of 
the bull in England and the holding of chapters Clement VI.'s 
modifications of the bull of Benedict XII. The secession of 
Christ Church, Canterbury, from the general chapter The 
bishop's jurisdiction over the abbats of his diocese English 
abbeys which were exempt from episcopal control The in- 
ternal government of the abbeys The benedictine's freedom 
from peculiar outside work and his consequent power to take 
up any work 31-48 



The monk's readiness to labour in the world : his social status and 
his relation to agricultural industries The means of livelihood 
afforded to artisans by the monastic institutions The monk 
as an educationalist The benedictine school foundations 
The relief of the poor at the religious houses and the manner 
in which they were relieved The spiritual supervision of the 



people by the monks The monks the originators of the 
present parochial system The origin of vicars The impro- 
priation and appropriation of benefices in England and the 
proportion of income reserved to the vicar : English legislation 
in the matter The position of the secular clergy The monas- 
teries as schools for the sons of the nobility The admission of 
the greatest of the land to confraternity with the monks 
The privileges of the confrater and the ceremony of admis- 
sion Kings and princes as confratres The disadvantages 
of the monasteries being shelters for the rich as well as 
poor Enforced endowments to scholars nominated by the 
king The possessions of the monks weighed against their 
responsibilities 49-64 



The private life of the monks : its calmness and freedom from 
incident The combination of the broad outlines of mediaeval 
English life necessary to form a picture of the inner life of the 
monks The true history of a monk of the thirteenth century 
presented in the imaginary history of John Weston of Lyn- 
minster His parentage and education His dedication to God 
and his preparation for the monastic life The attention paid 
to his physical development The awakening of his soul His 
admission as a novice and his training in the spiritual life 
His trial and duties in the year of his novitiate He becomes 
a monk The devotions of the day The day's meals and what 
they consisted of The day's studies The day's work The 
sleeping-house and its arrangement The monk's recreation 
and exercise The foundation of Gloucester Hall, Oxford, 
by John Gifford, and its incentive to the higher education of 
the monks The building of chambers by the abbeys for their 
own students John Weston goes to Oxford His daily life 
there His return to Lynminster and his ordination He 
teaches the novices The internal government of the abbey 
He becomes prior He takes the plague His death and 
burial 65-96 





The uncertainty as to St. Scholastica being a nun The tradition 
of St. Benedict founding a community of virgins The absence 
of any reference to this in his Rule The reasons for the sup- 
position The existence of cloisters of women before St. 
Benedict's time proved Reasons for supposing that the early 
English convents were benedictine Noble foundresses of 
Saxon convents, Hilda, Eanswith, Ethelburga, Sexburgh, Mil- 
dred Other Saxon nunneries Ethelburga's abbey at Barking 
Cuthburg's foundation at Wimborne The destruction 
of the nunneries during the Danish invasion The convents 
which survived the invasion The privileges of abbesses 
The life of the benedictine nuns and their partial freedom from 
the enclosure restrictions of other orders The nun in Chaucer 
The employments of the nuns in their convents Study 
and intellectual pursuits their favourite employment Needle- 
work also practised Other pursuits The convent as a place 
of retreat for lay women The influences and tendencies of 
convent life The social influence of the nuns . . 97-116 



The state of the monasteries before their fall The influence of the 
abbats compared with that of the bishops Their mutual rela- 
tions An instance of the disputes between monastic chapters 
and their bishops St. Edmund and the monks of Christ 
Church, Canterbury The character of Edmund The appeal 
of the monks to pope Gregory IX. The papal judges Inter- 
vention of the king Edmund gives way Other disputes 
Edmund goes to Rome and his dispute with the Canterbury 
monks is renewed His return to England He excommuni- 
cates the Canterbury chapter The reforms of the Lateran 
Council The legate Otho and the black monks His legisla- 
tionThe alien priories and their origination The revenues 


estreated by King John Seizure of the priories by Edward I. : 
legislation affecting them : their total suppression by Henry V. 
The "Black Death" of 1348-49: the terrible effects of the 
visitation : was mainly responsible for the break-up of the 
feudal system : its effect upon the monasteries The conference 
of Henry V. with the abbats and other prelates in 1422 The 
king's address The deliberations of the conference The 
nature of its decrees Their effects The state of benedic- 
tinism on the continent before the dissolution The cause of 
the decline there attributable to the system of commendam 
The system arrested by the reforms of Barbo of Padua Their 
spread and efficacy 117-142 



The dissolution of the monasteries The outcome of the trend of 
events prior to the reign of Henry VIII. The unpopularity 
of the monasteries with the court Henry's accession and 
Wolsey's rise to power The pope's authorisations to Wolsey 
as legate He suppresses thirty monasteries The cardinal's 
agents Allen and Thomas Cromwell The fall of Wolsey and 
the elevation of Thomas Cromwell Henry's avarice aroused : 
his want of money Cromwell authorised to visit the monas- 
teries The nature of the oath tendered by his commissioners 
Royal commission instituted : its powers and object The 
worthlessness of the commissioners' reports : their endorsement 
by the king The act of dissolution passed by Parliament 
The monasteries given to the king in trust only : the enact- 
ments relating to this The people reconciled by public 
declarations Appointment of the "court of Augmentations" 
The houses suppressed and the value of their lands and 
personal goods The exception of some houses and the found- 
ing of two new ones by the king The Lincolnshire risings 
and the king's merciless suppression of them Further seizures 
and surrenderings of houses Three abbats hanged for high 
treason The downfall 143-159 

VOL. I. 





The state of the monks immediately after the dissolution The 
influx of monks to the monastic colleges at the universities 
John Fecknam of Evesham His birth, parentage, and early 
education He is sent by the benedictines to Oxford His 
return to Oxford after the suppression Abbat Clement Lich- 
field of Evesham Fecknam becomes chaplain to the bishop 
of Worcester : and to the bishop of London He is presented 
to the living of Solihull His imprisonment in the Tower 
The reasons for his committal He is " borrowed" from prison 
to hold disputations Returns to the Tower Is released and 
returns to the bishop of London He becomes rector of Green- 
ford Magna Is made chaplain and confessor to Mary and 
dean of St. Paul's He intercedes for Lady Jane Dudley and 
for the princess Elizabeth Assists Mary in her attempt to 
restore the Catholic Church The mass restored at Canter- 
bury The beuedictines resume their habits Renunciation 
of abbey lands by the queen Restoration of Westminster 
abbey Pole introduces Cassinese ideas Fecknam appointed 
abbat His installation He receives the mitre The queen's 
visit Fecknam's hospitality He attends Parliament His 
endeavours to restore other monasteries The petition of the 
Glastonbury monks Death of Mary and of cardinal Pole 
The accession of Elizabeth Her political hostility to the 
catholics The opening of Parliament and its enactions The 
act of the Royal Supremacy passed The suppression of all 
religious houses decided upon The second dissolution of 
Westminster abbey The deprivation of the bishops Feck- 
nam's refusal to take the oath and his ejection His imprison- 
ment together with the bishops His life in the Tower The 
penalty of death decreed for a second refusal of the oath 
Fecknam committed to the care of the bishop of Winches- 
ter Recommitted to the Tower He justifies his refusal 
His treatment in the Tower Removed to the Marshalsea 
Released on parole He engages in charitable works De- 
nounced for abusing his parole Placed under the charge of 
the bishop of Ely The regulations for the bishop's treatment 
of him His so-called confession His removal to Wisbeach 
Castle His death Personal appearance Bequests and sur- 
viving MS. works 160-222 





The deprivations] resulting from the tendering of the oath of 
supremacy The state of England after Elizabeth's accession 
The conciliator}- endeavours of Pius IV. to remedy matters 
The succession of Pius V. and his determination to crush 
the queen The bull of excommunication and deprivation 
of sovereign rights Its effect upon English catholics 
Parliamentary counter-enactments to the bull The establish- 
ment of seminaries at Douai and Rome for the English 
mission The origin and marvellous development of the 
Jesuits Their objects They send two missioners (Parsons 
and Campion) to England The characters of the missioners 
The objections of the English Catholics overcome The 
political intrigues of Parsons The martyrdom of Campion 
Parsons flies to the continent The failure and ill-advised 
nature of his intrigues Other Jesuits in England Parsons' 
attempt to subjugate the secular clergy to the Jesuits The 
nature of his tactics and their assistance to Elizabeth 
Wisbeach and its miserable dissensions The arch-priest con- 
troversy The appeal to Rome Treatment of envoys Eliza- 
beth favours a deputation of the clergy to the pope The 
reception of the deputation and the termination of the contest 
The situation on the eve of the return of the benedictines 
to the mission field 223-255 


BURY .... .... 257-310 








ST. GREGORY the Great (604), in the second Book 
of Dialogues, 1 tells us that shortly before the death 
of St. Benedict (542) that great monastic law-giver 
saw one night in vision the whole world gathered 
together under one beam of the sun. The eyes of 
the Saint surely must have rested with a peculiar 
satisfaction upon one small island, then, save one 
little corner, all shrouded in pagan darkness. For 
England was destined within some fifty years after 
his death to be taken hold of by his children and, 
once converted, to become the most favoured spot in 
all his patrimony. For, like Abraham of old, Bene- 
dict was destined to be " the Father of many Nations," 
the harbinger of Truth and Justice and Civilisation 
to races still wrapped in the darkness of heathendom. 
And when he had entered into his patrimony, in 

1 Chapter xxxv. 
VOL. I. A 


thousands of monasteries, in Europe alone, was he 
invoked as father ; and each of these houses became 
a centre of Life and Light to all the country round. 
But nowhere did his sons identify themselves with 
the land, and link themselves in love with the 
people, as in England. Here they were racy of the 
soil ; and in English Benedictine hearts love of 
country existed side by side with love of their state. 
Up and down the land most of the episcopal sees, 
those centres of Life to the Church, were founded 
by them ; and in course of time monks formed the 
chapters. For centuries the Primate of all England 
wore the habit of St. Benedict, and was elected to 
his post by the monks of Christ Church cathedral- 
monastery. And in the social order, the England of 
to-day owes much to the monks, who founded schools 
and universities, hospitals and workshops. All the 
learning there was they possessed, and, with generous 
hand, freely did they open their stores of knowledge 
to all comers. The very foundations of English 
liberty and law and order were laid by benedictines 
interpreting and living according to their Rule. 

" They were all in all to England ; its doctors and 
its lawyers and its councillors ; and on every page 
of the country's annals their names may be found in 
honour as the champions of the liberties of Church 
and People." l 

It is not going too far, but it is the sober truth to 

1 A Sketch of the Life and Mission of St. Benedict^ by a monk of 
St. Gregory's Priory (Downside, 1 880), p. 24. 


say, England in great measure is what she is to-day 
through the work and the influence of St. Benedict's 
sons. And there has always been deep set in English 
hearts a love for the Benedictine name, which no 
time, absence, or calumny could efface. 

Sent by Gregory the Great, himself a monk and 
founder of monasteries, and who himself would have 
come had not his elevation to the Chair of Peter 
intervened, Augustine, prior of the monastery of St. 
Andrew's on the Celian Hill, 1 at Rome, with forty 
companions, after long journeyings and much dis- 
couragement, landed on English soil. Eichborough, 
in the Island of Thanet, is the spot which, if tradition 
speaks truly, welcomed the monks, and whence they 
spread gradually over the whole country. No time 
was lost in preparing for their work. In solemn 
procession, with silver cross and painted banner 
borne aloft, they set out, chanting litanies in the 
grave, majestic Latin tongue ; and they called upon 
God, through the intercession of His saints, to 
enlighten the Saxons who then sat in darkness, to 
dispel the shadow of death hanging over the land, and 
to set this people's feet in the ways of peace. 2 How 
the glad tidings were received by king and people, 
.and how, in a short hundred years, from that corner 
in Kent a force went forth which stirred up the 
hearers to receive the faith, and going beyond the 

1 The Cardinalitial title of SS. Gregory and Andrew on the Celian 
Hill was assigned with peculiar fitness to the late cardinal Manning, 
.and again to his successor, the present archbishop of Westminster. 

2 Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, lib. i. c. xxv. 


borders, roused other missioners, monks too, to come 
and help in the work of evangelising, is well known 
to all. The impulse and example were Augustine's. 
The other helpers in the vineyard at length fell in 
with the plan he received from pope Gregory and 
the traditions he brought from the Apostolic See. 

The foundations of the English Church were set 
with consummate skill. Both Gregory and Augus- 
tine were men full of the Benedictine largeness of 
mind. In answer to Augustine, Gregory had in- 
structed him to select any of the rites and usages 
found in the neighbouring churches of Gaul and 
elsewhere, which he might consider more useful 
for the newly-formed English Church than those 
observed in Rome. 1 And so, tended by such men, 
the Faith of Christ took root in a congenial soil, and 
in due time grew and took the outward form of 
beauty, in harmony with the national characteristics. 

On his first arrival he built, just outside the city 
walls, a monastery which he dedicated to SS. Peter 
and Paul (afterwards known as St. Augustine's), in 

1 "You know, my brother, the custom of the Koman Church, in 
which you remember you were bred up. But it pleases me that if you 
have found anything either in the Roman or the Gallican, or any 
other Church which may be more acceptable to Almighty God, you 
carefully make choice of the same, and sedulously teach the Church 
of the English, which, as yet, is new in the Faith, whatsoever you can 
gather from the several Churches. For things are not to be loved for 
the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things. Choose 
therefore from every Church those things that are pious, religious, 
and upright, and when you have, as it were, made them up into one 
body, let the minds of the English be accustomed thereto." BEDE,, 
Histor. Eccl., lib. i. cap 27 (Bohn's Translation), pp. 41, 42. 


which he chose his last resting-place. But as the 
centre of his work, Augustine founded, along with 
his cathedral of Christ Church at Canterbury, a 
monastery for his monks, thus reproducing in 
the dedications at Canterbury the two features of 
Eome, the Lateran and Vatican churches ; just as 
at Eochester, hard by, they recalled by the same 
means their old home of St. Andrew's on the 
Celian Hill, and at London St. Paul's, extra muros. 
From his companions he selected Mellitus and 
Justus to be bishops of the sees he had set up at 
the neighbouring towns of London and Eochester. 
Paulinus, too, was sent by him to York, there to 
lay the foundations of the Church in the kingdom 
of Northumbria. 

Among the remnants of the British Church which 
had fled for shelter to the mountains of Wales, were 
many Irish monks whose manner of living was 
much the same as that of St. Columbanus ; and 
great monasteries, as for instance that of Bangor, 
still flourished. But they would have nothing to 
do with the new-comers, who invited them to help 
in converting their hated oppressors the Saxons. 
They would not heed the call of Augustine, and 
on frivolous pretexts refused to acknowledge him. 
Neither would they bring themselves into line with 
the rest of the Western Church on changes of 
discipline which, in their present isolation, were 
unknown to them. They would not listen, but 
remained sullen and obstinate in their separation. 


Not so, however, with other monks from Ireland and 
the Scottish isles. They came into the northern 
parts of England and walked in harmony with the 
Eoman missionaries. But when in some of them, too, 
the conservative element asserted itself unduly and 
made them want to remain stationary while the 
rest of the world moved, these remnants of a past 
age retired from the scene, and the more vigorous 
of the Celtic missioners gradually amalgamated with 
the Roman monks. 1 

Although in parts the Faith for a while was 
resisted and missionaries had to fly the storm, other 
monks took their place and toiled on, gathering 
in the harvest which lay white on all the country 
round. Soon, too, sprung up monasteries of virgins 
who served God in the monastic habit. Hilda, 2 

1 The rule of St. Columbanus professes to be simply a tradition of 
what he had learnt in Ireland. The code of discipline is marked by 
much sternness and severity, forming in this a complete contrast to 
the moderation of St. Benedict. Lashes, even to two hundred in 
number, were freely bestowed for very trivial faults. Fastings, ex- 
communications, and lengthened periods of enforced silence were also 
ordinary punishments. This rigidity was bound to give way in time 
to the more human, and therefore more natural, spirit which came 
from Monte Cassino. 

2 St. Hilda, from her connection with St. Aidan, evidently at first 
followed the Scottish rule. But we find her later on sending some 
of her monks to Canterbury to learn the discipline and rule of the 
benedictines at Christ Church. Probably after the famous synod of 
Whitby (664), when she found so many of the columban monks pre- 
ferring their dead traditions to the living voice, she turned for safety's 
sake to St. Benedict's rule, which had come to England directly from 
the Chair of Peter. Lingard says that the benedictine Rule was first 
introduced into Northumbria in 66 1 ; while the West Saxons received 
it in 675, and the Mercians not until 709. See History of England 
(ed. 1849), vol. i. p. 269, note. 


Etheldreda, Mildred, Werburgh, Edith, and others, 
were leaders in a movement which called maidens 
from the courts of kings to the cloister of the 
King of kings. Princes, too, put down their crowns 
and sceptres and put on the humble garb of the 
monk, and, in the silence of the monastery, won 
victories more glorious than had been theirs out- 
side the cloister. 

So the work sped. Great names such as Wilfrid 
(709) and Benet Biscop (690) stand out as pre-eminent 
in the work of introducing the rule of St. Benedict 
into the North. The first, educated at Lindisfarne, 
gained his earliest impressions of Benedictine life 
from Canterbury, whence he journeyed through 
France to Rome. There he was confirmed in them. 
The other, who had become a monk at Lerins l in 
666, came from Rome itself in the train of the 
great archbishop Theodore, and by him was made 
abbat of St. Augustine's at Canterbury. After two 
years, in 671, he, too, went to Northumbria, and 
built an abbey at Wearmouth and another at Jarrow. 
These were the men raised up by God to strengthen 
and establish monastic discipline throughout Eng- 
land after the pattern laid down by St. Benedict. 
By their travels in France and Italy they were able 
to gather, here and there, the best features of regular 
observance, and returning they introduced them into 
English houses during their frequent journeys up 
and down the country. in his life of Wilfrid 

1 St. Augustine stayed at Lerins on his way to England . 


speaks in the fourteenth chapter of the visits to 
Canterbury, whence "returning with the Rule of 
Benedict to his own region (Ripon), with ^Edde and 
^Eona, the chanters, and with architects, and with 
the ministry of almost every kind of art, he right 
well improved the institutions of the Church." 
Benet, like Wilfrid, was constant in his journey- 
ings to Rome. But while the one went for 
Justice, the other was drawn abroad in the inter- 
ests of his monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow. 
He collected a large library, and introduced into 
England new arts and industries, notably those 
of building in stone and the glazier's craft. He 
brought back ancient manuscripts, rich paintings 
and vestments, and great stores of relics of 
saints and martyrs. In one of these monasteries 
(Jarrow) dwelt Bede the Venerable, the type of 
the monk ; a student and a scholar, who loved to 
impart his knowledge to others. Passing from 
childhood to old age in the faithful observance 
of the Religious Life, he is the flower of the 
monastic schools, such as were started by Aidan 
and Aldhelm. He, too, is the father of English 

About a hundred years after Benet Biscop had 
lived and worked, the storm of Danish invasion swept 
down upon the coast, and the northern monasteries 
felt to the full the effects of the disastrous times. 

1 Gale, Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores, vol. iii. p. 58. 


But long before destruction thus fell upon them at 
home, Saxon benedictine monks had turned their 
faces towards the still heathen tribes of Germany. 
Winfrid, Willibald, and Willibrord, with a host of 
others, including nuns who went to do Woman's 
work in evangelising, became the apostles and 
teachers of other countries, and by toil and blood 
founded Churches fruitful in saints. 

When the fierceness of the invaders passed, the 
Saxon monks set themselves manfully to repair 
the disaster, and rebuild the broken walls of the 
houses destroyed by the Danes. 1 How they re- 
stored civilisation Cardinal Newman shall tell us ; 
for the picture he draws of St. Benedict's Mission 
to Europe in general is perfect in detail as regards 
England in old Saxon days. 

"He (St. Benedict) found the world, physical 
and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore 
it in the way not of science, but of nature ; not 
as if setting about to do it ; not professing to do 
it by any set time, or by any series of strokes ; but 
so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the 
work was done, it was not known to be doing. It 

1 The nunneries in the northern parts of England, the most exposed 
to the Danish invasion, never recovered themselves as the monasteries 
did. It was not until after the Conquest that convents for women were 
again established in these parts. The southern parts were more for- 
tunate in some instances. This will also account for the fact that there 
were so few houses for women that were abbeys. The Saxon houses 
were invariably abbatial ; but of the Norman foundation three only 
attained that dignity ; to wit, Godstowe, Mailing, and Elstowe. 


was a restoration rather than a visitation, correction, 
or conversion. The new world he helped to create 
was a growth rather than a structure. Silent men 
were observed about the country, or discovered in 
the forest digging, cleaning, and building ; and other 
silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister 
tiring their eyes and keeping their attention on 
the stretch, while they painfully deciphered, then 
copied and recopied, the manuscripts which they 
had saved. There was no one that contended or 
cried out, or drew attention to what was going on ; 
but by degrees the woody swamp became a hermi- 
tage, a religious house, a farm, an abbey, a village, 
a seminary, a school of learning, and a city. Roads 
and villages connected it with other abbeys and 
cities which had similarly grown up ; and what the 
haughty Alaric or fierce Attila had broken to pieces 
these patient meditative men have brought together 
and made to live again. And then, when they had 
in the course of many years gained their peaceful 
victories, perhaps some new invaders came, and with 
fire and sword undid their slow and persevering toil 
in an hour. . . . Down in the dust lay the labour 
and civilisation of centuries churches, colleges, 
cloisters, libraries and nothing was left to them but 
to begin all over again ; but this they did without 
grudging, so promptly, cheerfully, and tranquilly, as 
if it were by some law of nature that the restoration 
came ; and they were like the flowers and shrubs and 
great trees which they reared, and which, when ill- 


treated, do not take vengeance or remember evil, 
but give forth fresh branches, leaves, and blossoms,, 
perhaps in greater profusion or with richer quality, 
for the very reason that the old were rudely 
broken off." l 

Thus did the monks live and work after the 
eighth century had expired amid the flames the 
Danes had enkindled. Foremost in the work of 
restoration was Dunstan, whose name is writ large 
over the history of his times. To him and to his 
fellow-worker Ethelwold and to Oswald must be 
given the success of the revival. Of the former, 
Cardinal Newman says : 

"As a religious he shows himself in the simple 
character of a benedictine. He had a taste for the 
arts generally, especially music. He painted and 
embroidered ; his skill in smith's work is recorded 
in the well-known legend of his combat with the 
evil one. And, as the monks of Hilarion joined 
gardening with psalmody, and Bernard and his- 
cistercians joined field-work with meditation, so did 
St. Dunstan use music and painting as directly ex- 
pressive or suggestive of devotion. * He excelled in 
writing, painting, moulding in wax, carving in wood 
and bone, and in work in gold, silver, iron, and 
brass/ says the author of his life in Surius, ' and he 
used his skill in musical instruments to charm away 
from himself and others their secular annoyances, 

1 Historical Sketches: "The Mission of St. Benedict," vol. iii. pp. 
410, 411. 


and to raise them to the theme of heavenly harmony, 
both by the sweet words with which he accom- 
panied his airs and by the concord of the airs 
themselves/ " 

Abbat of Glastonbury, and looking forward to no 
other occupation than that of training the vine com- 
mitted to him, Dunstan, by one of those noteworthy 
exceptions, was called from the peace of the cloister 
into the turmoil of political life. 

" It must be a serious emergency, a particular 
inspiration, a sovereign command, which brings the 
monk into political life ; and he will be sure to 
make a great figure in it, else why should he have 
been torn from his cloister at all ? ... The work (he) 
had to do, as far as it was political, was such as none 
could have done but a monk with his superhuman 
single-mindedness and his pertinacity of purpose." : 

Made successively bishop of Worcester and of 
London, and then archbishop of Canterbury, he was 
able by his influence to bring about a general re- 
storation of monastic] sm in England. Beyond a 
peremptory and somewhat overweening assertion of 
a Winchester monk writing at the end of the tenth 
century, there seems to be no contemporary proof of 
the often asserted proposition that monasticism had 
almost ceased in England. The fact seems to be the 
reverse, for the documentary evidence at hand points 
to the existence of houses other than Glaston and 

1 Ibid. pp. 415, 416. 2 Ibid. pp. 381, 382. 


Abingdon. It was the northern monasteries that 
principally felt the effects of the Danish invasion, 
while those of the south escaped. But doubtlessly 
learning and observance had greatly fallen in the 
surviving monasteries, and it was from the restored 
vigour of Glaston, Abingdon, and Winchester that 
English benedictines renewed their spirit. Together 
with the new life came an outburst of intellectual 
activity. A religious and artistic development took 
place, which is the crowning glory of the Anglo- 
Saxon Church. 

Dunstan found a powerful support in the pious 
King Edgar, who seconded all his efforts with the 
resources of the temporal power. Ethelwold, bishop 
of Winchester, and one of the monks of his own 
monastery of Glaston, carried out in detail the plan 
conceived in the master mind of the great primate. 
At Worcester, too, bishop Oswald was working to the 
same end, on lines he had learnt at Fleury, where he 
had become a monk. Under these bishops, monks 
were introduced into the cathedral churches of 
Winchester and Worcester. 

The king and a thane, Alfreth, gave Ethelwold 
the manor of Southborne, on the condition he trans- 
lated the Eule of St. Benedict into Anglo-Saxon, so 
that those who did not know Latin might learn the 
monastic life. 1 This the bishop did, and to him is 
also due the redaction of the Concordia Regularis, 

1 This is very possibly the very translation which has been lately 
edited on a collation of the MSS. by Professor Schroer. 


a body of rules to be observed by English monks 
and nuns. 1 This was also translated into the native 
tongue. 2 

Under the care of Dunstan and Ethelwold and 
Oswald, in a few years more than forty monasteries 
rose from their ruins, and God's praises were sung 
throughout the land once more by Benedictine lips. 
Piety and learning 3 again flourished. 

The author of the Concordia Regularis states that 
he has allowed himself the same freedom Gregory 
gave to Augustine, of choosing the best things he 
could find, and that he had taken whatever he 
considered useful 4 in the two nearest great centres 
of Benedictine life, Fleury 5 and Ghent, in the abbeys 

1 For the Concordia Regularis see Reyner's Apostolatus Benedictinorum 
in Anglia, iii. pp. 77-94. 

2 See " Anglia " of Halle, vol. xiii. p. 365. 

3 The feast of the Conception of Our Lady seems to have originated 
in England, and can be traced to the monks of Winchester. It was 
prevalent and firmly established before the Conquest, when, like so 
many English customs, it suffered a temporary eclipse. Its revival 
was mainly due to the younger Anselm, abbat of St. Edmundsbury, in 
the latter half of Henry I., and was formally sanctioned by a council 
held in London, 1 129. The story of Helin of Ramsey is in the highest 
degree doubtful. See Downside Review, vol. v. p. 107. 

4 See Procemium of the Concordia Regularis. 

5 Ethelwold, as soon as he became abbat of Abingdon, besides 
getting chanters from Corbie (Chron. de Ab., vol. i. p. 129), sent Osgar 
" to Fleury to be further instructed in the observance of St. Benedict's 
Rule." See " Saxon Leechdoms," vol. iii. p. 409, in Roll Series. Mr. 
Cockayne is mistaken when he adds " and to fetch home a copy " ; this 
is not the meaning of the original texts. As a fact, the earliest known 
copy of St. Benedict's Rule, and embodying the primitive text, is an 
English manuscript of a date more than two centuries earlier than 


of which latter city Dunstan, during his exile under 
Edwi (956), had found shelter. 

But while the author of the Concordia, who 
evidently writes under the influence of the master- 
mind of Dunstan, was quick enough to recognise 
and use all that was good in foreign interpretations 
of the Rule, he was too wise to establish whole- 
sale such of their provisions as were unsuitable to 
Englishmen. There was no rough upheaval of past 
traditions ; neither were these treated with contempt 
and set aside as useless. He particularly lays down 
that : " We have determined in no ways to cast 
aside the worthy customs of this country pertaining 
to the (service of the) Lord, which we have learnt 
from the practice of those who went before us ; but 
(on the contrary) altogether to give them new force 
and vigour." l A wise provision ; for in a rule so 
wide and elastic as St. Benedict's, and in which so 
much is left to the discretion of local superiors, it 
is but common sense to suppose that Englishmen 
will be the best interpreters of what is useful for 
the men with whom they have to deal, and of what 
is most in keeping with the national character. 

The daily life of monks under the Concordia 
Regularis was on the following plan, with local 
variations no doubt. The monks rose at 2 A.M., 
and spent a long day in the office and work ap- 
pointed till 8 P.M., when they went to bed. The 
constitutions go into many interesting details both 

1 Procemium to the Concordia Regularis. 


of liturgical and domestic interest. For instance, 
the little hours took place at the normal times of 
6 for prime, 9 for tierce, which was followed by 
the mass, 12 for sext, 2 or 3 for none, 4 or 6 for 
vespers, and 7 for compline. After prime, or be- 
fore in summer, the monks put off the habits they 
had slept in, and washed and shod themselves for 
the day. From Easter till Holy Cross, in Sep- 
tember, they dined after sext, and then had a 
siesta. The intervals were filled up with reading; 
and it is evident from their remains that the time 
was well spent. From Holy Cross till Lent, the 
time of the monastic fast, they dined after none. 
But in Lent they did not break their fast till vespers 
had been sung. Before compline they put off their 
day-clothes, and, on Saturdays, washed their feet. 
In the winter, " from the Kalends of November till 
the beginning of Lent," a fire was provided in the 
common-room, to which all might go for warmth. 
They had only one full meal a day, together with 
a collation out of Lenten time. 1 Such was the re- 

1 Here it will be useful to gain a true view of the question, How 
far did the law of perpetual abstinence enjoined by St. Benedict in his 
Kule [Cap. 39] obtain in English monasteries ? Prescinding from the 
discretion he leaves to superiors, who are the best judges of the present 
needs of their monks, we stand on solid ground when we listen to the 
teaching of history on this point and its teaching is clear and precise. 
In the most flourishing time of English monasticism the use of flesh 
meat was allowed. The use of poultry did not come under the pro- 
hibition which forbids the carnes quadrupedum. Then, the example of 
St. Ethelwold, on whom fell the practical work of refounding English 
observance, is instructive. Whilst he himself, as a rule, never eat 
meat, yet twice at least we find him going beyond his ordinary 



newed Benedictine life which Dunstan, Ethelwold, 
and Oswald built up again in England, and which 
went on until an almost greater upheaval took place 
when the Norman mastered the land, and for a time 
foreigners were set to rule in abbeys and priories. 
But, as we shall see, English monasticism was of 
too sturdy a character to lose its own individuality. 
Once more it quietly absorbed all the good there 
was in the new element, and then reasserted itself 
on its old lines, only more strong and more comely 
than ever. 

custom. Once, during a space of three months, when sick, he eat 
meat by the express command of St. Dunstan, his former abbat and 
spiritual guide, and then again during his last illness (See the original life 
of the saint in Chron. de Ab., vol. ii. p. 263). But while severe to him- 
self, he was lenient to others in this matter. At Abingdon, his first and 
most special foundation, he showed his estimate of the common need 
by permitting in the refectory a dish of stew mixed with meat,ferculum 
carne mixtum; and on certain feast-days, meat puddings, artocrece (Ghron. 
de Ab.j vol. ii. p. 279). It is hardly to be doubted that what was estab- 
lished at Abingdon represented the custom Ethelwold had learnt at 
Glaston from Dunstan himself, and found its counterpart in the other 
monasteries existing and restored at this time. "He established 
monasteries in Abingdon, Hyde, Ely, Burgh, and Thorney, and in 
all (introduced) the customs which prevailed in the monastery of 
Abingdon" (Chron. de Ab., vol. i. pp. 345-348 ; ii. p. 279). Of course, 
from the practice of St. Ethelwold, it cannot be necessarily inferred that 
the custom obtained in every English monastery. But the Concordia, 
which was drawn up for all, seems to provide for and recognise the 
custom as generally existing. Pinguedo (pork fat) is here allowed up 
to Septuagesima (Apostolatus, iii. p. 85). Thus far we get light upon a 
subject about which there has been much misapprehension, and find 
what was the custom, as a matter of fact, in houses the most fervent 
and most affected by the great revival under St. Dunstan. 

VOL. I. 



THE Church of the Anglo-Saxon, the work mainly 
of monks, spread over all the land. Its growth in 
holiness, in civilisation, in. learning of all kinds, is 
witnessed by the memories of a Bede, a Wulstan, 
a Paulinus, an Erkonwald and Aldhelm, and many 
others whose names are sweet in English ears ; and 
the sons of St. Benedict were regarded with loving 
reverence as the benefactors of their country. But 
all this fair province of God's Church was once more 
to be devastated but not destroyed, changed but not 
altered. Not this time by pagan Dane, but by 
Christian Northmen, men who to their native sim- 
plicity and bravery had added the culture of the 
Franks, whom they had conquered, and among whom 
they had settled. 

But the changes about to be wrought in England 
did not come solely from the fact that the Saxons 
had to recognise Normans as masters by right of 
conquest. The invaders were the means by which 
a movement already greatly developed abroad made 
its power felt in English monasteries. 

The changes then going on in society at large 



brought into relief, more strongly than at other times, 
a feature in Benedictine government which might, 
under force of exterior circumstances, degenerate from 
its primitive institution. Each abbey, being alone 
and separated from other houses, was obviously less 
capable of resisting external attacks than when 
united with others for common defence. It was 
not an unknown thing, for instance, for some lay 
nobleman, through royal influence and favours, to 
be appointed abbat of a monastery in his neighbour- 
hood. Taking up his residence in the abbey, he 
would bring with him a train of servants and his 
family to boot. All this was to the grave detri- 
ment both of the property of the abbey, and was 
fatal to its welfare and discipline. These disorders, 
to appear under another guise later on, were preva- 
lent in the districts of Burgundy and the western 
parts of Germany. In 927 Odo of Tours began at 
Cluni, of which he became abbat, to cope with the 
difficulty. He met it on two sides by ordaining 
a confederation of houses, over which the abbat of 
Cluni should preside, and by periodical chapters 
of the abbats of the Order to be held at the 
head-house. Before long this naturally resulted in 
subjection ; the abbat of Cluni became lord and 
master of all. Together with these constitutional 
changes were others regarding the daily life of those 
who joined the reform. The cluniacs, for so the 
new Order was called, claimed to live in strict 
accord with the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, 


and certainly in the matter of the Divine Office, 
"the Work of God" as the Law-giver calls it, they 
let nothing be preferred before it. Their ritual 
observances were marked by a great wealth of 
splendour and a grandeur and majesty hitherto not 
realised. 1 It was the marked feature of their life 
and work. Cluni was fortunate in having at its 
start many remarkable men, who, gifted with wise 
energy, stirred up an enthusiasm which carried on 
the reform, or rather the new Order, to a success- 
ful issue. Its houses spread far and wide, and 
the influence of Cluni made itself felt in quarters 
where its ideals, as a whole, did not find favour. 
But it attained its success at the loss of a vital 
principle. The family tie, so essential a feature 
in Benedictine life, was lost ; for the cluniacs, 
in whichever of their hundred of houses they 
might happen to live, were counted members of this 
great abbey. We need not carry on the history 
of the Order. Enough has been said to illustrate 
the character of the changes that awaited the black 
monks of England. 

The chief agent in bringing about the consoli- 

1 Some of the other peculiarities of the cluniac Order may here be 
noted. Two high masses were celebrated every day, and on all greater 
solemnities the deacon used to be communicated with a part of the 
priest's host. They were employed more apparently in manual labour, 
in which all had to take a share, than in study ; for as a matter of fact, 
in view of their enormous extension, the books they wrote are compara- 
tively few. At the chapter each monk was bound to publicly accuse 
his brethren of any faults he had seen in them. There was great 
charity to the poor. ; 


dation of the Norman-Saxon Church, was the illus- 
trious Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury and ex 
officio abbat of the cathedral-monastery of Christ 

Born at Pavia (1005), he became renowned as 
a teacher, and was in the height of his fame 
when suddenly the vocation came. Hurrying off to 
Normandy, he hid himself about the year 1042 in the 
abbey of Bee, under the abbat Herluin. It was then 
but a poor monastery, consisting of mud hovels ; yet 
under its holy superior it was growing rich in virtue 
and the gifts of the spiritual life. Here the light of 
Lanfranc's learning and piety could not be hid ; and 
his brethren found in the humble brother the famous 
professor whose loss the learned world was then 
bewailing. Soon his retreat was discovered, and 
many of his old scholars flocked to Bee and im- 
plored him to help them. The abbat ordered him 
to resume his lectures ; and at once, from being an 
unknown monastery, Bee became one of the most 
famous centres of learning in Europe. Lanfranc 
had by that time become prior of Bee, and Herluin's 
chief adviser. The large ideas and the sense of 
beauty in ecclesiastical art he had brought from Italy, 
joined with the new ideas of liturgical splendour 
emanating from Cluni, seized upon the prior, and he 
determined to make of "white-robed Bee" 1 a model 
of monastic observance. The idea of magnificence 

1 The monks of Bee till 1626 wore a whitish-coloured habit. Cf. 
Leland's Antiguarii Collectanea, ed. alt. vol. iv. p. 13. 


had, by that time, taken possession of the Normans 
and was showing itself in stately buildings, magnifi- 
cent apparel, and a personal grandeur which had be- 
come marked features of the age. Hence the time 
was propitious for the prior's project. The abbat built 
a church which surpassed in splendour anything 
known in those parts, and for its use a consuetu- 
dinary, " the Use of Bee," 1 was drawn up in which 
were reflected the ideas of great stateliness and 
beauty of worship. 

And how did Lanfranc find his cathedral-monas- 
tery of Canterbury? If William of Malmesbury, 
who wrote the Gesta Pontificum in 1125, is to 
be relied upon, " The monks of Canterbury, like 
all then in England, were hardly different from 
seculars, except that they were careful on the score 
of chastity. They amused themselves with hunt- 
ing, with falconry, with horse-racing ; they loved to 
rattle the dice ; they indulged in drink ; they wore 
fine clothes, studied personal appearance, disdained 
a frugal and quiet life, and had such a retinue of 
servants, that they were more like secular nobles 
than monks." : 

But it will be well to remember that the Normans 

1 " The Use of Bee " was adapted in other abbeys, with such changes 
as various surroundings and traditions demanded. In 1063 Lanfranc 
was made abbat of Caen, a monastery built by William Duke of 
Normandy on a scale of princely splendour. In 1067 he refused the 
archbishopric of Kouen. This was the man who, in 1070, was chosen 
by William the Conqueror as archbishop of Canterbury. 

2 Malm., De Gestis Pontif. (Roll Series), p. 70.- 


treated the Saxons as a conquered people, and looked 
upon everything they found as barbarous and needing 
reformation. The monasteries, being in the minds of 
the new masters hotbeds of conservatism in which 
the old Saxon spirit was deeply engrained, they must 
be taken severely in hand and purged of all such 
tendencies. Hence it was with a prejudiced eye 
that writers, such as William of Malmesbury, looked 
upon the native monk. His account must therefore 
be taken for what it is worth. Besides, be it remem- 
bered, by his express testimony morality was kept 
in repute, and this hardly seems likely if the pic- 
ture he draws is to be taken as an accurate one. 
Where drinking, gaming, and feasting are, there 
chastity is not likely to remain long : and yet they 
are expressly exempted from such a charge by the 
historian. His account does not tally with experi- 
ence. That the rigour of discipline had fallen off 
since the days when their cathedral and monastery 
had been burnt by the Danes, and their archbishop 
Elphege (ion) murdered might well have been. 
But there must have been " grit " in them ; for by 
1020 they had repaired their church and resumed 
their life after the simple earnest ways of their 
forefathers. Their number, however, was small; and 
where numbers are small, observance is difficult. 

Whatever their state may have been at Canterbury 
at the time of the Conquest, one thing is certain, it 
did not satisfy the more magnificent ideas of Lanfranc. 
The simplicity of Saxon ritual did not accord with 


the splendour of worship which had been borrowed 
from Cluni for Bee and then for his own abbey at 
Caen. Canterbury must be brought up to the level of 
the new ideas, and a favourable opportunity offered 
itself. The cathedral church of Christ Church, the 
mother-church of the land, had been burnt down 
on St. Nicholas' day 1067, and although it had 
been repaired, its condition but ill sorted with its 
dignity. Lanfranc lent himself manfully to the task. 
In a short time, but seven years, a new church arose, 
or rather a new choir (1070) more commensurate 
with his dignified ideas. Built in the Norman style 
of the period, the few remains, such as they are, still 
delight us. The monastery itself was rebuilt, and 
soon one hundred and fifty monks were gathered 
together and sang God's praises. For them Lanfranc 
compiled his famous " statutes," a code of observa- 
tion largely liturgical. It is in reality in most 
points but little else than the " Use of Bee." When 
he sent them to Henry, prior of Christ Church, he 
enclosed a letter in which he says : 

" We send to you written customs of our Order 
which we have gathered from the customs of those 
monasteries which nowadays are of the greatest 
weight in the monastic Order. We have also added 
a very few things and changed also a little, especially 
as regards the celebration of the festivals, deeming 
they ought to be kept with greater excellence in our 
Church on account of its having the primatial chair. 
In which things, however, we do not wish in any 


way to hamper either ourselves or those who come 
after us, so that we cannot either add to or take 
away from, or change them if we think that these 
matters can be improved on either as the result of 
our own experience or by the example of others. 
For however far advanced a man may think himself 
to be, he is woefully deficient if he thinks that he 
cannot improve. For a greater or less number of 
brethren, a varying income, circumstances, differ- 
ences of personal appreciation, often call for changes. 
So that hardly any Church can imitate its neighbour 
in all things." l 

Lanfranc's changes were the work of time, 
spreading over many years ; for, to quote William 
of Malmesbury again : 

" Lanfranc was most skilful in the art of arts, the 
government of souls, and knowing well that habit 
is second nature, though bent on reforming, he did 
his work with prudence, and plucking up the weeds 
little by little, sowed good seed in their place." 2 

His nephew, Paul, who had been set over the 
abbey of St. Alban's, took Lanfranc s constitutions 
bodily and introduced them into his house, and 
adopted his uncle's prudent methods also. 3 What 
the local influence and example of Lanfranc achieved 
at Canterbury and at St. Albans, was done on 
similar lines at other abbeys, where new rulers 

1 Apostolatus, iii. p. 211. 

2 Malm., De Gestis Pontif. (Roll Series), p. 71. 

3 Walsingam, Gesta abbatum monasterii S. Albani (Roll Series), vol. i. 
p. 52. 


would naturally introduce such changes as they 
themselves had been accustomed to in the Norman 
abbeys wherein they had learnt the monastic life. 
A general similarity would mark the movement, 
but local influence would of course have had full 
play; for whether we visited Glaston, St. Albans, 
York, or Chester, we should have found these local 
peculiarities which must grow round anything that 
is worthy of the name of " home." 

These changes were sore indeed to the Saxon 
monks, and were sometimes brought about only 
after great difficulty ; for it was not every abbat 
who, at a time when race antipathies were strong, 
had Lanfranc's discretion. For instance, when Thur- 
stan, a monk of Caen, was appointed as abbat of 
Glaston, one of his first steps was to introduce the 
fashion of chanting to which he had been used. 
This was the signal for trouble ; for, to quote the 
words of Ordericius : 

" When the violent (protervus) abbat tried to force 
the Glastonians to give up the chant the English 
had learnt from the disciples of blessed Gregory, the 
pope, and learn from these Flemings or Normans 
another chant quite unknown or unheard of before, 
so fierce a strife arose, which was soon followed by 
the disgrace of the holy Order. For while the monks 
would not receive these new regulations, and by 
their contumacy the stubbornness of their master 
continuing, lay-men, by the authority of their lord, 
fell upon the luckless monks in choir with arrows, 


and some of them were cruelly hurt, and (so it is 
said) even mortally wounded." 

A similar story is told of Malmesbury abbey. In 
the case of Glaston, the result was in favour of the 
monks. Thurstan was removed by the King, and 
a more prudent man set in his place. 

In the wake of the Normans, the monks of Cluni 
entered England and brought with them the idea of 
monasteries ruled by superiors, the mere nominees 
at will of an abbat of the house beyond the seas 
which counted them all her subjects. At the sug- 
gestion of Lanfranc, it appears, William, Earl of 
Surrey, the Conqueror's son-in-law, first brought over 
in 1077 the cluniacs and settled them at Lewes. 
In a few years, before William Rufus began his 
reign, they had secured other houses in England 
and thence spread. The houses of Bermondsey, 
Northampton, Thetford, Wenlock, Lenton, Monta- 
cute, and Castleacre, are some of their better known 
foundations, and we may note that altogether there 
were some thirty-eight houses of this Order in 
England, besides three hospitals in London and two 
manors depending on the abbey of Cluni itself. 
Although the number of their houses was thus 
considerable and many were large, their peculiar 
form of government did not find favour with Eng- 
lishmen, and their Order never became racy of the 
soil. And even w r hen some cluniacs were appointed 
over English abbeys, this did not affect the inde- 

1 Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. Migne, p. 335. 


pendence of these houses. Even those great English 
abbeys which at times were ruled by cluniacs, kept 
themselves aloof from any relations with Cluni itself, 
except that their revenues as, for instance, at 
Glaston and Winchester were used to free Cluni 
from debt, and seem for four years practically to 
have supported that house. 1 

This century was the golden age for monasticism. 
Abbeys and priories sprung up on every side. The 
burst of new life which the Conquest gave to 
England, and the tone of mind induced by the 
growth of chivalry, turned men's minds strongly to 
the high and noble ideal of the monastic state. 
The monk was the " Knight of God," and his victories 
over sin and self appealed to ardent hearts which 
consumed themselves in the task of accomplishing 
deeds of valour and heroism. Hence to this period 
\ve owe many of our greatest foundations, e.g. 
Durham, where the bishop, William of St. Carileph, 
formerly abbat of St. Vincent's at Mans, accom- 
plished what his predecessor had vainly tried to 
do. He gave the secular canons, who possessed 
the church he designed for his cathedral, the choice 
of either remaining as monks or of else departing. 
All, except the dean, elected to go ; and for them 
the bishop, by command of the Pope, instituted the 
collegiate churches of Aukland, Darlington, and 
Norton, and provided them with suitable pensions. 2 

1 Cf. Sir G. F. Duckett's Charters and Records of Cluny, p. 79. 

2 Simeonis Dunelmensis Historia de DuneL Ecclesia., lib. iv. cap. 2 et 3. 


The monks from the old abbeys of Wearmouth 
and Jarrow were translated to Durham in 1083 ; 
and these houses thenceforth became merely cells 
dependent on the cathedral-monastery. St. Mary's, 
York, Battle Abbey, Colchester, Reading, Pershore, 
and Gloucester are some of the many foundations of 
this period, to say nothing of the new Order of the 
white monks of Citeaux, and the black or augustinian 
canons, and the white canons of Premontre. 1 

In the midst of all this activity, one side of 
the peculiar movement, which resulted in the new 
Orders of Cluni and Citeaux, began to tell upon 
the black monks here and elsewhere. We refer 
to the constitutional organisation which now began 
to develop itself. In France, for instance, the 
abbats of St. Amand, Lobbes, Liesse, Anchin, Rebais, 
Lagny, and others, all belonging to the ecclesiasti- 
cal province of Rheims, agreed, about the year 1 132, 
to hold annual meetings for the maintenance of 
discipline. 2 

An assembly in the year 1152 of the abbats of 
Upper Lorraine at Metz, under the presidency of 

1 The origin and aims of the cistercians were briefly these : In 1098 
Robert, abbat of Molesme, with Stephen Harding and some com- 
panions, left his monastery in order to carry out the Rnle of St. 
Benedict to the letter. They found a shelter at Citeaux. The cister- 
cians had a halo of glory cast over them by the great St. Bernard, 
abbat of the house of Clairvaux. In opposition to the cluniacs, they 
rejected liturgical pomp. They turned their attention to husbandry 
and agriculture. 

2 See Introduction to Monks of the West, by Dom F. A. Gasquet, ed. 
Nimmo, vol. i. p. 39 ; and Downside Review, vol. v. p. 59. 


Jordan, cardinal - priest, may have had a similar 
object. These meetings are interesting, for they 
show that in the immediate neighbourhood of Cluni 
the idea of some form of association was beginning 
to work its way among monks who had preserved 
their own independence. It was being slowly gene- 
rated, and the time and opportunity for putting it 
into practice upon strictly Benedictine lines was 
close at hand. 

Innocent III. in the year 1215 held a general 
council at Rome (the Fourth Lateran) which was 
attended by 412 bishops and nearly 1000 abbats 
and priors, and there decreed, among other legisla- 
tion, a system of union for black monks. What 
this system was, and how well it meets both the 
acknowledged want and the requirements of the 
Benedictine ideal, will be seen in the following 



THERE are no such things, properly speaking, as 
benedictine constitutions in the sense the word 
is used in other orders. The benedictines do not 
form one large body with a general at their head ; 
for St. Benedict did not legislate for a world-wide 
corporation but for a state of life. Such a form of 
government as obtains, for instance, in the francis- 
can or dominican orders would be entirely foreign 
to the spirit of the holy Rule. Each of the modern 
orders has some special work in view, to which all 
their life is directed. They have to find their salva- 
tion through the various works of charity for which 
they were formed, or which they have taken up as 
an integral portion of their work. Not so with the 
benedictine. He has no external work peculiar 
to his order. St. Benedict's ideal is that of the 
common Christian life of the " Counsels " practised 
to a higher degree than can be in the world. It is 
simply the Gospel put into practice. The vows, for 
instance, of Poverty and Chastity are not explicit as 
to other orders; for when the Christian life is drawn 
out to its perfection on the plain, broad Gospel 


lines, the spirit of poverty must be cultivated and 
the body kept in subjection. 

The vows the benedictine makes are three in 
number : Stability, that is, to remain attached to his 
monastery and not wander at will ; Conversion of 
life, that is, until death to labour after attaining the 
perfection of the state to which he is called ; and 
lastly, Obedience to the abbat. The first two vows 
concern mainly his interior life, the last his external 
relation to his superiors. Obedience understood, 
then, by a benedictine does away with the necessity 
of laying down minute laws and tracing carefully 
the lines in which a superior and a subject respec- 
tively may move. Constitutions of this kind would 
cut away entirely at the Benedictine idea of the 
"home," which we may venture to describe as of 
this kind. 

As God made Society to rest on the basis of the 
Family, so St. Benedict saw that the spiritual family 
is the surest basis for the sanctification of the souls 
of his monks. The monastery therefore is to him 
what the " home" is to lay-folk. It is a self-contained 
family, having friendly relations indeed with others, 
but in no wise losing its own independence and 
individuality. It has its own peculiar way of look- 
ing at things, its own ideals and its own kind of 
work, which it has spontaneously undertaken, or 
which has come to it unsought, and which it always 
manages to stamp with its own peculiar mark. Of 
this family the abbat is the father ; the monks are 



his sons. The whole spirit is "homely." The 
monks trust their abbat whom they have freely 
elected. He loves them and has confidence in 
them, and in no way can he effectually act except 
through them. In the benedictine abbey which has 
grasped the idea of its lawgiver, there will be order 
and rule, for no family can exist without them : 
but the yoke will be sweet and the burden light. 
Largeness and breadth will be the spirit of every 
house ; while from the fact that the influence of any 
one monastery must necessarily be circumscribed to 
its own immediate neighbourhood, there will be less 
chance of friction between one house and another. 
When each is independent and works out its for- 
tune in its own way, it is an easy matter so to 
steer the course as to keep clear out of the way of 
others. From this family idea comes another re- 
sult : the very fact that St. Benedict did not found 
an Order but only gave a Rule, cuts away all 
possibility of that narrowing esprit de corps which 
comes so easily to a widespread and highly orga- 
nised body. 

Lanfranc in the above-mentioned letter to Henry, 
prior of Christ Church, says : " One point is most 
carefully to be attended to, namely, that these 
things without which there is no salvation are to 
be thoroughly observed : I mean, faith, contempt 
of the world, charity, chastity, lowliness, patience, 
obedience, sorrow for past sins, lowly confession of 
sin, frequent prayers, a fitting silence, and many 

VOL. i. o 


other things of this kind. Where these are observed, 
there truly may the Rule of Holy Benet be said to 
be followed, and there the monastic order kept. No 
matter how different other things may be ; for there 
are points which have obtained differently in different 
monasteries by the opinions of different people." 

This, then, being the idea, any form of govern- 
ment which destroys the autonomy of each house, 
or which tends to break up the family, is foreign to 
the very first principles of benedictine life, and can 
only be tolerated for a time under the plea of some 
very great necessity. Confederation of houses for 
mutual support and advice, on the other hand, is in 
keeping with the family idea ; and for the general 
good each family may give up some of its rights, as 
is done in the State. But it must be so arranged 
that the essential rights are preserved intact, other- 
wise it is Socialism in its baldest form. There had 
been, as we have seen, for some time past a move- 
ment towards some kind of union among black 
monks. The vitality which existed in each house is 
enough to account for such a movement seeking to 
share its principle of life with others ; and we need 
go no further to seek for the cause. We have also 
seen how the first steps towards such an end had 
resulted in specifically distinct orders like those of 
Cluni and Citeaux. The obvious plan was for the 
heads of neighbouring houses to meet together, 
bringing some of their monks, and discuss such 

1 Apostolatus, Hi. p. 211. 


matters as were of general interest. This was the 
plan the Church adopted and has expressed in the 
Fourth General Council of Lateran. The twelfth 
decree, the only one which concerns the monastic 
order, in substance is as follows : 

In each province or kingdom let all the abbats 
and priors of houses which are not abbeys meet 
together (saving all episcopal rights) every three 
years in some convenient monastery, and there hold 
a chapter, to which all not lawfully excused are 
bound to come. Let them, while new to the busi- 
ness, invite, for advice as to procedure, two of the 
neighbouring cistercian abbats as being accustomed 
to such meetings ; * and to these must be elected 
other two of their own, and the four shall preside 
over the assembly. But let these presidents take 
heed lest they claim any superiority ; for if it is 
found expedient they may, after due deliberation, be 
changed. The chapter must last for several days, 
after the manner of the cistercians ; and it is to treat 
of such things as the reformation of the order and 
of regular observance. Whatever is decided and is 
approved of by the four presidents is to be held 
as binding upon all. Before the chapter closes, 
the date of the next one must be fixed. Those who 
attend must lead the common life, and bear pro- 
portionately their share of the expenses. If room 
cannot be found for them all in one house, then 

1 The first cistercian chapter was held by St. Stephen Harding at 
Citeaux, 1116. 


several together are to lodge elsewhere. Certain 
men of religious circumspection are to be chosen 
by the chapter as visitors of every abbey in the 
province or kingdom. They are to visit in the 
pope's name both monks and nuns ; and correct 
and reform what they find amiss. If on visitation 
they find it necessary that any abbat or prior should 
be deposed, they are to denounce him to his own 
bishop that he may remove him. If the bishop 
will not do so, then the case is to be referred to 
the judgment of the See Apostolic. Any difficulty 
that may arise in the application of this decree has 
also to be referred to the pope. This decree also 
is to be applied to all canons regular, each accord- 
ing to their order. Moreover the bishops have to 
take such heed to the state of the monasteries in 
their dioceses, that when the capitular visitors 
come, they may rather find matter for commendation 
than correction. The bishops are also to take care 
that their monasteries are not over-taxed by the 
visitors, for while the Holy See desires to guard all 
rights of superiors, she has no wish to injure the 
subjects. The pope also distinctly orders both 
bishops and presidents of chapters, under pain of 
censure, to compel all lay-folk to desist from wrong- 
ing the monks in person or property ; and offenders 
are to be compelled to make due satisfaction, so 
that the divine service may go on with all freedom 
and peace. 

Nowhere was the decree so loyally observed, both 


in letter and spirit, as in England. Our monks put 
it at once into force on the lines of the partition of 
the ecclesiastical provinces of Canterbury and York. 
No acts of the chapters held in the northern province 
have come down to us, or, at least, have as yet been 
printed. 1 In the Apostolatus we have collected 
decrees of a number held in the southern province. 2 
These meetings went on, at least, to 1516, when 
there was a general chapter held in Coventry. 3 

Three years after the Lateran Council, the pre- 
lates of the province of Canterbury were holding a 
chapter in September 1218 at Oxford. The sessions 
were put off until the I4th of September 1219, 
when it again met at St. Albans. Its presidents 
were the abbats of Evesham and St. Augustine's, 
Canterbury, both of whom had assisted at the 
Lateran Council. The southern province does not 
seem to have availed itself of the help of any cister- 
cian abbats. Perhaps the two presidents, fresh from 
Rome, felt quite capable of conducting the business 
of chapter without any outside help. From 1218 
to 1300 we have traces of no less than twenty-four 
of these provincial chapters. Oxford and its neigh- 

1 The acts of one chapter of the northern province seemed to have 
been in the hands of Dom Baker: "et aliud (Capitulum) Eboraci 
circa annum 1266 cujus acta habentur et exordium eorum authentice 
discriptum ad tend ere possumus" (Apostolutus, ii. 39). This chapter 
is mentioned in Hist. Dunelm. Scriptor. ires (Surtees Society), p. 48, 
in terms which imply a standing institute. 

2 See also Downside Review, vol. v. p. 59. 

3 See the Statutes in the Appendix to vol. iii. of Historia et Cartu- 
larium Monasterii Sti. Petri, Gloucestrice (Roll Series), pp. 298, 299. 


bourhood seems to have been the usual place of 
meeting, though Glastonbury, Evesham, London, 
and Northampton were favoured, as well as St. 
Albans and Reading. In 1236-37 a general chapter, 
seemingly of all, was held in London preparatory 
to the opening of the legatine Council of Otho. At 
this council the legate passed a decree (No. 19) 
concerning the use of flesh meat. The Italian was 
judging of the state of English monasticism by 
what he had been accustomed to in his own warmer 
land. He says he had gladly heard that the abbats 
of the order throughout England had lately held 
a chapter in which they enforced perpetual absti- 
nence according to the Rule of St. Benedict ; l which 
decree he now confirms. This change, however, was 
soon found impracticable ; and in the provincial 
chapter held in 1300 at Oxford, under the presidency 
of the abbat of Westminster, a decree was passed 
to dispense with it, as impossible to be kept under 
the circumstances. This chapter also did away with 
the number of extra vocal prayers which had been 
accumulating since the days of St. Dunstan. The 
meeting at Oxford, 2ist September 1253, seems to 
have been one of both provinces. 2 

It was not long, however, before the benedictine 
provinces of Canterbury and York were united into 
one general chapter of a Congregation, coextensive 

1 And, it appears, in accordance with the legate's wishes. 

2 Annales de Theokesberia, ed. Luard, p. 153 ; Annales de Wintonia, 
ed. Luard, p. 94. 


with the country. The Lateran decree had been 
only fully carried out in England, and nowhere 
else. Therefore in 1334 Benedict XII. issued from 
Avignon on June 2oth the famous bull called 
the Benedictina, which enforced the Lateran de- 
cree and extended its scope. The abbats of St. 
Albans and of St. Mary's, York, one for each pro- 
vince, were charged by the Holy See to execute 
the bull in England. It is a long document, and 
consists of thirty-nine chapters. As it is one of 
the most important pieces of legislation for the 
Order ever issued by the Holy See, it will be well 
to give here a brief resume of its more important 

After having re-enforced the decree of the Lateran 
Council about triennial chapters, which affects all 
superiors, abbats Cathedral and other conventual 
priors, the pope orders those who cannot attend 
personally to send proxies, otherwise they are to be 
fined a double amount of the usual tax levied for 
chapter expenses. The power of the presidents is 
to last from chapter to chapter. The two provinces 
of Canterbury and York are to unite and form only 
one chapter. (I.) Visitors are only to stay two days 
at any house when on visitations ; and on such 
occasions there are to be no feastings ; neither is 
money allowed to be received or offered excepting 
for the bare expenses. Penalties are inflicted against 
those who infringe this law. (II.) Besides the 
general chapter ; every year a chapter of each parti- 


cular house has to be held. (III.) The general 
chapter has power of taxation for general purposes. 
(IV.) In every house in which there are at least six 
monks, the daily conventual chapter is to held. 
(V.) In every house a properly paid teacher is to be 
appointed to instruct the monks in Grammar, Logic, 
and Philosophy. Seculars are not to be taught with 
the monks. (VI.) One monk in twenty must be 
sent to the universities for higher studies, and he is 
to have a fixed allowance. Superiors, under penal- 
ties, have to seek advice as to whom they send to 
the university. (VII.) Pensions are to be paid to 
students according to their rank, out of which they 
must find food, clothes, books, &c. A prior of the 
home of studies is to be appointed by the presi- 
dents. Each monk-student has once a month to 
send in his list of belongings. (VIII.) Then, after 
chapters on the general management of monastic 
houses regarding business matters (IX. to XXV.), 
come these laws. Every Wednesday and Saturday, 
and every day in Advent and from Septuagesima 
to Easter are days when flesh meat is forbidden 
to monks unless superiors judged well to dis- 
pense in individual cases. All are to sleep in 
one dormitory, separate cells being strictly for- 
bidden except for students who can use them for 
purposes of study but not for sleeping. (XXVI.) 
In monasteries all priests are to celebrate at least 
twice or thrice a week. Those who are not priests 
confess at least once a week and communicate once 


a month. 1 (XXVII.) The rest of the decrees con- 
cern benefices and other ecclesiastical injunctions of 
no general interest. 2 

This bull was duly announced by the two abbats 
by letters dated March 10, 1337, and a chapter ap- 
pointed to be held at Northampton, at the cluniac 
monastery of St. Andrew, on the following June loth 
for the publication of the bull. Northampton was 
chosen as being most accessible ; and the pope 
allowed the holding of chapters, if more convenient, 
in houses belonging to another Order. 

On June 10, 1338 (Wilkins gives this date), the 
first united chapter was held as arranged. 3 The 
abbat of York said the mass, and afterwards he 
of St. Albans preached in Latin prout decuit. As 
soon as the chapter had begun its session, a royal 
messenger, one Master Philip, a cleric of London, 
was announced. He brought letters from the king 
forbidding the fathers to do aught contrary to the 
royal prerogative or to the laws of the land. The 

1 The old rule laid down in the Concordia Regularis was daily 
Communion ; even on Good Friday ; and the reason was given in the 
words of St. Augustine : " Because in the Lord's Prayer we do not 
ask for our yearly but for our daily bread. ... So live as to be worthy 
to receive every day ; for he who is not worthy to receive daily is not 
worthy to receive once a year " (Lib. de Verbis Domini). It must be 
remembered that the wording of the Benedidina was made to apply 
to all countries, the names of Canterbury and York being only inserted 
in the copy sent to England. Hence the regulation in Chapter XXVII. 
does not go to prove that in England, at least, monks had fallen off 
from their old practice. 

2 Wilkins, Concilia, vol. ii. pp. 585-613. 

3 Ibid. p. 626. 


session was prorogued for two days to consult how 
to satisfy the king and obey the pope's commands ; 
which they were able to do by showing the meeting 
to be concerned only with their own internal affairs. 
After this they proceeded to business, and the abbats 
of Westminster, Gloucester, and Bardney were chosen 
presidents. The bull was formally read, and was 
ordered to be kept at Westminster, as the most 
secure place of deposit. Visitors were nominated 
for the whole of England, and a commission was 
appointed, now that the two provinces were united, 
to overlook the decrees of the former provincial 
chapters and decide what was to be kept as binding 
upon the whole Congregation. 

These chapters, held then at fixed intervals until 
the Dissolution, were regularly representative bodies, 
consisting not only of the heads of the houses, 
but also of ordinary monks deputed by their fellow- 
religious to attend. The records of some of these 
chapters still exist, and are full of interest, showing 
as they do the practical working of the system. For 
instance, at the third provincial chapter of the year 
1 343 some modifications by Clement VI. of the bull 
of Benedict XII. were read. 1 A demand was made 
to chapter by the cardinals who had brought out the 
bull, for payment of 300 crowns as their expenses, 
and threats were used in case of non-payment. The 
king took the matter into his own hands and for- 
bade any such payments. An important decree was 

1 Wilkins, Concilia, vol. ii. pp. 713-15. 


passed, to the effect that all provisions of former 
chapters were to be considered as revoked unless 
reaffirmed by each succeeding chapter. In another 
(1422), a stop was put to excessive cavalcades on 
the part of those who came to the meeting. No 
one, however dignified, was to have a train of more 
than twenty horses. 1 

Abbats were ordered to look after their monks 
and to live among them, especially on feast days. 
They were not to be absent from the monastery 
more than three months in the year ; and were to 
be careful to spend Easter with their brethren. The 
abbats agree once a year to make a full statement 
to their monks of everything which concerns the 
abbey. Their power of alienation was checked. 
From September I5th to Lent no supper was to 
be allowed except to the aged, sick, and those 
below twenty years of age. A decree allowing of 
eating meat was also passed, for the reason that 
doctors and experience both teach that a total 
abstinence from flesh is contrary to nature and 
hurtful to the system : so, were monks to be 
confined to such diet alone, they would become 
weak and suffer, a thing the rule neither orders 
nor desires." 

The visitations ordered by chapter were realities 
and no merely formal visits. The reports were read 
at the succeeding chapter. For instance, the abbat 
of St. Albans, who had been appointed visitor of 

1 Ibid. vol. iii. p. 419. 


St. Augustine's, Canterbury, reports to the fathers 
assembled, in 1426* that he was grieved to have 
found something there needing correction, about 
which he would later on confer with them more 
fully. The abbat of Cerne, on the same occasion, 
reports well of all the houses he had to visit, with 
the exception of Abingdon, about which he too 
had something to report privately to the president. 
At Shrewsbury, too, he says, there were strifes and 
a want of concord. We do not find any account 
of capitular visitation of nunneries ; and are thereby 
led to conclude that the houses of women were 
not considered (although the Lateran decrees gave 
the power of visitation) as being formally part of 
the Congregation at all. 

The general chapter was for some time exercised 
as to the repeated contumacy of the monks of Christ 
Church, Canterbury, who refused to appear when 
summoned. 2 They were warned and threatened with 
fines and excommunication again and again. But 
with no effect. The monks of Christ Church pro- 
tested that, as being the mother-house of all bene- 
dictines in England and, sede vacante, holding the 
primatial jurisdiction, it beseemed not their dignity 
to be summoned to any general chapter. If general 
chapter there need be, theirs it was to summon it, 
and to preside over its deliberation. In 1360 they 
wrote, in the name of the king, to the pope ex- 

1 Wilkins, Concilia, vol. iii. p. 464. 

2 Literce Cantuarienses, vol. ii. pp. 224, 398, 400, 448, 510. 


posing their woes and claiming exemption ; and in 
1363 appointed proctors in Rome to carry on the 
appeal. But in 1373 the chapter still persisted 
in its claim and began to threaten the monks of 
Christ Church with further grave penalties, of 
which the prior bitterly complains in a letter 
to the archbishop. Five years later, Urban VI. 
writes to archbishop Simon of Sudbury, and gives 
full exemption to the monks of his cathedral- 

While the general chapter was exercising juris- 
diction and sending visitors to the different abbeys 
in the pope's name, we must not forget that these 
same abbeys and other houses were also subjected 
to the visitations of the bishops of the diocese. 
The bishop was the ordinary of the whole diocese, 
and had to correct whatever was amiss in his flock. 1 
He could, if necessary, even dispose an abbat whom 
he found unworthy, and thus obviate any difficulties 

1 In the Constitutions of Giles of Sarum (1256), the bishop lays down 
this decree for his monasteries : " Since by the rule of the holy fathers, 
religious men are bound to know by heart the psalms, hymns, and 
certain other things to be read or sung according to their own ob- 
servance, both in the night and day offices, we order that no one who 
has entered now or at any future time a monastery in our diocese, 
should he not know his office by heart, be promoted to any obedience 
(i.e. any post of trust) unless it be a case of invincible ignorance. In 
case of contravention of this law, both the appointer and the appointed 
are suspended" (Wilkins, Concilia, vol. i. p. 718). The visitations 
held in the diocese of Norwich, and published by the Camden Society, 
show how strict and searching the visitations were ; and how much 
indeed, up to the time of the Dissolution, depended upon the 


which might arise from life appointments. His 
leave was necessary for an election, and he was 
called upon to confirm the choice of the monks. 
It was the bishop of the diocese who had to bless 
the newly appointed abbat, and who had to keep 
his eye upon him and see he did his duty. There 
were in England only five abbeys exempt from 
episcopal control, viz., St. Albans, Canterbury, St. 
Augustine's, Westminster, Evesham, St. Edmund's 
Bury. In these abbeys, although there was freedom 
from the bishop's visitation, they were under the 
capitular jurisdiction. Their elections depended on 
the pope for confirmation, and they had to pay 
heavily for the privilege. 1 They had to go to Rome 
in person or by proxy for confirmation ; and there 
the chancery fees were enormous. In 1 308 the cost 
of papal confirmation for the election of Richard de 
Sudbury, as abbat of Westminster, was no less than 
8000 florins. Towards the end of the fifteenth 
century they got dispensation from going or sending 
to Rome, and had, instead, to pay a yearly tax of 
200 florins to the papal collector. 

Now to go back to the abbey in itself. As be- 
comes a father of the family, the abbat held his post 
for life. It was only for some grave reason that he 
could be deposed. Religious orders, and congre- 

1 They also had to pay heavy sums to the king for leave to elect. 
In 1235 the monks of St. Albans had to pay the king 300 marks 
(nearly ^4000 of present money) for the privilege. Gesta Abb. Sti. Alb. 
(Roll Series), vol. i. p. 306. 


gations not belonging to the monastic state, find 
in frequent changes of superiors advantages which 
would by no means be such to monks. A dominican, 
a franciscan, or a Jesuit, has no home in any one 
house of his order more than another. He is here 
to-day and gone to-morrow. But " home " is the 
very idea of a benedictine monastery; and "home" 
means oneness of surroundings and traditions, one- 
ness of rule, of love and way of looking at things. 
Around the monastery cling all those natural feel- 
ings and sentiments which are the mainstay of 
the family life. Here the monk is content to 
live and die. Here will he dwell for ever, because 
he has chosen it. Once more, "home" means one 
father. 1 

Another point to which we have referred. The 
benedictine has no outside work peculiar to him- 
self. He can therefore, when called by obedience, 
take up all or any. He may follow the contem- 
plative life or the active ministry of the Apostolic 
mission. He may teach or may write books. He 
may plant trees and till the soil, or he may follow 
Art in any of its many branches. He may convert 

1 The learned benedictine bishop Hedley of Newport thus writes on 
this subject : " Every benedictine monastery is, and ought to be, a home ; 
whatever the external work to which a monk may find himself called, the 
normal thing must always be, to live in his own monastery. It would 
be a mistake to encourage any one to profess himself a benedictine 
unless he could look forward with pleasure to live "for better for 
worse " till death itself in the home of his profession, under the Rule, 
and in the daily work of the choir." Ampleforth Journal, April 1896, 
_p. 248. 


the heathen or preside over the welfare of the 
universal church from the Chair of Peter. Any 
work a Christian may do, he may do. Whether he 
takes up one form of work or changes to some 
other, it is all one to him. He is still a benedictine. 
He works for work's sake ; for the discipline it 
gives to the soul ; for the avoiding of idleness ; and 
for his own support ; for then, says St. Benedict, 
" we are true monks when we live by the works of 
our hands." l Hence the wideness of his spirit and 
the elasticity of his rule, which adapts itself to any 
work required by the circumstances and the time. 
In a word, the benedictine life is not so much that 
of an Order as it is a State of Life, the life of the 
Evangelical Counsels. 2 

1 Regula S. Benedict^ cap. xlviii. 

2 When we use the term " order," as applied to benedictines, it must 
be remembered it has quite a different meaning to what it does when 
used of the later religious bodies. In the benedictine meaning it is the 
same as the term "state" in the "monastic state," and is analogous, 
to the term " order " as when we speak of the clerical " order." 



PROFESSING as he does to follow the ordinary 
Gospel teaching, the monk cannot be unmindful 
of the words, "Bear ye one another's burdens." 1 
Filled with the strength and the peace which has 
entered his soul since his " conversion," 2 he is 
always ready, when his abbat gives the word, to 
labour for those left exposed to the cares and 
dangers he has escaped. He is no misanthrope, 
but is wise enough to know that the welfare of the 
body is a great means towards securing the welfare 
of the soul. For human misery, want, and poverty 
are all so many obstacles in the way of Grace 
working the change unto Life Eternal. Little is 
the use of preaching to starving men, especially if 
the preacher be himself well fed. Feed, clothe, and 
house them ; and then will they be able to under- 
stand that " Life is more than meat, and their 
bodies more than raiment." 3 This common sense, 
human way of looking at things, judging of others 

1 Gal. vi. 2. 

2 See the Conversio morum suorum of the monastic vows. 

3 St. Matthew vi. 25. 

VOL. I. 49 D 


by the practical knowledge a man has gained of 
himself, taught the monk to make his monastery 
a centre for reaching the people among whom he 
lived ; for an abbey was often possessed of vast 
estates which afforded occupation and work to thou- 
sands. The black monks were good landlords, who 
lived in the midst of their tenantry and knew the 
profit of keeping their people on the ground. The 
personal welfare of their tenants, their comfort and 
convenience, was as much a consideration to the 
monks as were their own, and they were as well 
looked after. Even with all the changes brought 
about in land-holding as the result of the Black 
Death, and the civil wars so impoverishing to any 
country, the black monks, in spite of their genuine 
distress, were but slow and sparing imitators of 
those who had found it so profitable to inclose their 
lands for pasturage. 1 

"As agriculturists and judicious managers of 
property the monks of a benedictine house had no 
equals. They were business-like, exact, and prompt 
in their dealings. They required from their tenants 
and servants a just and faithful performance of their 
different services and tasks ; but whilst they did so 
they were not hard or ungrateful masters. . . . The 
constitutions and regulations contained in the Glou- 
cester Cartulary . . . are, as I firmly believe, the 

1 The cistercians were famous as wool-growers, and at one time seemed 
to have had almost a monopoly of the wool trade. Hence pasturage 
was more important to them than agriculture. 


production not of a parcel of drunken and besotted 
monks, but of intelligent landlords and agricul- 
turists who had a due care for the stewardship of 
the things committed to their care. Agriculture was 
one of the leading features of the Benedictine Order, 
and in this the monks achieved a great success." l 

Wherever there are great buildings, there work 
will always be found for many. The bare keeping 
in repair of places like Canterbury or Ely or 
Peterborough must have meant a livelihood for 
generations of artisans, and trained artisans too, 
men whose artistic tastes were carefully cultivated. 
There were also in the working of a great abbey 
an example given of careful agriculture, of manage- 
ment, of thrift, and of a higher ideal than could be 
found elsewhere. All these must have tended to 
elevate the tone of the people who dwelt near, 
and been a means of culture which would infallibly 
tell in the long run. 

But these are indirect ways of helping one's 
neighbours which perhaps are more efficacious as 
not interfering with the spirit of sturdy inde- 
pendence so important to a nation. There is a 
difference between doing a thing for people, and 
showing them how to do it for themselves ; and this 
was the policy the monks followed. But children 
and the sick are cases which are helpless, and this 
was fully recognised. The monks became the great 

1 Mr. Hart's Introduction : Historic/, Monasterii Gloucesteris (Roll 
Series), vol. iii. p. xciii. 


educationalists of the day, and did not confine their 
work to men of their own rank, but spread the 
blessings of learning far and wide. For instance, as 
early as the year 1198 the abbat (Sampson) of St. 
Edmundsbury built and endowed a public school ; 
while in the twelfth century the school of St. Albans, 
successively under Neckham and Master Warin, was 
of such fame that Matthew of Paris says : " There 
was hardly a school in all England at that time more 
fruitful or more famous either for the number or 
the proficiency of its scholars." 

It is interesting to note that Master Warin, a 
secular, was nephew both to the abbat and the 
prior ; and was " so like his uncles in dignified 
demeanour, worshipful life, and in learning, that he 
truly deserved to be called the nephew of such men, 
or rather their brother." ; 

The abbats of Evesham paid yearly ^io 3 and 
" borde and tabelying frely in the monasterie to one 
scholemaster for the keeping of a free schole in the 
said town of Evesham." 4 

Westminster, Glaston, and all the great houses kept 
free schools in their own towns and on the various 
properties they held up and down the country. 5 

1 Memoirs of St. Edmund's Abbey (Roll Series), vol. i. p. 296. There 
was also a school at Beccles kept up by the same convent (ibid. vol. 
iii. p. 182). 

2 Gesta Abbatum, vol. i. pp. 195-6. 

3 Equal to about ^120 of our money. 

4 H. Cole, King Henry the Eighth's Scheme of Bishoprics, p. 117. 

6 For instance, the royal monastery at Westminster had possessions 
in 97 towns, 17 hamlets, besides 216 manors. 



The claims of the sick, of the really poor, and of 
the wayfarer were looked to. Where was the natural 
resource for all in need or distress, but at the great 
abbey? Food and shelter would be freely found at 
God's house for those who wanted ; and the dole 
would not pauperise the receivers. Day by day at 
stated hours were the poor fed at every religious 
house ; and guest-rooms were built to shelter those 
who wanted to stay. For two days and nights were 
travellers made welcome ; and during that time, if 
their health allowed, they followed, as at Abingdon, 
the spiritual exercises of the convent. 1 They fared 
the same as did the monks. When their time was 
up, they were bidden god-speed and went on their 
journey, sure of finding the same hospitality in the 
next religious house at which they stopped. The 
neighbouring poor had their daily dole ; and from 
the monastic dispensaries the sick could always have 
the medicines and attendance they required. In 
fact, " the myth of the fine old English gentleman, 
who had a large estate and provided every day for 
the poor at his gate, was (as the late Professor J. S. 
Brewer said) realised in the case of the monks, and 
in their case only." : 

Not in bodily help only did they provide for the 
people, but they looked also after their spiritual 
profit. For dependent on the abbey were also many 
tracts of land up and down the country, left as alms 

1 MS. Cott, Claud., B. VI. f. 206. 

2 Geraldi Cambr. Opera, ed. J. S. Brewer, IV. p. xxxvi. 


to the monks. 1 These lands, while sources of income, 
also brought responsibilities. For the monks became 
not only the temporal landlords but also the spiritual 
pastors, and were obliged to look after the souls of 
their people. But as the very idea of an abbey is, 
as we have said, that of a home, it would not be in 

1 Archdeacon W. Hale, writing on the question of patronage and 
tithes, says : " It is a prevalent idea that we owe our parochial system 
to the centralised operation of bodies of clergy united under a bishop 
at the cathedral who went forth to preach, and who planted churches 
throughout the diocese, the mother-church being their parent as well 
as their head. Whatever truth there may be in this opinion, we 
regret to observe that it derives little support or confirmation from 
those notices respecting patronage and tithes which are scattered 
throughout this volume. If the bishops and their clergy were the 
original cause of churches being built, the churches themselves appear 
very soon to have become possessions of the laity, and, together with 
lands and manors, to have passed as patrimony from father to son. It 
is a remarkable fact that there is not a single church mentioned in this 
volume the patronage of which, in the times before the Conquest, did not 
accrue to the monastery of Worcester from gifts made by laymen. . . . 
But though all the rights of patronage which the monastery of Worcester 
possessed were in the earliest times derived from the laity, it is worthy 
of remark that, as respects the receipt of tithes from churches of which 
the monastery were patrons, there is a marked difference in the case of 
churches received before the Conquest and after that event. From the 
churches of the former period tithes as well as pensions were generally 
received ; from the churches of the later period pensions alone. It 
would seem, too, from the fact of the Prior, the Sacristan, or the 
Almoner receiving portions of the great tithes of the churches given 
to the monastery in the earlier period, that the appropriation of tithes 
to religious houses and the establishment of vicarages have a much 
earlier origin than is commonly supposed." Introduction to the 
Registrum Prior atus B.M. IVigorniensis, pp. xxvi., xxvii. (Camden 
Society, 1865). This raises the question whether the prevalent ideas 
are not theories based on fancy, and whether the origin of so many 
parish churches is really not due to the monks. The whole matter 
requires reconsideration on the basis of an investigation into facts. 


keeping to send monks out away from their cloister 
for any length of time to do the work of parochial 
clergy. 1 Sometimes it was so done, according to 
Kennet ; but the result was not satisfactory ; and 
from an early date, in many monasteries, they hegan 
to look about for secular priests to do this duty for 
them. Hence rose the present system of Vicars. 
Difficulties of administration came, and there were 
cases in which the monks did not always act fairly 
to their vicars. For when a church was appropriated 
or impropriated 2 it was always stipulated that a 
certain proportion of the income was to go to the 
priest who did the work. For instance, when in 1 1 70 
the living of Lamberton was appropriated to Tavis- 
tock abbey by Bartholomew, bishop of Exeter, he 
declared in the deed of gift that the monks " should 

1 There was a marked difference in the position of the black monks 
and the white monks respecting this question of monastic vicars. The 
policy of the cistercians was to overcrowd their houses ; and when there 
came a time of agricultural depression, they had to cast about how to live. 
From the very nature of their organisation a sort of general policy 
ensued. With the benedictines, on the contrary, the policy was to 
restrict the community to the number the foundation would support. 
With the independence of each house, difficulties were met according 
to local views and circumstances. 

2 Impropriation is the alienation of titles to laymen. Appropriation 
is the assignment of them to clerical corporations, which thus became 
responsible for the performance of the duties. It is calculated that 
within 300 years of the Conquest about one-third of the benefices in 
England had fallen by appropriation into the hands of the religious 
orders, sees, colleges, &c. That abuses came from this is natural ; for 
corporations are never as active in the discharge of duties as individuals 
are. On the whole question see Rennet's Case of Impropriations and 
Sheldon On Tithes. 


hold it on the terms expressed in that donation, viz., 
one half to the abbat and monks, and the other 
moiety to the vicar." 1 

The general rule seems to have been for the 
monastery to receive two thirds, and the vicar 
one. 2 This at first seems an unfair division ; but 
when we consider that the monks undertook the 
repairs of the church, which in many cases they 
themselves had built at their own cost, and also 
held themselves responsible for all the poor of the 
parish, it is pretty clear that Master Vicar, who 
got his one-third clear, a house free of rent, and 
all his stole fees and dues, was by no means in 
so unfavourable a position as some modern writers 
make out. 

But often, it appears, the monks did not keep to 
their bargains, especially when the churches were 
far away from the abbey. The vicars began to 
complain, and complained so loudly that it reached 
the Court. Richard II. passed a law securing a 
proper maintenance to the priest who served the 

1 Rennet's Case of Impropriations, p. 40. Spelman, The Larger 
Treatise concerning Tithes (1647), p. 151. 

2 This was on the lines of the old canonical division : one third 
for the support of the Church, or, as it was called, for God ; one 
third for the Poor ; and one third for the Priest. St. Gregory, in his 
letter to St. Augustine (Bede, Book I. chapter 27), speaks of and 
recommends the custom of a fourfold division, a share for the bishop 
being included. It is difficult to say the exact proportions that 
obtained in England, but the principle was there ; the burthen and 
the profits were divided between patrons and priests. See also 
Lingard's Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, p. 83. 


churches the monks either had built or had received 
together with the land at the time of gift. 1 

Henry IV. went further, and altogether forbade 
the monks to act as parochial clergy, and ordered 
them to institute to the livings members of the 
secular clergy. 2 

The monks, as patrons, retained however the 
rights of presentation, as we find expressed in the 
Privileges of St. Alban's abbey (1257) : 

" Item that we may make choice of priests for 
them, and present them to the diocesan of the 
place, and assign to them their portions ; the which 
priests shall be answerable to the ordinaries of the 
place in spirituals 3 and to us in temporals." 

The bishop was obliged to institute their nominee 
unless there was some canonical objection. The 
vicars, who were either for life or removable at 
will, had to swear fidelity to the abbat and convent, 
and pay each year certain sums as rectorial first- 
fruits. These payments were often assigned to 
divers officers of the abbey, obedientiaries as they 
were called, for the discharge of their office. For 
instance, the profits of a certain set of vicarages 
would go to the Sacristan or to the Precentor, or 

1 e.g. Glaston had no less than seventy-one churches dependent 
upon it. 

2 Dixon's History of the Church of England, vol. i. p. 89. 

3 Sometimes, as at St. Albans or Evesham, the abbat was ordinary 
of the place, and had the rights of archdeacons. There is a curious 
verse containing sixteen "reserved cases" in the jurisdiction of St. 
Albans. See Kev. P. Newcome's The History of the Abbey of St. Albans, 

p. 221. 


to the Infirmarian. Sometimes in the deed of gift 
the land or church was left for a specified purpose ; 
even (as there were cases) for providing a better 
brew of beer for the brethren, or an extra pitance on 
the anniversary day of the donor. 1 In other cases 
it was the abbat who allotted the means of revenue 
for each department. There were often charges, 
too, upon the gift which materially lessened the 
value to the monks, in the shape of corrodies 2 to 
different friends or relatives of the donor. These 
charges went on sometimes for generations. 

The system of vicars in churches appropriated to 
benedictines, may seem to have put the secular 
clergy into an undue state of dependence. But a 

1 A pitance, from pietas, was an extra dish over and above the 
monastic commons, and was given out on special days such as feast 
days, anniversaries. It might take the form of dessert, or of eggs, or 
of an extra amount of fish or even meat. St. Benedict provides for 
it in his Eule (Ch. XXXIX.) : " If, however, their work chance to 
have been hard, it shall be in the abbat's power, if he think fit, to 
make some addition " (to their usual allowance), " avoiding above every- 
thing all surfeiting, that the monks be not overtaken by indigestion." 
A practical warning when men ate generally only once a day. 

2 A corrody was a monk's portion of food and drink. One given 
by the abbat of Tavistock to John Amadas in the time of Henry 
VIII. consisted of " one white loaf, another loaf called ' Trequarter ; ' 
a dish called ' General,' another dish of flesh or fish called ' Pitance ' ; 
three potells of beer or three silver halfpence daily ; also a furred 
robe at Christmas yearly, of the same kind as those of our esquires, 
or the sum of 2os." Whenever John chanced to be at the abbey, he 
was to have a proper chamber, with firing and three candles called 
"Paris candells" ; and also stabling for his horse. When the abbey 
was dissolved, the king ordered the corrody to be commuted into a 
yearly pension for the lucky John of an annuity of ^5 in lieu of 
all these daily comforts and perquisites. See Preface to Oliver's 
Monasticon Diocesis Exonu'nsis, p. vi. 


consideration will show if there were dependence 
it would also be that begotten of gratitude. For it 
must be remembered it was from the free schools 
kept by the monks that most of the clergy got their 
education, and thence the very means of entering 
the priesthood. For, by the common law of the 
Church which then obtained, no cleric could be 
ordained unless he had a "title" ; or in other words 
some one to fall back upon, who undertook in case 
of need to be responsible for his support : and these 
titles had to be obtained from those who had them 
and were willing to present. In a note attached to 
his work on Henry VIII. and the English Monas- 
teries, Dom F. A. Gasquet points out that in the 
diocese of York, between the years 1501 and 1539, 
there were 6190 priests ordained. Of this number 
1415 were religious of various kinds; 4698 were 
seculars presented on titles furnished by a monastery 
or college, and only 77 on a title provided else- 
where. The yearly average of ordinations was over 
158. When the troubles began for the monas- 
teries these numbers fell at once. In 1536, 92 
only were ordained priests; in 1537 no ordinations 
are recorded; in 1538 only 20; and in 1539 only 
8. 1 So that, were it not for the monasteries, secular 
priests would have hardly had any means of living. 

It was not only the civil law which looked after 
the interests of the vicars. The Church was provi- 
dent also. At that time the usual stipend for a 

1 Vol. i. p. xxx. 


chaplain was 5 marks (about ^40) a year, and this 
was advanced to 6, 8, and 10 marks, which latter 
sum equals about &o. 1 

But provincial constitutions settled that the 
portion allowed to vicars should never be less than 
12 marks a year; that is to say, close upon ^ioo, 2 
an income considerably better than Goldsmith's 
Vicar, who was " passing rich on forty pounds a year," 
and who had a wife and family to boot. 

The monasteries were also schools for the nobility. 
Under the care of the abbat were youths often 
of the highest rank, who were to be brought up 
in the courtesy and polite education which made 
the monasteries far better schools for Christian 
gentlemen than the Court. For the abbey had its 
friends throughout the country ; and the abbat of 
the greatest houses, being generally a peer of the 
realm, had his seat in Parliament and entered into 
the council of kings. So he and his monastery were 
well known to the great. Besides, there were other 
ties. Many members of noble and gentle families 
were monks themselves, and to these the benedic- 
tine, whatever his birth, was akin through the 
discipline of his life, his circumstances and his 
surroundings, and through that tone and bearing 
which come to him who lives habitually in God's 
sight. Many of the great ones of the land wished 
to be united in some kind of spiritual bonds with 

1 Kennet, ibid. pp. 57, 58. 
2 Lyndewood's Provinciale (ed. Oxford, 1679), De officio Vicarii, p. 64. 


an abbey where they had relatives or friends ; and 
we find them suing for admission to friendship or 
confraternity with the monks. The effects of this 
confraternity were that they became real members 
of the house and shared in all its good works and 
merits. The Confrater was sometimes allowed an 
honorary seat in the chapter. Special prayers were 
offered for him at his death, and his anniversaries 
were kept with Dirge and Requiem. He, on his 
side, promised always to befriend the abbey and to 
help and protect it to the best of his abilities. The 
petitioner for confraternity would present himself 
in the chapter-house before the assembled monks, 
and there prostrate himself until the abbat asked, 
" What asketh thou ? " to which he answered, " I ask 
through God's mercy and yours, and that of all the 
elders, the brotherhood and goodwill of this monas- 
tery." The abbat then said, "May the Almighty 
Lord grant thee what thou seekest, and may He give 
thee a fellowship with His elect." The petitioner 
then knelt at the abbat's feet who gave him the book 
of the Rule, and, both putting their hands on the 
sacred text, said: "We admit thee into fellowship 
and into brotherhood. Now as thou art henceforth 
for ever a sharer even as one of ourselves in the 
masses, hours, prayers, watches, disciplines, fasts, 
alms, and other spiritual good deeds that are done 
in this church, let us also be made partakers in thy 
good works." He was then received to the kiss of 
peace by all the convent, and was entered in the chart 


as a confrater. Kings and princes considered it an 
honour to become confratres of abbeys. William 
the Conqueror was a confrater of Cluni and also 
of Battle abbey, which he had founded. In 1460 
Henry VI. coming to Croyland, and being delighted 
with the religious life of the monks, stayed three 
days and begged to be admitted into their brother- 
hood ; which being granted him, he, in return, 
gave them his charter whereby their liberties 1 were 

High ecclesiastics, like Wolsey at Evesham in 
1516, sought for fellowship ; or great officers of State, 
as Blessed Thomas More, 2 " Lord Chancellor of this 
most flourishing kingdom of England," at Christ 
Church, Canterbury, where he had been a boy at 
school. The neighbouring nobility and gentry were 
eager to be on good terms with the monks, and their 
names, still extant on some of the registers which 
have come down to us, show that the privilege was 
highly prized. 

But this connection with the great was not without 
its disadvantages too ; for monasteries became not 
only the shelter for the poor, but also for the rich. 
They were the hotels of the day. Kings and nobles 
put up with the monks, and often over- stayed their 
welcome, filling the place with their retinues and 
disturbing the peace of the cloister. A favourite 
time for the royal visitors to spend some weeks at 

1 Steven's Additions to Dug dale, vol. i. p. 374. 

2 See Report of Historical MSS. Com., vol. i. p. 121. 


an abbey were the holiday seasons of Christmas, of 
Easter, of Whitsuntide. He would add the majesty 
of his presence and of all his train to some function 
in the Church, and the splendour of the celebration 
of such or such a feast would remain long in the 
memories of monk and people to whom the Church's 
ceremonies were living realities. The monasteries also 
afforded asylums to honourable families in reduced 
circumstances. Dom Gasquet produces a letter from 
the son of the duke of Buckingham to Henry VIII. 
in which the writer says that he " hath no dwelling 
place meet for him to inhabit (and he was) fain to 
live poorly at board in an abbey this four years day, 
with his wife and seven children." 

They were also often called upon to provide 
pensions and grants to favourites, and thus vicari- 
ously pay for services done to their royal patrons. 

" In some case the abbats were bound to give 
endowments to scholars of the king's nomination or 
provide them with competent benefices, pensions ; and 
corrodies were granted under the privy seal to yeomen 
ushers of the wardrobe and the chamber, to clerks 
of the kitchen, servers, secretaries, and gentlemen 
of the chapel royal; and these were strictly en- 
forced, whatever might be the other encumbrances 
of the house." 2 The monks, although themselves 
men of peace, had to provide their quota of knights 
and men-at-arms for the royal service, and in the civil 

1 D. Gasquet, " Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries" vol. i. p. 34. 
2 Ibid. vol. i. pp. 28, 29. 


wars so frequent in England soldiers were quartered 
upon them. 

Hence we may conclude, if the monks had vast 
possessions they also had vast responsibilities, and 
responsibilities to which they nobly rose. They 
looked upon their wealth as so much entrusted to 
them for the welfare of others. And if in times 
of prosperity they knew how to spend lavishly, it 
was more in the service of their neighbour than for 
themselves. Their vast hospitalities, the exactions 
of kings, social changes and disasters such as fires 
and diseases, 1 often crippled them and reduced them 
to the verge of destruction, but they never forgot 
the saying of the Lord : " It is more blessed to give 
than to receive." 2 They went on their beneficent 
way as long as their homes stood, "Doing good to- 
all, but especially to those of the household of the 
faith." 3 

1 During the plague known as "the Black Death" (1348-49), the 
monks, as well as the rest of the clergy, suffered severely. It is 
calculated that about two-thirds of the clergy died. It is very likely 
that the monastic orders would in proportion suffer more severely than 
the parochial clergy, for the chance of infection is always greater when 
there are a number together. At Westminster the abbat and twenty- 
six monks died, and found a common grave in the southern cloister. 
So it was all round, wherever the plague raged. 

2 Acts xx. 35. 3 Gal. vi. 10. 



THE question now arises : What was the private life 
of those monks who thus spent themselves in the 
service of God and their neighbours? What was 
the secret of their life, the spring from which they 
got their strength ? In this chapter we will en- 
deavour to give a sketch of the life of a monk in 
his monastery, and note the sort of effect on his 
character of his vows. 

But it is not possible for us to take an example 
from any one particular house as typical of the rest. 
First of all because we have but few references to 
the inner life of any one monastery. Where all went 
on calmly and regularly, what need to record the 
conditions of a life all knew and experienced daily ? 
It is only on occasion of some important event that, 
as it were by accident, the veil is lifted and for a 
moment we catch a glimpse of cloister life. Even 
had we a full and detailed account of some one 
house, it would not necessarily tell us about the 
particulars of the life in others. 

But scattered here and there in our numerous 
records are indications of what was done in various 

VOL. i. 6s E 


houses, so that a picture, true in its details, as finding 
a counterpart in real life, may be pieced together 
and a sufficiently vivid picture given of the general 
outlines of the life of an English monk in the later 
mediaeval times. Whatever the local variations 
might be (and in every house with a vigorous life of 
its own, there would always be its own peculiar way 
of looking at things and its own development, based 
on conditions obtaining there and not elsewhere), 
still, from the intrinsic power of the Rule and a 
living tradition, there would be necessarily in every 
house certain features which would find themselves 
repeated in all benedictine monasteries. There 
would be that peculiar tone amid all sorts of varia- 
tions which clearly marks off the benedictine from 
other religious, and which finds its root in the dis- 
tinguishing feature of St. Benedict's Rule, the ample 
discretion allowed in interpretation. 

But in order to give a picture to the reader of the 
inner life of a monk, we are obliged to combine in 
one whole such details, gleaned from all parts, which 
may be fairly considered as truly representative, in 
the broad outlines, of life as it really existed through- 
out England. Without dwelling unduly upon local 
customs, save as far as they go to prove the existence 
of a principle which would find its counterpart else- 
where, we will throw into the form of an imaginary 
biographical sketch what may be useful for our 
present purpose. The facts are true ; but the reader 
must bear in mind that the setting is imaginary. 



John Weston was a monk of Lynminster, an 
abbey with a history counted by centuries. The son 
of a knight, at an early age his widowed mother 
had placed him in the claustral school at this, the 
most famous abbey in the neighbourhood. Here his 
father and uncles had also received such education 
as had fallen to their lot. To this abbey he had been 
offered by his mother, according to the old ceremony. 
One day at mass, after the gospel, the chalice was put 
into his hands and the priest wrapped up the child's 
hands in the altar-cloth 1 as a sign that he was, if 
found worthy, to be dedicated to the service of God. 
From his earliest days he was but seven he was 
kept under strict discipline ; 2 and wore in the 
monastery a form of the monk's dress, and had his 
head shaven in the form of a crown. He was 
taught along with other boys, perhaps in the free 
school or in the singing-school, which most of the 
great abbeys supported for the services of their 
minsters. He had a sweet voice and some talent 
in singing ; so it is likely he found a place in the 
singing-school. The treatment was kind but severe. 
If he became a monk, it were well he should know 
from his earliest days that a monk had to work and 
not live an idle life ; and if he returned to the world, 
what better lesson could he take out than the great 
law of labour ? John was taught among other things 

1 Rule of St. Benedict, Ch. LIX. 

2 " The children are to be kept under discipline at all times and by 
every one" (Rule, Ch. LXIIL). 


reading, writing, his Latin grammar, some simple ele- 
ments of the art of reckoning, his prayers and faith, 
the laws of politeness, and the great art of holding 
his tongue. Singing would not be forgotten. Plain- 
song and prick-song had mysteries the knowledge of 
which was highly considered ; and beside John, with 
all his companions, had to attend in the great minster 
every day and sing at the solemn mass and vespers. 
While there was a good deal of solid instruction 
going on, and a good deal of knowledge was being 
instilled into him, the boy's mind was being educated 
and its powers developed. He was quietly and un- 
consciously drinking in the influence of the place. 
His character was forming itself to habits of industry, 
self-restraint, thrift, charity in his dealings with 
others ; and he was gaining a sense of the reality of 
life. All he saw in the lives of those with whom he 
passed his days ; their earnestness and diligence, their 
prompt obedience to the abbat, and their frequent 
little practices of humility, and above all the solemn 
chanting of the office and the daily sacrifice, acts 
not of this earth, all these must have had their effect 
on the boy. The more so as it was the outcome of 
what he saw and observed for himself, more than 
anything said or preached at him. For at Lynminster 
there was little of that sort of thing. Monks after 
St. Benedict's mind are not what the world thinks 
them to be. Religion being the very atmosphere in 
which they live, God's side of every question comes 
so natural to them, so much a matter of course, that 


there is no trying to be always " improving the 
occasion " nor striking attitudes, mental or otherwise, 
which are foreign to their simple idea of what He 
requires. The monks preferred, if God was calling 
the boy, to let Him do His own work in His own 
way. They dared not force or hurry on what they 
knew was in wiser hands than theirs. 

John was a boy, merry of heart and full of life and 
fun, as all healthy English boys are ; and though 
these qualities have to be regulated like everything 
else, yet, as they are most valuable, his teachers 
were careful not to repress them too much. He, 
no doubt, was mischievous as others are, and had 
his fling of boyish spirits. Nor was he without 
his share in all the sports and manly excitements 
suitable to his age and condition. These were all 
useful to make him what he ought to be a reason- 
able being, giving a reasonable service to his Maker. 
There is one thing abhorrent to all benedictine 
ideas of education, and that is the formation of 
the prig. So we may be sure the result in the 
case of John Weston was not that. 

For some time, since his fourteenth year, there 
had been going on a gradual awakening of the 
boy's soul ; and he was beginning to question him- 
self. The old problems we have all had, doubt- 
lessly, presented themselves over and over again : 
" What is the meaning of Life ? Why was I 
made?" Sometimes in the midst of his play or 
of his study, maybe when singing the Credo at 


high mass or the Magnificat at vespers, a serious- 
ness and awe would fall upon him ; and something 
('twas the Voice of God, but, at first, he knew it 
not) whispered to him: "God made you for Him- 
self." The truth sank deeper and deeper in his soul, 
and he began to realise it was a personal and entire 
service God asked of him. And day by day the 
example he saw began to tell more and more on the 
lad. "The monks are serving God. That is why 
they are here. How peaceful and happy they are/' 
Such thoughts as these flashed across his mind ; and 
the high ideal of life which the monastic state aims 
at began to attract him. 

Then came one day, never to be forgotten ; a 
great light dawned upon his soul. God spoke to 
him clearly and distinctly in one of the many 
ways He speaks to His creatures. Maybe it was 
some sudden sorrow, the death of his mother 
or of some other loved friend ; or perhaps some 
sudden inrush of joy at a realisation of God's 
Fatherhood ; or some word of the daily-heard office 
which suddenly broke upon him with a new mean- 
ing and struck home ; or maybe some sin into 
which he had fallen and which mercifully revealed 
to him his own weakness : I must give myself to 
God ; and " Here will I dwell for ever." 1 With heart 
full of emotion and joy at his call, he told his 
master the hope he dared hardly express. But 
the monk, skilled in the art of counsel, while 

1 Ps. xxiii. 6. 


giving him encouragement also set before him in 
grave words the hardness of the life to which he 
aspired, and the sacrifices he would have to make. 
He spoke, doubtlessly, too of the sweetness there 
is for them whom God calls to serve Him. So he 
wisely bids the lad pray, and wait a while, and try 
himself, lest the desire may come from human 
motives rather than from God. If the good monk 
knew that the lot of those who have entered the 
cloister to follow God is sweet beyond words, on 
the other hand he knew full well that those who 
come into the fold not by the door of Vocation, may 
expect nothing but unhappiness and bitterness. 

After much prayer and trial, John, now in his 
nineteenth year, has -persevered, and in the chapter- 
room has been admitted by the abbat, and clothed 
as a novice. 1 No longer a mere school-boy, he 

1 "The Book of Ely," f. 106 [Lambeth MSS., No. 448], contains the 
outfit required in that cathedral-monastery by a novice. 

Necessaria noviciis noviter ad religionem venientibus providenda. 

Imprimis i matras (matrass). 

Item ii par blankettys. 

Item ii par straglys (quilts). 

Item ii couverlytes. 

Item i furrypane. 

Item i blewbed de sago (bed- curtains of serge). 
Item i cuculla cum froco (cowl and frock). 
Item i tunica nigra furra (black furred tunic). 
Item i tunica nigra simplex (for summer wear). 

Item ii tunica alba. 
Item i amita simplex (amuce). 
Item i zona, cum i powch, cultela, tabula et pectine, filo et acu 

in les powch. 
Item i parva zona pro noctibus. 


wears the habit, and is given into the charge of 
the novice master, whose duty it will be to train 
him in the spiritual life. In the noviciate the real 
work was one more of education than instruction. 
Dom or " Dan " * John, as he was now called, was 
shown, as it were, two mirrors. One reflected the 
image of what God intended him to be ; and the 
other what he really was, with all his faults and 
weakness. He was a true novice ; he read the 
pictures aright. St. Benedict has given his monks 
seventy-two " instruments " by which they are to 

Item iii par stamainorum (woollen under-garments). 

Item iiii par bracarum (breeches), cum brygerdel (a kind of belt) 

et poyntes (garters). 
Item ii par caligarum (shoes). 

Item iiii par de le sokke. 
Item ii par botarum pro diebus. 
Item i par botarum pro noctibus. 
Item i pylche (a pilche, a fur garment = toga pellicea). 

Item iii par flammeole (kerchief ? v. Du Cange). 

Item iii pulvonaria (pillows or cushions). 
Item i pileo albo pro noctibus (nightcap). 
Item ii manutergia (towels). 

Item i pokett pro vestibus lavandis (soiled clothes-bag). 
Item i schavyn cloth. 
Item i crater a bowl (lamp ? v. Du Cange). 
Item i ciphus murreus (a mazer goblet, generally of valuable 

Item i coclear argent (silver spoon). 

The above is interesting as showing that the English benedictine culti- 
vated a certain amount of dignified manner of life. Everything was 
good, simple, and plain. The cold moist climate of Ely, and in most other 
English monasteries, made the use of fur in winter-time a necessity. 

1 In old Catholic England monks kept their baptismal names, and 
were known also by their surname, or the name of the place whence they 
came. In the old lists that have come down to us most of the names 
are territorial ; names, too, generally of places in the immediate neigh- 


work out their salvation. These were carefully 
studied and their meaning and use examined ; and 
with them Dom John, diligently and soberly, set to 
work to make the two pictures correspond. He was 
not expected in his novitiate to become suddenly 
perfect. But he was expected to see his faults and to 
show his determination to labour at their correction. 1 
Now there was one of his companions, Dom 
Gilbert of London, a youth whom all loved ; one 
kindly and thoughtful for all, devout at his prayer 
and diligent at his books. But when he looked at 
himself in the second mirror, he forgot what manner 
of man he was, and sighed and gave up the attempt 
at self-correction. He was wanting in the manliness 
and determination needed for a monk. So he went 
his way out into the great world ; and Dom Gilbert 
was heard of no more. This failure was of use to 
our Dom John. It made him humbler, and steadied 
him down to a slower and surer growth. Perhaps 

bourhood. As a monk used to be called either by his family or terri- 
torial name, sometimes by one and sometimes by another, it is often 
difficult to identify a name we come across. The practice of giving 
new names, generally those of some saint, seems to have been intro- 
duced at some places just before the dissolution occurred. It came 
from abroad. We find them at Glaston under abbat Bere (1524), 
who probably introduced the custom from Italy ; the names adopted 
were generally " house " names, of saints to whom there was a special 
local veneration. See also list of Bath monks in the Monasticon, 
vol. ii. p. 271. In 1500 Richard Kidderminster, abbat of Winchcombe, 
went to Rome on the affairs of his order and was there a year. " He 
informed himself in learning, and improved himself in several useful 
regulations belonging to a monastic life" (Dodd's Church History, 
vol. i. p. 229). He also may have introduced the custom. 
1 Rule, Ch. IV. 


he had begun to run before he could walk, as 
novices often try to do. 

Besides thus setting his feet in the way of per- 
fection, the master taught him the psalms and 
hymns and responsories which had to be learnt off 
by heart, since most of them would have to be sung 
at matins, and at that early hour (midnight) there 
would be but little light to read by. The books 
he loved to watch the monks copying and illumi- 
nating, were too precious for such as he. He must 
make a copy for his own use from which to learn 
them. Then there were the ceremonies to be got 
up both for church and elsewhere. Conduct had 
to be regulated according to a fixed method, which 
was based upon a sense of the Presence of God, 
and was no empty form. He would have to learn 
also the language of signs, which was commonly 
used in all religious homes, not as a means of con- 
versation, but of expressing one's wants without 
disturbing others. Then, no doubt to try him, at 
times he would be put to do menial work, such 
as the house servants did. 1 For in those days in 
English benedictine monasteries there were no lay- 
brothers, but servants were kept to do the house- 
hold work. 

After his trial, generally a year, during which the 
convent watched him narrowly to see whether they 
would care to admit him into their family as a life- 
long companion, and he, on his side, whether he 

> Rule, Ch. LVIII. 


could live until death with them (for the profession 
of a novice is a serious thing to those admitting 
as well as to those admitted) ; and after the Rule 
according to the injunctions of St. Benedict had 
been read to him several times, together with the 
warning, "Behold the law under which thou desires t 
to fight. If thou canst observe it, enter in ; if thou 
canst not, depart freely ; " l the abbat took counsel 
with his monks, and they agreed to admit him to 
profession. Then one morning the abbat sang 
solemn mass, and during the solemnity Dom John 
was led forward to the altar, and in the hearing of 
all vowed Stability, Conversion of his Life, and 
Obedience. Then, with arms outstretched, three 
times did he sing the verse : " Uphold me, Lord, 
according to Thy Word, and I shall live; and let 
me not be frustrated of my hope ;" 2 and the whole 
community repeated it as many times, adding there- 
unto the Gloria Patri. Then, clothed in the full 
monastic garb, the newly-received brother cast him- 
self at the feet of all, begging them to pray for him 
and receive him to the kiss of fraternal love. Dom 
John Weston was now a monk. 

What was his life, now that he had reached the 
goal of his desires ? 

He rose a little before two o'clock 3 and was down 

1 Rule, Ch. LVIII. 2 Ps. cxix. 116. 

3 The hour for matins varied in each house. Some, as at Durham, 
rose at midnight, while others, as at Westminster, got up at 2 P.M. In 
all cases they went back to bed for the time between matins and lauds. 
This was one of the changes Lanfranc introduced. According to the 


in his stall ready to begin matins, the longest office 
of all, which lasted from one hour and a half to two 
or more hours. In the darkness of the night, while 
the rest of the world was sleeping, Dom John took 
his place among his cowled brethren and worshipped 
God with psalm, and hymn, and canticle. Sometimes, 
he listened to reading of Holy Writ or to one of the 
fathers of the Church, and anon joined in some soul- 
lifting responsory. The organ, too, 1 added its solemn 
strains to the voices and helped to lift his soul up to 
Him Who dwelt there in sacramental presence over 
the altar. 2 This time of matins was one of the 
happiest hours in his day ; for then he was fulfilling 
one of his greatest privileges, " the work of God." 
This, the liturgical prayer, was the source of his 
strength. There lay the whole secret of his spiritual 
life. For to a benedictine the liturgical spirit is all 

Rule, monks are to rise for the night office at the eighth hour, a 
varying period, which in winter would be, in the latitude of Rome, 
about 3 A.M., and earlier in the summer, when the hours were shorter. 

1 "The monks, when they were at their matins and service at mid- 
night, then one of the said monks did play on the organs themselves 
and no other." Rites of Durham (Surtees Society), p. 54. 

2 In monastic churches, as in all others at that time, it was an 
unheard of thing to banish Our Lord to a side chapel. The Gospel 
idea of prayer is that He is in our midst when we pray. The whole 
value of our prayer (and the divine office is the prayer par excellence) 
is that it is made with, by, and in Him who is the one Mediator 
between God and man. The Church recognises this : and orders in 
monastic churches the Blessed Sacrament to be kept at the high 
altar (S. C. Epis., loth Feb. 1579 and 29th Nov. 1594). Abbey churches 
are not cathedrals ; and a custom warranted by the requirement of the 
latter is no reason why, against all rule, such a practice should obtain 


in all. 1 He wants nothing more than the common 
prayer of the Church. Every other devotion he con- 
siders as nothing compared with its might and 
ineffable dignity. It is " the Work of God " in its 
fullest sense ; for the Divine Head of the Church 
uses man as an instrument whereby He, the Incarnate 
Word, praises the Eternal Father. Hence it is that 
to a benedictine, brought up as Dom John was, the 
office is the foundation of all his spiritual life. 2 

The long midnight office with its concluding lauds 
being sung, back to bed goes Dom John, tired 
indeed, but at peace. 

At five o'clock, he again rose, this time for prime, 
which was duly followed by chapter, at which he 

1 "It is with this voice of the divine office the monk speaks not 
only to his Creator, but to his fellow-men as well. The perpetual 
round of prayer and praise is something more than an intercessory 
power. It, rightly understood, is the medium of intercourse between 
the monastic body and the people in the midst of which it dwells. 
No one is so dull that he cannot understand the faith in the unseen, 
the hope of another world and burning love of God which are mani- 
fested in the perennial sacrifice and song of praise in the monastic 
choir. Through the individual preaching of the monk, through his 
works, through his words of counsel and of comfort, through his 
hospitality, through his dealings with his fellow-men in all the varied 
relations of life, he exercises some portion of his apostolate ; but the 
choir of the monastery is the monk's real pulpit, and the daily office 
his most efficient sermon." From Dom Gasquet's Introduction to The 
Monks of the West, p. xvii. 

2 The monk's private prayer is affective or contemplative. Long and 
formal meditations were not known in those days. St. Benedict pre- 
scribes (Ch. XX.) that prayer be short and pure ; except it be perchance 
prolonged by the inspiration of Divine Grace. " But," he adds, " let 
prayer made in common always be short : and at the signal given by 
the one presiding let all rise together." 


had to make public confession of his breaches of the 
Eule and do penance. 1 Here also he had to listen 
to words of spiritual instruction from his abbat, and, 
perhaps, receive directions about the work of the 
day. After prime in winter, and before in summer, 
he changed his night-habit for his day one and 

At six the short chapter mass, generally of " Our 
Lady Saint Mary," was sung, at which he assisted. 
He then studied in the cloister till near to nine, when 
the bell summoned him to choir again for the holy 
hour of terce. This was followed by the central 
act of the day, the sacrifice of the mass, celebrated 
with all the wealth of ceremonial at the disposal of 
the abbey. If it were a high feast day, the abbat 
would pontificate, and wear his mitre ; 2 and Dom 

1 The benedictine makes use of corporal austerities as a means of 
keeping his body in subjection : according to St. Paul's words, " / 
chastise my body" (i Cor. ix. 27). But his life is more ascetic than 
austere. The discipline, besides that administered in punishment, 
used to be taken publicly in chapter by all as a mortification. This, 
which had hitherto been a private act, was introduced by St. Peter 
Damian, and in all the convents he founded it was taken every Friday. 
The custom soon spread, and we find traces of it at Evesham, Croyland, 
and Christ Church, Canterbury. It probably became universal in the 
later mediaeval ages. In the list of " Instruments of good works " 
(Ch. IV.), St. Benedict, without specifying the particular means, 
gives " To chastise the body " as a principle ; also " To fear the Day of 
Judgment," and " To be in dread of hell." These are quite enough to 
account for the growth of the practice of self-flagellation and other 
usages of the ascetic life. 

2 The first abbat in Christendom to get the rights of pontificalia 
was the abbat of St. Augustine's abbey, Canterbury. The grant was 
made by Pope Alexander II. in 1063, but Lanfranc would not allow 
it to be used (Hist. MonasL S. August. Cantuar., Koll Series, p. 27). 


John might assist in the sanctuary and carry the 
abbat's crosier unless he was wanted in the choir. 
The sacrifice of the mass was the centre of all his 
life, and the light of his day. To it, either as pre- 
paration or thanksgiving, were directed all his prayers. 
It was the mass that gave the meaning to his office, 
and was the jewel of rare price which was set in the 
gold of the psalter. At the altar, too, did he often 
kneel and receive the bread of life and become 
more and more united with Him his soul loved. 
The mass was followed by the office of sext. 

Then about eleven he had his first meal, if it were 
not a fasting day, in which case he would break his 
fast after nones or after vespers according as it 
was a fast day of the Rule or the stricter fast of 
the Church. The meal was eaten in silence. Dom 
John sat with others at a table ; and a portion of 
food was set in a dish between so many. A curious 
account has been left of the food at Christ Church, 
Canterbury, on a fish day. In this document we 
read : 

"To every two monks, when they had soles, there 

It was again renewed in 1 1 79, and a like privilege was granted to most 
of the other abbeys. Most cathedral-monasteries seem to have ob- 
tained the same privilege before the end of the fifteenth century, but 
the priors seem to have been confined to the use of a knobbed staff 
instead of the ordinary episcopal stave affected by the abbats. The 
right of singing mass pontifically, of giving the solemn blessings and 
singing vespers, was much prized by the abbats, and gave a dignity and 
grandeur to the great festivals hitherto known only in cathedrals when 
the bishop officiated. As a rule, the abbat only sang mass pontifically 
seven or eight times a year. He had the right, too, of using his 
pontificalia in any house or church belonging to his abbey. 


were 4 soles in a dish ; when they had plaice, 2 
plaice ; when they had herring, 8 herrings ; when 
they had whiting, 8 whiting; when they had 
mackrell, 2 mackrell ; when they had eggs, 10 
eggs. If they had anything more allowed them 
beyond this ordinary fare, it was either cheese or 
fruit or the like." l 

Canterbury is near the sea, so fish was abundant. 
It must be remembered in estimating the allowance 
that it was the only meal in the day, and the monks 
had been up and at work nearly ten hours. Besides, 
it is perfectly evident that in those days people ate 
much more largely than we do. Bread was of course 
allowed ; so much and no more. And St. Benedict, 
in his fatherly thoughtfulness, orders that two dishes 
should be prepared, so that the monks may have a 
choice of dish and every one be satisfied. At dinner 
Dom John drank cider or ale, which was sometimes 
a very poor creature, should the home have a pro- 
curator or cellarer too careful, not to say stingy, with 
his malt. This would sometimes happen. Or he 
might have wine, especially on feast days ; for some 
of the monasteries cultivated the grape, and had 
vineyards of their own, either here or in more 
favoured France. 2 

If he had meat it would be three or four days in 

1 Quoted from a Reg. Eccl. Cant, by Battely in his continuation of 
The Antiquities of Canterbury (Somner), Part II. p. 96. 

2 Christ Church, Canterbury, had vineyards at Triel and St. Brice. 
See LitercB Cantuarienses (Roll Series), vol. i. p. 211. 



the week, and never during Advent or Lent. In 
his turn, he took his share of waiting on his breth- 
ren or of reading to them during the meal from 
the high pulpit in the refectory. He would read 
to them from Holy Writ or from some other book 
comfortable to their souls. Dinner over, he went 
in procession, for such was the custom in some 
houses, with the rest of the monks to the cloister- 
garth where the dead were buried. There all bare- 
headed the brethren stood " a certain long space, 
praying among the tombs and ' throwghes ' for their 
brethren's souls, being buried there. And when 
they had done their prayers they returned to the 
cloister and there did study their book." l 

The cloister was the scene of their daily work, and 
where all the life of the monastery was carried on. 
It was generally situated on the southern side of the 
church, thus getting what sunshine might be. The 
western side of the cloister was the part which Dom 
John at first frequented, for there was held the school 
for the younger monks. Sitting at desks one behind 
the other, they studied the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, 
and dialectics) and quadrivium (music, arithmetic, 
geometry, and astronomy), under which all knowledge 
was then summed. " Their master had a pretty seat 
of wainscot adjoining . . . over against the stall 
where they sat." 2 Let us hope that sometimes, when 
youthful spirits found vent in tricks upon one another, 
the discreet master was not always looking. 

1 Durham Rites, p. 74. 2 Ibid. p. 70. 

VOL. I. F 


The northern side of the cloister was reserved for 
the elder brethren, where they pursued their studies, 
commonly in little oaken carrels, three to each 
window each one separate, and containing " a desk 
to lie their books on." These little studies were 
handsomely wainscoted, " all but the fore part, which 
had carved work which gave light in at their carrell 
door . . . and over against the carrels against the 
church wall did stand certain great cupboards of 
wainscot all full of books, with a great store of ancient 
manuscripts to help them in their study, wherein did 
lie as well the old ancient written Doctors of the 
Church, as other profane authors, with divers other 
holy men's works, so that every one did study what 
doctor pleased them the best, having the library at 
all times to go study in besides their carrels." * 
On the south side, or near the chapter-house, sat 
the abbat and the elders ; and there the business 
was done, and there also would Dom John go on 
Sundays after prime to be shriven. The windows 
in the cloister were glazed ; and in the winter-time 
straw or hay was spread on the ground for warmth's 
sake. In one side of the cloister, often the south, 
and close to the refectory door was the lavatory, 2 

1 Durham Rites, pp. 70, 71. 

2 "Within the cloister-garth, over against the Frater house door, was 
a fair Laver or Conduit for the monks to wash their hands and faces at, 
being made in form round, covered with lead, and all of marble saving 
the very outer walls (and with) many little conduits or spouts of brass 
with xxiiii Cocks of brass . . . having the closets or almeries . . . 
kept always with sweet and clean towels, as is aforesaid, to dry their 
hands" (Durham Rites, p. 70). 


where the monks would wash their hands before 
dinner; for cleanliness is a virtue as well as a 
necessity in a monastery. 

A cloister in the days of Dom John would be a 
very different sight from what they are nowadays. 
Then they were the workshops of the monastery. 
But a strange workshop it was, in truth ; for the 
workmen were all silent, and no busy hum of worldly 
work was heard. Eecollection reigned over all the 
place ; no hurry, no bustle. These men worked for 
eternity, not for time ; and knew that God rewards 
not the amount done but the love with which it is 
wrought. This is the secret of the success of the 
work and the spirituality of the art of the old days. 
This also explains the reason why modern work, 
done in all the turmoil of life, so often fails in 
grasping the spirit of repose and strength which 
characterise the work of olden days. Here, then, 
while some would be busy in study, others would be 
writing, others illuminating, others designing, others 
embroidering. Others, again, would be engaged in 
the details of administration, unless they had sepa- 
rate offices, as was often the case. Place for all 
pursuits was found ; and the debt the world owes 
to those patient silent workmen of the cloister 
cannot be measured. On Saturdays it was the 
scene, too, of the weekly washing of feet. 1 Then, 

1 At stated intervals, the mysteries of the bath were practised and 
changes of clothes given out. A dirty monk would be a nuisance to 
.all around him, and this was guarded against by the ordinary routine. 


too, at stated intervals of a week or so, and always 
before the greater feasts, would the brethren shave 
one another a difficult task ; for not only the face 
but the whole head, save a ring or crown of hair, 
was shaven. But so clumsy were some of the 
operators that, as at St. Augustine's, Canterbury 
(1252), laymen were often deputed to shave the 
brethren. Here also, four or six times a year, was 
the solemn practice of the minutio gone through. 
This, in other words, was that panacea for all bodily 
ills, blood-letting. Those who had been bled had 
for three days extra food and rest to recover them- 
selves. Here also, round the cloister, were made 
the procession on Sundays and feasts, during 
which the priest sprinkled with hallowed water the 
various places. 

In this cloister, then, would Dom John after dinner 
remain at work, or perhaps even napping, until tivo, 
when nones were sung in the church, after which 
work again till vesper-time, which was at six. But 
an hour before vespers the house had been shut up, 
and no more strangers were admitted. Vespers, the 
sacrifice of the evening incense, were sung with 
great solemnity. It was followed, if it were not a 
fasting day, by a small collation, so called originally 
from the spiritual reading, generally from Cassian's 
Collationes or Conferences, which were read during 
the repast. A manchet of bread with a drink of 
beer or such like was all. Rising from the collation, 
they went straight into the church for compline,. 


which being over, left them free to be in bed 
before 8 P.M. 1 

As they had spent the day together, so the night 
found them in one common dorter, or sleeping- 
house. This was either one large open-room with 
uncurtained beds, as more than one constitution 
ordered, or the room was divided off into cells. 
" Every monk having a little chamber of wainscott, 
very close, several, by themselves and their win- 
dows towards the cloister . . . the partition 
between every chamber was close wainscoted one 
from the other, and in every of their windows 
a desk to support their books for their study." 2 
As a rule the dorter was kept most strictly for 
sleeping purposes, although at Durham it seems 
to have been allowed to be used for study as 
well. Perhaps at the time of the afternoon 
sleep, often the custom, those who did not want 
to sleep read. The furniture of the cells was 
simple. The monks of Christ Church, Canter- 
bury, for instance, had a mat and a hard pillow 
to lie down upon, and a blanket or rug to keep 
them warm. They slept in their clothes. 3 At St. 
Albans the bedsteads were of oak, says Matthew 
of Paris. Strict silence was always kept in the 

1 We have taken the horarium mainly from Westminster. 

2 Durham Rites, p. 72. 

3 Reg. Eccl. Cant, quoted by Battely, ut supra. It will be remem- 
bered, from the list given in the " Book of Ely " and elsewhere, that the 
monks had special garments for night wear which correspond to the 
modern idea. 


dorter ; and a light, according to St. Benedict's 
Rule, 1 burnt the whole night. 

This was a long and a hard day for Dom John 
and his fellow-monks. Eight hours were given to 
choir work, for besides the day's office, there would 
be also the office of the dead and that of Our Lady 
to be said as well. Eight hours were given to the 
body for food, sleep, and recreation ; and the other 
eight to study, or to the administration of such 
offices as were committed to their charge. We have 
said nothing, however, about recreation. The bow 
cannot be kept over-bent, or the result would be to 
make a very dull monk of Dom John. 

There were times and places of recreation duly 
fixed. There was the "frayter," or common house, 
where the monks could meet at lawful hours for 
conversation. It was generally in the afternoons 
they met here ; and merry and bright would it be ; 
for in that monastery was one Dom Edward, a 
merry wight, full of jokes and stories mirthful. 
At times of recreation he would amuse the brethren 
with some droll conceit or merry quip ; a certain 
little gesture of his lent a point to his story, and a 
twinkle of his eye betrayed the coming jest. But 
withal, be it remembered, he was a grave doctor, 
learned in divinity and much looked up to ; for had 
he not been to Rome itself, on business connected 
with the abbey, and seen its wonders, and had many 
tales to tell of the monasteries he had visited and 

i Oh. XXII. 


edified ? In the " frayter " was also a fire in winter- 
time, to which the monks could come to warm them- 
selves. The room was hence often called the 
" Calefactory." Hard by, at Durham for instance, 
was a garden for pleasaunce, and a bowling alley at 
the back of the house for the recreation of the 
younger men when it pleased their master to give 
them leave. 1 Besides, there would be the whole of 
the enclosure to take exercise in. These enclosures 
were sometimes very large. That at Glaston, for 
instance, was sixty acres in extent. But outside of 
this the monks were never allowed to go without 
leave. This was a very strict rule, and its infringe- 
ment subjected them to severe penalties. 

But Dom John was not kept a close prisoner. 
He could get leave to go out. He would go away 
at intervals to one of the granges or cells which 
Lynminster had in various parts of the country. 
What the sort of life was, during these visits, may 
perhaps be gathered from a letter of the prior 
of Durham to the prior of the cell at Finchal, 
written in 1408. As the cathedral-monastery was 

1 Durham Rites, p. 75. There were periods of recreation at the times 
of the great feasts of the year. Visits of great men, or any extraordinary 
function in the church would also break the routine of the cloister life. 
There would be little feasts occasionally, with something extra in the 
way of cakes, &c. For instance at Durham, in the common house, " the 
master of it kept his Sapientia once a year, viz. between Martinmas and 
Christmas, a solemn banquet that the prior and convent did use at that 
time of the year only, when their banquet was of figs and raisins, ale 
and cakes, and thereof no superfluity or excess, but a scholastical and 
moderate congratulation among themselves." Durham Rites, p. 75. 


then in difficulties, the recreations which the monks 
used to have were for a time suspended, and instead 
the brethren were sent to Finchal, there to have a 
little relaxation. And in view of this the cathedral 
prior makes some regulations. Four monks, for 
three weeks at a time, will be sent from Durham to 
Finchal to join the little community, then consist- 
ing of a prior and four religious. Two of the 
visitors have to be present daily at matins, mass, and 
vespers, and at all other choir duties ; the other two 
are to be free to go about in the country religiose 
et honeste, but are bound to attend the mass and 
vespers unless for some reasonable cause the prior 
of the house grants a dispensation. This liberty 
next day is to be given to the other two. While 
all are to use the common dorter, the prior is 
to provide a room properly furnished with a fire 
and all things necessary for the visitors, and a 
special servant is to be appointed to wait on them. 1 
But such excursions would be at present rare in 
the case of Dom John ; for he had to be broken in 
to the willing monotony of monastic life. But the 
time was coming when he must leave his abbey for 
a while and go up to the university to take his 
degree, 2 and come back learned in the law, or 
perhaps a master in theology. 

1 The Priory of Finchal (Surtees Society, pp. 30, 31). See also the 
rules for the country house at Kedburne belonging to St. Albans. 
Gesta Abbatum (Roll Series), vol. ii. pp. 202, 205. 

2 Sometimes the youths attached to a claustral school went up to 
Oxford to the benedictine houses and studied there and took their 


In 1283 John Gifford, Lord of Brimsfield, during 
the abbacy of Reginald de Hamone, founded for 
thirteen monks of St. Peter's, Gloucester, a house at 
Oxford for students at the university. The church 
of Chipping Norton was appropriated for their 
support. The abbat, not able to carry on the house 
satisfactorily by his unaided efforts, got other houses 
to join with him. In 1290 the general chapter 
took up the matter of the higher education of their 
monks. They were pretty well forced to take some 
action, because the friars already at the univer- 
sities l were carrying everything before them by the 
brilliancy of their studies and the hosts of students 
they attracted. The general chapter ordered that 
one monk in every twenty out of each house should 
be sent to the university, to the house known from 
its first owners as Gloucester Hall, and there go 
through his university course. 2 Each house had to 
support its own men, making them a fixed allowance 
for necessities besides contributing their share of the 
common tax. By degrees each of the principal 

degrees in arts before becoming monks. Sometimes they returned to 
the university after they had been for some time in the monastery. 
We shall see later on (Ch. IX.) an example of this. See, also, an 
interesting account of the Canterbury claustral school, in Dom Gasquet's 
The Old English Bible and other Essays, p. 260. 

1 The dominicans made their first English house at Oxford 1221, 
and the franciscans settled there about the same time. 

2 The sister university of Cambridge also had its home of studies, 
the rebuilding of which was stopped through the attainder of the duke 
of Buckingham, its munificent benefactor, in the reign of Henry VIII. 
About three fourths of the benedictine students went to Oxford, and 
only one fourth to Cambridge. 


houses who used this hall besides the original 
owners, St. Albans, Glaston, Tavistock, Burton, 
Chertsey, Coventry, Evesham, Eynsham, St. Ed- 
mundsbury, Winchcombe, Malmesbury, Norwich, 
Rochester, and others, built separate sets of cham- 
bers, existing to this day, for their own students, 
and marked with the heraldic device of their own 
monastery. 1 

To this house, then, was Dom John Weston sent 
from Lynminster. His mode of life was somewhat 
modified at the university, for he had to get in as 
much time for study as he could. But it was still a 
hard life, and contrasted greatly with the free and 
easy tone always found in university towns. He 
was kept strictly from intercourse with seculars, who 
might waste his time, and on no account was he 
allowed to study with them. He got up between 4 
and 5 o'clock each morning ; from 5 to 6 was spent 
in prayer ; from 6 to 10 study and lectures, and 
then he broke his fast. Shortly after dinner he 
resumed his study until 5 P.M., when he supped 
much in the same way he had dined. Then study 
again until 9, when he went to bed. 2 Out of the 

1 The bishop of Durham founded a house in 1337 at Oxford, for 
thirteen students from his cathedral-monastery, as a memorial of the 
king's victory over the Scots at Halidon. From a letter of the prior, 
we learn that in this home the divine office had to be said daily in 
choir by all vel ad minus duo. On Sundays and all double feasts all 
were obliged to attend at the hours, which, although not sung, were to 
be said tractim. They sang both mass and vespers on these days, and on 
the principal feasts the whole office and the mass si tempus hoc permiserit. 

2 Fosbroke's British Monastidsm, p. 186. 


time allotted for study he had to find the time for 
his office and the necessary recreation. After some 
years of this severe life, Dom John returned to 
Lynminster with the coveted degree of Doctor of 
Theology, which meant much in those days, and 
gave the holder a certain position in the community 
as well as in the outer world. 

He had now to look forward to the priesthood. 
Already had he received the clerical tonsure and 
the minor orders from his abbat ; but for the 
sacred orders he had to go to the bishop of the 
diocese. Lynminster, not being exempt from episco- 
pal control, could not call in any bishop at pleasure 
for ordinations, blessings, and consecration. Most 
likely Dom John had to go to the cathedral city 
for the general ordination, and there receive his 
priesthood together with the rest of the clergy. 
But wherever it was, it was a great day for him ; 
and his first mass was the occasion of much re- 
joicing at Lynminster. He had to provide a feast 
for his brethren, such was the custom, and wrote to 
his friends and relatives to help him on the occa- 
sion. 1 Owing to his university training, or rather 
to the good use he had made of his time there, he 
was a man likely to rise in his house and to hold 
high office all of which came about in course of 

But meanwhile he had to take up the work of 
teaching the novices ; for his old teacher was past 

1 D. Gasquet's The Old English Bible and other Essays, p. 283. 


his work, and his abbat was anxious to keep the 
intellectual tone of the monks up to the level of 
the best house in England. For the abbat who 
then presided over Lynminster knew well that a 
house, to be prosperous and vigorous, must have 
a high standard of intellectual life ; otherwise its 
men become children, unable to think for them- 
selves, or cope with any emergency, and, as a 
result of such a system, would by-and-by, like list- 
less drones, live without any interests in life. This 
unhealthy tone the abbat was determined not to 
allow while he held rule. For in his younger days 
he had seen the ill effects of a contrary policy ; and 
now that he was called to the abbat' s chair, he was 
determined to do his best to remedy them. In the 
days of his predecessor (good but too easy-going 
man), studies had been neglected, a lax tone had 
crept in, and everything had gone down. Visi- 
tations, both diocesan and monastic, could keep 
things in check indeed, but could not get at the 
root of the evil. With the new abbat it took 
some time and the help of able obedientiaries to 
restore things to a proper efficiency. 

In this abbey the chief office-holders were : the 
Precentor, whose duty it was to arrange all details 
of the services in the church : he also had the charge 
of the library, and had to provide parchment, colours, 
paper, ink, and other material for the monks. Then 
came the Sacrist, who had care of the church and 
its furniture : he was charged with the provision of 



vestments, lights, and wine, &c. Then there was 
the Almoner, who had to see to the distributions 
of alms to the poor ; the Eefectory Master and 
the Pitance Master, 1 important officials who were 
responsible for the meals and supplies of all kinds. 
Then there was the Chamberlain, who had charge 
of the dormitory and of the monks' clothes ; the 
Infirmarian, Guestmaster, Treasurer, whose names 
denote their offices. The Cellarer, however, ruled 
supreme in the department of domestic concerns, 
and was looked upon as the second father in the 
monastery. 2 He held the most important place, for 
he was the business manager of the abbey; and 
upon him depended in a great measure whether 
life ran on as smoothly as it should. 

The abbat was a wise man. Although he had 
the whole control over his abbey, yet he gave full 
scope to all his officers, and did not keep every 
detail in his own hands. He wanted his monks to 
be men, not children. As long as they kept within 
certain limits he left them free, and did not interfere 
or scold at every mistake. For it was by their very 
mistakes he wished them to learn how to rule and 
administer. If a monk turned out an irremedial 
failure in his office, he was removed and another 
substituted. The result of the abbat's wise policy 

1 An interesting manuscript [Harl. 1005] of about the latter half of 
the fourteenth century gives a full and detailed account of the nature 
and occasions of the pitances, or " scholastical and moderate congratu- 
lations," at St. Edmundsbury. 

2 E.g. at Peterborough. 


was that Lynminster became a strong house in every 
way. Among its monks were to be found master- 
men and good solid religious, capable of fulfilling 
with credit any work set upon them. The good 
the abbat did, died not with him. There had been 
such a quiet, steady development of energy that 
the results were lasting ; and Lynminster, when 
the day of trial came, was found one of " the solemn 
monasteries in which religion was, thank God ! 
right well observed." 

Under such an abbat, Dom John Weston was 
sure to get on ; and in due course rose to the highest 
office. He went through various grades of adminis- 
tration, and then was set to rule his brethren as prior. 
He it was who carried out in detail the abbat's 
principles, and under him Lynminster was a happy 
and united brotherhood. 

But alas ! he was sent off to London on important 
business for the abbat and there caught the plague, 
which was making one of its periodical visits. When 
he was first seized, he was staying at a house be- 
longing to his monastery which the abbat kept up 
for the use of his monks. 1 He did not die from the 
malady, but his health utterly broke down. He 
lingered on through the long summer days. His 
one desire was to get back home, to be with his 
brethren. Taking advantage of a fallacious rally, 
he was brought by slow degrees back to Lynminster 

1 The abbat of St. Albans kept up such a house. See Gesta Abbatum 
(Roll Series), vol. i. p. 289. 


and put in the infirmary, a large building with its 
own chapel, on the north-east side of the church. 
There he was tended with loving hands. Three 
times was he solemnly visited by all the community, 
who came to pray by him. The abbat received his 
public profession of faith. Then was he houseled 
and annealed, and thus strengthened, could look 
with confidence to his coming passage into eternity. 

And when in a few days the end came, the 
bells rang, and the monks came into the chamber 
of death with the crucifix, and sweet singing of the 
Credo, and psalms and litanies. 2 They found prior 
John Weston clad in his cowl and, in penitential 
spirit, laid on sackcloth and ashes. And as they 
watched and prayed his life gently ebbed away. 
At last the conversion of his life, promised at pro- 
fession, was complete ; he had been obedient until 
death, and his stability had been confirmed for ever. 
With sorrow his brethren paid the last offices. The 
body, wrapped in a shroud but uncoffined, was 
carried on a bier to the church. And Placebo and 
Dirige were chanted, and the abbat himself sang 
Requiem; and the monks said there were tears in 
his voice. Then was the body of prior John Weston 
borne forth, and was laid in the garth that was 
in the midst of the cloisters. 

For thirty days his obsequies were celebrated with 
office and mass and daily visit to his grave. And 

ium Ecclesiasticum Abbatum sec. usum. t Eveshamien. Monas. 
(Henry Bradshaw Society), p. 117. 


the prayers of the poor were also invoked for his 
soul. In the refectory during all that time a black 
cross was set in his place at table ; and his portion 
of food and drink was bestowed on the poor. His 
name was written in the obit-book to be read out, 
year by year, as the date of his death came round. 
And word was sent round to all the monasteries in 
England to which Lynminster was united in spiritual 
relationship to beg for prayers for his soul. And 
each house did its share of prayers for the assoiling 
of his soul. His memory was kept green for a long 
time in his old home. For no love here below is so 
lasting and faithful as that between those who have 
given up all earthly loves and found them again in 
the Lord. 



WHETHER St. Scholastica was a nun or not is uncer- 
tain, although St. Gregory tells us she was dedicated 
to God from her earliest childhood. 1 There are no 
historical traces remaining for us to decide the 
question ; though venerable tradition records that 
St. Benedict founded also a community of virgins 
consecrated to God, and placed his sister at their 
head. While there is not a word in his Rule 2 about 
such a community, and St. Gregory in his dialogues 
is also silent, still, on the other hand, there is 
nothing in the teaching of the great lawgiver which 
cannot be applied to women. We know also that 
he seems to have undertaken the spiritual direction 
of his sister and had conferences with her, one of 
which was so beautifully illustrated by God granting 
a prayer the brother had refused. 3 

But whether St. Scholastica was a nun or not, 
one thing is certain, that before her brother's time 
there were cloisters of women dedicated to God. 

1 Dialogues of St. Gregory, book ii. chap, xxxiii. 

2 The word " woman " does not even occur in the Rule. 

3 Ibid. 

VOL. I. 97 G 


They flourished in the East, whence St. Benedict drew 
much of his law. Cassian, at least, had introduced 
them into the West, and had founded a convent at 
Marseilles, whence Cesarius, bishop of Aries (542), 
persuaded his sister, Cesaria, to come and join him 
and preside over a convent he was then founding. 

Tradition ascribes to St. Martin the foundation 
of various communities for women ; l and in St. 
Gregory's time we know, from an account of the 
procession instituted on account of the plague then 
devastating Eome, that there were abbesses and 
nuns ; for they were appointed to walk in the pro- 
cession along with the priests of the first region. 2 
_<x If St. Benedict founded a religious community for 
women it was nothing unheard of ; but whether he did 
so or not, we may be sure it would only be a short 
time before he, too, was looked upon as guide and 
father to the many convents already existing. How- 
ever this may be, here in England we have no doubt 
but that, as in the North, columban nuns existed at 
any rate very soon after the introduction of Chris- 
tianity : so in the South, where the Eoman bene- 
dictine influence was the stronger, it is almost as 
certain that the numerous convents, that sprang up 
as it were by magic, were benedictine. But, as we 
have elsewhere remarked, there was no antagonism 
between the two Eules ; and the process of assimila- 
tion, or perhaps absorption, of the Celtic Eule by that 

1 Dupuy, A., Histoire de S. Martin, p. 176. 
3 Mabillon, Annales Ordinis S. Benedicti (ed. Paris, 1 703), torn. i. p. 2 1 7. 


of St. Benedict was so gradual as almost to be im- 
perceptible. The Oriental tinge of severity so per- 
ceptible in the former would have to give way to the 
wider spirit of the West, which dealt with men as it 
found them. The two Rules were typical of their 
origins that of the East unchanging and stereo- 
typed ; that of the West keeping in touch with the 
times, ever adapting itself to the unceasing flow and 
development of humanity. 

jffildaJn the north at Whitby, and Eanswith in the 
south at Folkestone, are the two prominent found- 
resses of the religious life for women in our land. 
Little is known of either of them ; especially as to the 
beginning of their religious lives. Hilda was one of 
Edwin of Northumbria's household, and in her four- 
teenth year was baptized at York, on that Easter-day 
(627) that saw Paulinus, the benedictine monk, re- 
ceiving the king and court into the Church of Christ. 
1 ' Nothing is known of the life of Hild (Hilda) 
between the ages of fourteen and thirty-four; but 
evidently she had not dwelt in obscure retirement, 
for the Scottish prelate Aidan in 647, knowing that 
she was living in the Midlands, begged her to return 
to the north. It is a noteworthy circumstance if, 
in an age when marriage was the rule, she remained 
single without taking the veil, but she may have 
been associated with some religious settlement." 

s^' 1 Eckenstein, Women under Monasticism, p. 82. But Bede says "she 
withdrew to the province of the East Angles," with the intention of 
.going to Chelles (lib. iv. cap. xxiii.). 


She became foundress of Whitby, at first a columban 
monastery for men and women. It afterwards re- 
ceived the benedictine Rule as well, perhaps through 
the influence of Wilfrid. Of Eanswith we know still 
less. Her father, Edbald of Kent, after he had put 
away his heathen wife, married a princess of the 
Franks. About the year 630 he gave his daughter a 
piece of land at Folkestone, where she founded a 
convent. It would be a curious point for speculation 
to discover whether this beginning in Kent was 
due to the influence of the Northumbrian Edwin's 
widow, Ethelburga, who with her children and 
Paulinus had taken refuge at her brother's Kentish 
court, or whether the Frankish princess had taken 
the initiative. But there was Paulinus the bene- 
dictine at hand to give a direction to the new settle- 
ment. However, her convent was destroyed or 
deserted at the close of the century ; for there is a 
charter of Athelstane (927) giving the land to Christ 
Church, Canterbury, " the house having been de- 
stroyed by the pagans/' l 

Queen Ethelburga was herself the foundress of a 
house at Liming. It would naturally be, coming from 
the north, that her foundation should be modelled 
on the great abbey of Whitby. But that is no proof 
that the house was governed by the columban Rule 
pure and simple. Sexburgh, queen of Erconbert, 
the successor of Edbald, founded another convent 
at Sheppy. At this time, says Bede, "there were 

1 Dugdale, vol. i. p. 451. 



not yet many monasteries built in the regions of 
the Angles. Many were wont, for the sake of the 
monastic mode of life, to go from Britain to the 
monasteries of the Franks and of Gaul; they 
also sent their daughters to the same to be in- 
structed and to be wedded to the Heavenly Spouse 
chiefly in the monasteries of Brie, Chelles, and 
Andelys." 1 

Mildred was the foundress of the famous abbey of 
Minster in Thanet. She had been brought up at 
Chelles, where, says the legend, the abbess Wilcoma 
wanted the girl to marry one of her kinsmen. 
Irritated by her refusals, she ordered her to be cast 
into a roaring fire whence she came forth untouched. 
She escaped back to England. Some time towards 
the latter half of the seventh century we find 
Egberht, king of Kent, giving her land in Thanet as 
a blood-fine for the murder of two of her brothers. 
" She asked for as much land as her tame deer 
could run over in one course, and received over ten 
thousand acres of the best land in Kent." On this 
land she built a monastery ; and her name as abbess 
appears signing a charter of privileges granted by 
King Witred to the churches and monasteries 
of Kent. Her name comes the first of the five 
abbesses who sign the document after the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Rochester. 
A noticeable fact, the names of these five women 

1 Hist. Eccles., book iii. chap. viii. 

2 Dugdale, vol. i. p. 447. 


come before that of the priests who attested the 
charter. 1 

Of the other nunneries famous in Saxon days was 
Ely, founded (673) by Audrey or Etheldreda, the 
friend of Wilfrid. This seems to have been a double 
convent, or at least to have had a convent of monks 
hard by. One of her successors was Werburg, to 
whom was entrusted, by her uncle King Ethelred, 
the oversight of all the nunneries in his domains. 
She is known to have founded houses at Trentham, 
and at Hanbury, and at Weden. 2 

Coldingham was founded by Ebba, also a friend 
of Wilfrid's, and of Cuthbert too, that holy bishop 
of Lindisfarne who did so much by his gentleness 
and sweetness to introduce Koman usages among 
the columban monks in England. "Ebba wrote 
begging him to come and condescend to edify 
both herself and the inmates of her monastery 
by the grace of his exhortations. Cuthbert accord- 
ingly went thither, and tarrying for some days 
he expounded the ways of justice to all ; these 
he not only preached, but to the same extent 
practised." J 

Osith of Aylesbury, Frideswith of Oxford, Osburg 
of Coventry, Modwen of Burton, Everild of Evering- 
ham, are names which, as foundresses and abbesses 

1 Haddan and Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, vol. iii. 
p. 240. 

2 During the Danish invasion her relics, which were at Hanbury, 
in 875 were carried off to Chester, whose patron she became. 

3 Bede, Life of St. Cuthbert, chap. x. 


of holy houses, were sweet in the ears of our Saxon 

But among them all stands out pre-eminent Ethel- 
burga, sister of Erkonwald (693), bishop of London, 
who made a home for his sister at Barking, which 
"he established excellently in the regular disci- 
pline." l This renowned house was also a famous 
place for the education of high-born children. The 
great scholar Aldhelm 2 wrote his treatise on Virginity 
for the nuns of this convent ; and the whole tone of 
the book, besides several direct passages, shows that 
the intellectual life there must have been of a very 
high order. He quotes freely from the Fathers, and 
refers to the classics of antiquity. He praises 
especially the nuns for being devoted to study : like 
bees they gather, he says, everywhere material for 
study. Scripture, history, grammar, poetry, are 
among some of the subjects which he mentions. 
But evidently he looks upon Barking as an oasis 
in the worldliness which even then (the beginning 
of the eighth century) had entered into nunneries. 
He describes nuns elsewhere as wearing " a vest 
of fine linen of a violet colour. Above it a scarlet 
tunic with a hood, sleeves striped with silk and 
trimmed with red fur ; the locks on the forehead 

1 Bede, lib. iv. cap. vi. Miss Eckenstein states that Barking was 
a double monastery. We can find no proof of this anywhere. Bede 
says : " In which (Barking) she could live as the mother and nourish er 
of devout women " (ibid.). 

2 Aldhelm was abbat of Malmsbury, and became bishop of Sher- 


and the temples are curled with a crisping-iron ; 
their dark head- veil is given up for white and 
coloured head-dresses, which, with bows of ribbon 
sewn on, reach to the ground ; their nails, like those 
of a falcon or sparrow-hawk, are found to resemble 
talons." l This last reminds us that Aldhelm was 
a poet ; and this may have been one of his licenses. 

Wimborne, the last of the foundations of the early 
Saxon period, was founded from Barking by Cuthburg 
(725), a sister of Ina, king of Wessex, and wife of 
Ealdfrid of Northumbria. A famous inmate of this 
house was Lioba, one of the friends of Winfrid 
better known as St. Boniface. He wrote to the 
abbess Tetta begging her, " as a comfort in his 
wanderings and as a help in his mission, to send the 
virgin Lioba, the fame of whose holiness and teaching 
of godly life had penetrated across wide lands and 
filled the mouths of many with her praise." l She 
went, and became abbess of the famous house of 
Bischofsheim near Mainz. 

In her life, written by Eudolf of Fulda (850), we 
get a glimpse of the life in these double monasteries. 
" There were two settlements at Wimborne, formerly 
erected by the kings of that people, surrounded by 
lofty and strong walls, and endowed with ample 
revenues. Of these, one was for clerics, the other for 
women. But neither, for such was the rule of their 
foundation, was ever entered by any members of 

1 S. Aldhelmi: De Laudibus Virginitates (ed. Migne), vol. 89, p. 157. 

2 Vita S. Liobce, Pars II. Ada Sanctorum (Sept. 28), p. 713. 


the other sex. No women had permission to come 
among the congregation of men, no men to enter 
into the dwellings of the virgins, the priests alone 
excepted, who entered their church to celebrate mass, 
and withdrew to their own part at once as soon as 
the service prayer was solemnly finished. . . . More- 
over, the mother herself of the congregation, when- 
ever it was necessary that she should give orders in 
the affairs of the monastery, spoke through a window, 
and decided whatever was considered to be best." l 

Most of the nunneries perished during the invasion 
of the Danes, and but few were rebuilt. Only those 
which were in connection with the royal house of 
Wessex remained at the close of the tenth century. 
Those of the Northern and Midland districts had 
entirely disappeared. Some were deserted ; others 
had been laid waste during the Danish invasion. It 
has been observed that with the return of tranquillity, 
not one of the houses for women was restored. 
Seculars " took possession of them, and when they 
were expelled, the Church claimed the land, or the 
settlement was restored to the use of monks. Some 
of the great houses formerly ruled by women were 
thus appropriated to men. Whitby and Ely rose in 
renewed splendour under the rule of abbats. Repton, 
Wimborne, and numerous other nunneries became 
the property of monks." : 

The chief convents which survived to the Conquest 

1 Ibid., Parsl. p. 711. 
2 Eckenstein, Women under Monasticism, pp. 201, 202. 


were Shaftesbury (founded in 893 by Alfred the 
Great for his daughter Ethelgiva), Amesbury, Eomsey, 
Winchester, Wilton, and Barking. Like all founded 
before the Conquest, these houses were abbeys, 1 and 
their abbesses were women of great political power 
in the kingdom. Those of Shaftesbury, Wilton, 
Winchester (Nunna - minster) and Barking held 
their lands of the king by an entire barony, and 
had the privilege, at a later date, of being summoned 
to Parliament, though this lapsed on account of 
their sex. 2 

The abbess had most of the privileges of the 
abbats, and in her possession were many lands, 
together with their churches, from which she drew 
her revenues, and to which she exercised the rights 
of presentation. She had to do service to the Crown 
and supply her quota of knights for the king's 

1 The houses founded after the Conquest were generally priories. 
Of the sixty-four benedictine convents founded for women after Saxon 
days, only three, viz. Godstow, Mailing, and Elstow, were abbeys. " The 
explanation is to be sought in the system of feudal tenure. Women no 
longer held property, nunneries were founded and endowed by local 
barons or abbats. When power from the preceding period devolved on 
the woman in authority, she retained it ; but when new appointments 
were made, the current tendency was in favour of curtailing her power." 
Of. Women under Monasticism, p. 204. When the house was founded by 
an abbat it remained under his jurisdiction, and the house was visited 
both by abbat and by bishop, unless the abbey itself was exempt ; then 
all houses depending upon it shared in the privilege, e.g. Sopwell 
nunnery in relation to St. Albans, and Kilburn to "Westminster. 
Although the Lateran constitution gave general chapters the visitation 
of nunneries, yet we do not find any traces of capitular visitors going 
to any nunnery. Their oversight was left to the bishops. 

2 Dugdale, vol. ii. p. 472. 


service. 1 She held her own courts for pleas of 
debts, and was altogether a most important per- 
sonage. Of course she was elected for life, but 
could be deposed. 

We will look a little more closely at the life of 
nuns, or "mynchyns," as they were called in the 
Southern parts of England, and make use of such 
information as we can glean from historical remains. 

One feature of the life which strikes the reader 
at once is the fact that the benedictine nun in 
England, like her sister abroad, was not bound by 
the same law of enclosure as the nun of the last 
three hundred years. Her cloister was her home 
indeed ; and there she loved to dwell in peace and 
retirement. But she did not hesitate to go out 
when the service of God required it. The pages 
of history are so full of examples, that one is sur- 
prised to find that any can doubt that the original 
benedictine nun had practically as much freedom 
as the monk. From the days of St. Scholastica 
herself, who came out to visit her brother, all during 
the Saxon times, and up to the Keformation, English 
benedictine nuns had a mitigated form of enclosure. 
And not the English "mynchyns" only, but in 
Germany, where the great names of Hildegarde, 

1 The abbess of Shaftesbury, Agnes Ferrar, in 1251 was summoned 
to Chester to take part in the military proceedings against Llewellin ; 
and a successor of hers, Juliana Bauceyn, twenty years after, had a 
similar call made upon her. The abbesses of Shaftesbury, as baronesses, 
had to supply the king's service with a certain number of knights to- 
gether with their full complement of soldiers. Of. Dugdale, vol. ii. p. 473. 


Gertrude, and the two Mechtildas were those of nuns 
as much unenclosed as their English sisters who 
went to help Winfrid and Willibald and Winibald 
in evangelising and civilising the German heathen. 1 

The majestic vision of Hilda taking part in synods, 
of Werburg inspecting the convents in her uncte's 
kingdom, of Withburga following the pilgrim-track 
to Rome, of Frideswide working a miracle on the 
public road at Oxford, of Edith at the court of her 
father Edgar ; all come up at once to our memory as 
names of unenclosed nuns doing God's work in the 
world, and keeping themselves unspotted therefrom. 

Later on we find many a reference to nuns being 
out of their convents. For instance, in the four- 
teenth century bishop Stapleton was on visitation 
in his diocese of Exeter, and among other decrees 
made for the benedictine nunnery of Polslo, was 
that they were not to be allowed to go out and 
visit their friends more than once in the year. 
They had to get the prioress' leave ; and she was 
charged with providing a professed nun as a com- 
panion, who had to be changed each year. 2 

1 It is a fact worth moralising upon, that no canonised saint has 
been found among the benedictine nuns since they kept strict enclosure. 
Other orders, in which enclosure is of the essence of their vocation, have 
had them in abundance. 

2 Hingeston-Kandolph. The Register of Walter de Stapledon ( 1 307-26), 
p. 317. We give here a license for a nun to go out for a while from 
her convent. P. C. Priorissse E. Precibus charissimae nobis in Christo 
filiae Dominse . . . consanguinis Domini . . . militis nostri dicecesis 
favorabilibus inclinatus, ut ad earn justis et honestis ex causis Domina 
. . . hujus dicti vestri prioratus commonialis, cum alia ejusdem prior- 


Sometimes law business took the prioress away. 
"When I rode to London for the suit that- was 
taken," says the prioress of Free in her account for 
1487-89, and notes down the money (20 shillings) 
paid for herself and " my priest and a woman 
and two men." The abbess of Shaftesbury, Joan 
Formage, had leave from her bishop in 1368 to 
go to one of her manors to take the air and divert 
herself. 2 Nuns, however, did not always like this 
sort of thing ; and when visitation time came round 
they would complain to the bishop that my lady 
abbess was always riding off somewhere or other ; 
and they were quite sure it was not always on 
business. 3 

But they themselves could go out at times. 4 
Their customs allowed them to go abroad, if they 
were ill, to take the waters, to console sick parents, 
to attend their funerals. They could be absent for 
three days only when out for relaxation or illness, 
but a special dispensation was needed for any 
further extension of absence. 5 

atus ipsam associente accedere valeant ; valeant equestri, non obstan- 
tibus vestris consuetudinibus contrariis, dispensatione, ex causis licitis 
nobis sufficienter doctis, in quantum de jure possumus, quatenus 
obedientiam et honestatem discipline regularis literarum tenore 
praesentium duximus indulgendam, &c. &c. (MSS. Harl. 2179, f. 78). 

1 Dugdale, vol. iii. p. 360. 

2 Hutchins, J., The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 
vol. ii. p. 17. 

3 Ibid. p. 474. 

4 Blaauw, W. H., Episcopal Visitations of the Benedictine Nunnery 
of Easebourne (Sussex Archaeological Collections), vol. iv. p. 7. 

5 Lyndewood, Provinciate, p. 212. 


Chaucer was too true an artist to include, in 
the gay company meeting at Southwark that April 
morning all bound for Canterbury, two nuns, a 
prioress and her companion, if such characters 
would have been out of place in a band of 
pilgrims. His description of " Madame Eglen tine" 
the prioress is full of charming touches, and shows 
us a lady, well-bred and friendly, in a dignified 
way, with all her company. She did not ride on 
demurely and silently. In the general entertain- 
ment she tells her tale of the little boy-martyr, 
a legend such as she would read at home in her 
convent. And her companion was not behind- 
hand either, but contributes a prettily told story 
of St. Cecily. 

How did the nuns occupy themselves in their 
convents? Study and intellectual pursuits have 
always been favourite employments with benedic- 
tine dames, and one may almost gauge the state 
of observance in a convent by the standard of 
intellectual activity which there obtained. When 
that was high, the convent flourished both in 
number and in exactness of rule. Where learning 
was neglected, almost everything else showed signs 
of decay. When Winfrid was in Germany he 
kept up an active correspondence with nuns in 
England, and from them received presents of books 
copied out with their own hands. "Often," says 
he in 725 to Eadburga, abbess of Minster, "gifts 
of books and vestments, the proofs of your love, 


have been to me a consolation in misfortune. So 
I pray you will continue as you have begun, and 
write for me in golden letters 1 the epistle of the 
holy apostle St. Paul, my master," &c. 2 Nor was 
she an exception ; for, as Montalembert says : 

"The Anglo-Saxon race above all was rich in 
women of this kind : many are to be found among 
the princesses established in the numerous abbeys 
of England such as Edith, natural daughter of 
King Edgar; who, brought up by her mother in 
the nunnery at Wilton, was famed there equally 
for her knowledge and her virtue/' He goes on 
to speak of Lioba of Wimborne, who went to join 
Winfrid. " She was so eager for knowledge that 
she never left her books save for divine service. 
She was well versed in all that were then called 
the liberal arts ; she was thoroughly acquainted 
with the writings of the Fathers and canon-law ; 
cultivated Latin verse and showed her attempts 
to St. Boniface (Winfrid) who admired them greatly. 
... To her is due the honour of having trained 
in Christian knowledge the young girls who filled 
the new nunneries, founded under the teaching 
of the Saxon missionaries. The Germans really 
owe to her the introduction among them of that 
monastic culture which, later, was to shine with 

1 Saxon nuns excelled in illuminating manuscripts. Wilfrid brought 
to England the art of writing in gold, and owned a copy of the Gospels 
written on purple-coloured parchments, in letters of pure gold. 

2 S. Bonqfacii Epistolce (ed. Migne), n. xix. p. 712. 


such brilliance in the person of Hroswitha, the 
illustrious nun of Gandersheim, whose greatest 
glory was to have composed the plays which she 
caused to be acted in her abbey. These dramas 
astonish us by the extraordinary acquaintance they 
prove with the authors of classic antiquity Plautus, 
Virgil, Terence, and Horace and yet more by a 
knowledge of the human heart truly remarkable in 
a woman completely shut out from the world." 

The nuns knew Latin and could write it. For 
the superiors this was almost a necessity. It was 
not till after the rise of the universities, when 
learning ceased to be a monopoly of the religious 
houses, that documents for nuns began to be written 
in French, then as now the language of culture, 
or in English. This decline in learning coincided 
with the period when convents of women were at 
a lower ebb than they had ever been, both in point 
of numbers and of influence. 

Besides intellectual studies of all kinds, needle- 
work held an important place. The embroidering 
of our English nuns earned a reputation far and 
wide as the finest work to be had. Bishops and 
popes prided themselves on specimens of the famed 
opus Anglicanum, and were consumed with envy 
when they saw the richly embroidered vestments 2 

1 Monks of the West (ed. Nimmo), vol. v. pp. 133, 134. 

2 Professor J. H. Middleton points out, in a note to his Illuminated 
Manuscripts in Classical and Medimval Times, p. 112, that the popes 
of the period, when they sent the pall to a newly elected archbishop 
of England, suggested they would like in return some embroidered 


of English bishops or abbats sitting in council 
with the rest of the clergy. 

"The most famous embroidered vestments now 
preserved in various places in Italy are the handi- 
work of English embroiderers between 1250 and 
1300, though their authorship is not as a rule 
recognised by their present possessors." : 
/ The convents were almost the only houses of 
'education for girls, and even for little boys. Dom 
Gasquet quotes old John Aubrey, as witness for 
what he knew of St. Mary's convent near Kington 
St. Michael in Wiltshire. 

"There the young maids were brought up (not 
as at Hakney Sarum Schools, &c., to learn pride 
and wantonness) but at the nunneries, where they 
had examples of piety, and humility, and modesty, 
and obedience to imitate and to practise. Here 
they learned needle-work, the art of confectionery, 
surgery (for anciently there were no apothecaries or 
surgeons the gentlewomen did cure their poor 

vestments of English work. And Matthew Paris has an instructive 
passage on the point. When Innocent IV. saw the beautiful vestments 
worn (in 1246) by the English prelates who came to Rome, he asked 
where they were made ; and on hearing in England, he exclaimed, 
"Truly England is our storehouse of delights, a very inexhaustible 
well : and where much abounds much can be extorted from many." 
He incontinently sent letters to the cistercian abbats here, ordering 
them to forward to him gold embroidery for the use of his chapel, 
" as though," says Matthew, " they could get it for nothing." Ohronica 
Majora (Roll Series), vol iv. pp. 546, 547. 

1 Middleton, p. 112. Such as the "Lateran Cope" in Rome, the 
"Piccolomini Cope" at Pienza, and those at Anagni, Florence, and 

VOL. I. H 


neighbours : their hands are now too fine), physic, 
writing, drawing, &cV\Old Jacques could see from 
his house the nuns of the priory come forth into 
the nymph-hay (meadow) with their rooks (distaffs) 
and wheels to spin, and with their sewing work. 
He would say that he had told three score and ten ; 
but of nuns there were not so many, but in all, with 
lay sisters, as widows, old maids, and young girls, 
there might be such a number. This was a fine 
way of bringing up young women, who are led more 
by example than precept ; and a good retirement for 
widows and grave single women to a civil, virtuous, 
and holy life." x 

From this we may gather that convents afforded 
also a place of retreat and quiet life to women who, 
not having any vocation for the religious life, wished 
to share in some of its privileges without under- 
tajdng the obligations. 

^AThe religious life of the nuns was the same as 
that of their brethren. The ever-recurring sacrifice 
of prayer and praise formed their lives to a simpli- 
city and singleness of eye. J 

The records of visitations 2 tell us there was a 

1 Dom Gasquet, Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries, vol. ii. 
p. 224. 

2 In the Visitations of the Diocese of Norwich (Dr. Jessop) we get a 
useful light on the inner life of convents in these parts ; provided 
we bear in mind that these visitations record only the complaints 
made and the murmurings, without going into the question whether 
they were founded or unfounded ; whereas, if all goes well, the whole 
business is despatched in a word or two : Omnia esse bene (Camden 
Soc. Publications, New Series, No. XCIIL). 


great deal of human nature in convent life, then, as 
there must be always. One of the very charms of 
the monastic life is that it does not try to destroy 
nature but to elevate it. That this is a long process 
in some cases is clear, and one uncomfortable both 
to oneself and to others. But this is just the point 
in which the common life is of service in the work 
of moral education. Bearing and forbearing is the 
secret of happiness, when living with our fellow- 
men, and how much more in the family life of a 
monastery? This was one of the human sacra- 
mentals that St. Benedict relied upon so strongly 
in forming his disciples to the image of Christ. The 
various spiritual exercises of recent introduction are 
not of the essence of the benedictine vocation, 
though some find a use in them. But the large and 
deep minded Dom Baker (of whom anon), the most 
original and remarkable spiritual writer among 
English Catholics in the days of persecution, who 
was so fully possessed by the spirit of his state, lays 
the greatest stress on the careful fulfilling of the 
duties of the common life as a necessary require- 
ment in those who, as the result of long probation, 
are called to the simple and direct union with God 
in contemplation. 

Here we will leave the subject of the daughters 
of St. Benedict, closing with the words of a recent 
writer on their social influence : 

"It is unnecessary to speak of the many blessings 
which must have accrued to a neighbourhood by 


the presence of a convent of cultivated English 
ladies. Their gentle teaching was the first ex- 
perience of the youthful poor ; from them they 
derived their early knowledge of the elements of 
religion and of Catholic practice ; to them they 
went in the troubles and cares of life as to a source 
of good advice ; theirs was the most potent civi- 
lising influence in the rough days of the Middle 
Ages ; and theirs was the task of tendering the sick 
and smoothing the passage of the Christian soul to 
eternity." l As has been well said, benedictine 
nuns "were indeed not of the world, but they 
were in it, actively and intelligently to do a good 
work to it to elevate, to console, to purify, and to 
bless." 2 

1 Dom Gasquet, op. cit. p. 221. z Ibid. p. 220. 



HITHERTO we have been occupied with the his- 
tory of the black monks in England up to the 
period when the general chapter was appointed 
for the whole of England. We must now con- 
tinue the history up to the eve of the fall of the 

The great abbeys at this period had reached their 
zenith, and by their wealth and numbers were some 
of the most important institutions in the country. 
Their influence was felt not only in the neighbour- 
hood of each monastery for great landlords, such 
as the monks were, will always have power but 
also in Parliament. There the abbats of the black 
monks alone outnumbered even the bishops ; for 
no less than twenty-eight of them sat as barons of 
the realm to some eighteen bishops. 1 And there 
are respects in which they were more in touch with 
the common feeling of the country than even were 
the bishops ; for these last were rulers of large 

1 Together with the other abbats who had seats in Parliament, the 
number was fifty-two. The cathedral priors of Canterbury who were 

mitred also had a seat. 



dioceses, were often statesmen, and immersed in 
affairs necessitating their absence from home ; while 
the abbat was, with the exception of his attendance 
at Parliament, almost always living in the midst of 
the people. The mutual relations of benedictine 
abbat and secular bishop were on the whole good ; 
for, with the exception of the five exempt monas- 
teries, the bishop had all rights of visitation over 
the houses of black monks in his diocese. 1 With 
these exemptions friction was more likely to occur, 
especially when the exact limits of rights on either 
side were not defined. But for the last hundred or 
hundred and fifty years the mutual privileges were 
known and respected, and therefore a greater har- 
mony existed. 

Of the disputes between monastic chapters and 
their bishops (after the thirteenth century very rare), 
one very noteworthy example occurs in the case 
of the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, who 
formed the chapter of the primatial church, and 
the archbishop of the see, Edmund Rich, known to 
history as St. Edmund. The dispute seems to have 
arisen (1237) in this manner. The archbishop was 
ex-officio abbat of the house : but this in reality 
meant less than appears. The affairs of the mon- 
astery and all internal discipline were governed by 
the cathedral prior, who however was appointed to 

1 It is to be understood that all the houses of the cluniacs, the white 
monks or cistercians, and the white canons or premonstratensians, 
were exempt. 


his office by the archbishop after the convent had 
been consulted. He also had the power (a most 
important one) of admitting any one into the 
novitiate 1 and to profession, and also selected one 
out of the three names elected for the greater 
officers. These rights, together with a power of 
visitation, were about all the abbatial functions of 
the archbishop. But this did not satisfy archbishop 
Edmund. A saintly man, of great personal austerity, 
with a high ideal of his position, of inflexible pur- 
pose when he once saw what he considered to be 
his rights and duty, he was just the sort of man 
who naturally would not stay to consider any other 
view of things. He seems to have acted as though 
he had the faculty of intuitively arriving at a con- 
clusion without being obliged to consider the steps 
by which it is reached. The result was inevitable. 
He found himself embroiled in perpetual disputes. 
The irony of fate was the more remarkable, for all 
his biographers state that personally he had the 
greatest horror of litigation. In these matters, un- 
fortunately for himself and for all with whom he 
had to do, he trusted himself into the hands of 
others, notably Simon Langton, one of the arch- 
deacons, a bitter and disappointed man. What- 
ever cause may be assigned to it, the fact remains 

1 At Worcester, and therefore more likely at the other cathedral 
monasteries, the prior, sede vacante, had also the right of admitting 
novices. See Registrum Prioratus B. M. Wigorniensis (Camden Soc.), 
p. 138. As to Christ Church, see Literce Cantuarienses (Roll Series), 
vol. i. pp. 1 8, 117. 


that the archiepiscopate of St. Edmund was by no 
means a peaceful one. 1 

In the case of Christ Church, Canterbury, Edmund 
claimed as abbat the right of disposing of the 
monastic property, and had acted to the grave pre- 
judice of the rights and liberties enjoyed by the 
monks in respect to certain churches appropriated to 
the monastery, to certain manors, possessions, perqui- 
sites, and services due from their tenants, &c. The 
monks in self-defence appealed to the pope (Gregory 
IX.). He, on December 22, 1235, appointed as 
judges in the dispute three abbats, who to avoid 
partiality were taken from the cistercian, premonstra- 
tensian, and augustinian orders. 2 The parties con- 
cerned were summoned in the pope's'name to appear 
on May 10, 1236, at Eochester. The monks were 
represented there by their proctor, but no arch- 
bishop. Again was he summoned for June 20, but 
he took no notice. An attempt was made to settle 
the matter by compromise, but with no effect. At 
last, after several other citations, of all which the 
archbishop took no notice, when the final one was 

1 The state of the Church in England in St. Edmund's day was not 
happy. On one hand the kings, John and Henry III., were by no 
means nursing fathers ; and on the other the popes, or those on whom 
they relied, were using it to enrich Italian clerics. Men who neither 
resided in England, nor knew a word of the language, were appointed 
to good livings in England, overriding the rights of patrons who either 
themselves or by their ancestors had founded these benefices. Deep 
and bitter was the resentment in the land ; and it found expression in 
the laws excluding non-resident aliens from English livings. 

2 The abbats of Boxley, St. Radegund, and Lesnes. 


issued for May 7, 1237 (a year after the first), then 
King Henry III. suddenly intervened and forbade 
the judges to proceed. At this sudden interference 
of the civil power in behalf of the archbishop, the 
judges dared take no further steps. Henry, who 
was anxious just then to keep on good terms with 
the pope (from whom he was daily expecting a 
legate to support his claims against the stand made 
by Edmund and others on behalf of English liberties), 
ordered (July 10) that nothing more should be done 
until he could talk over the matter with the legate. 
The pope meanwhile had also written ordering, in 
case of opposition, the whole case to be brought 
before his supreme tribunal. After the arrival of 
the legate, Otho, the judges saw him, and then held 
a meeting at Boxley, on August 31, whence they 
wrote a letter to the archbishop, who still kept 
away. After rehearsing all that had taken place in 
the matter, and stating they were hindered by the 
king from obeying the pope's commission, the 
abbats, in accordance with the apostolic mandate, 
fixed January 26, 1238, as the day upon which the 
litigants should appear before his holiness in Rome. 
Edmund, perhaps, now had begun to see the 
matter in another light, and was anxious to make 
amends the more so as it had reached his ears 
that he was being charged with ingratitude to the 
men who had elected him archbishop. This was 
a new aspect of things ; and he began to realise 
that they were a body with rights of their own. To 


see this and promptly act was characteristic of the 
archbishop's impulsive and humble soul. He went 
to Canterbury and " entered the chapter-house in 
an attitude of deep humility, in the hope of allaying 
the commotion by calm reasoning and sweet modera- 
tion ; for he did not wish to be thought unmindful 
of the confidence which the monks had bestowed 
upon him ; indeed it cut him to the quick to think 
he should even appear ungrateful. Consequently he 
conceded all their requests so far as to remove any 
obstacle to an honourable and satisfactory arrange- 
ment being made. The monks, one and all, gladly 
consented to his terms, and they thanked God and 
the archbishop for this happy termination of the 
dispute. Edmund then announced to the chapter 
that he would go to Eome to get the approval of the 
Holy See to the arrangement that had been made." ] 
The archbishop had several other disputes on 
hand, with various houses of black monks who had 
appealed to Rome for protection against his claims. 
He wanted to make a visitation of Westminster 
abbey, a house exempt from all episcopal control, 
and, moreover, not even in his diocese. In this 
project he was opposed both by the monks, who 
claimed their privilege, and also by the bishop of 
London, who protested against his intrusion. St. 

1 Eustace's Vita Sancli Edmundi, f. 139, given in Life of St. Edmund, 
by Dom Wilfrid Wallace, O.S.B., and quoted at p. 235. The author 
was a monk of Christ Church, but attached to the person of the 
archbishop as chaplain. 


Augustine's at Canterbury, too, was another stone 
of offence to the archbishop. Exempt itself, the 
abbey claimed for all its churches and manors free- 
dom from episcopal visitation. A compromise, on 
the whole favourable to the monks, was entered into. 
They did not care, perhaps, to push matters too 
far, as it was said some of the bulls on which they 
relied would not bear too close inspection. 1 Then, 
again, in the neighbouring diocese of Rochester 
Edmund was involved in disputes with the monastic 
chapter; for he claimed the right of appointing the 
bishop, and would not allow of the monks' right 
of election. In all the cases that went to Eome, 
Edmund was worsted. He practically had no case 
except sic jubeo sic volo. 

1 Forgery, or the art of making history, was certainly not unknown 
in those happily uncritical ages ; and one is constantly thwarted in 
research by documents which turn out not what they purport to 
be. We should doubt, however, if the intention of the writers of 
such documents always was to deceive. When the courts insisted, 
in cases of litigation, on the production of charters in regard to- 
property held for four or five hundred years, the original deeds of 
which had been destroyed by foreign invasion or civil broils, the 
case was met by the production of documents, not original indeed 
but embodying the facts. " Forgery " applied to such a case needs a 
gloss, and it must not be at once assumed that the "forgers" were 
the rogues implied by our own modern use of the term. It is a 
commonplace in legal history, that when courts of law will press their 
conditions in a way which is felt to be undue, they will generally 
meet their match on their own ground ; for instance, the whole question 
of conveying estates for uses or bequests for masses for the dead. In 
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries people went a much more simple 
way to work ; but the principle was the same. The history of the 
methods employed to meet on their own grounds laws felt to be 
unduly pressed, is a subject worthy of the " Philosophic Historian." 


When Edmund reached Rome (1238), he found, to 
his intense surprise, some of the Canterbury monks. 
A strong feeling had been gaining ground in that 
convent that they had gone beyond their legal 
rights in compromising many points with the arch- 
bishop. Their feelings had been touched, and, 
under that influence, had given a consent which 
after-thought did not warrant. The archbishop 
and his party were bitterly affected at finding an 
appeal pending on a matter they thought had been 
settled. Archdeacon Langton, Edmund's chief ad- 
viser, did not scruple to deny the validity of their 
grants ; and, in the words of the continuator of 
Gervase, " vomited forth his venom before the pope, 
and said : * Holy Father, there is no species of 
forgery which is not perpetrated in the Church of 
Canterbury. They forge in gold, in lead, in wax, in 
anything you please/' 3 To settle this question, 
the pope sent orders to Otho to go to Canterbury 
and make a search into the monks' claims. All 
duplicate documents were to be shared between the 
archbishop and the chapter ; but any found to be 
forged or of suspected authenticity were to be 
sent to Rome for the pope's inspection. When the 
charge of forgery was gone into, it turned out to be 
that a charter of St. Thomas ^ Becket, well known 
to exist, had been damaged beyond repair ; and 
three of the monks, in all simplicity, had made a 
new copy to which they had attached the old seal. 

1 Gervasii Opera (Roll Series), vol. ii. p. 132. 


But while at Rome, finding unavailing all hopes 
of a compromise with the agents of the monks, the 
archbishop was urged on to issue excommunication 
against all disturbers of the peace, or rather of his 
peace. He left Rome, as we have said, worsted upon 
all matters in dispute, and with the difficulty with his 
chapter still open. On reaching England, he went 
with the cardinal legate to investigate the charge of 
forgery, which resulted, as stated above, in a moral 
acquittal; although punishment was inflicted upon 
the monks who had appended the old seal to the new 
copy, and the prior was deposed by the archbishop. 

The archbishop's pretensions were only increased 
by the firm opposition he met with ; and now he 
went so far as to take steps to transfer the cathedral 
into the hands of secular canons. The dispute be- 
came a matter of life or death with the monks, and 
they fought the archbishop with grim pertinacity. 
Suspensions were issued and were treated with scant 
respect ; for the archbishop had for the time being 
no longer jurisdiction over them on the disputed 
points, their cause being before the Holy See. He 
refused to appoint a new prior until the monks had 
returned to their obedience, a question which they 
persisted was still sub judice. Matters got graver, 
and each party more obstinate. At last, on January 
9, 1239, he interdicted the whole convent, and later 
on excommunicated his primatial chapter, and on 
November 3, 1239, published the sentence through- 
out the whole province. 


But meanwhile the cause at Rome was dragging 
on its weary length. At home it seems that the 
sentence of excommunication, certainly invalid, was 
not taken much notice of by the people of the 
diocese. This made the archbishop more deter- 
mined to enforce his will ; and he appealed to the 
secular power, in the shape of the sheriff of Kent, to 
enforce his decree. The idea got abroad that the 
archbishop intended to seize the temporalities of 
the monastery. The monks in alarm appealed to 
the king, who ordered his sheriffs not to interfere. 
Fresh excommunications are sent out against all 
who should support the monks ; and then, all of 
a sudden, matters drop. The archbishop, sick at 
heart and hopeless, leaves his diocese and retires to 
the cistercian abbey of Pontigny, in the neighbour- 
hood of which he died, November 16, 1240. 

We have dwelt on this dispute in order to let the 
reader see the sort of trouble monastic chapters had 
to put up with until the situation was cleared ; 
troubles in this case all the harder to bear, because 
the personal holiness of the archbishop was so great. 
It is no disrespect to the memory of a great saint 
to say he was not made of the stuff out of which a 
ruler is made, and was wanting in that tact so neces- 
sary for dealing with men. 1 

1 A recent Life of St. Edmund, by Dom Wilfrid Wallace of Erdington, 
takes a view of the dispute diametrically opposite to the one given 
.above. The conclusion we have arrived at is based primarily on the 
very evidence the writer brings forward to support his contention. The 
author, a former student of St. Edmund's College, Ware, seems to have 


This dispute was the greatest and practically the 
last of the disputes between bishops and monastic 
chapters. It cleared the air and made the rights of 
either party known ; and so the way of peace was 
henceforth smooth. 

The Lateran Council had ordered certain reforms 
to take place among the benedictines of each 
country. As we have seen, steps were immediately 
taken in England (and England alone it was that 
obeyed unquestionably) to carry out the pope's de- 
sire. When the legate Otho came to England, he 
held a national council in London late in 1237; 
and among decrees affecting the English Church at 
large, he made some (No. XIX.) regarding the black 
monks. 1 But two years after, a conference of the 
benedictine abbats was held under his presidency 
in London, at which some of these regulations, 
notably about the perpetual abstinence, were modi- 
fied. The decrees of this conference were carried 
out by the abbats. What these regulations were, 
it will be useful to mention; for unfortunately "re- 
formation" has a bad sound in England, and, in 

overlooked the fact that eminent personal sanctity does not necessarily 
imply those gifts which a governor, unless he is to fail, must possess. 
As a matter of fact, St. Edmund fell foul of every one from the highest 
to the lowest, priest and laymen, with whom his great office brought 
him in contact. Bishop Stubbs with his "best of archbishops" (Ger- 
vase of Canterbury, II. p. xx.) falls into the same mistake. Edmund's 
sudden retirement to the cistercian monastery of Pontigny seems 
evidence that the saint recognised himself, and had the courage to act 

on the knowledge. 

1 Wilkins, Concilia, vol. i. p. 653. 


the popular mind, "reformation of monks" implies 
a state of immorality and vice as existent. While 
on one hand it would be idle to deny that, among' 
so many, some few might be found who were un- 
worthy, this is only to say that human nature exists, 
and is never destroyed. But when the aim of the 
monk's life is considered, the safeguards with which 
he is surrounded, and the public opinion, both in 
and out of the monastery, it is impossible for any un- 
prejudiced mind, in face of the facts, for a moment 
to entertain the idea that monasteries could ever, 
unchecked, get to a depth of depravity such as the 
vulgar, for whom tradition has been falsified, love 
to imagine. The reforms, of which we give a 
summary, instituted by Otho, with the cordial con- 
sent of the abbats, show in what direction changes 
were considered desirable. 

Monks were not to be professed before twenty 
years of age ; novices, after their probation, were 
either to be professed at once or dismissed ; no 
payment was to be exacted from those who wished 
to enter as monks ; no monk to have anything of 
his own ; they were not to farm landed property ; 
no monk is to be set to a charge which will require 
him to live alone ; all officers, three times a year, 
have to give in their accounts ; the abbat once a 
year to all his community ; possessors of private 
property were to be punished ; silence duly ob- 
served ; flesh meat forbidden (this was modified 
two years later); monks to be properly clothed, to- 


sleep in one common dormitory, all to be present 
at divine office, at least for collation and compline ; 
abbats and prelates to be moderate in their equipages 
and expenditure, &c. 

No word, no hint of any deep-seated depravity, 
but only an endeavour to recall the monk to those 
observances which hedge in the higher paths to 
which he had bound himself by his vows. 

We have now to consider the question of the alien 
priories, which were found to be a somewhat disturb- 
ing element in English monasticism as being under 
foreign influence (this holds good in particular of 
the cluniac houses), and ruled according to foreign 
modes of thought. The Normans, when they came 
to England, left friends behind them. They were 
also descendants of the founders of many noble 
monasteries. It was but natural that the conquerors 
should wish to share the sweets of victory with their 
friends. Consequently they gave English churches 
and tithes and manors to Norman and French abbeys. 
The monks of these houses abroad, in order to 
protect their rights, and gather in their rents and 
dues, built cells or small convents on their newly 
acquired property. This was the origin of the alien 
priories, which existed simply and solely for the 
benefit of foreign prelates. Having for the most 
part no interest in England except material profit, 
these alien priories formed the weak spot in monastic 
affairs ; and it was not long before the civil power 
had to take cognisance of their existence. 

VOL. i. I 


The houses were of two kinds. Some, regular 
convents, only paying a yearly tribute (apportus) to 
the house abroad ; and others, depending entirely 
upon the foreign prelates, who appointed at will 
superiors and subjects, with the main duty of reap- 
ing a harvest, and promoting the interest of those 
at home. As can be easily understood, the English 
found in these alien houses had to accommodate 
themselves to the law of those with whom they had 
incorporated themselves. The fact, too, that the 
monks were far away from their own superiors over 
the seas naturally opened the door to abuses. The 
general chapter began to take the matter in hand, 
and summoned the superiors to attend the meetings 
under pain of excommunication, unless they could 
show due cause of exemption. But before anything 
effectual could be done, the civil power took up the 
question. 1 

King John began the work and made the priories, 
then eighty-one in number, pay into his hands the 
money they used to send abroad. 2 But in 1294, 
on the occasion of his war for the recovery of 
Guienne, Edward, among other means of extorting 

1 From first to last there were between 100 and 150 of these alien 
priories. " The cluniac houses alone during the reign of Edward III. 
are said to have forwarded no less than ^2000 a year (about ,60,000 
of our money) to the monastery at Cluni. When France and England 
were at peace, this transmission of wealth out of the country was 
tolerated by the English rulers ; war however brought the subject 
prominently before them, and led to various acts of suppression and 
confiscation" (Dom Gasquet, vol. i. p. 42). 

2 Canon Dixon, History of the Church of England, vol. i. p. 321. 


money, seized all the alien priories and used their 
revenues for the purposes of war ; and, to prevent 
the foreign monks from acting as spies and helping 
his enemies, he removed them twenty miles from 
the sea-coast. 1 

So convenient a way of getting money, with the 
additional pleasure of knowing it was hampering 
the enemy, was sure to commend itself to other 
kings. Edward II., and then Edward III. (who at 
first had restore>d many of them) pursued the same 

Not only the king, but Parliament also saw the 
danger of these houses. Several acts had been 
passed declaring it unlawful for religious persons 
to send money to their houses beyond the seas. 
And a few years after the conclusion of the peace 
with France (1361), Parliament pointed out that, 
"in consequence of the priories and other religious 
houses subject to foreign monasteries being filled 
with Frenchmen who acted as spies," such houses 
were danger-spots in the whole body politic. 

In the earlier years of Edward III., some of these 
monasteries became naturalised or made denizen on 
their own petition. 2 

1 Ibid. 

2 In the cluniac houses, which in course of time numbered English 
subjects, there was for long a feeling of dissatisfaction, which at last 
found vent in a petition to Parliament (1330) stating their grievances, 
and asking for a remedy. The causes of such dissatisfactions may be 
sufficiently gathered from the record of the visitations published by 
Sir G. F. Duckett. " For example, the monks of Thetford abbey re- 
presented that the appointment of their superior was in the hands of 


At last some of the foreign houses began to sell 
their English property for what they could get. 
Under Henry IV. their position became every day 
more precarious. The outcries of the Lollards 
against the wealth of the abbeys, and the clamours 
not only for their confiscation but for that of all 
church property, pointed out the approaching doom 
of at least the alien priories. Henry V. in 1414 
took the final step, and suppressed them all. Their 
estates were vested in the Crown, and were mostly 
bestowed upon other monasteries or schools. In 
the instructions drawn up for his ambassador to the 
Council of Basle, where it was thought some of 
the foreign houses would attempt to regain their 
property, Henry V. declares he had applied to the 
pope (Martin V.) for leave to convert the revenues 
into endowment for religious houses and other 
sacred purposes. He also says that liberal com- 
pensation had been paid to the former owners for 
the loss of their possessions. 1 

Suppression or absorption was the inevitable end 
of the alien priories. Those houses which continued 
as denizen priories had not got rid of the foreign 

the abbot of Cluni. This might have been tolerated when the religious 
were foreigners, but not when they and their prior were all of them 
English. They wished therefore to be free from their union with the 
French abbey, and from the subsidy required of them by their foreign 
brethren. In the same way the priory of Holy Trinity, York, asked to 
be declared an English foundation on the same footing as other religious- 
houses " (Dom Gasquet, vol. i. p. 48). 

1 Beckington Correspondence. Roll Series, vol. ii. pp. 263-265. 


influence when the dissolution came, and were some 
of the very first to succumb to the attack. 

Another great feature in the Chronicles of the 
Congregation of English black monks was the 
terrible visitation called the "Black Death," in 
1348-49. Its effects were lasting, and had a great 
deal to do, as Dom Gasquet l shows, in shaping the 
course of events leading to the Reformation. The 
monasteries felt the scourge to the utmost. For 
instance, at Westminster the abbat and twenty-six 
of his monks succumbed. The effect of this terrible 
disaster was felt for many succeeding generations. 
" According to Knighton's Chronicle there existed 
such distress and such a universal ' loosening of the 
bonds of society ' as is * only to be found/ says 
Mason, ' in the description of earthquakes in South 
America ; ' whole villages died out, cities shrunk 
within their walls, and the houses becoming unoccu- 
pied, fell into ruins. The agricultural population 
suffered as severely as that of the towns. The land 
fell out of cultivation on account of the difficulty 
of securing labourers, except at enormous wages. 
Flocks were attacked by diseases, and perished from 
want of herdsmen to watch them. The corn crops, 
which were unusually rich in the year 1 348, rotted 
on the ground, as no honest men were to be found 
to reap them. The monastery of Christ Church, 
Canterbury, even with its rich endowments, felt the 
pinch of poverty. In asking from the bishop of 

i Of. "The Black Death," jwwwm. 


Rochester the impropriation of the Church of 
Westerham to help them to keep up their old 
hospitality, they pleaded excessive poverty, caused 
by * the great pestilence affecting man and beast ! ' 
In furtherance of this suit they forward to the 
bishop a list of their losses in cattle, which amount 
to 257 oxen, 511 cows with their calves, and 4585 
sheep, estimated to be worth in money ,792, 
I2s. 6d., or more than ^16,000 of our money. 
Nor is this all, for they declare that 1212 acres of 
land formerly profitable to them had been rendered 
useless by an inundation of the sea, from the 
impossibility of getting labourers to maintain the 
sea walls. 1 

The economic changes resulting from such a visi- 
tation were tantamount to a social revolution. The 
feudal system gave way. Retainers could no longer 
be kept on a land which failed to support even the 
owners. Only the largest landlords could possibly 
stand the strain. The peasant proprietor had to 
give up his holding and take to trade or handicraft 
in the town. In the course of the fifteenth century 
the old historic nobility of England became so im- 
poverished, or reduced by the civil wars, that their 
power left them ; and a new nobility arose, who 
looked to the king and depended upon him for 
their lives and possessions. The direct outcome 
was the despotism of the Tudors, who found none 
to question their wills. 

1 Gasquet, vol. i. pp. 4, 5. 


One of the immediate effects on the monasteries 
was the diminution of the numbers of their inha- 
bitants. The times were in a state of upheaval, 
and were thus unfavourable to the development of 
the peaceful benedictine life. Comparatively few 
new men came to fill the ranks thinned by death. 
Roughly speaking, the communities were reduced 
to one half, corresponding, as far as can be inferred, 
to the reduction of the population. 

After the visitation of 1348-49, there had been a 
real difficulty in finding religious of mature age 
and of sufficient experience to take the place of 
the superiors who had succumbed. This, together 
with the other causes we mentioned, inevitably 
tended to a relaxation of the higher life. In 1422, 
Henry V. summoned the abbats and other prelates 
to meet him at Westminster to discuss the situa- 
tion. It appears from Thomas of Walsingham, 
that certain false brethren had prejudiced the king 
against the order by asserting that many, both 
abbats and monks, had fallen away from the primi- 
tive institution and observance of the monastic state, 
and that a reform was urgently needed. It may 
have struck the reader, on the other hand, how all 
along the body was possessed of so much strength 
and vitality, that it was able from time to time to 
shake off, without outside pressure, any relaxations 
and abuses which had crept in unawares. So it 
was in this case. Sixty abbats and other superiors, 
together with over three hundred monks, assembled 


at Westminster. 1 The king, accompanied by only 
four persons, went to meet them in the chapter- 
house, and at his request Edmund Lacy, bishop 
of Exeter, one of his suite, addressed the monks. 
Then the king himself reminded them of the piety 
of his ancestors and others, in the foundation and 
support of so many religious houses ; he expected 
them to remedy any abuses which they might find 
to exist, and to return to the former strictness which 
of old had made the orders so renowned. And 
here it may be mentioned in passing how the kings 
of England, comparing in this with the kings of 
France, had always fostered, protected, and defended 
the benedictines, until the days of the despoiler 
Henry VIII. ; not only protecting them in their 
material interests, but by showing a regard for 
their best and highest welfare. The premier abbat, 
William Heyworth of St. Albans, presided at the 
following deliberations, and several articles were 
agreed upon and drawn up, to be presented to 
the next general chapter for approval. 2 From the 
decrees we see the nature of the reforms, which 
were entirely on the lines of former regulations. 
The abbats are to moderate their style of living, 
they are to live more among their brethren ; 3 once 

1 It is useful to note how large these gatherings were, and how truly 
representative of all interests. 

2 Wilkins, Concilia, vol. iii. pp. 413-427. 

3 This was evidently a weak point, and the very greatness of their 
position was a real drawback in the case of men of a less high ideal. 


a year they have to give in a full account to the 
monks of the state of the abbey ; they are to take 
care of and not alienate the monastic property. 
The monks are to be clothed alike. The use of 
meat is regulated, and the monastic fasts enforced. 
The monks are not to handle money, but are to 
have their wants supplied in kind. They are only 
to go out once a year to visit their friends. The 
abbat is to supply them with the necessary funds, 
for which on return they must account. He also 
has to supply suitable companions for the journey. 
The old rule of sleeping in their habits to be en- 
forced. 1 At the general chapter that followed, most 
of these reforms were accepted. One change was 
made as regards money supplied to the monks for 
any purposes of their own. They were, at least 
once a year, to give in an account of what they 
had spent, to the abbat, who could at will call 
for such account. Any balance that remained had 
to be returned to the house. As regards the fasts, 
it was decreed that as in all well-regulated monas- 
teries they were no longer observed, so instead 
supper was not to be allowed on those days, unless 
to the weak or old. 

Thomas de la Marc, Clement Lichfield, John Wheathamstead, and 
Richard Whiting, show how a great position might be united with a 
strict care for their primary duties as fathers of their convents. 

1 It must be remembered that St. Benedict legislated for the custom 
of his monks sleeping in an open dormitory. Some form of night- 
clothing was then required. But in the secular world, for centuries 
after, the use of night-clothes was unknown. 


A new season of vigour came over the body. 
And when, a hundred years after, the dissolution 
came, it found the greater majority of the houses 
of the black monks living lives in edifying obser- 
vances. All, both monks and abbats, seem to have 
risen to a sense of the requirement of the time. 
Piety and learning were flourishing in their houses 
at the moment when the hand of the destroyer 
was laid upon them, and the tendency was always 
in the upward direction. 

But before taking up the story of the dissolution, 
we must just give a glance at the state of Benedic- 
tinism on the continent. For although the English 
houses were independent of all foreign control, as 
they were independent of one another, yet still, as 
brethren united by an intimate tie of far more effici- 
ency than any outer bond, they were influenced by 
and felt the effects of a revival that was going on 
simultaneously in Italy and Spain and Germany. 
As these movements had a most important bearing 
upon the history of the benedictines of England 
after the Reformation, a word as to their nature 
and history is here necessary. 

The great cause of the decline of the benedictine 
life on the continent, and especially in Italy and 
France, was the hateful system of commendam. 1 
Laymen got possession of the revenues of monas- 

1 Commendam never obtained in England. The only case as regards 
the abbeys was that of Wolsey, who held the abbey of St. Albans in 
commendam (1521). 


teries and bestowed them on their children, who 
received the tonsure only to avoid the law forbid- 
ding any but clerics to hold ecclesiastical benefices. 
To such a pitch did the evil get, that mere chil- 
dren held abbacies; who when they arrived at 
man's estate differed in their mode of life no- 
thing from the laymen about them. Certain abbeys 
had come to be looked upon as the ordinary pro- 
vision for the support of cadets of noble houses. 
The monks were themselves to blame in great 
part for a state which cut at the very root of 
monastic life. They had allowed the income to 
be divided into two portions ; one for themselves 
and one for the abbat. This last became a " bene- 
fice" ; and so an object of ambition on the part of 
crafty and unscrupulous persons. Then, moreover, 
the portion allotted to the support of the monks 
became cut up and subdivided among the various 
officers charged with the administration of the 
house. These also became looked upon as bene- 
fices, and were bought and sold and given away. 
No wonder was it, then, with this break-up of the 
common life, that the family idea, and with it mon- 
astic discipline, decayed. Once the system was 
introduced, those houses in which there was no 
division were, if anything, worse off, for their 
commendatory abbats possessed the whole income, 
and, almost without exception, concerned them- 
selves with drawing the revenues and assigning a 
small pitance to the wretched and dwindling com- 


munity, who had fallen into the position of mere 

The natural remedy would seem to have been the 
reassertion of community life and of the rights of 
electing their own abbat and governing themselves ; 
but such was the temper of the times, that all efforts 
at remedying the evil seemed in vain. Thirty 
synods had been held, and popes had issued decree 
after decree, but all had been ineffectual. At last 
the man appeared who should make the practice of 
commendam no longer possible among black monks. 
Barbo, abbat of the monastery of St. Justina at 
Padua, began the work and achieved it by what was 
no less than a complete revolution in the theory of 
benedictine government. He constructed a system, 
which, if it did not directly cut away the root of the 
evil, at least killed its offshoots, and stood ready to 
snip the bud of any attempt at future growth. In 
his reform no officer, not even the abbat, was to be 
appointed for a term of more than three years. 
Hence there could be no vested rights in an office, 
or anything approaching the nature of a benefice. 
By ordering a triennial chapter at which all officers 
had to give in an account of their administration, it 
was out of the power of any one to appropriate, or 
wish to retain, the property which belonged to all. 
A return was made to the common life both for 
abbats and monks, and the income was no longer 
divided. When this system was developed and 
other abbeys joined on to the reform of St. Justina, 


the election of abbats, &c., was vested in the general 
chapter alone ; thus securing at least freedom of 
choice from outward interference. The reform of 
St. Justina, a drastic remedy for a terrible disease, 
was successful and rapidly spread through Italy ; 
and when Monte Cassino itself adopted it, Julius II. 
gave the name of " Cassinese Congregation" to 
the whole body of these reformed benedictines of 

The monasteries of Spain took up some of the 
features of this reform from Italy ; and the famous 
congregation of Valladolid formed itself in many 
respects on similar lines to those of St. Justina's 

In Germany, too, the movement spread ; and the 
great congregation of Bursfeld took its beginning 
from John Dederoth, abbat of Rheinhausen, after- 
wards of Bursfeld, which house became the centre 
of the reform. The statutes of Bursfeld were gradu- 
ally introduced elsewhere, until at last it began to 
be looked upon as the central house of the reformed 
monks of Germany. A general chapter was held 
in 1446; and by 1502 no less than ninety houses 
were on its roll. The Bursfeld Union made no 
such break with tradition as did the Cassinese. 
The abbats were elected for life. 

In France a closer union of the black monks did 
not take place until the seventeenth century, when 
the congregations of St. Maur and St. Vannes re- 
newed the benedictine glories of France. But the 


revolution in government, instituted by Barbo to 
remedy an evil, brought with it an inherent weak- 
ness which in time developed itself. This, the 
break-up of the family, a fundamental idea of St. 
Benedict, was the price that had to be paid. 



IN the previous chapter we have seen events in 
England, in the fifteenth century, shaping them- 
selves in such a direction that, granted a man like 
Henry VIII., he might turn them to his own ad- 
vantage with but little fear of consequences disas- 
trous to his own position. And while the events 
we are now going to discuss resulted practically 
from the system he represented, they, by the law- 
less procedure characterising them, in their turn 
reacted upon it, and made the Tudor despotism a 
yet more potent weapon for evil in the hands of 
unscrupulous men. 

The trend of political and social events had of 
recent years the effect of making monasteries in 
general unpopular with those parties in the state 
who looked to the king as the author of all their 
prosperity. Though they evidently were not un- 
popular with people at large, at any rate their great 
wealth was tempting to the Crown. And there were 
courtiers who said these were institutions which 
might easily become strongholds of the pope's 


Henry VIII. ascended the throne in 1509, and 
for many years won golden opinions from his 
subjects. If given, perhaps, rather too much to 
pleasure and prodigality, these were, it was hoped, 
but faults of a generous youth which, in time, 
would give way to the staider and graver virtues 
becoming a ruler. The minister upon whom he 
relied in everything was Wolsey, archbishop of 
York, chancellor of the realm, and cardinal of 
the Roman Church. This great man, who has 
never had justice done to him 1 (for great he was 
in spite of many failings arising mainly from his 
position and the corruption of the times), had arrived 
at the height of his power. In temporal matters he 
was practically supreme. "He is the person who 
rules both the king and the entire kingdom," 2 says 
a foreign ambassador. The cardinal wanted powers 
as extensive in ecclesiastical matters. Perhaps, had 
he had them at first, and had reached to the papacy 
he was aspiring after, Wolsey might have come 
down to all times as the pope who had initiated 
the reform in head and members that for a century 
had been asked. His principles were excellent ; 
when he had a free hand and no ulterior aim in 
view, we can see the lines he would have worked 
on. But this by the way. 

1 The way in which he spent the last months of his life in his own 
diocese of York, showed that he possessed qualities which had never 
had full play ; and if he had not been a great statesman he might 
have been one of the greatest prelates of modern times. 

2 Quoted by Dom Gasquet, vol. i. p. 68. 



In due course, and after much pressure, Wolsey 
did receive, as legate, powers perhaps more ample 
than had ever been given. But he had already 
committed himself to a policy which proved his 
ruin, and therefore his legateship was not advan- 
tageous to the Church. Unfortunately, he also 
thereby accustomed the people to see vested in 
the hands of one man, the supreme power both 
in Church and State. It was not so difficult, then, 
for them to acquiesce, later on, when Henry took 
into his own hands the powers his minister had 

The cardinal wanted money. He had magni- 
ficent tastes, and was a founder of colleges and 
palaces. The pope had reluctantly given him ex- 
tensive powers of visitation over certain smaller 
monasteries, even with power to suppress such of 
them as through fewness of numbers or poverty he 
might judge to be useless. Their funds were to 
be applied to the support of the colleges at Oxford 
and Ipswich he was then founding. Much pressure 
was used to force Clement VII. in 1524 to grant the 
powers, and even then the pope made limitations. 
Only such monasteries were to be suppressed as 
were absolutely necessary, and only to the total 
amount of 3000 ducats a year. The cardinal set to 
work, and in spite of all difficulties suppressed thirty 
monasteries in which the number had dwindled 
down to some five or six, or even fewer members. 
The visitors he employed to go round and inspect 

VOL. i. K 


the houses were Allen and Thomas Cromwell, the 
latter of whom became so notorious. The visitors 
had many complaints (only too well founded) made 
about them ; but this was beyond the intention of 
their master. Bribery and violence were the weapons 
they mostly used ; and superiors of the threatened 
houses were led to believe they might buy off sup- 
pression by offering gifts to the cardinal's colleges. 
How much of these gifts stopped in the hands of the 
visitors it is impossible here to say. But Cromwell 
turned out later on such an adept in the receipt of 
bribes, that it is most likely he proved his powers 
on this occasion. 

When Wolsey was impeached, the complaints 
made about the way in which the suppression of the 
monasteries was effected by the cardinal's agents 
were not forgotten. With his fall Henry lost the 
only check upon the downward course. In the place 
of the fallen cardinal was Thomas Cromwell, whose 
appetite for suppression had been whetted. He had 
seen practically how defenceless the monasteries 
were, and how easy it would be for the omnipotent 
Tudor monarch to make away with them on any 
convenient plea that could be raised ; and also he 
had found out that in the process plenty of ad- 
vantages would accrue to himself. The king had 
also cast his eyes on their wealth. And not cupidity 
alone influenced him ; but he also saw in them 
institutions which might easily become, even after 
a final breach with Rome, means of keeping alive 


the pope's authority, which he was now attacking 
at its very foundation. Blood had already been 
shed in its defence. Fisher and More, and the car- 
thusians had laid down their lives for the doctrine ; 
and the people, restless and disheartened, were be- 
ginning to give trouble. Taxation was heavy : but 
the state of the country was such that it could 
not be paid. Cromwell was afraid of exasperating 
the people further by levying new taxes which 
Parliament had lately granted to meet the require- 
ments of the king, who was, as is clear from state 
papers, at that moment reduced to great straits for 
want of money. 

The monasteries offered themselves as an ex- 
pedient to the fertile brain of Cromwell for supply- 
ing all these wants and remedying the complaints. 
" In determining to strike a blow at the monastic 
bodies, Cromwell had a twofold object, both of which 
appealed to the king's present state of mind : to 
overthrow the papal system in its principal strong- 
holds, and to have the fingering of the riches with 
which the piety of ten centuries had endowed them. 
By the middle of the year 1334, commissioners were 
busily journeying through England tendering in the 
oath of supremacy to the religious. No special form 
of oath had been presented by Parliament, so Crom- 
well took advantage of the omission. He made 
his agents tender to the monks a renunciation of 
the papal supremacy and jurisdiction much more 
stringent and explicit than that rejected by More 


and Fisher, and already subscribed to by many of 
the secular clergy. The commissioners appear to 
have met with only partial success. The intolerable 
nature of the oath demanded seems to suggest that 
the intention of its framers was to drive the religious 
to refuse, and thus to create a pretext for falling 
upon and destroying their houses." l 

An obsequious Parliament had transferred, along 
with other rights to the king from the pope, the 
power of visitation over monasteries. A royal com- 
mission was issued for the inspection of all religious 
houses, with an ulterior view to the speedy sup- 
pression of as many as possible. The chief men 
employed were Legh and Layton, Ap Rice, London 
and Bedyll, men whose names come down to pos- 
terity noted with infamy. 

"They were furnished with a set of eighty-six 
articles of inquiry and with twenty-five injunctions, 
to which they had power to add much at their dis- 
cretion. The articles of inquiry were searching, the 
injunctions minute and exacting. Framed in the 
spirit of three centuries earlier, unworkable in 
practice, and enforced by such agents, it is easy to 
understand, even were there no written evidence 
of the fact, that they were galling and unbearable 
to the helpless inmates of the monasteries. . . . All 
religious under twenty-four years of age, or who 
had been professed under twenty, were to be dis- 
missed from the religious life. Those who were 

1 Gasquet, vol. i. pp. 247, 248. 


left became practically prisoners in their monas- 
teries. No one was allowed to leave the precincts 
(which even in the larger monasteries were very 
confined as to limit) or to visit there. In many 
instances porters, who were in reality gaolers, were 
appointed to see this impossible regulation was 
kept. What was simply destruction of all discipline 
and order in the monasteries was an injunction that 
every religious, who wished to complain of anything 
done by his superior or any of his brethren, was to 
have the right of appeal to Cromwell. To facilitate 
this, the superior was ordered to find any subject 
the money and means for prosecuting any such 
appeals in person if he so desired." 1 

The object was clearly to drive the monks in 
desperation to surrender their houses, and thus 
save the king from the necessity of turning them 
out of house and home. Another plan, in order to 
give a colour to the project, was to see whether by 
any possibility scandals, or even any suspicions of 
scandal, might be found. The visitors, as is clear 
from their own letters, were determined that scandals 
should be found, and they scrupled not by threats 
to extort, or to invent so-called confessions : nay, 
even themselves to tempt to sin the helpless women 
in their power. 

Dom Gasquet has once for all vindicated the 
memory of the monks and nuns of England at the 
time of the dissolution, and with masterly hand 

1 Gasquet, vol. i. pp. 255, 256. 


analyses and shows the worthlessness of the royal 
testimony upon which Parliament acted in decree- 
ing the suppression of the lesser monasteries. Six 
weeks only did these worthy styled commissioners 
spend in visiting the monasteries and finding out 
the state of religion. Short though the time was 
for any real inquiry, it was enough for the end they 
had in view. Their reports were sent in to Crom- 
well in time for the opening of Parliament in 
February 1536. These reports, the only evidence 
that ever existed against the monasteries, are pre- 
served to-day in the State Paper Office, and after a 
careful examination Dom Gasquet says they are 
utterly valueless as proofs of anything more than 
" that these commissioners were ready to bring any 
accusation against the monks, and that the fair 
name of many, who possibly never heard anything 
of the matter, was blackened by mere reckless 

Parliament met on the 4th February. The only 
evidence laid before the nation, in the very words 
of the preamble to the Act passed by a packed 
House of Commons to legalise the suppression, was 
the king's own assertion that the reports of the 
commissioners were true, and his own testimony 
that he had received credible information that 

1 Layton, e.g., writes from York to Cromwell, January 13, 1536: 
" This day we begin with St. Mary's, whereas we suppose to find much 
evil disposition, both in the abbat and the convent, whereof, God will- 
ing, I shall certify you in my next letter" (Three Chapters of Letters re- 
to the Suppression of Monasteries (Camden Society), p. 97). 


vicious living was rampant in the smaller monas- 
teries. On the king's word alone, and, as far as 
we know, without any further inquiry or even 
examination of witnesses, Parliament prayed the 
king to suppress and to take the property of such 
monasteries as had an income under ^"200 a year. 
On the strength, too, of the royal word, Parliament 
also publicly thanks God that in " divers and great 
Solemn Monasteries of the realm, religion is right 
well kept and observed." 

It must also be noted that the Act does not give 
the property of these monasteries absolutely to the 
king, but only " in as ample a manner " as they were 
possessed by their former owners ; that is, in trust for 
God and the poor. It was by no means the inten- 
tion to grant them for the purpose to which Henry 
illegally afterwards applied them. 

" It was ordered also that the king should provide 
occupation and pensions for the monks not trans- 
ferred to other monasteries. It was further enacted 
that on the site of every dissolved religious house, 
the new possessor would be bound under heavy 
penalties to provide hospitality and service for the 
poor, such as had been given them previously by the 
religious foundations. By this provision not only is 
the patrimony of the poor recognised as being seized 
in the property of the monasteries, but a testimony 
is afforded as to the way the religious had hitherto 
discharged their obligations in this respect. The 
neglect of these rights of the needy by those who 


became possessed of the confiscated property is one 
of the greatest blots on our national history. It 
has caused the spoliation of monastery and convent 
to be regarded as the rising of the rich against the 
poor." 1 

To reconcile the people, Cromwell sent into the 
country preachers "who went about to preach and 
persuade the people that he could employ the 
ecclesiastical revenues in hospitals, colleges, and 
other foundations for the public good, which would 
be a better use than that they should support lazy 
and useless monks." : 

These preachers spread abroad also that the money 
gained for these smaller monasteries would save the 
nation from any future taxation. Taxation already 
ground them down to an intolerable state ; and this 
measure was held out to them as a promise of relief. 
The prospect of a share in the spoils, it was hoped, 
would quiet them, at least outwardly, for the time. 
Moreover, distinct affirmations were made that the 
king had no intention of touching the great houses. 
It was only the iniquity which existed in the smaller 
monasteries which forced so pious a prince to sup- 
press them. 

Having got legal colour for his work, the king 
appointed a court, "the court of Augmentations," to 
deal with the property of the monasteries. Surveyors 

1 Gasquet, vol i. p. 311. 

x Marillac, the French ambassador. Inventaire Analytique de 
Archives, ed. Kanleck, No. 242. 


were promptly selected to go round and, aided by 
the local gentry, decide which monasteries came 
under the limit of ^200 a year. 1 The surveyors 
were instructed to make inventories of all plate, 
jewels, and other goods and property, to take pos- 
session of all deeds and muniments, and also of the 
convent seal. They were to lay a charge on the 
superior to take care of the king's property until 
he was released. The rest of the community were 
dismissed ; to other monasteries if they could find 
admission ; or, if not, they were, with " some reason- 
able reward," sent adrift in the world. 2 

"The system was the same in all cases, and the 
history of one dissolution is that of all. What the 
arrival of the six royal commissioners with their 
retinue of servants at monastery and convent must 
have been to the inmates can be well imagined. The 
Act of dissolution, it is true, had saved them from 
the necessity, to which many of their more power- 
ful brethren were constrained, of surrender. Their 
houses, which pious benefactors had built genera- 

1 Whenever the local gentry, who would naturally know more of the 
reputation of any convent than the Government surveyor, pleaded for 
the preservation of a house and bore witness " that religion was right 
well observed," they made no impression upon Cromwell. 

2 What the effect of all these misdeeds was on a foreigner we see 
from a letter written July 8, 1536, by Chapuys, who says: "It is a 
lamentable thing to see a legion of monks and nuns, who have been 
chased from their monasteries, wandering miserably hither and thither 
seeking means to live ; and several honest men have told me that what 
with monks, nuns, and persons dependent on the monasteries sup- 
pressed, there were over 20,000 who knew not how to live " (Calendar 
S.P. Hen. VIII., vol. xi. No. 42). 


tions before, and in which, for centuries, men and 
women of their order had served God and aided 
their neighbours, were passing away from them for 
ever; and the demand for and defacing of their 
convent seal was the ending of their corporate life. 
Henceforth they were to pass the remainder of their 
days as strangers in a larger house, or as wandering 
in a world which many had left years before, and to 
which they could never belong. The desecration of 
their churches, in which they and their forefathers in 
religion before them had gathered by night and by 
day for the service of God ; the seizure for the king's 
use of their altar plate, in itself so often poor, to 
them always precious by the association of the past ; 
the rude appraising of their bells and the lead which 
covered the roofs over their heads ; the hurried sales of 
the mean furniture of their cells, and of the contents 
of church, cloister, and frater, were all so many heart- 
rending evidences of the passing away of all that for 
which most of the monks and nuns really cared." l 

The work began in April 1536, and took some 
time to complete. According to Stowe, there were 
376 houses dealt with, and the value of their lands 
alone was some ,32,000 and more a year. Of their 
personal goods more than ; 100,000 was dealt with, 
and the same authority considers that " 10,000 
people, masters and servants, had lost their livings 
by the pulling down of their houses at that time." 

Henry made some exceptions. Fifty-two houses 

1 Gasquet, vol. ii. pp. 13, 14. 


gained a respite, bought of course at an enormous 
price, sometimes three times their annual income. 
Dom Gasquet points out that several of the houses 
there re-established were among the number of 
those gravely defamed by Layton and Legh, the 
prime managers of the visitation of 1535-36; and 
in more than one case a superior incriminated by 
them was reappointed on the new foundation. 1 In 
the course of the next year (1537) Henry actually 
founded one or two monasteries, one of nuns at 
Stixfold, to be called " the new monastery of King 
Henry VIII.," and an abbey of black monks at 
Bisham to pray for the king and Queen Jane. The 
king also granted to the abbat (but lately abbat of 
Chertsey, one of the suppressed houses) his royal 
licence to wear a mitre like any other abbat of that 
order, with large possessions in England. But this 
was not to last long. 2 

It is not our purpose to do more than refer to 
the popular risings on behalf of the monasteries 
in Lincolnshire in the autumn of 1536, nor of the 
Pilgrimage of Grace and other subsequent move- 
ments. They excited Henry's bitterest feelings 
against the helpless monks whom he falsely accused 
of fomenting them. They were the occasion of the 
wholesale destruction of the monastic orders. He 
wrote to the Duke of Norfolk, who was charged to 
put down the rebels : 

1 Gasquet, vol. ii. p. 21. 2 Hid. p. 33. 


" Our pleasure is that before you close up our 
banners again you shall cause such dreadful execu- 
tion to be done upon a good number of the inhabi- 
tants of every town, village, and hamlet that have 
offended us, there may be a fearful spectacle to all 
others hereafter that would practise any like matter. 
. . . Finally, forasmuch as all these troubles have 
ensued by the solicitation and traitorous conspiracies 
of the monks and canons of these parts, we desire 
you, at such places as they have conspired and kept 
their houses with force save the appointment at 
Doncaster, you shall without pity or circumstance 
cause all the monks and canons that be in any 
way faulty, to be tied up without further delay or 
ceremony." : 

Thus by force and blood all opposition was 
quelled ; although the risings served as a temporary 
check upon the king's schemes for further suppres- 
sions. But a new expedient was found for getting 
hold of some of the larger monasteries which had 
hitherto escaped. This was by the attainder of 
such abbats as could be charged with high treason. 
Hitherto the penalties of attainder affected indi- 
viduals, but not corporations. But Henry gave a 
new interpretation to the law, and took advantage 
of a clause slipped into the recent act, which put 
the whole abbey into the power of the king on the 
conviction of the abbat of high treason. Many of 
the cistercian, cluniac, and austin houses came into 

1 Blunt's History of the Reformation, p. 365. 


the king's hands this way soon after the Northern 
risings. But there was the way of surrender also 
to be made use of, to give the king legal posses- 
sion, "and every pressure was brought to bear upon 
the monks and nuns to induce them to resign their 
charges into Henry's hands ; " l promises of pension 
to those who willingly consented, and threats of 
being turned out in utter destitution to those who 

Of forty convents of women that survived the 
first dissolution, thirty-three are on the rolls as 
having surrendered. But an inspection of the ori- 
ginal papers, says Dom Gasquet, shows that in 
twenty-eight of the thirty-three cases the nuns never 
signed at all. Of the others, one (Shaftesbury) is 
signed by the abbess alone ; another (Tarant) has 
twenty signatures, all in the same handwriting. 
The number of nuns turned adrift seems to have 
been 1560, more than one half of whom were bene- 
dictine dames. 2 

The commissioners were instructed, as we have 
seen, to try by every means to get a willing sur- 
render. But at any rate they were to get possession 
of every house. This all the time, be it remembered, 
without any sanction from Parliament. Between 
1538 and 1540, fifty-four monasteries of black monks, 

1 Gasquet, vol. ii. p. 225. 

2 Ibid. ii. pp. 228, 237. Before the dissolution there were eighty- 
four benedictine houses for women, and only twelve of them were 
worth more than the ,200 limit settled by Parliament. 


1300 in number, were cajoled or forced into sur- 
rendering their property. Besides, under various 
pretences Henry had deposed many superiors who 
proved too staunch to the oath taken when elected, 
and put in their stead creatures of his own to make 
the surrender when called upon. Three of the 
abbats, those of Glaston, Reading, and Colchester, 
condemned as it seems without trial even, were 
declared guilty of high treason and were hanged, 
drawn, and quartered on the spot in which they had 
ruled with honour for many years. Nothing stopped 
the king, neither pity nor reverence ; and he rested 
not until not one house was left of all the monastic 
glories of England. It is not our purpose here to 
go into details of these surrenders ; but a tale could 
be told as bitter and as heartrending as any known. 
It is just the bare facts of the dissolution and the 
way it was brought about that we have wished to 
set down here, 1 and we will end this chapter by 
words, written indeed of St. Peter's, Gloucester, 
but which may be applied to any case : 

" Having existed for more than eight hundred 
years under different forms, in poverty and in 
wealth, in meanness and in magnificence, in misfor- 
tune and in success, it finally succumbs to the royal 
will; the day came, and that a drear winter day, 
when its last mass was sung, its last censer waved, 
its last congregation bent in rapt and lovely adora- 

1 W. H. Hart's Introduction, vol. iii. pp. xlix., 1., Hist, et Cart. Mon. 
S. Petri Glouces. (Roll Series). 


tion before the altar there, and doubtless as the last 
tones of that day's evensong died away in the 
vaulted roof, there were not wanting those who 
lingered in the solemn stillness of the old massive 
pile, and who, as the lights disappeared one by one, 
felt that for them there was now a void which 
could never be filled, because their old abbey with 
its beautiful services, its frequent means of grace, 
its hospitality to strangers and its loving care for 
God's poor, had passed away like an early morning 
dream, and was gone for ever." 



THE monasteries were destroyed and the inhabi- 
tants dispersed. Many of those who received 
pensions 1 were as soon as possible promoted to 
livings ; for then their pensions ceased. Others 
there were who sold their pensions for a few years' 
purchase, so sore was their need ; and then, their 
money exhausted, went finally to swell the ever- 
growing crowd of beggars who after the suppression 
were daily becoming a most serious and dangerous 
element in society. Others, again, could not go to 
London to receive their money ; for it was at first 
in the capital only that such pensions were paid. 
Some of these allowed their pensions to lapse ; 
others had to employ agents who, at an enormous 
percentage, collected the money due. 2 The monas- 
tic colleges at the universities, particularly those of 
Gloucester, Durham, and Canterbury, were crowded 
with monks who retired there to continue their 

1 Only the superiors of houses under 200 income were granted 

2 The pensions were taxed sometimes to the extent of one fourth as 
"a loan" to the king. Cf. Gasquet, vol. ii. pp. 463-466. 

1 60 


studies and find a retreat from the world. 1 Among 
these was a young monk of Evesham, John (Baptist) 
Fecknam, whose name became illustrious as the 
last abbat of Westminster, and one of the con- 
fessors of the faith in the days of queen Elizabeth. 
As he was the restorer of the black monks, though 
but for a short *while, and through him comes the link 
which binds the English benedictine of to-day to 
St. Augustine and his companions, we will sketch 
his life from the few details we have been able to 
gather. He will serve as an example both of what 
the dispossessed monks had to suffer and the manner 
of men they were. 

John (Baptist) Fecknam was born in the dis- 
trict of Feckenham or Fecknam in Worcestershire, 
whence the name by which he is known to history. 
His family name was Howman, and his parents, 
Humphrey and Florence Howman, seem to have 
been of the yeoman class and fairly well off. 2 He 
was born about 1515, or perhaps earlier, 3 a few 

1 Wood's Oxford, p. xxiv., note. 

2 They left a bequest of xls. to the poor of Solihull during the 
rectorship of their son. See an old vellum book " containing the chari- 
table alms given by way of love to the parishoners of Solihull, with 
the order of distribution thereof, begun by Master John Howman alias 
Fecknam, priest and doctor of divinity, late parson of Solihull afore- 
said, in the year of our Lord MDXLVIII." This manuscript is pre- 
served among the parish records of Solihull, and is quoted by Miss 
E. T. Bradley in her Memorials of Westminster Abbey, p. 163. 

3 It is said that Fecknam was about sixty at the time of his imprison- 
ment with the bishop of Ely in 1579. If " about sixty" is to be taken 
literally, his age at the chief events of his life would be as follows : 
born about 1519, he would be twenty-one at the date of the suppres- 

VOL. I. L 


years after Henry VIII. 's accession, and received the 
first elements of his education from the parish priest. 
As Evesham was the nearest abbey, it is most likely 
that he was taken into the claustral school at 
an early age, and in due course became a monk. 
The first definite statement we find is, that in his 
eighteenth year he was sent to the benedictine 
establishment at Oxford, Gloucester Hall. 1 But 
whether this was before he became a monk is not 
certain. From the fact that a monk was not allowed 
to be professed till he was twenty, 2 it seems clearly 
evident, if he entered the university at eighteen, that 
he was not then in the habit ; for one can hardly 
suppose that a mere novice would be sent to Oxford. 
It is much more probable that he really went as 
a benedictine student 3 to Gloucester Hall to take 

sion of Evesham ; thirty at his first imprisonment ; dean of St. Paul's at 
thirty-five ; abbat of Westminster, thirty-seven ; second imprisonment, 
forty-one ; at Ely, sixty ; and died at Wisbeach, sixty-six. But these do 
not seem probable. He took his B.D. June 1 1, 1 539. He would already 
have been at Oxford three years, and it is morally certain he could not 
have gone there for his divinity degree (which presupposes that of Arts) 
before his twentieth year at least. We are inclined to put his birth 
certainly not later than 1515, making him, at least, seventy when he died. 

1 A. Wood, Athence Oxoniensis, ed. Bliss, vol. i. p. 507. " There is no 
doubt," says the Rev. Henry Anstey, " that the boys, as a rule, resorted 
to the university at a very early age, earlier, probably, than is usually 
supposed ; and yet there appears to have been no statutable limit as to 
age, so that it may be assumed as certain that, while the majority would 
go from the age of ten to twelve years (i.e. supposing them to commence 
their education at Oxford, of which more will be said shortly), there 
would be found also a large number of more mature age " (Introduction 
to Munimenta Academica (Roll Series), Part I. p. Ivii.). 

2 See page 89 ante. 

3 " Every religious house had, it would appear, its own schools, in 


his degree in arts, and that after the course, generally 
three years, he returned to Evesham and took the 
habit and was professed. 1 That he probably returned 
to Oxford after profession seems certain ; for, says 
Anthony a Wood, "I find him there in 1537, in 
which year he subscribed, by the name of John 
Feckenham, to a certain composition then made 
between Kob. Joseph, prior of the said college, and 
twenty-nine students thereof on one part (of which 
number Feckenham was one of the senior), and three 
of the senior beadles of the university on the other." 

It must have been shortly after June 1539 that he 
returned to Evesham, where he was set to teach the 
junior monks, and was perhaps engaged in this 
work when the suppression came. For this much 
we know, that in October 1538 he supplicated for 

which its members performed all their academical exercises previous to 
inception. . . . Each such religious house had a school for every purpose, 
grammar as well as the higher faculties, to a great extent independent 
of a the university, and yet a part of it, and subject to its general regula- 
tions and partaking of its privileges" (Munimenta Academica, p. Ixii.). 

1 In the life of Richard of Wallingford, abbat of St. Albans, we 
get a similar picture, which throws light on the subject. "When 
hardly ten years old he lost his father, and soon after was, on account 
of his docility and promise, adopted as a son by William of Kirkby, 
prior of Wallingford, of good memory. Helped by his alms, he learnt 
grammar and philosophy at Oxford for about six years, and taking 
his degree in arts, according to the custom, in the twentieth year of 
his age he bade adieu to the world, and devoutly received the monastic 
habit in this monastery of St. Albans. After having been exercised 
for three years in the religious life, he was then sent to Oxford for 
the study of letters . . . where he spent nine whole years in philosophy 
and theology ... so that he was promoted to read the sentences" 
(Gesta Abbatum (Roll Series), vol. ii. p. 182). 

2 Athena Oxoniensis, ed. Bliss, vol. i. p. 507. 


the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, and took it 
June n, I539. 1 

Clement Lichfield, whose noble gateway is the 
only vestige left of the great monastery of Evesham, 
had been his first abbat. What sort of man he was 
appears from the report of the royal commissioners, 
who say he was " chaste in his living and to right 
well overlook the reparations of his house " ; in other 
words, a good monk and a good administrator. The 
reformer, Latimer, who was bishop of the diocese, 
calls him a " bloody abbat," the evident animus and 
certain vagueness of which may be taken as praise. 
There was no chance of getting such a man to sur- 
render his abbey, so the only thing was to force 
him to resign his charge and to place in his stead 
a more pliable man. From a letter of March 17, 
1538, written to Cromwell by William Petre, the 
commissioner, we see how it was done. 

"According to your commandment I have been 
at Evesham, and there received the resignation of 
the abbat, which he was contented to make imme- 
diately upon the sight of your lordship's letters, 
saving that he desired me very instantly that I would 
not open the same during the time of my being 
here, because, as he said, it would be noted that 
he was compelled to resign for fear of deprivation." ' 

The abbat bowed to force majeure and left his 
monastery. He was promptly succeeded by Philip 

1 Boase, Register of the University of Oxford, vol. i. p. 192. 

2 T. Wright, Three Chapters of Letters (Camden Soc.), p. 177. 


Harford, " a true friend," L who surrendered 2 the 
abbey to the king on January 27, 1540, and was 
rewarded with a pension of ^240 a year, 3 which he 
lost when he was made dean of Worcester on the 
suppression of that monastic chapter. On the 
pension-list appears the name of John Fecknam, 
with a pension of 15 marks (,10) per annum. As 
the general pension for the younger monks was 10 
marks, Fecknam was doubtlessly awarded the larger 
sum on account of his university degree. He went 
back to Gloucester Hall to continue his studies, 
but not for long, for the bishop of Worcester, John 
Bell, inviting him to become his chaplain, he 
entered his service until the bishop resigned in 
I543. 4 He afterwards joined Edmund Bonner, the 
bishop of London; and stayed with him till 1549, 
when he was committed a prisoner to the Tower of 
London. It must have been while living in London 
that Fecknam received the living of Solihull, and 

1 Latimer to Cromwell. E. 0. Crum. Corr. XLIX., 42, quoted by 
D. Gasquet, vol. ii. p. 310. 

2 Dom Gasquet points out that there is no deed of surrender and no 
enrolment on the Close Roll (vol. ii. p. 310). 

3 Clement Lichfield had paid ^160 to the king for the restoration 
of his temporalities, and besides had to make heavy loans both to the 
king and to the cardinal. For a whole year he had to put up twenty- 
four of the royal household and provide for them and their horses. 
But in spite of these drains on his purse he did not forget the house 
of God. He added to the decoration of the choir and built chantries 
in the parish churches of All Saints and St. Lawrence, in one of which 
he lies buried. The memory of the " good abbat " remained for a long 
time cherished by Evesham and its inhabitants. 

4 The Apostolatus, i. p. 233, which on the whole is first-rate authority, 
is wrong here in giving the date of 1539 (Dugdale, vol. i. p. 578). 


began to develop those oratorical powers for which 
he became famous. His keen intellect made him 
a formidable opponent in controversy with the re- 
forming party ; and it was most likely some public 
utterance of his that led to his first imprisonment. 
This was the time when the new Liturgy of the 
Book of Common Prayer was being forced upon 
the country under heavy penalties. Home, later 
on the protestant bishop of Winchester, used to 
say that Fecknam was sent to the Tower because 
he first promised and then refused to receive the 
Sacrament after the new fashion. But Stapleton, 
in the Counterblast to M. Homes vayne Haste 
against M. Fekenham? says, " The cause of his 
imprisonment then, as I understand by such as 
well knoweth the whole matter, was not about the 
ministration of the Sacraments, but touching the 
matter of Justification by only faith and the fast 
of Lent ; like as it doth appear in the archbishop 
of Canterbury's records, he being therefore, in a 
solemn session holden at Lambeth Hall, convented 
before M. Cranmer, then archbishop of Canter- 

1 Tliis book was really written by Nicholas Harpsfield, sometime 
archdeacon of Canterbury, and a prisoner in the Tower from 1559 to 
1575. Being himself a prisoner, it was not considered wise to bring 
out the book under his own name. But the fact that he was a fellow- 
prisoner with Fecknam at the very time he wrote, makes the bio- 
graphical part of an unimpeachable authority. It was written about 
the year 1567-68, for the author says : " And God grant that Fecknam, 
after seven years' imprisonment, may find so much humanity and 
favour as he showed to others when he was in his prosperity." See 
Steven's Addition to the Monasticon, vol. i. p. 89. 


bury, and other commissioners appointed for that 
matter. By the examination of the which records 
you shall be convinced of your untruth and error 
therein, as in all the rest, I doubt not, by God's 
help." 1 

While in prison, Sir Philip Hobbs, who had be- 
come the owner by purchase of the abbey lands at 
Evesham, remembered that the monk of Evesham, 
for whom his estate was charged a pension, and 
the famous disputant on the Catholic side were 
identical. So, to use Fecknam's own words, he was 
" borrowed out of prison " to hold disputations with 
the new men. " But the very intent of the borrow- 
ing of M. Fecknam for a time out of the Tower, 
like as he said himself, was that he should dispute 
reason, and have conference with certain learned 
men touching matters of religion then in contro- 
versie." 2 At seven of those exhibitions did he take 
part. Such disputations were in much favour in 
those days, and Fecknam was destined to have 
frequent experience of them. The first was in the 
house of the Earl of Bedford in the Savoy ; the next 
at Westminster, in the house of Sir William Cecil, 
afterwards the famous secretary of state ; 3 and the 
third at White Friars, in the house of Sir John 
Cheke, the Greek scholar, and the young king's 
tutor. Fecknam was then taken down to the dio- 
cese of Worcester, in which he was still a bene- 
ficed clergyman, and had to appear with Hooper as 

1 p. 36. 2 Hid. p. 4. 3 Ibid. p. 36. 


his opponent in four disputations. For though he 
had been imprisoned in the Tower he had not been 
deprived of the living of Solihull, to which he had 
been appointed in 1 544. The first of these disputa- 
tions was at Pershore, where Hooper was on visita- 
tion ; x the last in the cathedral church, when he had 
as opponent, among others, John Jewel, afterwards 
the bishop of Salisbury. 2 

The disputations over, in which Fecknam, if he 
failed to change the mind of his opponents, certainly 
gave proof of his native charity and moderation, 
he was again relegated to the Tower. There he 
remained till Tuesday, September 5, 1553, when, 
with the rest of the prisoners for conscience' sake 
whom the new queen claimed as her own, he was 
released. By Sunday the 24th of that same month 
he was back in the pulpit again. According to 
Machyn, "the xxiiii day of September did preach 
master doctor Fecknam at Paul's Cross, the Sun- 
day afore the queen's coronation." He returned 
to Bonner as chaplain, and was made a preben- 
dary of St. Paul's 1554. Preferment came to him 
rapidly. Nominated rector of Finchley on June 10, 
on September 23 he was transferred to the better 
living of Greenford Magna, and now resigned the 

1 Stapleton says : " The said M. Hooper was so answered by M. 
Fecknam that there was good cause why he should be satisfied, and 
M. Fecknam dismissed from his trouble " (p. 37). 

2 Ibid. Stapleton's account is the source of the account given in the 
Apostolatus, i. p. 234. 

3 Machyn's Diary, p. 44. 


living of Solihull. Meanwhile the queen made 
him one of her chaplains and her confessor, and he 
had received the appointment of dean of St. Paul's 
on March 10 of that same year. The date of his 
installation does not appear ; but he preached at 
the Cross as dean in the following November 25. 1 
But his talents as a disputant were also called into 
requisition. In the April he was down at Oxford 
disputing with much charity and mildness against 
Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. John Fecknam 
had no sympathy with the ferocious measures that 
were being enforced against the innovators, nor 
in the application to them of the already existing 
laws. He did not believe in making men Catholics 

1 Ibid. Fecknam seems to have been the popular preacher of his day 
and a great favourite with Machyn, who mentions him as preaching 
twice on November 5, 1553 once at St. Stephen's, Walbrook, and 
once at St. Mary's, Overy ; he was again at Walbrook on the igth, 
where he "made the goodliest sermon that was ever heard of the 
blessed sacrament of the Body and Blood for to be after the consecra- 
tion" (p. 48). One of his sermons, in November 1554, seems to have 
given offence to the Council, for in the Acts of the Privy Council of 
England, new series (vol. v. p. 35), we read: "At Westminster, the 
xxix of November 1554, Mr. Fekenham, dean of Paul's, being com- 
manded by the Lords this day to make his appearance before them, 
did accordingly appear and exhibited the same day the sermon he 
made at Paul's on Sunday last in writing, which he was also com- 
manded to bring with him." This sermon, Machyn says (p. 76), was 
" a godly sermon." It probably was one recommending mild measures 
with those opposed to the Catholic Church. Later on, as abbat, we 
find him on June 20, 1557, preaching at Paul's Cross, where he occupied 
the pulpit again on November 21, and on the following March 6 ; in 
his own abbey church on April 5 and on August 4, at the requiem 
mass held for one of the two widows Henry VIII. left behind him to 
lament his loss. 


by force ; and if he had to take part in the disputa- 
tions then in fashion, it was from a sincere desire 
to prove the truth to the unhappy prisoners and re- 
concile them to the church they had deserted. Nor 
did he neglect to use his influence on their behalf ; 
for, as Fuller says, "He was very gracious with the 
queen, and effectually laid out all his interest with 
her (sometimes even to offend her, but never to 
injure her) to procure pardon of the faults, or mitiga- 
tion of the punishment for poor protestants. 1 The 
earls of Bedford and Leicester received great kind- 
ness from him ; and his old friend, Sir John Cheke, 
owed his life to Fecknam's personal interest with 
the queen. He took up the cause of the unfortu- 
nate Lady Jane Dudley, and remonstrated with the 
queen and Gardiner upon the policy of putting her 
to death. He visited the poor young girl in prison ; 
and though unsuccessful in removing the prejudices 
of her early education, he was able to help her to 
accept with resignation the fate that awaited her. 
Neither did he forsake the hapless lady until she 
paid by death the penalty of her father-in-law's 
treason and her own share therein (1554). When 
the princess Elizabeth was sent to the Tower (March 
1 8, 1554) for her supposed part in Sir Thomas 
Wyatt's rebellion (on account of the proposed 
Spanish match), Fecknam, just then elected dean, 
interceded so earnestly for her release that Mary, 
who was convinced of her sister's guilt or at any 

1 Worthies of England, ed. 1811, vol. ii. p. 477. 


rate of her insincerity, showed for some time her 
displeasure with him. But Elizabeth's life was 
spared ; and she was released mainly by his impor- 
tunity, after two months' imprisonment. 1 

In her proposed restoration of the Catholic Church 
to its former state, Mary found zealous helpers, not 
only in Fecknam, but in other benedictines. Bishop 
Thornton, once a monk of Christ Church, Canterbury, 
suffragan to the archbishop, was the first to restore 
the mass in that cathedral. Six benedictine bishops 
altogether took part in the revival. 2 But the queen's 

1 Fuller, The Church History of Britain, vol. v. p. 95 (ed. Oxford). 
Later on, when abbat, Machyn tells us that in 1557, on " the xii day of 
November, there was a post set up in Smithfielcl for three that should 
have been burnt, butt (?) both wood and coal ; and my lord abbat of 
Westminster came to Newgate and talked with them and so they were 
stayed for that day of burning" (p. 157). 

2 Of these benedictine bishops, Wharton, abbat of Bermondsey, was 
made bishop of Hereford March 17, 1554; John Holyman, a monk 
of Reading, was made bishop of Bristol November 1 8 in the same year. 
Four others, Salcot of Salisbury, Chambers of Peterborough, the above- 
mentioned Thornton of Dover, and Kitchin of Landaff, had fallen 
into schism but were reconciled by Pole and reinstated in their sees. 
Chambers died in 1556, Thornton and Salcot in 1557, Wharton and 
Holyman in 1558. Anthony Kitchin, whose name in religion was 
Dunstan, had been a monk of Westminster and became prior of 
Gloucester Hall, and abbat of Eynsham in 1536. He acknowledged the 
king's supremacy August 10, 1534, and surrendered his abbey to the 
king December 4, 1538. He received a pension of ^133, 6s. 8d., and 
became one of the king's chaplains ; was elected bishop of Llandaff 
March 26, 1545, and consecrated the following May. He was unfor- 
tunately the only one of the Catholic prelates who fell away under 
Elizabeth, and so kept possession of his see, of which in after years he 
was called " the Calamity." But there were certain lengths he would 
not go to ; he absolutely refused to have anything to do with the 
foundation of the Anglican Succession. He died, aged ninety, on 
October 31, 1565. 


wish was to restore to the monks some at least of 
their houses. 

And here we are able, from the Venetian State 
Papers of the period, to trace the steps of the 
restoration of Westminster abbey. On March 19, 
1555, the Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, 
writes to the doge and senate : 

" The queen is intent on its augmentation (the 
Church) and diffusion here, having sent for many 
English friars of the orders of St. Dominic and St. 
Francis, who, to escape the past persecutions, with- 
drew beyond the seas, and lived in poverty in 
Flanders, in order to give them monasteries and the 
means of subsistence ; and they, showing themselves 
in public everywhere, are tolerably well received and 
kindly treated. Sixteen benedictine monks have 
also resumed the habit and returned to the order 
spontaneously, although they were able to live and 
had lived out of it much at ease and liberty, there 
being included among them the dean of St. Paul's 
(Fecknam), who has a wealthy revenue of well-nigh 
2000 (?) ; notwithstanding which they have re- 
nounced all their temporal possessions and conveni- 
ences, and press for readmission into one of their 
monasteries. The entire sixteen last week appeared 
in their habits before the queen, who from joy, 
immediately on seeing them, could not refrain from 
shedding tears ; and for [the adjustment of] this 
matter she has appointed six of the leading mem- 
bers of the council, including the chancellor, the 


treasurer, the comptroller, and secretary Petre, so 
that, together with the legate, they may according 
to their judgment decide what is most fitting and 
beneficial for the realm, both about these monas- 
teries and all the Church property in possession of 
the Crown. Her Majesty wishes it to be entirely 
restored to those who were deprived of it, should 
any of the original possessors be alive." 1 

Already we see that as early, then, as March 1555 
some benedictines, with Fecknam, had resumed their 
habit, although as yet they had no house. The queen 
had some difficulty in getting her husband to consent 
to her project of a bill passed to allow her to give 
back such abbey lands as were vested in the Crown ; 
for by this she was giving up an income of some 
,60,000 a year. Parliament, after considerable 
opposition, did pass in the following October a bill 
legalising the renunciation. But there was the 
secular chapter at Westminster to be removed, and 
they were not willing to go. Promotion was given 
to the dean, and the interests of the others were 
duly looked after. 2 Pole also had to make his 
arrangements. Himself the protector of the Cas- 
sinese benedictine congregation, he was determined 
that the home at Westminster should be refounded 
on the Italian model. Fearing commendam, he de- 

1 Calendar of Venetian State Papers, vol. vi. No. 32. 

2 There is a bond for ^30 between the abbat and a Spanish canon, 
by which the abbat, " as well as any other person to whom the said 
monastery should come," is bound to pay. See Bradley's Illustrations 
of Westminster Abbey, p. 163. 


cided that the abbat was to be appointed only for 
three years, no conge d'elire was to be required for 
his election, neither was the royal confirmation to be 
sought for. Pole sent for monks from Italy, whom 
he intended to introduce the more rigid discipline 
of the continental houses, and took advantage of 
two " father visitors " the Cassinese had sent into 
Spain, for purposes of their own, to ask that they 
might come on to England. Pole writes to the 
president of the Cassinese congregation under date 
of February (1556?) that he was anxiously expect- 
ing the arrival from Spain of the " father visitors," 
as he hoped they would render good service for the 
restoration of the monastery which is about to be 
effected. 1 

The royal consent to the restoration was given 
in a deed signed by Philip and Mary at Croydon 
on September 7, 1656, and Fecknam was appointed 
abbat. Not only was he the most prominent man 
of his order then in England, but his praise was in 
every one's mouth. In another letter, written by 
the Venetian ambassador on September 28, 1556, 
he says : 

"The queen, thank God, continues in her good 
plight, rejoicing to see the monks of St. Benet return 
to their old abbey of Westminster, into which the 
canons having been removed, they in God's name 
will make their entry to-morrow and this will be 
the third monastery and order of regulars, besides 

1 Gal V.S.F., vol. vi. No. 403. 


one of nuns, which has hitherto been re-established, 
to whom will soon be added the fourth of the 
Carthusians [at Sheen], who have already made their 

Once more, then, in possession by the end of 
September 1556, the house had to be got into 
order and some restorations made before the monks 
could enter. Dean Stanley says " the great refec- 
tory was pulled down," and "the smaller dormitory 
was cleared away," and other conventual buildings 
either destroyed or adapted to other uses. 2 To make 
all straight would necessarily take time ; and it was 
not till 2 ist November that they began their regular 
life. Machyn in his quaint style relates the event. 

" The same day (2ist of November) was the new 
abbat of Westminster put in, Doctor Fecknam, late 
dean of Paul's, and xiv more monks sworn in. And 
the morrow after, the lord abbat with his convent 
went a procession after the old fashion, in their 
monks' weeds, in cowls of black saye, with his 
vergers carrying his silver-rod in their hands ; at 
evensong time the vergers went through the cloisters 
to the abbat, and so went into the church afore the 
high altar, and there my lord kneeled down and his 
convent ; and after his prayer was made was brought 
into the choir with the vergers, and so into his 

1 Gal. V.S.P., vol. vi. No. 634. The dominicans were refounded 
at Smithfield, the franciscans at Greenwich, the bridgettines at Syon 
House, the carthusians at Sheen, the hospitallers at Clerkenwell, and a 
hospital at the Savoy. 

2 Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey, fifth edition, p. 398. 


place, and presently he began evensong xxii day of 
the same month that was St. Clement's Even last." l 
Michel in his account mentions " as many as 
sixteen 2 having taken the habit on that day, it was 
a very beautiful sight most agreeable to those who 
witnessed it." 3 

A few days after, the abbat was installed amidst 
a large assemblage of the English Church. 

" On the 2 Qth day, at Westminster abbey, was the 
lord abbat stalled and did wear a mitre. The lord 
cardinal was there and many bishops, and the lord 
treasurer and a great company. The lord chancellor 
sang mass, and the abbat made the sermon." ' 

Fecknam had lost no time in setting his house 
in order, in receiving others to the habit, 5 and in 
vindicating the privileges belonging to his venerable 
church. On the feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) 
our gossiping diarist tells us : 

"The abbat went on procession with his convent ; 

1 Machyn's Diary (Camden Society), pp. u 8, 119. A date always 
celebrated by English benedictines as the Dies memorabilis, on account 
of the many important events which have taken place on this date. 

2 There seems to be some mistake about the number. Writing a few 
days after (December i), he says : "Yesterday . . . the twenty-six 
monks and their abbat made a fine show and procession." The com- 
munity seem to have numbered in reality some twenty-eight. 

3 Cal. F.S.P., vol. vi. No. 723. 

4 Machyn, pp. 119, 120. 

5 Owing to the present difficulty of obtaining access to the "West- 
minster abbey records, it is not possible to identify all the monks of 
Westminster. But the principal interest centres round D. Sigebert 
Buckley, who passed on the benedictine succession nearly fifty years 


before him went all the sanctuary men with cross 
keys on their garments ; and after went three for 
murder ; one was the Lord Dacre, son of the North, 
who was whipt with a sheet about [him for] killing 
of one Master West, squire, dwelling beside . . ." 
Another finding shelter was one of the abbey boys 
" a boy [that] killed a big boy that sold papers 
and printed books, [with] hurling of a stone, and 
hit him under the ear in Westminster Hall ; the 
boy was one of the children that was [at the] school 
there in the abbey ; the boy is a hosier's son above 
London stone." 

The queen was not long in paying the monks 
a visit. Giovanni Michiel writes, December 21, 

" Yesterday, St. Thomas' eve, the queen, before 
her departure for Greenwich, which will take place 
to-morrow, chose to see the benedictine monks in 
their habits in the abbey of Westminster, whither 
she went to vespers, being received in state by them 
and their abbat, twenty-eight in number, all men of 
mature age, the youngest being upwards of forty, 
and all endowed with learning and piety, as proved 
by their renunciation of the many conveniences of 
life ; the poorest having a fixed annual rental of 
500 crowns, besides ready money, and some 1500, 
besides the abbat, who had upwards of [2000?], 
and was dean of St. Paul's, which after that of 
the bishops is the chief dignity of the English 

1 Ibid. p. 121. 
VOL. I. M 


clergy. Words cannot express how much this re- 
joiced the legate, who is already preparing another 
monastery for the regular canons who are coming 
shortly." 1 

Besides his duties as abbat and constantly preach- 
ing, we find him giving time and money to beauti- 
fying his church. On January 5, 1557, he began to 
set up St. Edward's shrine again and the altar with 
divers jewels that the queen sent hither. 2 While on 
the following 2Oth of March, says Machyn : 

" The xx of March was taken up at Westminster 
again with a hundred lights, King Edward the Con- 
fessor in the same place where his shrine was, and 
it shall be set up again as fast as my lord abbat 
can have it done, for it was a godly sight to have 
seen it how reverently he was carried from the place 
that he was taken up, where he was laid when that 
abbey was spoiled and robbed, and so he was carried 
and goodly singing and censing as has been seen, and 
mass sung." 5 

Machyn dearly loved a function. 

Fecknam was a lover of the old customs, and did 
not forget the benedictine spirit of hospitality. One 
more extract from Machyn must be allowed, for the 
sake of the glimpse it gives of the geniality of his 

1 Gal. V.S.P., vol. vi. p. 2, No. 771. Priuli writes to Beccatello, 
December 15, 1556, in the same strain, and gives the same number. 
According to him they were "tutte persone benissimo qualificate 
di dottrina e di gran pieta." See the letter in Tierney, vol. ii. 
p. ccxxiii. 

2 Bradley, p. 166. 3 P. 130. 


rule. On March 21, 1558, the feast of St. Benedict, 
was held the traditional festivity connected with 
the making of the gigantic paschal candle for 
the approaching Easter, "xxi day of March was 
paschal for the abbey of Westminster, made there 
the weight of 300 Ibs. of wax : and there was the 
master and the wardens of the wax-chandlers with 
twenty more at the making, and after, a great 
dinner." 1 Evidently the head of the trade-gild of 
chandlers took a representative part in the day's 
doings, and shared, too, in the great dinner. There 
is a touch of fellowship between the abbey and the 
gild which tells of the good feeling of earlier days, 
and which the " great dinner" would, no doubt, 
more anglico, help to knit up again, if not increase. 
Fecknam, while thus fulfilling the duties of his 
high charge, had also to attend Parliament as a 
mitred abbat of the realm. The rights of sanctuary 
at his abbey were being questioned, and the Speaker 
of the House of Commons called on the abbat to 
produce the proofs of the privilege. "Accordingly 
on Saturday the nth of February [1557] came the 
abbat, accompanied with no council learned, but 
only with one monk attending on him, bearing 
two old muniments the one whereof was the charter 
of sanctuary granted to the house of Westminster 
by King Edward, the saint ; the other the confirma- 
tion of the same charter ... by Pope John." " He 
begged the house, if he had no other instruments to 

1 Ibid. p. 169. 


show, 1 they would not thereby take advantage, but 
impute it to the iniquity of the times wherein they 
were perished, declaring how, as by a miracle, these 
were preserved, being found by a servant of my lord 
cardinal's in a child's hand playing with them in 
the street." 2 

Westminster being thus restored, the hope of the 
monks ran high that other houses, too, would be 
reopened. There seems to have been a project for 
restoring one of the Canterbury houses. Cardinal 
Pole writes from Croydon on the 28th May 1557, 
to the abbat of St. Paul's, Rome, saying : " Your 
paternity will perhaps have heard that the affairs of 
St. Peter's monastery go on well, and thus by God's 
grace they still continue proceeding from good to 
better ; and I am not indeed without hope that one 
of the two monasteries at my church of Canterbury 
may soon be restored. 3 

Abbat Fecknam was zealous for the restoration of 
other houses of his order, and used his influence on 
their behalf both with the cardinal and the queen, 
as is clear from the following petition of four 
Glastonbury monks, then at Westminster : 4 

1 Bradley, p. 170. Miss Bradley gives no references to all these 
statements, and it has been a cause of ceaseless trouble to identify them, 
a task not always successful. 

2 Ibid. p. 171. 

3 CaL V.S.P., vol. vi. p. 904, note. 

4 This letter was probably written after Pole's letter to the abbat of 
St. Paul's and before the end of the year which found Philip soon back 
to the continent. 


" To the Et. Rouble. LORD CHAMBERLAIN to the 
Queen's Majesty. 

" Right Honourable, in our most humble wise 
your lordship's daily beadsmen, some time of the 
house of Glastonbury, now here, monks in West- 
minster, with all due submission we desire your 
honour to extend your accustomed virtue, as it hath 
been always heretofore propense to the honour of 
Almighty God, to the honourable service of the 
king and queen's majesties, so it may please your 
good lordship again, for the honour of them, both 
of God and of their majesties, to put the queen's 
highness in remembrance of her gracious promise 
concerning the erection of the late monastery of 
Glastonbury, which promise of her grace hath been 
so by her majesty declared that upon the same, we 
your lordship's daily beadsmen, understanding my 
lord cardinal's grace's pleasure to the same by the 
procurement here of our reverend father abbat, 
have gotten out the particulars ; and through a 
warrant from my lord treasurer, our friends that 
have builded and bestowed much upon reparation : 
notwithstanding all now stands at a stay. We 
think the case to be want of remembrance, which 
cannot be so well brought unto her majesty's under- 
standing as by your honourable lordship's favour 
and help. And considering your lordship's most 
godly disposition, we have a confidence thereof to 
solicit the same, assuring your lordship of our daily 


prayer while we live, and of our successors' during 
the world, if it may so please your lordship to take 
it in hand. 

"We ask nothing in gift to the foundation, but 
only the house and site, the residue for the accus- 
tomed rent, so that with our labour and husbandry 
we may live there a few of us in our religious habits, 
till the charity of good people may suffice a greater 
number ; and the country there being so affected to 
our "religion, we believe we should find much help 
among them towards the reparations and furniture 
of the same, whereby we would haply prevent the 
ruin of much, and repair no little part of the whole 
to God's honour and for the better prosperity of the 
king's and queen's majesties, with the whole realm. 
For doubtless, if it shall please your good lordship 
if there hath ever been any flagitious deed since the 
creation of the world punished with the plague of 
God, in our opinion the overthrow of Glastonbury 
may be compared with the same, not surrendered as 
other [abbeys] but extorted ; the abbat preposter- 
ously put to death with two innocent virtuous 
monks with him ; that if the thing were to be 
scanned by any university or some learned council 
in divinity, they would find it more dangerous than 
is commonly taken ; which might move the queen's 
majesty to the more speedy erection ; namely, it 
being a home of such antiquity and fame through 
all Christendom, first begun by St. Joseph of Arima- 
thea, who took down the dead body of our saviour 


Christ from the cross and lieth buried in Glaston- 
bury. And him most heartily we beseech to pray 
unto Christ for good success unto your honourable 
lordship in all your lordship's affairs, and now 
specially in this our most humble request that we 
may shortly do the same in Glaston 1 for the king 
and the queen's majesties as our founders and for 
your lordship as a regular benefactor. 

" Your lordship's daily beadsmen of Westminster. 


1 The restoration of Glastonbury to English monks is, we hope, only 
deferred. The prayers of the martyred abbat Whiting, now beatified, 
must plead strongly for the restoration of his house to his own brethren. 
After the dissolution, several of the old monks remained in the neigh- 
bourhood. One, D. Austin Eingwode (died in the odour of sanctity in 
1 587), had not the heart to tear himself away from the home round which 
so many gracious memories clung. He dwelt in a little cottage hard 
by, where in poverty and solitude he kept his rule as strictly as if he 
had been in his cell. His days were passed in prayer, in fastings and 
vigils for his unhappy country. The country folk said the old man 
saw visions and had the gift of prophecy, and they tell that he said : 
" The abbey will one day be repaired and rebuilt for the like worship 
which has ceased, and then peace and plenty will for a long time 
abound " (Lee's Church under Queen Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 216). D. Austin 
Ringwode's name does not appear on the pension list. Some of the 
relics which had been venerated for centuries at Glastonbury were 
secured by the monks at the time of the dissolution, and have been 
handed down from generation to generation. One most valuable one, 
" The Holy Thorn " a thorn from the crown of thorns is now vene- 
rated at St. Mary's abbey, Stanbrook, in a chapel built for the purpose. 

2 Dugdale, vol. i. p. 9. These names do not appear on the pension 
list of Glastonbury, which bears their surnames. The signatures here 
give their names in religion. 


St. Albans was also to be restored. The former 
abbat, Richard Boreman or Stevenage, had remained 
in the neighbourhood and hoped one day to see his 
house reopened. To his great joy, consent was given 
to his prayer. This must have been late in 1558; 
for Mary died before anything could be done. And 
for very grief the abbat took to his bed and died 
two weeks after of a broken heart. 1 

Mary died on the morning of Nov. 17, 1558, and 
on the same day cardinal Pole breathed his last 
at Lambeth. 2 The prospects of the Church were 
gloomy and uncertain ; for although Elizabeth had 
not begun to disclose her hand, yet what was known 
of her did not warrant any hopeful future. Mary's 
funeral rites were duly solemnised, and Fecknam 
preached one of the funeral sermons, 3 and White, 
bishop of Winchester, the other. 

The new queen took umbrage at the bishop's 
sermon, and ordered him to be confined to his own 
house. She soon began to show the direction of 
her policy. Perhaps it is wrong to say she was 
herself personally in favour of the reformation as 
a religious movement ; but policy forced her into a 
position which could only be preserved, as things 

1 Dugdale, vol. ii. p. 207. 

2 There have been all sorts of statements about the date of Pole's 
death, some placing it on the igth. But all doubt is now set aside by 
a letter from Priuli to his brother in Venice : "On the I7th instant, 
seven hours after midnight, the queen passed from this life, and my 
most reverend lord followed her at seven o'clock on the evening of 
the same day" (Gal. F./S.P., vi. n. 1287-1292). 

3 MS. Cott. Vesp. D. xviii. fol. 92. 


then seemed to stand, by cutting England off once 
more from the centre of Unity, and by rejecting the 
cardinal point of Catholic worship, the mass. 1 But 
still she had a liking rather than otherwise for 
such of the outward forms of Catholicism, and 
even of its discipline, as were compatible with her 
own supremacy. She had no sympathy with the 
iconoclastic rage of the Puritan party, who were 
now struggling for the upper hand. 2 Besides 

1 Paul IV. it seems refused to recognise her, which of course he could 
have done without any reference to the matter of her father's divorce ; 
for there was no question of legitimate birth, but of the fact, that by 
law and the will of her father, as well as by the acceptance of the 
nation, she succeeded. Then again Henry II. of France had lately 
ordered the arms of England to be quartered with those of Scotland 
upon the marriage of his son with Mary Stuart ; and Elizabeth's 
advisers convinced the queen that this was a direct questioning of her 
title, as Mary Stuart was by legitimate birth the heiress to the English 
throne. All this made the queen determined at any cost to secure her 

2 In her own private chapel Elizabeth kept many of the ornaments 
of Catholic usages. " The altar was furnished with rich plate, two 
fair gilt candlesticks with tapers in them and a massy crucifix of 
silver in the midst thereof " (Heylin, p. 296). " She had honourable 
sentiments of the use of the cross, of the blessed virgin and other 
saints, and never mentioned them without regard and reverence" 
(Collier, vol. ii. p. 412). In fine, she was so fixed in this practice that all 
Parker's " learning and zeal could not persuade her to part with the 
crucifix and lighted tapers in her own closet. She thought, 'tis likely, 
that the arguing against the use, from the abuse, was short of an exact 
reasoning " (ibid. p. 435). Her Catholic instinct also revolted against 
the idea of a married clergy, which she only tolerated as the surest 
method of alienating them from the pope. Parker writes to Cecil, and 
reports some speeches uttered to him by the queen against the marriage 
of the clergy : "I was in a horror," says he, "to hear such words 
to come from her mild nature and Christianly learned conscience, 
as she spake concerning God's holy ordinance and institution of 
matrimony. . . . Insomuch that the queen's highness expressed to me a 


intending to preserve such a hierarchy as she 
could (Providence arranging that matter), she also 
wanted, as we shall see, to keep at least West- 
minster as a monastery, if such an institution could 
find place in her scheme of religion. This, in view 
of her strong and ineradicable notions as to the 
marriage of the clergy, seems to be the most likely 
explanation of her sending for the abbat of West- 
minster at a very early period of her reign. But 
Fecknam, whatever the nature of the private inter- 
view may have been, could not enter into her 
measures, for the proposal meant treason to his con- 
science. It is said she even tried to bribe him to 
come over to her side by the promise of the vacant 
archbishopric of Canterbury. But all was in vain. 1 

The new Parliament opened ominously for the 
monks. The queen assisted at the usual mass of the 
Holy Ghost in the abbey on the 25th of January. 
" On arriving at Westminster abbey, the abbat, 

repentance that we were thus appointed in office, wishing it had been 
otherwise, which inclination being known at large to queen Marie's 
clergy they laugh prettily, to see how the clergy of our time is handled, 
and what equity of law is ministered to our sort. But by patience 
and silence we pass over, &c., and leave all to God ; in the meantime we 
have cause all to be utterly discomforted and discouraged" (Strype, 
Life of Parker, Appendix, vol. iii. pp. 50, 51). 

1 Fuller, Worthies of England, vol. ii. p. 477. This interview was 
most likely before her coronation, January I4th, or before the opening 
of Parliament, January 25th ; for on that latter date the queen began 
her course of reformation. According to the old custom, the abbat 
of Westminster had some days previous to the coronation to wait on 
the sovereign and give instructions upon the forthcoming ceremony. 
See Missale Westmon. (H.B.S.), p. 676. 


vested pontifically, with all his monks in procession, 
each of them having a lighted torch in his hand, re- 
ceived her as usual, giving her first of all incense and 
holy water ; and when her majesty saw the monks 
who accompanied her with the torches she said : 
" Away with those torches, for we see very well ! " 

The various bills introduced for the recognition 
of the queen's title (without any reference, however, 
to the validity of the marriage of her mother, Anne 
Boleyn) and the restoration of the first-fruits, the 
all-important bills relating to the royal supremacy 
and to the new liturgy, came before a house of 
commons packed for the occasion, and a house of 
lords which included only a few bishops, who, to- 
gether with Fecknam, were left to defend the cause 
of the Church. 2 The abbat in a vigorous speech 
opposed any changes in religion. He said 

" My good Lords, when in Queen Mary's days, 
your honours do know right well how the people 
of this realm did live in an order; and would not 
run before laws nor openly disobey the queen's 

1 Calendar of Venetian S.P., vol. vii. No. 15. 

2 The state of the English hierarchy on Elizabeth's accession was 
as follows : Six sees were vacant by death, viz. Canterbury, Oxford, 
Salisbury, Bangor, Gloucester, and Hereford ; although nominations 
had been made to the five last, they were all set aside by the new 
queen. Before the end of the year four more bishops died, Rochester, 
Norwich, Chichester, and Bristol. When Parliament met on January 
25, 1559, the bishops of Durham, Peterborough, Bath and Wells, and 
St. Davids were absent, but had appointed Heath of York their proxy. 
Lincoln was ill ; Ely away on an embassy (but returned and took his 
seat in April) ; St Asaphs was not summoned. So out of twenty-six 
sees, only nine were present. 


highness' s proceeding and proclamation. There was 
no spoiling of churches, pulling down of altars, and 
most blasphemous treading down of sacraments 
under their feet and hanging up the knave of clubs 
in the place thereof. There was no skurching nor 
cutting of the faces and legs of the crucifix and 
image of Christ. There was no open flesh-eating, 
nor shambles keeping in the Lent and days pro- 
hibited. The subjects of this realm, and in especi- 
ally the nobility and such as were of the honourable 
council, did in queen Mary's days know the way 
unto churches and chapels, there to begin their daily 
work with calling for help and grace by humble 
prayer and serving of God. And now since the 
coming and reign of our most sovereign and dear 
lady queen Elizabeth, by the only preachers and 
scaffold -players of this new religion all things are 
turned upside down." 

Fecknam opposed in all their stages the bills 2 for 
the supremacy and for the restoration to the crown 
of the first-fruits, though he does not seem to 
have been present in the house of lords during 
the debates of April 26, 27, and 28, on the act of 
Uniformity of Common Prayer and Service. 3 

1 MS. Cott. Vesp. D. xviii. fol. 86. See also Strype's Annals, vol. i. 
Part II. p. 436. 

2 D'Ewes, Journals of all the Parliaments during the Reign of Queen 
Elizabeth, p. 30. 

3 Heath, archbishop of York, refers in his speech to the pope, Paul 
IV., in terms which show that considerable irritation existed against 
him personally, and only makes the pronouncement in regard to the 


But before it was passed and the new liturgy 
authorised, a public dispensation was appointed to 
be held at the end of March, under the presi- 
dency of Sir Francis Bacon. As the queen and 
her ministers had arranged the meeting only as a 
pretext for breaking down the opposition of the 
bishops, and to secure their subsequent punishment, 
Fecknam, although an acknowledged champion of 
the Catholic Cause, when at the end he was called 
upon by Bacon to take part, refused to do so. On 
April 3rd the disputation broke up, and two of the 
bishops, Lincoln and Winchester, were sent to the 
Tower. Those of Lichfield, Chester, and Carlisle, 
with three doctors who had taken part in it, were 
otherwise punished. 

In spite of the unanimous opposition of the 
bishops, the act of the Koyal Supremacy was passed 
and became law May 5, 1559. II Schifanoya writes 
the next day to the castellan of Mantua : " Parlia- 

pope as the centre of unity all the more remarkable. On this point 
Heath is explicit. " If by this our relinquishing of the see of Home, 
there were none other matter therein than a withdrawing of our 
obedience from the pope's person, Paul the fourth of that name, which 
hath declared himself to be a very austere stern father unto us ever 
since his first entrance into Peter's chair, then the cause were not 
of such importance as it is ; as will immediately appear. For by 
relinquishing and forsaking the church or see of Rome, we must 
forsake and fly, first, from all general councils ; secondly, from all 
canonical and ecclesiastical laws of the church of Christ ; thirdly, from 
the judgment of all other Christian princes ; fourthly and lastly, we 
must forsake and fly from the holy unity of Christ's church, and so, 
by leaping out of Peter's ship, we hazard ourselves to be overwhelmed 
in the waves of schism, of sects and divisions" (Strype's Annals, I. 
Appendix 8). 


ment will rise this week, the two houses having 
enacted that all the convents and monasteries of 
friars, monks, nuns, and hospitallers of St. John 
of Jerusalem, are to be suppressed as heretofore, 
and all their religious to be expelled. Such of 
them who will take the oath against the pon- 
tifical authority, and approve of the new laws 
abjuring their own professions, are to receive pen- 
sions for their maintenance ; but the greater part 
of them have left the kingdom in order not to 
take such oaths. " A week afterward he writes : 
" Westminster abbey with the monks and the rest 
of the monasteries and friaries will be appropri- 
ated to the Crown, pensions being given to those 
who will swear to and approve of the laws." : 

Commissioners were appointed to administer the 
oath; refusal involved forfeiture of all benefice and 
office, and disablement for any further promotion. 
It is to be noted that the mere refusal of the oath 
only incurred deprivation, not imprisonment, which 
was illegal. It was an expedient for getting out of 
office all opposers of the royal policy. But, after 
thirty days of the passing of the act, script, or 
word, or deed in defence of the newly abolished 
papal supremacy, entailed for the first offence loss 
of all property, for the second the penalties of 
premunire, and for the third death. Any active 
opposition was thus punishable : but a simple 

1 Gal V.SP., vol. vii. No. 68. 

2 Ibid. No. 71. 


passive refusal to accept the queen as supreme in 
matters ecclesiastical was tolerated even after the 
deprivation of the refuser. 

The letters to the commissioners were signed 
May 23, 1559. But they proceeded slowly, in the 
hopes of winning over some. 1 By the end of the 
year the oath had been offered to all the bishops, 
who, with the exception of Kitchin, refused, and 
were therefore deprived but were not as yet im- 

During the time of the debates in Parliament on 
the changes in religion, abbat Fecknam was quietly 
going on at Westminster unmoved by the approach- 
ing storm. He kept his soul in peace through it 
all. He knew the consequences of his refusal of 
the queen's offer, but let the evil of the day take 
heed to itself. So he went on. The story goes 
that he was engaged in planting elm trees in his 
garden at Westminster when a message came to 
tell him that a majority in the house of commons 
had declared for the dissolution of all religious 
houses, 2 and remarked that he planted in vain, for 
that he and his monks would soon have to go. 
"Not in vain," replied the abbat. " Those that 

1 How slowly they set to work is clear from the date of the depositions. 
Bonner they disposed of that very month ; Lichfield, Chester, Carlisle, 
Lincoln, Winchester, and Worcester in June ; York, St. Asaph, Ely, 
in July ; Durham in September ; Bath and Peterborough in October ; 
Exeter in November. When St. David's was voided is not known. 

2 This was on April 29. The bill passed the Lords, May 5. See 
Strype's Annals, I. (ed. Oxford), vol. i. Part I. p. 99. 


come after me may perhaps be scholars and lovers 
of retirement, and whilst walking under the shades 
of these trees they may sometimes think of the 
olden religion of England, and the last abbat of 
this place." And so he went on with his planting. 1 

II Schifanoya, who was a Mantuan correspon- 
dent, seemingly official, tells us hitherto unknown 
details about the second dissolution of Westminster. 
Writing on June 6, he says : 

"The poor bishop [Bonner] has taken sanctuary 
at Westminster abbey to avoid molestation from 
many persons who demand considerable sums of 
money from him ; but the abbey cannot last long, 
as the abbat made a similar reply [of refusal] when 
it was offered him to remain securely in his abbey 
with his habit and the monks, to live together as 
they had done till now, provided that he would 
celebrate in his church the divine offices and mass, 
administering the sacraments in the same manner 
as in the other churches of London, and that he 
would take the oath like the other servants, officials, 
pensioners, and dependents of the crown, and ac- 
knowledge this establishment as from the hands of 
her majesty. To these things the abbat would by 
no means consent ; so after St. John's day, the term 
fixed by Parliament for all persons to consent and 

1 Fuller, Church History of Britain (ed. Oxford), vol. v. p. 96, says 
this took place soon after the accession. But Heylin, Examen Histori- 
cwm, p. 167, with much more probability, puts the story at the time 
when the dissolution of the monastery was decreed. 


swear to all the statutes and laws or to lose what 
they have, all of them will go about their business, 
though no one can leave the kingdom." ] 

On the 2 7th of June he writes again : " Six or 
eight bishops have been deprived not only of their 
bishoprics but of all their other revenues, being 
bound also not to depart from England, and not to 
preach or exhort whatever in public or in private, 
and still less to write anything against the orders 
and statutes of this parliament ; nor [to give occa- 
sion to] insurrection or any other scandalous act, 
under pain of perpetual imprisonment ; [the queen's 
ministers] demanding security and promise to be 
given by one bishop for the other. . . . Yesterday 
these good reverend fathers 2 underwent their depri- 
vation, and received orders where they are to dwell, 
before the council which assembled here in London 
in the house of a sheriff for this purpose, they being 
humble, abject, and habited like simple and poor 
priests a sight which would have grieved you. . . . 

" The abbat of Westminster with all his monks did 
the like, and are therefore deprived of the revenues of 
the monastery and of all the rest of their property." 8 

Little time was now lost in putting into effect 
the result of Fecknam's refusal. The end came 
on July 12, 1559. The abbat and his monks were 

1 Gal V.S.P., vol. vii. No. 78. 

2 The six bishops were those of London, Worcester, Chester, Carlisle, 
Lichfield, and Llandaff. Winchester and Lincoln were already in the 

3 Cal. V.S.P., vol. viii. No. 82. 

VOL. I. N 


turned out, and Westminster knew the benedictines 
no more. As they had refused to take the oath of 
supremacy, they received no pensions, which were 
only promised on that condition. 1 

The day after, Fecknam and one John Moulton, 
most likely one of the monks, % raised the sum of 
^"40, on what was evidently private plate, from Sir 
Thomas Curtis, the same to be considered as a loan 
if paid back before the feast of All Saints next. 2 

A few days after the suppression, the com- 
missioners appointed to survey, examine, and order 
concerning the state of the late monastery, directed 
the receivers to pay over to the abbat the sum of 
^374, 145. 6d. for various considerations. 3 

What became immediately of the abbat and his 
monks we do not at present know ; but it is most 
likely that, like the bishops, he received orders 
where to dwell. 

1 It is generally said by writers that the monks had pensions. There 
is, we believe, no pension list extant, and the testimony of II Schifanoya, 
quoted above, seems entirely to do away with any such idea. Perhaps 
those who, like Fecknam, had been in receipt of pensions under Henry 
Till, now resumed those. This perhaps is likely the meaning of dean 
Stanley's assertion, based on the chapter-book of 1 569 (see Memorials, 
p. 406, note), which book unfortunately, like the rest of the Westminster 
documents, is not accessible. 

2 Historical MSS. Commission, Fourth Report, p. 178. 

3 Ibid. This is the sum Miss Bradley (Dictionary of National Bio- 
graphy, sub Feckenliam) has evidently mistaken for a pension, and of 
which she says Fecknam generously gave up a part to dean Bill. A 
few years later he made over to the dean and chapter (with the hope 
doubtlessly of a future return of England to the Church) certain ecclesi- 
astical vestments and altar hangings specified in an inventory attached 
to the deed of gift (April 4, fifth of Elizabeth). 


But very soon it was considered to be injurious to 
the new order of things that the bishops and abbat 
should be at liberty. There had been, as yet, no com- 
plaint of any overt act on their part against the new 
statutes. But at the following Easter (1560) their 
continued absence from the state worship was made 
a cause for excommunicating and then imprisoning 
them. This was the resolution taken by the queen 
and her council : " The xx of May was sent to the 
Tower master Fecknam, doctor Watson, late bishop 
of Lincoln, and doctor Cole, late dean of Paul's, and 
doctor Chadsay ; and at night about viii of the clock 
was sent to the Fleet doctor Score, and master Feck- 
nam, the last abbat of Westminster, to Tower." l 
Parker, 2 the new archbishop of Canterbury, it was 
who sent the abbat to prison. 

Of his life in the Tower we have gathered a few 
particulars. He had to pay heavily for his food and 
accommodation. The charges, for instance, in the 
Fleet prison were then i a week for board and 
the privilege of a single bed ; this sum, be it re- 

1 Machyn, p. 235. Jewel writes to Peter Martyr (May 22, 1560) : 
"Bonner, the monk Feckenhain, [Dr.] Pate, [Dr.] Story the civilian, 
.and Watson [bishop of Lincoln] sent to prison for having obstinately 
refused attendance on public worship, and everywhere declaiming and 
railing against that religion which we now profess." And two years 
(February 7, 1 562) after he again writes : " The Marian bishops are still 
confined to the Tower, and are going on in their old way. If the laws 
were but as rigorous now as in the time of Henry, they would submit 
themselves without difficulty. They are an obstinate and untamed 
set of men, but are nevertheless subdued by terror and the sword." 
JZurich Letters (Parker Society), First Series, pp. 79, 101. 

2 Stowe, Annals of the Reformation, vol. i. Part I. p. 211. 


membered, is equal to ^10 a week ; the charges were 
most likely the same at the Tower. Even at this 
high cost, his cell was damp and unhealthy, the food 
was bad, and he was subjected to close confinement. 
The prisoners were kept separate, and of this they so 
complained, that Sir Edward Warner, lieutenant of 
the Tower, in writing to the council (June 14, 1560), 

"First he put your lordships in remembrance 
that the late bishops, with Mr. Fecknam and Mr. 
Boxall, being all eight in number, be close and 
severally kept, for which they continually call upon 
him to make on their names humble suit to have 
more liberty ; informing your lordships therewith 
how troublesome it is to serve so many persons 
severally so long together." l 

The council wrote on 4th September to the 
archbishop giving leave that the prisoners, un- 
less he had any objection, might dine at two 
tables, together with the order in which they had 
to sit. The archbishop of York, the bishop of 
Worcester, abbat Fecknam, and Boxall, dean of 
Peterborough and secretary of state under queen 
Mary, were to dine at one table ; and the bishops 
of Ely, Bath and Wells, Exeter, and Lincoln at 
the other. Parker consented, and (September 6th) 
authorised the lieutenant to make the change. 2r 

1 P.R.O. Dom. Eliz., vol. xxiii. No. 40, quoted by Bridgett and Knox: 
in Queen Elizabeth and the Catholic Hierarchy, p. 165. 

2 Parker Correspondence (Parker Society), pp. 121, 122. 


This new arrangement would be better at least, for 
they would have the help of each other's society to 
resist the insidious attacks made to bring them to 
conformity. As each Easter came round, threats 
of death were reported for those who would refuse 
to partake of the new sacrament. 1 In March 1563 
Parliament had given authority to administer the 
oath, with the penalty now of death for those who 
refused it. 2 But so far the oath had not been again 
tendered to the prisoners. They were first to be 
tried in another way. Occasion was taken of the 
plague, then raging in the City, to remove them 
from the Tower and commit them to the custody of 
the new bishops. They had themselves petitioned 
the council "to be removed to some other con- 
venient place for their better safeguard from the 
present infection of the plague." 3 But this slight 
grace shown to them did not please the preachers 
of the new religion. Stowe in his Memoranda says: 
"Anno 1563 in September the old bishops and 
divers doctors were removed out of the tower into 
the new bishops' houses, there to remain prisoners 
under their custody (the plague being then in the 
city was thought to be the cause) ; but their de- 
liverance (or rather change of prison) did so much 
offend the people that the preachers at Paul's Cross 
and on other places, both of the city and the 

1 Bridgett and Knox, p. 42. 

2 Lingard (ed. Dolman, 1849), vol. vi. p. 83. 

3 Parker Correspondence, p. 192. 


country, preached (as it was thought of many wise 
men) very seditiously, as Baldwin at Paul's Cross 
wishing a gallows set up in Smithfield, and the old 
bishops and other papists to be hanged thereon. 
He himself died of the plague the next week after." 1 

Abbat Fecknam was sent, first of all, back to his 
old home at Westminster, to the care of Goodman, 
the new dean. There is a letter from Grindal, 
bishop of London, to Cecil, of the date October 15, 
1563, suggesting that Fecknam should be sent to 
some bishop. 

"The bishop of Winton, when he was with me, 
said if he should have any, he could best deal with 
Fecknam, for in king Edward's days he travailed 
with Fecknam in the Tower and brought him to 
subscribe to all things, saving the Presence and one 
or two more articles. Ye might do very well (in my 
opinion) to ease the poor dean of Westminster, and 
send the other also to some other bishop, as Sarum 
or Chichester." : 

The suggestion was taken, and the dean was 
relieved of the unwelcome presence of the abbat ; 
and that same winter Fecknam was sent to Home, 
bishop of Winchester, who was boasting he could pre- 
vail over the abbat' s constancy. With what results 
will appear. In the bishop's house he was treated very 
uncivilly and roughly. " We must not think of these 

1 Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, with Historical Memoranda, by 
John Stowe (Cam. Soc.), p. 126. 

2 Grindal's Remains, p. 282 (Parker Society). 


first intruders into the Catholic sees of England as 
if they were modern Anglican bishops, gentlemen of 
refinement and of enlarged and liberal minds, who, 
if we could imagine them in the position of unwilling 
jailors to Catholic bishops, would seek by every 
means to alleviate their lot." * 

We shall see later on what the treatment was 
the prisoners had to endure at the hands of their 
episcopal jailors. 

Home began to ply the abbat with questions on 
the dangerous subject of the oath. Fecknam wrote 
a clever paper in answer, giving the reasons which 
would hinder him from taking the oath. We see 
the old dialectical skill which made him so feared 
as an opponent. Among other difficulties, he says : 
"The fourth and last point is that I must swear 
to the observation of this oath, not only to the 
queen's highness, and our sovereign lady that now 
is, but also unto her heirs and successors, kings and 
queens of this realm ; and because every Christian 
man ought to be careful to avoid perjury therein, 
I would right gladly know that if any her highness 
successors should by the refusal of the said title 
of supremacy bind her subjects by the like statute 
law unto the clean contrary [experience whereof 
was of late made in this realm, that it is yet fresh in 
the memories of all men] ; in this case I would right 
gladly know what authority is able to dispense again 
with the oath ? And if there be none at all, then 

1 Bridget! and Knox, p. 94. 


the subjects of this realm in this case are bound, and 
that by book-oath, to live in a continual disobedience 
to the laws of their sovereign lord or lady, king or 
queen, the case whereof is very lamentable " 

The abbat was always ready to listen ; 2 and was 
able at least to prove to his opponents that his 
refusal to submit to the royal supremacy in ecclesi- 
astical affairs was solely a matter of conscience. 
Home complains that Fecknam used to point to 
his heart and say : " The matter itself is founded 
here, that shall never go out." 3 In spite of frequent 
reports spread abroad of an approaching recantation, 
day and hour being even fixed by the gossips, Home, 
finding that all his endeavours were unavailing to 
bring over the abbat to his own way of thinking, 
kept him for six weeks a close prisoner in the 
house, and after allowing him to be grossly insulted 
at his table, made complaint to the council and 
procured his return to the Tower. 4 

In April 1564 archbishop Parker had a conversa- 
tion with Cecil, and urged the enforcement of the 
oath according to the recent act. But Cecil gave him 
to know that the queen was unwilling to have the 
oath tendered for the second time, for that meant 
death. The archbishop acted under the instructions 

1 Home's An Answer to M. Fekenham, p. 101. 

2 " I hear said Mr. Fecknam is not so precise (as Watson, who refused 
all conference} but could be contented to confer" (Grindal to Cecil, 
p. 282). 

3 Home's An Answer to M. FeJcenham, p. 3. 

4 Ibid. p. 129. 


he received, and sent round a circular, the draft of 
which Cecil corrected, to the rest of his bishops 
ordering them not to tender the oath to any one a 
second time without previously referring the matter 
to him. But this instruction had to be kept secret. 1 
An exception, however, was made in the case of 
Bonner, a fellow-prisoner with the abbat, who had 
incurred the special hatred of all the reformers by 
his severity under the last reign. How that wily 
old lawyer Bonner checkmated Home and all 
Elizabeth's government on the plea that the in- 
truded bishop of Winchester was no bishop in the 
eyes of the law, is a well known story. 

We have seen how Home, having failed to con- 
vince the abbat, was glad to get rid of him ; and 
Fecknam on his side preferred, it is said, to go back 
to the Tower rather than stay with the bishop. We 
find him there in custody in January 1565, and he 
probably returned on the occasion of Home's fiasco 
with Bonner. In the Tower he lingered on ; and 
we know but little of his imprisonment. 2 As Home 
had complained to the council of the abbat' s in- 
tractability, Fecknam in a letter to Sir W. Cecil 

1 Parker Correspondence, pip. 173-175- 

2 A poem In Laudem Joannis Fecknam, by an unknown author, 
printed in the Downside Review (vol. i. p. 430), tells us some particulars 
of his life at this time. It was his own choice to return to the Tower ; 
for he said, "A prison is better than a bishop's palace." And on 
one occasion when Cecil expressed his wonder that the abbat lived so 
long, " The reason is," said he, " because I live shut up in the prison 
and not the prison in me. I willingly bear my chains." 


(March 14, 1565) puts the matter into its real 

" According to your honour's pleasure, signified 
to me by the lieutenant, I have sent to your honour 
such writings as have passed between my lord 
bishop of Winchester and me, touching the oath 
of the queen's highness' supremacy, in perusing 
whereof I do most humbly beseech your honour 
to observe how slenderly his lordship hath satisfied 
my expectations therein : who in requesting of his 
lordship to be resolved by the authority of the 
scriptures, doctors, general councils, and by the 
example of the like government in some one part 
and church of all Christendom : his lordship in 
no one part of his resolutions hath alledged any 
testimony out of any one of them : but only hath 
used the authority of his own bare words, naked 
talk and sentences ; which in so great and weighty 
a matter of conscience I esteem and weigh as 
nothing. And if his lordship shall at any time 
hereafter (and especially at your honour's request) 
be able to bring forth any better matter, I shall 
be, at the sight thereof, at all times in readiness 
to receive the said oath, and to perform my promise 
before made in the writings. But if his lordship 
shall be found (notwithstanding your honour's re- 
quest) to have no better matter in store, I shall for 
my duty's sake towards the queen's majesty, con- 
sidering the degree and estate her highness hath 
placed him in, abstain from the plain speech which 



I might justly use (his lordship first beginning the 
complaint), yet that notwithstanding your honour 
must give me leave to think that his lordship hath 
not all the Divine Scriptures, doctors, general 
councils, and all other kinds of learning so much 
at his commandment as I have oftentimes heard 
him boast and speak of. And this much to write 
of my own secret thought, either against him or yet 
any other, it is very much contrary to the inclination 
of my nature : for I being a poor man in trouble am 
now, likewise at all other times, very loath to touch 
him or any man else. But whensoever it shall 
please your honour by your wisdom to weigh the 
matter indifferently between us, your honour shall 
be sure to have this short end and conclusion 
thereof: that either upon his lordship's more 
pytthyer (?pithier) and learned resolutions, your 
honour shall be well assured that I will receive the 
oath, or else, for lack of learned resolutions, your 
honour shall have certain and sure knowledge that 
the stay so long a time on my part, made in not 
receiving of the same oath, is of conscience and not 
of will stubbornly set ; but only of dread and fear 
to commit perjury, thereby to procure and purchase 
to myself God his wrath and indignation : finally to 
inherit perpetual death and torment of hell fire, and 
that remedyless, by a separation making of myself 
from God and the unity of his Catholic Church, 
being always after unsure, how or by what means 
I may be united and knit thereunto again. The 


upright and due consideration of this my lamentable 
state is all that I do seek at your honour's hands, 
as knoweth our Lord God, who long preserve your 
good honour with much increase thereof. 

" From the Tower, this xiiii of this present March, 
by your poor orator, JOHN FECKNAM, priste" ] 

Whilst in the Tower (1570), Fecknam wrote a 
pamphlet which casts a light on the " gentle per- 
suasiveness," used in his regard. It was written in 
answer to Sir Francis Jobson, the lieutenant of the 
Tower, on Mr. Pellam's request, " upon Sunday last 
[January 15, 1570], as I came from the church, to 
know my liking of M. Gough's sermon. Where- 
unto I answered : that I was very loath to find 
any fault with the sayings or doings of any man, 
being already in trouble as you know. You replied 
and said : that I was not able to find fault where no 
fault was. I had not then no leisure to make any 
further answer, you departing homewards and I to 
my prison." He then discusses the various opinions 
broached in the course of the sermon, and ends up 
with these words : " I desire, I say, to make my 
humble suit unto your worships for myself and my 
prison-fellows both, that hereafter we may not be 
haled by the arms to the church in such violent 
manner against our wills, against all former examples, 
against the doctrine of your own side (Luther, Bucer, 
Zwinglius, Oecolampadius, Melancthon, and the rest, 

1 Dom Eliz., xxxvi. 23. 


every one writing and earnestly persuading that all 
violence be taken away in matters of religion), there 
to hear such preachers as care not what they say 
so they somewhat say against the professed faith of 
Christ's Catholic Church ; and there to hear a sermon, 
not of persuading us, but of railing upon us. This, 
if your worships will incline unto for charity sake, 
we shall have to render you most humble thanks, 
and whatsoever else we may do in this our heavy 
time of imprisonment." 

Some time after the abbat was removed to the 
Marshalsea, but the exact date has not been yet 
discovered. 2 He was still in the Tower 1571, for in 
the March of that year he was allowed to have his 
meals at the table of the lieutenant of the Tower, 3 
and is known in the June to have attended his 
fellow-prisoner, Dr. John Story, at the scaffold 

Stevens says : " Many protestants, being ashamed 
to see a man who had deserved so well so in- 
humanly treated, prevailed that he should be put 
out of the Tower and removed to the Marshalsea, 
where he had a little more liberty." 4 But on July 
17, 1574, the council ordered the keeper of the 
Marshalsea to take him before the archbishop of 
Canterbury at his grace's leisure, and " upon bonds 
taken of him by the said lord bishop, to set him at 

1 L. T., An Answer to Certain Assertions of M. Fecknam, &c., p. 17. 

2 Bradley's Westminster, p. 179. 

3 Acts of the Privy Council (New Series), vol. viii. p. 21. 

4 Additions to the Monasticon, vol. i. p. 289. 


liberty." And they also wrote the same day to the 
archbishop empowering him to accept bail for Mr. 
Dr. Feckenham on the same conditions as those 
lately made (July 5th) in the case of bishop 
Watson. These were that he " shall not by speech, 
writing, or any other means induce or intice any 
person to any opinion or act to be done contrary 
to the laws established in the realm for causes of 
religion," and that he should dwell in a specified 
place, "and not to depart from thence at any time 
without the license of the lords of the council," and 
that he was not to be allowed to receive visitors. * 

After fourteen years' confinement, Fecknam was 
now released on parole and went to live in Hol- 
iDorn, where, no sooner had he partly regained his 
liberty, than he was engaged in works of charity 
and usefulness. Benevolence was so marked a 
feature in his character that, as Fuller says, "he 
relieved the poor wheresoever he came, so that flies 
flock not thicker about spilt honey than the beggars 
constantly crowded about him." 2 Large sums of 
money seem to have been at his disposal, for the 
-charitable were assured, from their knowledge of his 
character, that their alms entrusted to his care would 
reach the most needy and the most deserving of 
the poor. In Holborn he built an aqueduct for the 
wse of the inhabitants. 3 He distributed every day the 

1 Acts of the Privy Council (New Series), 1574, vol. viii. pp. 269, 264. 

2 Worthies of England, vol. ii. p. 477. 

3 Stevens, vol. i. p. 28a. 


milk of twelve cows among the sick and poor of 
the district, and took under his special charge the 
orphans. He encouraged the youth of the place in 
manly sports by giving prizes, and thought it better 
they should on Sundays have games, such as all 
English lads love, rather than attend the new fashion 
of worship. 1 Thus spending himself for others, and 
already broken down by the rigours of his long 
imprisonment, he fell ill. On July 18, 1575, the 
council ordered " the Master of the Eolls, or in his 
absence the Recorder of London, to take bondes of 
Doctor Feckenham for his good behaviour, and that 
at Michaelmas next he shall return to the place 
where he presently is, and in the meantime he may 
repair to the Baths." 2 Whilst in this town he built, 
in 1576, a hospice for the poor "by the White 
Bath," that they too might come and get the benefit 
of the waters. 3 

Whilst thus a prisoner on parole, reports had 
reached the ears of the Council (June 24, 1577) 
that Fecknam and the others " have very much 
abused themselves by suffering certain of her 
majesty's evil-disposed subjects to resort unto them, 
whom they have perverted in religion." 4 For Aylmer, 
the bishop of London, had lately written to Burghley 
signifying " that he liked not that Fecknam, late 

1 Hymnus in Laudem J. FecknamiSj Harl. MS. 3258, fol. 45. 

2 Acts P.C., vol. ix. p. 8. On June 19, 1576, lie got a similar 

3 See Downside Review, vol. xiv. p. 323. 

4 Acts, vol. ix. p. 371. 


abbat of Westminster, Watson, late bishop of 
Lincoln, and Young, another active popish dignitary 
under queen Mary, should continue where they 
were, in London, in the Fleet or Marshalsea, where 
by their converse and advice they might instigate 
and do mischief; advising that they might be placed 
again, as they had been before, with some three 
bishops, at Winchester, Lincoln, Chichester, or 
Ely, and that for his part, he, if he were out of 
his first-fruits, could be content to have one of 
them." l 

So in the following month Walsingham wrote to 
the bishops who had formerly been charged with 
these prisoners, saying that as inconvenience and 
mischief is daily found to increase, not only to the 
danger of her majesty's person but to the disturbance 
of the common quiet of the realm on account of the 
lenity shown to such as obstinately refused to come to 
church for sermons and common prayer, he appoints 
a consultation to be held which should be attended 
by the bishops and their chancellors and others they 
think fit. The secretary then goes on to say : 

"And fore-as-much as the special point of the 
said consultation will stand upon the order that 
may be taken generally with all them that refuse 
to come to the church, and in particular what is 
meetest to be done with Watson, Fecknam, Harps- 
field, and others of that ring that are thought to be 
the leaders and pillars of the consciences of great 

1 Strype, Life of Bishop Aylmer, p. 25. 


numbers of such as he carried with the errors, 
whether it be not fit they be disputed with, all in 
some private sort and after disputation had with 
them, and they thereby not reduced to conformity; 
then whether it shall be better to banish them the 
realm or to keep them here together in some 
straight sort as that they may be kept from all 

The result of these consultations was soon made 
known, for by the end of July (1577) the council 
ordered Cox, the bishop of Ely, to receive abbat 
Fecknam, and divided the rest of the prisoners 
among other anglican bishops. The real cause of 
this second incarceration was that Elizabeth, at last 
driven to desperation, began to apply the penalty 
of death attached to the act of 1571, which was 
her answer to the deposing bull of Pius V. The act 
had not hitherto been enforced, although its pro- 
visions were such as made illegal any communica- 
tion, under any shape or form, with Rome. But 
just then the seminary at Douai, about which more 
in the next chapters, was beginning to pour priests 
into England in defiance of her laws, and the first 
blood for conscience' sake was shed in this year by 
the heroic Cuthbert Mayne. The queen, rightly or 

1 P.R.O. Dom Eliz., cxiv. 69. Walsingham also suggests that, if 
Fecknam and the others are to be kept in durance, the cost of their 
keep was to be found in taxing such of the bishops and clergy as are 
non-residents and have pluralities some yearly contribution for the 
finding of them, and a convenient stipend to be given to their keeper. 
See Bridgett and Knox, p. 178. 

VOL. I. 


wrongly, was in terror of plots against her life ; 
and the government had determined upon taking 
stringent measures, and keeping in custody the most 
prominent of those who were known to be dis- 
affected to her religious policy. Together with the 
order of the council, the notorious Cox, bishop of 
Ely, received a stringent code of regulations for 
the treatment of the aged abbat they were to 
this effect : 

" i. That his lodgings be in some convenient part 
of your house, that he may be both there in safe 
custody and also have no easy access of your house- 
hold people unto him, other than such as you shall 
appoint and know to be settled in religion and 
honesty, as that they may not be perverted in religion 
or any otherwise corrupted by him. 

" 2. That he be not admitted unto your table 
except upon some good occasion, to have ministered 
to him there in the presence of some that shall 
happen to resort unto you, such talk whereby the 
hearers may be confirmed in the truth ; but to have 
his diet by himself alone in his chamber ; and that 
in no superfluity, but after the spare manner of 
scholars' commoners. 

" 3. That you suffer none (unless some one to 
attend upon him) to have access unto him, but 
such as you shall know to be persons well conformed 
in true religion, and not likely to be weakened in 
the profession of the said religion by any con- 
ference they shall have with him. 


" 4. That you permit him not at any time and 
place whilst he is with you to enter into any dis- 
putations of matters of religion, or to reason thereof, 
otherwise than upon such occasion as shall be by 
you or in your presence with your good liking by 
some others ministered unto him. 

" 5. That he have ministered unto him such books 
of learned men and sound writers in divinity as you 
are able to lend him, and none other. 

" 6. That he have no liberty to walk abroad to 
take the air, but when yourself is best at leisure 
to go with him, or accompanied with such as you 
shall appoint. 

"7. That you do your endeavour by all good 
persuasion to bring him to the hearing of sermons 
and other exercises of religion in your house, and 
the chapel or church which you most commonly 
frequent." l 

This disposes of the pleasing fiction some writers 
maintain, that the abbat and others of the deposed 
clergy were kept as guests under gentle restraint 
in the houses of protestant bishops. To be de- 
prived of liberty, company, the solaces of their 
religion and all they held dear, was bad enough 
treatment ; but to be harassed on religious topics 
on every conceivable occasion, to have to take 
the air, on the rare occasion permitted, tied to 
the strings of a protestant bishop's apron, and 
to have only such books of sound divinity as 

1 Lansdowne MS., No. 155, foL 201. 


the reformers delighted in, were unnecessary aggra- 

The bishop did his best to convert the abbat, 
for Elizabeth, it is said, ordered him to bring the 
abbat, "being a man of learning and temper, to 
acknowledge her supremacy and come to church." 
But Cox wrote to Burghley, August 1578, and gives 
this report of the abbat : " That he was a gentle per- 
son ; but in popish religion too, too obdurate." And 
that he had often conference with him : and other 
learned men at his request had conferred with him 
also touching going to church, and touching the 
oath to the queen's majesty. The bishop added 
that he had examined him whether the pope was 
not a heretic . . . that when there was some hope 
of his conformity he (the abbat) said unto him, 
"All those things that he said against me with 
leisure I could answer them." And further said, 
" That he was fully persuaded in his religion, which 
he will stand to." " When I heard this," said the 
bishop, " I gave him over and received him no- 
more to my table;" and in some zeal subjoining, 
" Whether it be meet that the enemies of God 
and the queen should be fostered in our homes 
and not used according to the laws of the realm, 
I leave to the judgement of others. What my 
poor judgement is I will express, being commanded. 
I think my house the worse being pestered with 
such a guest." . . . This letter the bishop dates- 
from Ely, styling it "that unsavoury isle with 


turves and dried-up loads," the 2Qth of August 

I578. 1 

The council on October 23, 1579, understanding 
that Fecknam had " lately broken out into an open 
discommending of her majesty's godly proceedings 
in matters of religion," required Cox " to cause him 
to be kept close prisoner in some fit room within his 
house, not suffering him to have any man of his own 
choice to attend upon him, and that such person as 
bis lordship shall appoint of his own servants to 
resort unto him, to deliver him his necessary food 
(which their lordships wish to be no larger than 
may serve for his convenient sustenance)." 2 

A so-called " confession " 3 exists in the Lans- 

1 Strype's Annals (ed. 1824), vol. ii. Perne, the dean of Ely, had been 
set on to Fecknam some months before Cox wrote to Burghley, and in 
his turn writes on May n, 1578, to the effect that the abbat had said 
of the Book of Common Prayer : " That as he liked well of prayers 
therein that were made to Almighty God in the name of His Son, Jesus 
Christ ; so he would also have added the invocation of our blessed Lady 
and other saints and prayers for the dead" (ibid. pp. 176, 177, 186). 

2 Acts of the Privy Council, vol. xi. p. 291. 

3 Endorsed in Burghley's writing, " Feckehamis Confessio before the 
bishop of Ely and his Chaplaines. Papists 1580." Two years earlier 
Perne had writen to Burghley that it was impossible to get Fecknam to 
sign this or a similar document. Burghley evidently wrote to Fecknam 
about this confession, for Strype reports the abbat as writing in answer 
words to the effect : " That he was persuaded of a singular good will 
(he said) both that her majesty and his honour bore unto him, if he 
should show himself anything conformable. That he thought verily 
that were it not for her majesty and his honour, it would have been 
worse for him and others of his sect than it was at that day ; for 
the which he said, that he did daily pray for the long preservation of 
her majesty, and also for his lordship's honourable state. But yet to 
subscribe he did refuse ; saying that if he should subscribe and fail in 
one thing, he had as good failed in all" (ibid. p. 180). 


downe MSS., 1 which shows the pertinacity of his 
jailors and his own constancy : 

"A True Note of Certain Articles confessed and 
allowed by Mr. Dr. Fecknam, as well in 
Christmas holidays last past as also at divers 
other times before, by conference in learning 
before the reverend father in God the L. 
Bishop of Ely, and before Dr. Perne, Dean 
of Ely, Master Nickolas, Master Stanton, 
Master Crowe, Mr. Bowler, Chaplains to my 
L. of Ely ; and divers others whose names 
be here subscribed. 

"First, he doth believe in his conscience and 
before God that the xiiii chapter of the first to the 
Corinthians is as truly to be understanded of the 
common service to be had in the mother tongue, 
to be understanded of the vulgar people as of the 
preaching and prophesying in the mother tongue. 

" Secondly, that he doth find no fault with anything 
that is set forth in the Book of Common Service 
now used in the Church of England, but his desire 
is to have all the rest of the old service that was 
taken out to be restored again, as the prayer to the 
saints and for the dead, and the seven sacraments 
and external sacrifice, and then he would most will- 
ingly come thereto. He liketh well to have the sacra- 
ment ministered under both kinds unto the lay people, 
so it were done by the authority of the Church. 
1 No. 30, fol. 199. 


" Thirdly, he doth very well allow of the inter- 
pretation of the oath for the queen's majestie her 
supremacy as it is interpreted in her highness in- 
junctions, that is that the queen's majestie under 
God have soveranty and rule over all manner of 
persons born within her realms, dominions, and 
countries, of what estate either ecclesiastical or 
temporal soever they be ; the which oath he offereth 
himself to be at all times ready most willingly to 
receive whensoever it shall be demanded of him by 

"Fourthly, he being demanded why he will not 
come to the service in the Church of England as it 
is set forth this day, seeing he doth find no fault 
with it, and doth think it in his conscience that it 
may be lawful to have the common prayer in the 
mother tongue. He answereth, because he is not of 
our Church for lack of unity ; some being therein 
protestants, some puritans, and some of the family of 
Love, and for that it is not set forth by the authority 
of general council to avoid schisme. 

" Lastly, Mr. D. Fecknam will not conform himself 
to our religion, for that he can see nothing to be 
sought but the spoil of the Church and of bishops' 
houses and of college lands, which he saith maketh 
many to pretend to be puritans, seeking for the 
fruits of the church, and always requesting Almighty 
God to put in her majesty's mind and her honour- 
able council to make some good stay therein, other- 
wise he saith it will bring in ignorance in her high- 


ness' clergy, with a subversion of Christian religion, 
and finally all wickedness and paganism. 

(Signed) "JOHN FECKNAM, Priest. 1 
Andreas Perne. 
Gulihelmus Stanton." 

How well the abbat knew the temper of the times. 
He would be willing to accept the Prayer-Book if it 
ceased to be protestant. As regards disciplinary 
laws he was free to hold his own opinion as to their 
utility, but he denied the Church of England was an 
authority with power to make such changes as had 
been made. He saw plainly the state of schism the 
established church was in, and that alone was proof 
to him that it was outside the unity of his church. 
He would not object to an oath expressed in the 
terms explained in the queen's injunction ; but the 
oath that had actually to be tendered to him under 
the act of Parliament, he would not take at all on 
any understanding whatsoever as to its implied 
meaning. There is in this confession always a 
saving "but" to every approach to an agreement 
with the reformers, and it was just these exceptions 
that made the " Confession" useless to them. 

In June 1580 Cox writes a piteous letter to 
Burghley. 2 He is ill and has paralysis, and cannot 

1 It is signed in a very feeble and shaky handwriting. 

2 " To take one view more of the ancient, pious, learned confessor 
and bishop Cox, which take from his own pen to his old friend, the 
lord Burley ; complaining of two evils that now oppress him in his very 


put up with the abbat any longer, and begs that he 
may be taken away. The truth is that the angli- 
can bishops were worn out with the quiet but 
unconquerable constancy of men who entrenched 
themselves absolutely behind the invisible but all- 
powerful barriers of conscience. It was an open 
rebuke to them in the face of the whole kingdom ; 
for not one of these had they succeeded in bring- 
ing over to the new religion. Parker, as we have 
seen, was only following the current when he was 
anxious to cut the difficulty by enforcing the 
oath, the refusal of which meant death. Jewel, 
too, had been hinting at the use of the sword in 
confidential intercourse with his friends, regretting 
that this means was not used upon these irrecon- 
cilables. And Aylmer had written in 1577 to the 
lord treasurer : "I speak to your lordship as 
one chiefly careful for the state, and to use more 
severity than hitherto hath been used ; or else we 
shall smart for it." 1 The unholy blood-thirst, we 
cannot call it anything else, displayed by the new 
bishops excited the anger of Elizabeth. Bernadino 

old age : one might have a redress by favour of that lord ; the other 
only from God. Thus writing Duo mala me premunt, the one, hospes 
mains et inutilis ; i.e. a bad guest and good for nothing. He meant 
Fecknam, sometime abbat of Westminster, that had been committed to 
his house and had remained there so long till he was weary of him. 
. . . The other inconvenience . . . corpus nimirum dimidia parte 
languidum, his poor paralytic body" (Strype, Annals of the Reformation, 
ed. 1824, vol. ii. Part II. p. 381). 

1 Strype, Life of Bishop Aylmer, p. 24. Cox, writing in 1578, says : 
"I trust hereafter her highness and her magistrates will prosecute 
severely the same trade" (Annals, p. 196). 


de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, writing to his 
king, March 23, 1580, says: "This (the armament) 
has caused her recently to revoke the commission 
given to her bishops to ascertain who were catho- 
lics. She told them with her own mouth that they 
were a set of scamps, for they were oppressing 
the catholics more than she desired." * 

As a consequence of Cox's appeal, at the end of 
the month (June 24) the council gave leave that 
Fecknam should be transferred from the bishop's 
immediate neighbourhood. So sometime in July 
the abbat was once more moved ; this time to Wis- 
beach Castle, a disused and partly ruinous house 
belonging to the bishop of Ely. Here he met 
several of his old fellow-prisoners, bishop Watson 
among the others. 

Wisbeach Castle was a dreary place. " During 
the winter the sea mists drifting landwards almost 
always hung over and hid the castle walls. Broad 
pools and patches of stagnant waters, green with 
rank weeds, and wide marshes and sterile flats lay 
outspread all round for miles. The muddy river 
was constantly overflowing its broken-down banks, 
so that the moat of the castle constantly flooded 
the adjacent garden and orchard. Of foliage, save 
a few stunted willow-trees, there was little or none 
in sight ; for when summer came round, the sun's 
heat soon parched up the rank grass in the court- 
yard, and without, the dandelion and snapdragon 

1 Calendar Spanish State Papers (Simancas), vol. i. p. 22. 


which grew upon its massive but dilapidated 
walls/ 71 

Such was Wisbeach, a place which in a few years 
more was to gain so sad a notoriety as the theatre 
of dissensions which, it is no exaggeration to say, 
inflicted a blow upon Catholicity in England the 
effects of which are felt even to-day. But while the 
benedictine abbat was there, his gentle spirit sorted 
well with the fraternal charity which possessed the 
hearts of his fellow-confessors. There was no emula- 
tion, no prelature. Even Watson would not accept 
of any superiority on account of his episcopal dignity. 
They were all fellow-prisoners, he said, all equal. 2 

The life passed a few years later in this prison is 
described by Fr. Weston, the Jesuit, in his account 
of his imprisonment. 3 The prisoners were kept in 
separate rooms under bolts and locks. Dinner and 
supper they had in common ; and for half-an-hour 
before and after the meals they could take exercise 
in the open air. Wisbeach was then a public prison, 
common to all thieves and criminals. After the 
time of Fecknam the prisoners seem to have had 
more liberty, as we shall see in the next chapter. 
But when the abbat first came there the system was 
in all its rigour. There is a letter from the keepers of 

1 F. G. Lee, The Church under Queen Elizabeth, ed. 1892, p. 198. 
Among the state papers is a document of July 1579, as to the evil 
state of the river at the time. P.R.O. Dom Eliz., vol. cxxxi., No. 48. 

2 Bridgett and Knox, p. 204. 

3 Morris' The Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, second series, pp. 
239, 240. 


Wisbeach, George Carleton and Humphrey Michell, 
to the Privy Council (Oct 16, I58O), 1 in which they 
report the recusants as being eight in number. 
"The bishop of Ely has appointed a preacher, Dr. 
William Fulke, a puritan ; but the prisoners refuse 
to attend his sermons or prayers, saying that they 
are not of our church, and they will neither hear, 
pray, nor yet confer with us of any matter concerning 
religion." The keepers mention that, according to 
instructions they had received, all books " saving the 
canonical scriptures and the allowed writers " have 
been taken away from the prisoners, to the great 
grief of their hearts. They end up by asking 
whether the permission of taking meals in com- 
mon may be withdrawn. 

This durance did not extinguish Fecknam's bene- 
volence nor his desire of doing good all round. 
Here, at Wisbeach, he paid for the repairing of the 
road, and also erected a public market-cross in the 
town. 2 But the life of this venerable confessor was 
drawing to a close. Worn out with the rigours of 
an imprisonment of twenty-three years, 3 he died a 

1 Bridgett and Knox, p. 197. 

2 Stevens, p. 289. " And there was also a cross, probably dedicated 
to St. Peter, which, was afterwards converted into an obelisk . . . [but 
was] taken down in the year 1810" (History of Wisbeach [1883], p. 258). 

3 In the poem before mentioned, the unknown author says : 

" Fama refert igitur quod dira venena dabantur ; 
Fecknamo ; neque res suspicione caret." 

He also mentions that the abbat was consoled before death with the 


martyr for his faith in 1584, and on October 16 was 
buried in an unknown grave in the parish church of 

Abbat Fecknam, says Stevens, was of "a mean 
stature, somewhat fat, round-faced, beautiful and of 
a pleasant aspect, affable and lively in conversa- 
tion." 1 Camclen calls him a man learned and good, 
who lived a long time and gained the affection 
of his adversaries by publicly deserving well of the 
poor. 2 Bishop Kennet mentions as a trait in the 
abbat' s character that he "left what he had to the 
church at Westminster, and gave the dean good 
directions about such lands leased out, which could 
not otherwise have been easily discovered, in letters 
which are still preserved among the records." * 

To the last he never forgot Westminster, and, 
as was characteristic with him, the poor of West- 
minster. From the overseer's accounts of the parish 
of St. Margaret's is recorded, 1590: "Over and 
besides the sum of forty pounds given by John 
Fecknam, sometime abbat of Westminster, for a 
stock to buy wood for the poor of Westminster, and 
to sell two faggots for a penny, and seven billets 
for a penny, which sum of forty pounds doth remain 

Holy Viaticum, and said when the Blessed Sacrament was brought 
to him : 

" Tu bona cuncta mihi tecum sapienter portas 
Tu letitia es, tu mihi vita, salus." 

1 Ibid. 

2 Annales Rerum Anglicarum, ed. Hearne, vol. i. p. 48. 

3 Lansdowne MS., No. 982, fol. 62. 


in the hands of the church- wardens." 1 He also left 
a bequest to the poor of his first monastic home of 
Evesham. 2 

According to Anthony & Wood, Fecknam, with 
the benedictine instinctive love for the Office, wrote 
a commentary on the Psalms of David, and also 
one on the Canticles. Among the Sloane MSS. is 
an autograph work of about 400 pages bearing the 
following heading : 

"This booke of sovereigne medicines against the 
most common and knowne diseases both of men and 
women was by good proofe and long experiences 
collected by Mr. Dr. Fecknam, late abbat of West- 
minster, and that chiefly for the poor, which hath 
not att all tymes the learned phisitions att hande." 3 

Thus in the odour of sanctity lived and died John 
Fecknam, the last abbat of the monastery of St. 
Peter's at Westminster. A true monk and a staunch 
witness for the faith of Christ. 4 

1 These accounts have been privately printed. Westminster, 1877. 
See also Malcolm's Londinium Redivivum, vol. iv. pp. 139, 140. 

2 May's History of Evesham, p. 398. 

3 Add. MSS., No. 3919. 

4 Among bishop Kennet's collection in the Lansdowne MSS. (No. 
982) are some notes in addition to Anthony a Wood's notice of 
Fecknam. From them we gather that in 1556 Fecknam resigned the 
deanery of St. Paul's in the January ; the living of Kentish Town was 
voided November 22, and that of Greenford Magna December 7, "per 
religionis ingresswn magistri Johis Feckenham cleric, in mon. S. Petri 
Westmon. noviter erecti " (from Bonnets Register). Among the pensions 
recorded in the year 1555 Com. Wigorn. Evesham. Pensio Johs Fecken- 
ham, Decani D. Pauli, x libr. 



THE immediate effect of tendering the oath of 
supremacy was the deprivation of all the bishops, 
15 in number, with the exception of Kitchin of 
Llandaff. They were followed by 7 deans, 10 arch- 
deacons, 7 chancellors, 25 heads of colleges, 37 
fellows, 35 prebendaries, 44 doctors and professors, 
17 heads of schools or religious houses, 197 digni- 
taries and men of weight. 1 This by no means com- 
pletes the list of deprivations. The number of 
parochial clergy that were either gradually deprived 
or gave up of their own accord is numbered by 
competent judges as something like 2ooo. 2 It is 
only by some great exodus like this that the great 
dearth of clergy, of which the new Elizabethan 

1 See a list (avowedly incomplete) printed in Tierney, vol. ii., 

2 "In the visitation of the province of York in August and 
.September 1559, out of 90 clergymen summoned, 21 came and took 
the oath, 36 came and refused to swear, 17 were absent without 
proctors, 16 were absent with proctors. ... In the province of Canter- 
bury . . . out of the 8911 parishes and 9400 beneficed clergymen, we 
find only 806 subscribers, while all the bishops and 85 others expressly 
refused to subscribe, and the rest were absentees.' See R. Simpson's 
Campion, ed. 1896, p. 197. 



bishops were constantly complaining, can be ac- 
counted for. Of those who remained in outward 
union with the Anglican Church there were great 
numbers we know who kept to their livings in the 
hopes of another change, looking forward "to a 
time," as it was said. They had already seen so 
many variations within the last twenty years, why 
not keep quiet and wait for better days ? So many 
argued, and would, at least in country parts, say 
mass privately for those of their parishioners who 
were of their mind, and then would perform the 
new rite publicly in the parish church to fulfil the 
law. Most of these, by thus tampering with their 
consciences, at last fell away entirely. But of that 
large body of clergy known as the "Old Priests," or 
the " Marian Priests," some few retired for a while to 
the universities and thence went abroad to Rome, 
Louvain, Douai, Paris, &c. Others were received 
into private families, where they acted as chaplains 
and attended in secret the catholics who would not 
admit the ministrations of the new clergy. They 
were not molested as a rule, for many of those who 
kept to their livings were friends and secretly 
admired their constancy. 

This, then, was the state of the Church in England 
in a few years after Elizabeth's accession. The 
bishops were in prison, and a large body of clergy 
was scattered here and there and left without head 
or organisation. The sacrament of confirmation 
ceased ; and it became difficult even to get the 


holy oils for extreme unction. These had to be 
smuggled over from Ireland or the continent. Some- 
times, at rare intervals, an Irish bishop would come 
over in secret and try to supply the more pressing 
wants of the district he visited. But practically Eliza- 
beth had achieved her end. She wanted to crush all 
opposition and deprive of place, power, and influence 
those who would not allow of her religious policy. 

The desperate state of the church was brought 
under the notice of the Roman authorities, and 
steps were proposed (which, alas ! came to nought) 
to apply a remedy. Among the letters of cardinal 
Morone de rebus anglise (written between July 1560 
and September 1563) is a proposal for a new arrange- 
ment of the English sees. 1 Heath was to be trans- 
lated from York to Canterbury, Watson from Lincoln 
to York, and Scott from Chester to Durham. The 
others were to retain their sees ; and names were 
proposed for filling up the vacant ones. There was 
no idea of submitting quietly to the intruders, and 
thus tacitly admitting their claim. Had this policy 
prevailed in England as it did in Ireland, we to-day 
should have been in possession of our old historical 

What hindered the project has not yet fully ap- 
peared. But it can be sufficiently accounted for. 
Twice did the pope (Pius IV.) send ambassadors to 

1 Episcopal Successions (M. Brady), vol. ii. p. 322. This must have 
been written before it was known that Heath and the others were im- 

VOL. I. P 


the queen assuring her he would give every satisfac- 
tion. But the envoys were refused admittance into 
the kingdom. 1 When this conciliatory pontiff died, 
he was succeeded (1566) by a pope of very different 
policy. Pius V., a dominican friar, of stern and in- 
flexible ideas, was determined to crush the queen by 
the censure of the church, and to impose by force of 
arms the recognition of a temporal headship, which 
an united Christendom had, of free will, given to his 
predecessors. Had the Curia recognised that the 
political world was indeed moving, the history of the 
church in England would have been very different. 
But easy enough as it is for us to see the errors of a 
past time, it was not so easy for those then at the 
helm to divine the trend of affairs. A pope is neces- 
sarily influenced by his entourage ; and the temporal 
policy of one pope will not necessarily be that of 
his predecessors. The government of the church is 
vested in human hands, which are moved by human 
hearts swayed by every manner of human motives. 2 

1 May 5, 1560, the pope wrote to Elizabeth asking her to receive 
Vincent Parpaglia, abbat of St. Saviour's, as persona grata to the queen. 
But he was stopped at Calais. The pope renewed his attempt the next 
year, and sent abbat Martinengo, who got as far as Brussels, and there 
received notice that he too was refused admittance into the kingdom. 
As neither was allowed to fulfil his embassy, it is not possible to say, 
with the means at present at our disposal, what were the terms of the 
papal message. Any reports as to the pope's willingness to accept the 
changes introduced by the queen, are mere valueless conjectures. 

2 In a letter of Bernardo Navagero, Venetian ambassador at Eome, 
to the doge and senate (March 14, 1556), he says : "Yesterday I had 
audience of the pope, who said to me ... ( It is a miracle, lord ambas- 
sador, how this holy see has maintained itself, preceding pontiffs having, 


But Providence, while leaving men to work out their 
own measures and to take the consequences of their 
own acts, overrules all for its own predestined end. 

We shall be better able to understand the action 
of Pius V. in regard to Elizabeth, if we remember 
that he was brought up and was surrounded by men 
imbued with a tradition of universal sovereignty 
even in temporal matters. It was one of long stand- 
ing. What was more natural, when Christendom 
was united by the bonds of one faith, than to look 
up to the pope as to the common father and head 
of all kingdoms; as the arbitrator in all disputes, 
between king and king and also between king and 
subjects? But that which was the free concession 
of a loving flock, in course of time became to be 
regarded by some as a divine right. It was held 
and publicly taught by many that the pope had, by 
a right inherent in his pastoral office, the power of 
deposing monarchs and of releasing subjects from 
their allegiance even more, of transferring their 
allegiance to whomsoever he pleased to give the 
forfeited crown. The church of course was not com- 
mitted to this doctrine ; but it formed in those days 
a very important element in practical teaching and 
in the run of men's thoughts ; just as in the 
thoughts of other people who abhorred the pope it 
was held that there was a divine or a natural right 

one may say, done everything to destroy it ; but it is founded on such 
stones that there is nothing to fear " (Calendar of State Papers (Venetian), 
vol. vi. No. 425). 


in temporal princes to dictate the religion of their 
subjects according to the formula cujus regio ejus 
religio. The Curia saw England slipping away ; 
that England which, if of late the cause of much 
trouble, was yet " a very garden of delights." Fears 
were entertained that other nations, too, would 
follow in her wake. So an example must be made 
of the English queen. A judicial inquiry into 
her case was begun in Rome and resulted in a 
declaration that she had incurred all the canonical 
penalties of heresy. A bull Regnans in Excelsis 
was issued on February 25, 1570, which denounced 
her as excommunicated. But when it goes on to 
declare her deprived of her " pretended " right to 
the crown, and to absolve all her subjects from their 
allegiance, and moreover to proclaim excommuni- 
cated all who henceforth presumed to obey her laws 
or acknowledge her as queen, there was an assertion 
here of a temporal right which could only result in 
deadly resistance. 

The effects were disastrous. The queen was 
driven to desperation. Against the determination 
of the man was pitted the obstinacy of an infuriated 
and unscrupulous woman. Though she affected to 
treat the sentence of deprivation with contempt, yet 
she knew not what complications might ensue. The 
excommunication, of which she knew the spiritual 
force, wounded her also to the quick, and she 
endeavoured to get the stigma removed. The pope 
was inflexible. The bull was received with dismay 


by the English catholics, who could only fear from 
it a fresh excuse for ill treatment. While they were 
proving their loyalty as no other nation has ever 
done to the pope's divine right, the verities of the 
catholic religion, they felt it hard indeed to be 
called upon to be implicated in temporal matters, 
based as they were upon grounds which, even in 
catholic kingdoms, were held at least to be ques- 
tionable. The English catholics were thus ground 
down between the upper and the nether millstones. 

The queen's answer to the bull was an act of 
Parliament cutting off all communication between 
her subjects and Kome, and declaring traitors all who 
denied her title. Another made it treason to use or 
procure any bull from Kome, or to reconcile or be 
reconciled, to have in possession any objects blessed 
by the pope, or even to maintain or harbour any 
offenders against the act. The pope, on his side, 
was determined to enforce his bull, and called upon 
Christian kings to invade England. To this period 
belong the many plots, real or feigned, with which 
the queen was threatened. 1 In after years the 

1 That there were real plots on the part of some catholics against the 
queen cannot to-day be denied ; nor that churchmen were unfortu- 
nately mixed up in them. On May 2, 1583, the papal nuncio writes 
from Paris to the cardinal of Como : " The duke of Guise and duke 
of Mayenne have told me that they have a plan for killing the queen 
of England by the hand of a catholic, though not one outwardly, who 
is near her person, and is ill affected towards her for having put to 
death some of his catholic relations. This man, it seems, sent word to 
the queen of Scotland, but she refused to attend to it. ... The duke 
asks for no assistance from our lord [the pope] in the affair. ... As 
to putting to death that wicked woman, I said to him, that I will not 


Armada appeared (doubtlessly rather than was) the 
result of the pope's appeal. The immediate effect 
of the bull was to widen the breach between 
England and the holy see. It was the devoted 
English catholics who felt all the weight of the 
papal bull, and saw with dismay a still trembling 
scale sent down with a violent impetus in a direc- 
tion contrary to catholicity. During this time of 
open rupture the one thought that was uppermost 
at Rome seems to have been to crush the queen. 

There was now no more talk of sending over 
bishops, and the flock was left to itself. Meanwhile 
" the old priests " were either leaving the country 
or were dying out. It was an Englishman who 
first came to the rescue of the unhappy catholics in 
England by starting the seminary at Douai in Flan- 
ders to provide priests for the English mission. 
William Allen, an exile himself, in 1568 invited 
some of the Oxford and Cambridge men scattered 
over France and Flanders to unite with him in 
forming a small establishment at Douai. Several 
came at his call, and a house was bought. The 
benedictine abbats of the neighbouring monasteries 
of Arras (St. Vedast), Marchienne, and Anchin, 
contributed generously to the undertaking, and 

write about it to our lord pope (nor do I), nor tell your most illus- 
trious lordship to inform him of it ; because, though I believe our lord 
the pope would be glad that God should punish in any way whatsoever 
that enemy of His, still it would be unfitting that His vicar should 
procure it by these means " (Knox's Historical Introduction to Letters 
and Memorials of William, Cardinal Allen, pp. 46, 47). 


helped to support the great number who flocked 
in as soon as the doors were opened. Soon there 
were 150 persons gathered at Douai under the 
presidency of Allen. But he had no fixed means of 
support for his new college. Pius V. had indeed 
applauded his work and encouraged him to go on : 
but it was not until 1575, in the third year of 
Gregory XIII., that any substantial help came from 
the holy see. In that year Allen determined to go 
to Eome to beg for assistance ; and the good abbats 
gave him strong letters of recommendation, in which 
the university of Douai joined. His journey was 
successful: and the pope, it is said at the special 
entreaty of Mercurianus, the general of the Jesuits, 
gave the college a moderate yearly allowance. The 
king of Spain, to whose dominion Douai then be- 
longed, also gave them an annual pension. 

A few years after, at the instigation of Owen 
Lewis, afterwards bishop of Cassano, the pope about 
1578 opened, near St. Peter's, a similar college 
in Rome, and placed it under the charge of Dr. 
Maurice Clenock, then warden of the old English 
hospital. In 1579 the two institutions were united. 
Two Italian Jesuit fathers were employed ; one as 
procurator, the other as prefect, to help on the new 
establishment. But after a year a rebellion broke 
out among the students. A strong party began to 
clamour for the expulsion of the president, and the 
introduction of Jesuits as superiors. Without going 
into the reasons which led up to this emeute, it will 


be sufficient to state that Dr. Maurice Clenock was 
removed ; and the direction of the college success- 
fully passed into the hands of the society under the 
headship of Fr. Alphonso Agazzari. 

We now come to consider a painful page in our 
history, a page which is however fraught with deep 
lessons. It was a bitter experience. We should 
have been tempted to pass it by ; but, as Fr. John 
Morris, S.J., says 

"At this distance of time, and after this happy 
lull in the controversy, we can afford to look at the 
whole dispute with greater impartiality, and not feel 
it necessary to say that all that was done on one 
side was right, and all that was done on the other 
was wrong." l 

Moreover, we think more harm than good is done 
by catholic writers who entirely pass over the matter, 
for the story is known outside the church. Surely 
it is wisdom to see that mistakes, and grave mistakes, 
too, have been made by good, zealous people. We 
profit by their failings. We also get a wider and 
truer view of life and history by looking these ques- 
tions full in the face ; and by ever remembering 
that men are men, and that human nature has to 
be taken into account in all things and at all times. 
Moreover, unless the real case in point be stated, 
history becomes unintelligible. And the lessons, 
which Providence has allowed, must be for our 
benefit, if we know how to use them : for Truth is 

1 See Dublin Review, April 1890, p. 255. 


always edifying in the true sense of the word. It 
is therefore necessary to sketch the events which 
lead up to the troubles and their subsequent 
history. We have no case to plead, but only a 
plain story to tell. And in the telling we shall 
follow the method Lingard professes in the preamble 
to his history 

" To admit no statement on trust ; to weigh with 
care the value of the authorities on which I rely ; 
and to watch with jealousy the secret workings of 
my own personal feelings and prepossessions." l 

At the very time Henry VIII. was engaged in his 
nefarious work of suppressing the monasteries, St. 
Ignatius Loyola, a Spaniard, was engaged in laying 
the foundation of his society. In 1537 he went, 
with five companions, before Paul III. for his bless- 
ing. The pope, three years after, gave his solemn 
approval of the new institute. Its members were 
at first restricted to sixty in number ; but such was 
their startling success, that, by 1608 the new men 
were already possessed of 293 colleges, 123 houses, 
and formed an army of 10,581 devoted men. 2 Started 
at a desperate emergency, they flung themselves into 
the breach, and changed a threatened disaster into 
victory. They took possession, so to say, of the 
catholic world. Universities, colleges, pulpits, and 
confessionals were peopled with the new religious. 

1 Preliminary notice to the History of England, ed. 1849, p. xxi. 

2 See also Kibadeneira's The Life of B. Father Ignatius, ed. 1616, 
pp. 327, 328. 


The fame of the great St. Francis Xavier, one of 
Ignatius' first companions, cast a glory upon them as 
missioners. In every department of learning, their 
men were acknowledged masters ; and the number of 
their admirers was enormous. They were, of set pur- 
pose, the apostles of the rich and influential. And 
this, besides giving them the disposal of boundless 
wealth, also initiated them into the secrets of courts, 
and made of them, whether they sought for it or not, 
a power to be reckoned with in the state. Their 
device, " All to the greater glory of God," if it was 
the secret of their brilliant success, was also un- 
doubtedly the cause of many difficulties. Some, who 
had not gained by their religious training that width 
of mind which makes the perfect religious, came to 
accept their own society as the one hope for the 
regeneration of a fallen world ; and their sole and 
solitary aim, the object of their lives, the end of 
each day's occupation, being the promotion of what 
they conceived to be the greater glory of God, this, 
they concluded, could not but be promoted by the 
advancement of their society. Taking a broad view 
of their action, this really seems to have been with 
them a practical, though perhaps not a reasoned con- 
viction. Unfortunately it was so in some of the more 
prominent of those who had secured the direction 
of English affairs. This, it seems, is a position war- 
ranted by facts, and is the only key to the situation. 
But looking at the matter calmly, is it any wonder 
if it were so? Success so complete, so sudden, so 


well-deserved and so brilliant, as that which befell 
the Jesuits, is rarely given to any body of men. Was 
it, then, we say, any wonder that some might have 
become intoxicated therewith, and carried away to 
the point of making a means an end? They cer- 
tainly had no warrant in their rule for their con- 
duct ; and one cannot help feeling that their 
superiors, in not checking the dabblers in politics, 
secular and spiritual, brought on in later years a 
heavy retribution. 

It was at this time, when the fame of the society 
was at its height, that, in reply to Allen's repeated 
request, the general of the Jesuits promised j to send 
some of his English subjects to help in the mission 
field which had already become one of death. 1 In 
the spring of 1580 the first two Jesuit missioners 
set out for England, and arrived in the June follow- 
ing. The two were Robert Parsons 2 and Edmund 
Campion. As these two were typical of the currents 

1 When Pole was restoring the church in England, the Jesuits 
suggested to him " that whereas the queen was restoring the goods of 
the church that were in her hands, there was but little purpose to raise 
up the old foundations ; for the benedictine order was become rather 
a clog than a help to the church : they therefore desired that those 
houses should be assigned to them for maintaining schools and semi- 
naries which they should set on quickly," &c. (Burnett, History of the 
Reformation, ed. Oxford, 1865, v l- ii. P- 5 2 ^- Taken from a Venetian 
manuscript.) St. Ignatius wrote a beautiful letter to Pole, January 24, 
1555, speaking of the desire he had of saving souls in this realm. See 
JEpist. Card. Poli., vol. v. p. 1 17 ; and More's Historia Provincice Anglicance 
/., p. ii. 

2 Kobert Persons or Parsons was born at Nether Stowey, near Bridge- 
water, in Somerset, in the year 1 546. He received his education from 
the vicar of the parish, who sent him to Oxford in 1564. Two years 


which then began to flow from the society we must 
sketch their characters, and do not believe we can 
do better than by quoting the masterly analysis given 
by the late Mr. R. Simpson in his Life of Campion. 
He says the protestants describe Parsons as the 
"lurking wolf," and Campion as "the wandering 
vagrant." And goes on 

" There was more truth in this colouring than in 
the subsequent notion which Camden promulgated, 
that Parsons was a violent and fierce-natured man, 
while Campion was of a sweet disposition and 
good breeding ; the first seditious, turbulent, and 
confident ; the other modest in all things except his 
challenge. 1 

"Campion, it seems to me, was the quick-tem- 
pered man, open, free, generous, hot, enthusiastic 
yet withal modest, gentle, and fair. Parsons more 
slow, subtle, cool, calculating, and capable of ex- 
later he entered Balliol College. He took his degree of M.A. in 1572, 
and became fellow of his college and then bursar and dean. He was 
also a noted tutor. He went abroad intending to become a physician ; 
but falling in with a Jesuit he became a catholic, and joined their order 
July 4, 1575. He was made rector of the English college in Rome 
1587, and again after his return from Spain. He died April 15, 1610. 
He was of middle size, swarthy complexion, strong featured, and of 
somewhat forbidding appearance. But he was agreeable in manners 
and had powers of conversation. His friends claim that his mind was 
penetrating, his judgment solid and well regulated, and that he was 
calm in consultation and patient under disappointments. He was a 
great reader, and a master of an emphatic style of controversy. 

1 This refers to a challenge Campion wrote offering to dispute with 
any one a certain number of priests. The paper was committed to the 
care of a friend, to be produced only under certain circumstances. 
But it was prematurely published. 


hibiting either violence or modesty as the occasion 
seemed to demand. If Campion had the wisdom, 
Parsons had the prudence. The first knew how to 
move, the other to guide ; one, if I may use offen- 
sive terms without offence, had the gifts which 
make an agitator ; and the other those that make 
a conspirator. The rules of the Jesuits, as I have 
shown above, linked together characters thus dis- 
similar in order that united they might act with 
more force and more completeness. And this would 
have been the case if their function had been all in 
common ; but though the men were linked together 
they had separate work to perform. As their in- 
structions directed them to use the lay members of 
the confraternity to prepare the preliminaries of 
conversion and then themselves to finish the work, 
so in this work of finishing there were different 
grades ; for it is one thing to be a thorough catholic, 
and it is something beyond to take part in the 
pope's intentions and desires, and to devote oneself 
to their furtherance and fulfilment. 1 The instruc- 
tions sufficient to make a man a catholic are not 
sufficient to make him an ultramontane. Campion 
thought that all was done when he had reconciled 
his convert to the catholic church, and taught him 
the faith and made him partaker of the sacraments. 
Parsons looked further ; he desired and laboured for 
the conversion of England, and he thought nothing 

1 Mr. Simpson is to be understood, of course, as referring to the papal 
secular policy. 


could effect this but the overthrow of Elizabeth ; 
therefore his aim was the organisation of a party on 
which he could rely when the pope gave the signal 
for the attack. But there was no reason for him to 
blab of this design. The seed sown would, he 
thought, grow all the stronger for not being pre- 
maturely forced. It thus happened that there was 
not always perfect community between the Jesuit 
missionaries ; a polarity began to declare itself, as 
it afterwards did in the society at large, sending off 
those like Campion to fight under the banner of 
St. Francis Xavier against heathenism, whilst it 
retained those like Parsons in Europe to direct the 
consciences of princes, and to influence the councils 
of state." 1 

When they arrived in England, 2 there were already 
here some four-score seminary priests who had been 
trained either in Rome or Douai, besides a number 
of the old Marian clergy. These latter knew but 
too well the position of the country ; they had ac- 
quired that knowledge in a bitter school. The 
enthusiasm of youth was passed ; and they were 
contented for the most part, perhaps, at this time 
of day, too well contented, to regard things as they 
were, not as they would have wished them to be. 
Hence they looked rather askance at the new ways 

1 R Simpson, Edmund Campion (1896), pp. 275, 276. 

2 Parsons landed at Dover on June n, 1580, disguised "in a 
captain's uniform of buff trimmed with gold lace, with hat and feathers 
to match." Campion followed on the 25th, and passed himself off 
as a merchant of jewels. The disguises were characteristic of the men. 


and new ideas of these men who were flocking into 
England from the seminaries ; and above all upon 
the Jesuits, who from their very founder were de- 
voted to the Spanish policy. It was feared, more- 
over, that these two men would introduce a politi- 
cal influence under the guise of religion. How 
well in this the "old priests" forecasted the event, 
history tells. 

When Parsons and Campion arrived in London, 
July 1580, they were met by certain representatives 
of the secular clergy who told them plainly their 
fears. Parsons assured them they had no political 
object in view; that they came only "to treat of 
religion in truth and simplicity, and to attend to the 
gaining of souls without any pretence or knowledge 
of matters of state." * The general had given them 
special instructions, and directly forbidden them 
even to discuss such matters. Parsons told them 
this, and said 

" Not that we would have meddled in these matters 
if it had not been forbidden us ; but we wish that by 
making public the general's charge we may prevent 
all who are informed of it from starting such dis- 
courses in future." 2 

1 Edmund Campion, p. 183. 

2 " Those instructions, says Fr. Morris, S. J., were intended to be 
strictly secret, and they were not kept secret. They were meant to be 
obeyed, and Father Parsons at first, and blessed Edmund Campion to 
the end of his short career, obeyed them. It would have been good for 
religion if Fr. Parsons had continued to obey them, and his superiors 
to enforce them. But for a time he was busily engaged in Spain acting 
in the very teeth of them" (Dublin Review, April 1890, p. 251). 


The fears of the secular clergy were allayed and the 
Jesuits made very welcome as helpers in the mission 
field. But soon Parsons threw obedience to the 
winds and began political intrigues. He could not 
resist it. His mind was filled with the vision of the 
regaining of England by force of arms, and he felt 
he must prepare the way for that. The Armada was 
talked about abroad as a certainty ; * the ground 
must be prepared here. With all the energy of his 
impetuous nature he adopted, solely, we think, from 
the conviction that he was thereby advancing God's 
greater glory, the dangerous r61e of a conspirator in 
the hope of helping on the restoration of England 
to the holy see or of dying a martyr in the cause. 
But he had misjudged his means. Within a year 
Campion, the brave and chivalrous missioner, was 
the martyr. And Parsons fled away, in prudence 

1 It is instructive to find Parsons, while engaged in the tangles of 
politics, being himself duped by those he served. Philip II. wrote thus 
on February n, 1587, to Count Olivares : "You will maintain Allen 
and Kobert (Parsons) in faith and hopefulness that the recovery of 
their country will really be attempted in order that they may the more 
zealously and earnestly employ the good offices which may be expedient 
with the pope ; but let it be in such a way that they do not think the 
affair is so near at hand as that it will make them expansive in com- 
municating it to others of their nation for their comfort and consola- 
tion, and so cause it to become public, for this is the way in which 
during these past years many things which were well begun for the 
benefit of that kingdom have come to nought. Go on, then, counter- 
balancing and drawing profit from them ; and in everything do as you 
are accustomed with just prudence and dexterity according to what 
the affair requires ; and I confide it to you, and you will inform me of 
what is done." See Knox's Introduction to Letters and Memorials of 
William, Cardinal Allen, p. Ixxxvi. 


it has been called, to the continent, never again to 
put his neck in jeopardy on English soil. 

Father Parsons could never more resist the attrac- 
tion of politics. His life henceforth was devoted 
to intrigue. Restless and untiring, he wandered 
up and down the continent exerting directly or 
indirectly, for the one end in view, all his vast 
powers of organisation and leadership. He obtained 
the foundation of seminaries for secular priests, 
which he placed under the direction of the fathers 
of the society, at Valladolid (1589), Lisbon, and 
Seville (1592); and also founded a college for lay 
youths at St. Omers (1594). With his influence at 
the Spanish court, whose interests he was always 
labouring to advance, he got pensions for these 
houses. He collected alms from the nobility for 
the same purpose, and also for helping the English 
exiles. This command over money gave him great 
power and influence with his countrymen abroad; 
and his words came to be looked upon as so many 
oracles. He wrote treatises, political and spiritual ; 
he was the adviser upon English affairs at Rome, 
especially after the death of cardinal Allen (1594); 
and in fact his opinion seemed to be at one time all 
powerful. Everything was done through him and 
according to his views. It is extraordinary to think 
of the wonderful influence one man could exert 
over superiors, and that he, a religious, not a states- 
man, should as irresponsible be allowed to hold 
the threads of a hundred affairs in his own hands. 
VOL. I. Q 


What were the results as we see them ? His in- 
trigues were failures ; the monopoly he laboured at 
such cost to create was destroyed ; and he did more 
than any other man to create an ill feeling among 
Englishmen towards his order. Blackwell, who 
afterwards became the first arch-priest, lamented 
his coming into England, saying : 

" The President of Rheims l played a very indis- 
creet part to send him hither, as being an unfit man 
to be employed in the cause of religions." His 
political ventures, and the way in which he proposed 
first one and then another as successor to the Eng- 
lish throne, could not but excite the amusement of 
the Romans. Pasquino tells Marforio, " If there will 
be any man that will buy the kingdom of England 
let him repair to a merchant in a black square cap 
in the city, and he shall have a very good penny- 
worth thereof." It was well enough for the Romans 
to laugh at Parsons' schemes and projections. But 
in England our forefathers had to suffer for them. 

His plan, which seems to have developed into 
a fixed and orderly purpose, was that his society 
should have the glory of regaining England to the 
faith. He, without doubt, honestly believed that 

1 Allen had been obliged to remove his college from Douai in 1578 
to Rheims, on account of reports adverse to his loyalty to Spain, which 
were found afterwards to have been spread by the emissaries of queen 
Elizabeth. The college remained at Rheims till 1599, when it returned 
to Douai. 

2 A Sparing Discoverie, by W. W., 1601, p. 45. Dr. Ely, in his 
Certaine Brief e Notes, mentions the same opinion of Blackwell. 


the Jesuits could do so, and also that they alone 
could do so. For that end, accordingly, he was 
convinced that they must have full control over all 
ecclesiastical affairs in this country. He impressed 
this upon his men, and there were some who openly 
avowed it. More does not hesitate to write : 

" Perhaps even these missions might with greater 
propriety and greater convenience (let not the ex- 
pression offend) be entrusted to members of our 
society than to other men." 

Parsons, in the plan he drew up for the reorgani- 
sation of the English Church which was hoped for 
upon the success of the Armada, takes measures to 
exclude from England all who would interfere with 
the monopoly he was so carefully planning for the 
greater glory of God as he understood it. The 
benedictines, it was true, were the old apostles of 
England ; the Jesuits, under his guidance, should 
now have the glory of recovering the land to the 
Faith. 2 When in 1596-7 the students of the Eng- 
lish secular college at Eome were petitioning the 
pope to remove the Jesuits from the control over 
the house, he hurried to the Eternal City and 
" undertook to oppose the prayer and to assign the 
reasons for its rejection. The society, he assured 
the pontiff, was essential to the existence of religion 

1 Historia Provincice Anglicanw Societatis Jesu collectore Henrico Moro 
(1660), p. 152. 

2 See Memorial for the Reformation of England, by E. P., 1596, Part I. 
-chaps, vi., viii. 


in the country. To the laity its members were 
necessary, to counsel, to strengthen, and to protect 
them ; to the clergy to support, to correct, and to 
restrain them. Already the latter, by their vices 
and their apostacy, had become objects of aversion 1 
or of distrust to the catholics. Were the fathers 
to be removed, the people would be left without 
advisers, the clergy without guides ; the salt would 
be taken from the earth, and the sun would be 
blotted from the hearers of the English Church." 2 

With such assumptions it was not likely that 
peace could long be kept in England, where 
we must now return to the coming of the Jesuit 
missionaries in 1580. The great question which 
was agitating the consciences of catholics, was 
how far the excommunication of Pius V. bound 
them. Left to themselves, a certain sense of most 
told them not at all ; but some were scrupulous 
about it. Parsons and Campion brought with them 
some instructions from the pope (Gregory XIII.) 
on the subject. Catholics were to be told "that 

1 Father J. Morris, S.J., thus writes about Parsons' abusive language : 
"It is to be profoundly regretted that Father Parsons should have 
allowed himself to make such terrible accusations against the personal 
character of his opponents. . . . Still, considering all that can be alleged 
in excuse, the language used by him is, if I may be allowed to judge 
so great a man, absolutely indefensible. It seems to have been im- 
politic likewise. . . . But on this point of hard, uncharitable language 
I for one cannot be the defender of Father Parsons, and indeed I look 
upon it with the deepest regret and concern " (Dublin Review, April 
1890, p. 253). 

2 Tierney's edition of Dodds' History of the Church in England, vol. lii. 
p. 45, note. 


the bull of Pius Quintus should always oblige the 
queen and heretics, and should by no means bind 
catholics as matters stood; but thereafter bind 
them when some public execution might be had 
on the matter." In other words, according to this 
theory, catholics were to be loyal as long as they 
could not help it. The knowledge of this instruc- 
tion goes far to discount the professions of loyalty 
so many of them made then and afterwards. 1 

When Campion was taken and Parsons fled, there 
were in England but two more Jesuits, Frs. Holt 
and Haywood, who came over in the summer of 
1581. Fr. Haywood was taken prisoner, and Fr. 
Holt went to Scotland on a political mission. Soon 
two others came ; but a long time the Jesuits were 
only a handful. Fr. Gerard says : 

" On my arrival in London (1588), by the help of 
certain catholics I discovered Fr. Henry Garnet, who 
was then superior. Besides him, the only ones of 
our society then in England were Fr. Edmund 
Weston, confined in Wisbeach, Fr. Eobert South- 
well, and we two new comers " 2 (Frs. Oldcorne and 

1 Father Gerard in his autobiography speaks of his examination at 
the Guildhall, and says : " They asked me then whether I acknow- 
ledged the queen as the true governor and queen of England. I 
answered : ' I do acknowledge her as such.' c What,' said Topcliffe, 
1 in spite of Pius V.'s excommunication 1 ' I answered : ' I acknow- 
ledge her as our queen notwithstanding I know there is such 
excommunication.' The fact was, I knew that the operation of that 
excommunication had been suspended for all England by a declara- 
tion of the Pontiff till such time as its execution became possible " 
(Quarterly Series, p. 118). 2 Ibid. p. 21. 


Gerard). Three years after the Jesuits only numbered 
nine or ten. But they were a united, determined 
body with a superior of their own, and thus were 
able to work in unison. The secular clergy, on the 
other hand, were still left without bishops or superior. 
Before the arrival of Fr. Gerard, however, the 
troubles had begun. And they came about in this 
way. At Wisbeach Castle in the year 1587 were 
confined thirty-three prisoners for conscience' sake, 
many of whom were old priests of tried virtue and 
learning, and among whom was an old monk of 
Westminster, D. Sigebert Buckley. The others were 
seminarists either from Eome or Douai, many of 
whom, be it remembered, were educated, directly or 
indirectly, under the influence of the society. 1 Fr. 
Weston, the Jesuit, was one of the prisoners. He was 
not content with letting things be as he found them. 
It seemed to him that it would be highly advantageous 
if the prisoners were reduced to the regularity of the 
life to which he had been accustomed. 

1 To understand the situation we will quote from Tierney's remarks : 
" Originally introduced as the assistants, the Jesuits, with the advantage 
of a resident superior, had gradually become the most influential 
members of the English mission. They possessed more extensive 
faculties than the clergy. They were attached to the principal families, 
were consulted by the catholics in their principal difficulties, and were 
the medium through which the funds for the maintenance of the clergy 
and the poor were chiefly administered. The younger missioners, 
educated in the colleges of the fathers, and still looking to them for 
support, naturally placed themselves under their guidance. The elder 
clergy, on the other hand, superseded in their authority and deprived 
in great measure of their influence, regarded the members of the society 
in the light of rivals. . . . Human nature on both sides yielded to 
the impulse (vol. iii. p. 43, note). 


His first step was to get his confessor, a secular 
priest, elected as superior of the prisoners. This 
plan was negatived. Other proposals of a like 
nature were made ; but were invariably rejected. 
This went on for seven years ; until at last Weston, 
having arranged the plan with his adherents, 
suddenly withdrew from the common table. His 
absence being remarked, he was questioned as to the 
reason, and promptly declared that unless his com- 
panions submitted to a regular mode of life, his 
conscience would not allow him any more to join 
their society. He had a following of nineteen, one 
of whom was a Jesuit lay-brother. It is not necessary 
here to follow the details of a story on which at 
present we can only look back with shame and 
humiliation. The scandal went on for months, and 
its effects were felt far beyond the prison walls. 
Remote as was the stage on which this unhappy 
drama was enacted, and petty as were the actors, 
the stir such schisms created in fact, was natural. 
For it was inevitably felt that here first came into 
evidence the forces which had been long, though 
secretly, in conflict ; and, nay, in this quarrel, obscure 
and sordid in some aspects, principles were, in the 
last resort, involved which were of the widest range 
and of the deepest import to both church and state. 
The suffering English catholics were now divided 
into two factions : those who through thick and thin 
favoured the Jesuits, or in other words Parsons' 
schemes ; and those who opposed them just as vehe- 


mently. Many attempts were made during nine 
months by some of the most reverend of the " old 
clergy " to heal the breach at Wisbeach. After many 
efforts difficulties were overcome, a new code of rules 
was drawn up, and on November 6, 1597, the two 
parties met again at the common table. 

It was a fallacious peace, however; for already 
steps were being taken by Fr. Parsons in Rome 
to complete the subjugation of the secular clergy. 
These latter, feeling the want of some head, were 
beginning to take steps towards forming themselves 
into an association for mutual help. 1 This alarmed 
the Jesuits. The necessity of some form of govern- 
ment was apparent, but Parsons now knew that 
the revival of government by bishops would be fatal 
to his schemes in regard to the clergy, and would 
interfere with his political views. And, upon Allen's 
death (1594), Parsons, having got into his place, 
was practically the sole director of English ecclesi- 
astical affairs. 

Attempts after the Armada had been made to 
get the succession of bishops kept up ; but hitherto 
without avail. Several petitions went up for at 
least an episcopal superior to rule and confirm the 
stricken flock. Parsons at one time (1580), when 

1 See Colleton's Just Defence, pp. 123-5. In the preface to the rules, 
they declared, " for our parts, we wish and intend no other thing hereby, 
but God's honour, the furtherance of His church's cause, with perfect 
unity and concord amongst ourselves by the mutual offices of love, 
comfort, and succour, one towards another " (Quoted by Tierney, vol. 
iii. p. 45, note). 


he first came to England, and before politics wholly 
carried him away, was an advocate for sending over 
a bishop. In 1591 he still held to the idea, and 
had fashioned a kind of hierarchy of his own. 1 He 
had secured the promises of a competent support for 
two or three bishops. But when the news of the 
proposed association reached him, at once he saw 
the danger, and determined on a bold stroke. To 
give the clergy a superior, yes ; and one not merely 
friendly to the society, but in dependence on it. 
The scheme took some little time to mature, and 
at last burst upon the astonished clergy, filling them 
with dismay. Cardinal Cajetan, who only saw as 
Parsons wished him to see, was then protector of 
the English mission. After some kind of approval 
(so it turned out afterwards) on the part of the pope, 
Clement VIII. , who had been kept by Parsons in 
ignorance of the real state of affairs, the cardinal, 
in his own name and by his own authority, issued 
letters appointing one George Blackwell to be arch- 
priest, with full jurisdiction over all the secular 
clergy. He assigns him six persons as assistants, 
and tells him to select six more. This document, 
constituting an office unheard of before in England, 
ends by exhorting him to cherish a feeling of 
brotherly love towards the Jesuits, " who neither 
have nor pretend to have any portion of jurisdic- 

1 His idea was an archbishop to live in the Spanish domains and 
one bishop to live in England. The latter was to have certain assist- 
ants, half of whom Parsons practically was to nominate. 


tion or authority over the secular clergy." And 
effectually to contradict this last official statement, 
a secret instruction was sent with the letter ordering 
the arch-priest in all matters of importance to follow 
the advice of the superior of the Jesuits. 1 

To make a painful story short. The heads of the 
secular clergy demurred to the legality of the docu- 
ment ; and, while giving obedience to Blackwell, 
appealed to the holy see. They had not been con- 
sulted, although the cardinal hinted the appoint- 
ment 2 had been made at the prayer of the secular 
clergy. Two priests, Mr. Bishop (who afterwards 
became a bishop) and Mr. Charnock, were deputed 
to go to Kome, and set out. But care had been 
taken to traduce their characters and to represent 
them as turbulent and seditious men. Soon after 
their arrival, at Parsons' advice, they were both seized 
(December 28, 1598), by the cardinal's orders, and 
put into prison apart at the English college. Their 
gaoler was none other than Parsons himself. 3 Here 

1 The arch-priest and his assistants were bound to write to the 
cardinal every six months, but every week to Parsons. 

2 The persons consulted were Parsons and Baldwin, Jesuits, with 
Haddock, Array, and Standish, who soon after joined the society, and 
some other secular priests at Rome, avowed partisans of the society, 
whose opinions were supported by letters from their friends not only 
in England but also Spain and Flanders. 

3 How this arbitrary act was viewed in England Dr. Ely, author of 
the Certaine Briefe Notes, shall tell us, and his words are of weight, for 
he may justly lay claim to the title he gives himself, " an unpassionate 
secular priest, friend to both parties but more friend to the truth " : 
" Cloak and disguise it so well as you can now, the posterity here- 
after will wonder to hear or read that two catholic priests, coming 


they were kept in prison for four months, and then, 
after a so-called trial, under Parsons' management, 
they were expelled from Rome without having even 
seen the pope, and were forbidden to return to 

" It is evident," says Tierney, " that these proceed- 
ings were adopted principally, first entirely, as a 
matter of precaution. A great political object was 
in view. Had Bishop and his companion been 
permitted to approach the pontiff or to converse 
freely with his officers, a new impression might 
have been created as to the wants and wishes of 
the English catholics ; and, in that case, the in- 
stitutions of the arch-priest, which in the minds of 
its projectors was to determine the future destinies 
of the throne, might have been overturned. By 
first sequestering and afterwards dismissing the 
deputes this danger was avoided. The pontiff 
heard nothing but what might be prudent to lay 
before him, his impressions were left undisturbed ; 
and he willingly subscribed the breve by which 
Blackwell's authority was confirmed." 1 

as appellants to Eome out of an heretical country in which they main- 
tained constantly with danger of their lives the honour and preserva- 
tion of that see, and one of them had suffered some years' imprisonment 
with banishment afterwards for the articles of St. Peter his successor's 
supremacy over all other princes and prelates, that these priests (I say) 
should before they were heard what they had to say be cast into prison, 
yea, and imprisoned in the house and under the custody of their 
adversaries, never was there heard of such injustice since good St. Peter 
sat in the Chair" (p. 107). 
1 Vol. iii. p. 53. 


The arch-priest denounced all opposers to his 
authority as rebels and abettors of schism, and 
branded the supporters of the two priests with 
opprobrious epithets. When two of the clergy, 
Mush and Colleton, complained of his injurious 
language, they were answered only by suspension. 
His Jesuit friends were not behind-hand ; Fr. Lister 
wrote a Treatise of Schism in which he declared 
the appellants to be "fallen from the church and 
spouse of Christ," &c. How bitter the feelings ex- 
cited on both sides it would be hard to tell. 

When the breve arrived, the appellants promptly 
bowed to the decision. But this was not enough 
for the arch-priest, who now made his great mistake. 
He insisted upon a declaration that they had been 
guilty of schism in disputing his right. The result 
of this was another appeal to the holy see. But this 
time the secular clergy were determined to bear the 
winning side. The Government knew everything 
about these dissensions. The face of affairs had 
changed from that of twenty years before ; and at that 
time of day nothing could better suit Elizabeth than 
the ruinous tactics pursued by Parsons. Elizabeth 
had watched the progress of the quarrel ; f ' she was 
aware of its political origin, and while on one hand, 
perhaps, she sought to weaken the body by division, 
on the other, she not unnaturally inclined towards 
that party whose loyalty was less open to suspicion." ' 
Some of the appellants were allowed to be prisoners 

i ibid. 


at large, in order to correspond with one another. 
Facilities were given them to print the numberless 
tracts and pamphlets to which the controversy gave 
rise. About the end of June 1601 Bluet, one of the 
Wisbeach prisoners, had an interview with the queen 
herself. She consented to allow four of them to be 
released and go about the country getting money for 
their journey to Rome. They were then pro forma 
expelled the country, with passports however; and 
went off to Rome with nearly ^1000 for their ex- 
penses. Just as they were starting a breve came 
from Rome, which Blackwell suppressed as unfavour- 
able to himself. 

The deputies reached Rome February 16, 1601, 
and were kindly received by the pope. They were, 
however, shy of Parsons' offer of hospitality at the 
English college, and of his desire to be on friendly 
terms. They wisely kept their distance. The 
petition for bishops was indeed foiled by their ad- 
versaries, but all the rest was granted. On the 
5th of October another breve was issued, condemn- 
ing the conduct of the arch-priest, and doing justice 
to the appellants. Blackwell was declared to have 
exceeded his powers, and the appellants not to have 
lost their faculties. The arch-priest was to have 
jurisdiction only over the seminarists, and in future 
he was forbidden to communicate either with the 
superior of the Jesuits or their general in Rome. He 
was finally ordered to take three of the appellants to 
fill the first vacancies in the number of his assistants. 


Tierney so well sums up the history that we 
willingly make his words our own : 

" Thus terminated this unhappy contest, leaving 
behind it, however, a rankling feeling of jealousy 
and dislike which cannot be too deeply or too last- 
ingly deplored. Yet in closing this imperfect sketch, 
let me not forget to remind the reader of the real 
nature of the dispute ; let me point once more to 
its political origin ; and, above all, let me remark 
that however reprehensible may have been the 
conduct of any of the parties immediately engaged 
in it, that conduct of itself will neither detract 
from their real merit upon other occasions, nor 
diminish our legitimate respect for the bodies to 
which they belonged. To the services of Parsons, 
to his comprehensive mind and indefatigable energy 
in the foundation and management of many of 
the foreign seminaries, the world will continue to 
bear witness in spite of all his failings. Yet his 
existence was not necessary to the greatness of 
his order. Its glory needs him not, and without 
detracting either from his merits or his powers, 
the disciples of Ignatius may still assure them- 
selves that their body 'hath many a worthier son 
than he/" 1 

We have in this chapter led our readers up to 
the point when the benedictines come upon the 
mission field. It was necessary to touch upon un- 
pleasant details, otherwise much of what follows 

1 Ibid. p. 55. 


would be unintelligible. The position in English 
affairs at the moment we have now arrived at, the 
beginning of the seventeenth century, was this. The 
Jesuits had full control over the education of the 
clergy in all the seminaries, even in Douai ; for the 
new president of that college, Dr. Worthington, had 
made a vow of obedience to Fr. Parsons and was 
wholly devoted to him. No student from the semi- 
naries could enter England without their leave ; for 
he got his faculties for the mission from them or from 
Dr. Worthington. And in England itself the arch- 
priest, though checked, was still working in their 
interest. 1 

In all this there was no other motive but the 
honest and fixed conviction that they, and they alone, 
were the best persons to undertake the conversion 
of England, a work so much to the glory of God. 
Granting this premise, the conclusion therefore 
no one else was to be permitted to interfere was 

So matters stood at the moment we once more 
take up the thread of the history of English bene- 

1 Before the appointment of the arch-priest, Garnet, who had very 
extensive faculties, a source of considerable influence, had also the 
power of subdelegating them to secular priests. But now all faculties 
for secular priests were ordered to be given only by the arch-priest. 
In a letter to Parsons Garnet laments this, for says he : " By this also 
have I lost the chiefest means I had to win the favour of good honest 


VOL. I. 



[THE following rtsumt of the old consuetudinary of the 
great exempt house of St. Augustine's, contained in the 
Cotton MS. Faustina C. xii., is of peculiar interest as being 
mutatis mutandis identical with that of Westminster, the 
largest part of which was lost in the fire of 1731. The 
present manuscript is of the early part of the fourteenth 
century, and now consists of 202 folios with 35 lines on each 
page. Unfortunately both the beginning and the end are 
wanting, and it now commences with folio 51. Several 
leaves in the body of the volume are also missing. From 
certain marginal memoranda it would seem that in its 
original state the volume comprised about 300 leaves. The 
consuetudinary proper extends only to folio 257 of the 
original. The remainder of the MS. not being a part of the 
Augustinian consuetudinary, is not treated of in this notice. 
The contents of the book are not orderly in its arrangement, 
as will be seen from the list of contents, which it must be 
understood is that given on the basis of the original in the 
volumes of manuscript collection used by me (see preface) 
and which does not always render in full the headings of 
the sections as given in the rubrics of the orginal manu- 
script itself. Hence in the abstract 1 here given it has been 

1 The primeur of the text of the manuscript is thus reserved to the 
edition of abbat Ware's Westminster consuetudinary to be published by 
the Henry Bradshaw Society. 



thought well to regroup them under certain distinctive 
heads. The picture obtained of the life at Canterbury in 
St. Augustine's is that of a fervent, well ordered, and ex- 
emplary convent. E. L. T.] 


De hospite petente concessionem capituli ; 


Concessio capituli ; 

De professions novitiorum ; 

Forma professionis ; 

Super Jube dompne benedicere et Tu autem Domine notitia ; 

Informatio novitiorum secundum usum istius ecclesiaz. 

De vacatione abbati& per mortem abbatis Thomas, de Fyndon 

et de electione fratris Radulphi de Bourne in abbatem ; 
Litera obligatoria Guydonis Donati de praestanda pecunia pro- 

curatoribus monasterii in Curia Romana existentibus. 
Mensura diversorum xdifidorum monasterii. 
De ponderibus notula. 
Reformatiuncula abbatis Nicholai de Spina anno ejusdem. 

2 facta. 

De electione abbatis. 
De observantiis abbatis. 
De capellanis abbatis. 
De officio camerarii abbatis. 
De officio senescalli aul&. 
De officiis marscalli aulx. 
De officio servitoris cultelli abbatis. 
De officio servitoris manutergii abbatis. 
De officio panetarii abbatis. 
De ojficio marscalli equorum. 
De officio cod abbatis. 
De officio valecti camera abbatis. 
De officio subpincern& abbatis. 
De officio subhostiarii aul& abbatis. 
De officio cod aulae, et valecti ejus. 


De nuntio abbatis. 

De palefridario abbatis. 

De officio servientis elemosinarix mensx abbatis deputati. 

De honestate aulx. 

Oblationes per obedientiarios familix abbatis tribuendse. 

Modus dandi muner a families, abbatis quando vaditper maneria. 

Ordinatio familiae abbatis anno 2 abbatis Nicholai de Spina. 

De Us qux ad abbatis pr&sentiam et officium spectant ; atque 

defratre in abbatem electo qualiter se geret electionis tempore. 
Qualiter se geret usque dum confirmetur. 
De confirmations electi alibi quam in monasterio proprio. 
Ad installationem abbatis processus. 
De benedictione abbatis non admittenda in conventu eo die quo 

De priore. 
Item de abbate. 
De officio prioris sen pr&positi. 
De subpriore sive de priore claustri. 
Quas licentias subprior dare poterit priore domi existente. 
A quo petenda est licentia si custos ordinis in claustro non 

Explicatio brevis de fratribus xgritudinis causa extra chorwn 

existentibus atque de minutis. 

De tertio et quarto priore sive de exploratoribus claustri. 
De officio cantoris et succentoris. 
Quodjuvenes qui noviter servitium reddiderunt nullum defectum 

in choro patiantur. 
De officio precentoris in capitulo. 
De cappis in choro portandis. 

Quod nullus in cappa a choro recedat sine licentia precentoris. 
Tria de quibus omnibus professis licitum est loqui in capitulo. 
Prsecentori in multis parcendum est. 
De gestu prxcentoris in festis solemnibus. 
De succentoris officio. 
De officiis sacristss sociorumque ejus. 
De candelis hospitibus liberandis. 
Distributio ceres per sacristam facia contra purificationem. 


De luminaribus, daustro, capitulo, dormitorio, et locutorio 


De officio celerarii et subcelerario et granatoris. 
Qualis debet esse celerarius. 
De Us qux ad hostiliarii spectant officium. 
De magistro cryptarum. 
Recapitulatio de officiariis. 
Casus tangentes excommunicationem. 
Definitio proprietarii. 
Pr&cepta capituli et constitutionum. 
De Refectorario socioque ejus et de observantiis refectorii. 
De gesta fratrum in dormitorio atque in camera ; de earner ario 

et socio ejus ; de more fratrum antiquo balneandi et sangui- 

nem sibi minuendi. 
De gestu fratrum in daustro ; de mandate ; de elemosinario et 


De capitulo fratrum quotidiano. 
De excommunicatione et satisfactione culpx levis. 
Modus acrior aliquantulum de excommunicatione et satisfac- 
tione culparum. 
De generali confessione a fratre qui ad laternam ponitur 


Alius modus excommunicationis pro rebellione. 
De sententia grams culpse. 
De sententia et satisfactione fugitivorum. 
Qux sunt culpae graviores. 
Quse leviores. 
De sacerdote sive clerico sxculari postulante ut in hoc monasterio 


Quod novitius nonprofessus de infirmaria etc nihil est habiturus. 
Quo ordine est agenda professio monachorum. 
Quo ordine suscipiuntur laid conversi juxta consuetudinem 

istius monasterii. 
De disciplina fratrum laicorum. 

De negligentiis fortuitu ad missse. consecrationem contingentibus. 
De concessione benejicii hujus monasterii alterius congregationis 



De concessions fraternitatis personis sxcularibus et quid speci- 

aliterfiat audito obitu eorum vel obitu parentum eorum. 
De fratribus esgritudinis causa extra chorum ; et de minutione. 
Quod die tertia redire debent minuti vel ulterius morari licen- 

tiam postulare. 
Nulli raucedinis causa extra chorum morandi licentiam con- 


De fratre qui medicinatur. 
De fratre qui inungitur. 
Regula de claustralibus infirmis. 
De ordinato fratrum ingressu in chorum. 
De gestu fratrum qui extra chorum fuerint in vigiliis festi 

Quod fratres ad chorum reversi ad omnes horas eo die esse 


De gestu fratrum eodem die. 
De minutione fratrum claustralium. 
Tempora quibus fratres minui non debent. 
De petenda licentia minuendi. 
Quod ires collaterals simul minuere non debent. 
De minutione fratrum in infirmario jacentium. 
De minutione fratrum in quadragesima. 
De minutione laicorum conversorum. 
De minutione novitiorum minime professorum. 
De gestu fratrum prima die minutionis. 
De minutione unius fratris necessitate cogente. 
Quod minuti et qui segritudinis causa extra chorum existunt 

processionibus solemnibus interesse debent. 
De gestu fratrum ad mandatum in capitulo si fiat prima die 


Quod stando dicetur completorium de Dei Genitrice. 
Quod unusquisque fratrum quotidie primam et completorium de 

B. V. dicere debet. 

De crasseto quod in locutorio intrinseco ardere debet. 
A quibus dicendx private matutinx. 
De minutione domni abbatis. 
De minutione juvenum sive novitiorum. 


Quod f retires minuti chorum intrare debent ad exorcismum salis et 

aqux si secunda dies suse minutionis dies dominica fuerit. 
Quod fratres minuti extra chorum existentes ad missam matu- 

tinalem sen ad magnam missam indui non debent nisi ante 

missam agatur processio. 
Quod fratres minuti aut qui xgritudinis causa extra chorum 

existunt missam cantare non debeant. 
Quod nullus minuetur die quo alicujus fratris defuncti corpus 

in ecclesia jacet. 
Quod nullus locutorium causa loquendi, ingredi debet die quo 

alicujus fratris defuncti corpus in ecclesia jacet. 
Quod fratres minuti et de itinere reversi ad vigiliam et ad 

missam de principali anniversario esse teneantur. 
Quod cantor aut alii fratres, cum sanguinati fuerint, mdlum 

officium in conventu facient. 
De refectorario et subrefectorario sive aliis duobus qui in 

una administratione conjunguntur, quod simul minuere non 


Quod nullus causa raucedinis extra chorum permittatur. 
De cantore. 

De gestu minutorum tertia die su& minutionis. 
De fratre cui domus infirmorum cura committitur et de Us 

quse illius incumbunt officio. 

Quod infirmarius quotidie dicet completorium inftrmorum. 
Quod sdsculares persona inter inftrmos prandere nee bibere 

Quod prxdicti famuli (sc. infirmarias) aut unus eorum apud Can- 

tuariampro apotecharia quotiens opus fuerit incedere debent. 
Quod omnes infirmi si fieri potest ad unam mensam prandere 

Quod magnum altare infirmaries nullo die per annum sine 

missa et matutinis esse debet. 
De modo et ordine visitandi fratrem infirmum quando debet 

Quod si infirmus loqui non valet ille qui officium facit in 

persona illius dicet confessionem. 


Quo ordine sacerdos quxret Eukaristiam post fratris inunc- 

Quo ordine jiet obsequium pro fratre inuncto in conventu usque 

in octavum diem. 

Quod aliquis sacerdos dejuvenibus vel ad minus diaconus, custo- 
dian fratris inuncti per priorem assignabitur quemcunque 

infirmus rogaverit. 
De commendatione animse, exeuntis de corpore atque de c&teris 

omnibus seriatim guse, ad decedentium fratrum spectant 

Quod corpus defuncti nulla liora sine fratribus psallentibus 

De honestate et cura quas camerarius et subcamerarius circa 

corpus defuncti habebunt. 
Quid sit faciendum si aliquis de fratribus obierit dum modo 

conventus fuerit ad missas vel ad horas vel in pr audio vel in 

cena vel in completorio vel ad matutinas vel ad mandatum 

in sabbato vel alioquovis modo impeditus. 
Qualiter jiet si aliquis obierit dum fratres ad missam vel ad 

horam fuerint regular em. 

Quod si obierit dum fratres fuerint ad matutinas. 
Quod si liora prandii aliquis moriatur. 
Quod si obierit post quam sonatur cymbalum ad prandium 

aut ad ctenam conventus vel dum jit mandatum in sabbato 

aut in V. feria. 

Quod si obierit dum conventus sit in dormitorio in meridiana. 
Quod si accederit incsepto completorio. 
Qualiter jiet si in principali festo decesserit. 
De vigiliis faciendis in decessu fratrum. 
De vigiliis in obitu fratrum secundum diversa anni tempora 

rite distinguendis. 
Si aliquis frater obierit post sonitum manefactum quod missam 

habebit matutinalem. 

Consuetudo antiquitus de fratrum sepultura. 
Quo ordine portabitur corpus in ecclesiam et ad sepulturam. 
Qualiter Jiet si aliquis obierit in node Paschx vel Pentecostes. 
De beneficiis fratrum qu& fiunt post obitum alicujus fratris. 


Quod sit faciendum postquam corpus fuerit in ecclesiam de- 

latum post commendationem. 

Quod corpus defuncti nullo tempore sine psalmodia erit. 
Quod nullus a monasterio egredietur donee fratris defuncti 

corpus sepeliatur. 

Breviculum fratris qualiter scribi debeat. 
Quod pro novitio non professo ad missam non fiet panis et vini 


De officio sacerdotis circa corpus post missam. 
Qualiter revertetur processio in chorum post fratris sepulturam. 
De balneo fratrum qui corpus defuncti tetigerunt. 
De distribuendis fratris defuncti indumentis, aliisque rebus si 

quas habuerit. 
Qualiter fiet obsequiumpro eo cui conceditur habitus monachalis 

si ante professionem obierit. 

De modo agendi obsequium in decessu fratris laid conversi. 
Quo ordini fient exsequix fratris defuncti si feria quinta in 

C&na Domini aut in die Parasceves vel in Sabbato Sancto 

aut in nocte vel in die Paschx obierit. 
Qualiter est agendum pro fratre de ecclesias gremio si extra 

monasterium qualicumque modo diem clauserit extremam. 
Quo ordine fient tricennalia et cetera qua? agenda sunt pro 

fratribus istius monasterii professis de medio sublatis. 
Quod nullus infra triginta dies post obitum fratris aliunde 

quam pro defunctis cantabit nisi fuerit in tabula de aliqua 

missa consueta. 

De absolutions fratris defuncti trigesimo die post ejus obitum. 
Quid fiet pro fratre defuncto in die anniversario obitus ipsius. 
De consuetudine ecclesix qu& ad sacristam pertinet et de 

expensis cerse per annum. 

Quando servientes ecclesix habebunt cerevisiam in refectorio. 
De stipendiis servientium ecclesise. 
De diver sitate sonitus in diver sis festivitatibus. 
De lucerna infestis Sancti Augustini, S. Adriani et S. Mildrethx. 
De lucerna in generali et in speciali. 
De lucerna feria quarta ante Cxnam Domini. 
De lucerna in Cxna Domini. 


De lucerna in Parasceve Domini. 

De lucerna in Sabbato Sancto. 

De lucerna in die Paschx. 

De processionibus. 

De tabula argentea ante magnum altare. 

Defestis qux habent matutinas de die. 

De vigiliis principalium festorum. 

De Dirige et Placebo per totum annum. 

De Csena. 

De observantiis novitiorum in tempore professionis. 

De festis habentibus octavas cum regimine chori. 

De distributione bonorum fratris defuncti. 

De modo minuendi et ejus observatione. 

De infortunio ignis. 


The election of so important a prelate as that of the lord 
abbat of the exempt abbey of St. Augustine's and, as all 
documents have it, " belonging immediately to the Eoman 
church," was a matter of great weight. The archbishop had 
nothing to do with it. But as the abbat was one of the 
great barons spiritual, the Crown had a great interest and 
made its power felt. In the case mentioned in the con- 
suetudinary, that of Ealph Bourne in 1 309 may be taken as 
a fairly typical example. 

Even before abbat Thomas Fyndon 1 expired, the prior 

1 Abbat Thomas Fyndon (1283-1309) had been prior and succeeded upon 
the resignation of abbat Nicholas de Spina or Thorne, who became a 
Carthusian near Paris. Fyndon was the great builder of the abbey, and his 
vast expenditure for a time impoverished the house. He was appointed 
by the pope without the royal licence. The king therefore seized the 
abbey, and only granted his favour after a fine of 400 marks had been 
paid. "In consequence of archbishop Winchesley's continual encroach- 
ments upon the privileges of this monastery, and the monks appealing to 
the see of Rome, pope Boniface VIII. granted a bull confirming all their 
privileges" (Monasticon, vol. i. p. 122). Among other things this abbat in 
1293 S ave a great banquet on the feast of St. Augustine to 4500 persons 
(Chronologia Augustiniensis). 


and monks sent messengers with letters to influential men 
at court, such as the chancellor, the bishop of Chichester, 
and the treasurer ; to ask them, in view of the injury done 
by a long vacancy, to obtain the royal licence for an imme- 
diate election on the demise of the abbat. As soon as 
Thomas Fyndon died, the royal subescheator took possession 
of the abbey and its revenues, according to the custom, in 
the king's name. The licence to elect was duly and speedily 
granted. The day appointed, the community assembled in 
the chapter-house, after the mass of the Holy Ghost had 
been sung ; and their first business was to read the decrees of 
the general council concerning election. Then to safeguard 
the proceedings against irregularity, as some of the elec- 
tors might be labouring under a hidden defect which would 
vitiate their right to an active voice, a public protest was 
made that any such illegitimate voting was wholly against 
the will and knowledge of the chapter. The manner of 
election had then to be discussed ; and all agreed to proceed 
by way of compromise. Seven monks as electors were 
nominated out of the whole body ; and were solemnly 
charged to choose one, either of the convent or from another 
house of the congregation, whom they should judge to be 
"good and benevolent, and useful to the welfare of this 
church and necessary for the observance of religion." They 
were warned not to choose any one or to pass over any one 
for human and personal motives ; but to elect " him who 
knows how, who is able and desires to love his brethren in 
the fear of God and to observe to the utmost the estate and 
godly customs of this church." The commission to elect 
was signed by the common seal of the monastery, and the 
convent bound themselves to abide by the decision of the 
seven electors. The result was soon made known. Kalph 
de Bourne, one of the seven, was declared to be duly elected ; 
and upon his assenting, he was led by the monks into the 
church with the singing of the Te Deum. There, prostrated 


before high altar, prayers appropriate to the occasion were 
chanted over him by the prior, and he was then led to pay 
his homage of devotion before the shrines of the saints which 
encircled the apse of the church. Meanwhile, the bells of 
the abbey in their joyous peals proclaimed the election to the 
town, and some " discrete person " from the pulpit made an- 
nouncement to the people of the name of the newly elected 
abbat. A careful account of the whole day's proceeding was 
then drawn up by a public notary and duly witnessed. 

The elect, after dinner, took up his abode in the buildings 
set aside for the use of the prior. There he was to remain 
humbly and not interfere more than any other of the convent 
in the affairs of the monastery. He was to be content with 
the attentions the monks paid him of their own free will, 
and was not to exact more. In the church chapter and 
refectory he took the first place on the right-hand choir ; 
and had certain monks appointed to him as attendants and 
companions. But until the election was confirmed he could 
not enter upon his rights and dignities. After two days the 
elect with some of his monks began their journey to London 
to obtain the royal assent. They took with them all docu- 
ments necessary to prove the validity of the election, together 
with the following letter from the prior and convent : 

" To the most excellent prince and revered lord, Edward, 
by the grace of God, the illustrious king of England 
lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine, his humble 
and devoted prior and convent of the monastery of 
St. Augustine's at Canterbury, which belongs im- 
mediately to the Roman church, [give] all possible 
homage and honour in Him by whom kings reign 
and princes have their rule. 

" The aforesaid our monastery being vacant by the death of 
Thomas of good memory, late our abbat, and licence having 
been called and obtained for us to elect another as abbat 


and pastor, we have observed the day of election and, after 
invoking the aid of the Holy Ghost, have elected unani- 
mously our beloved fellow-monk, Ralph de Bourne, as our 
abbat and pastor. Him therefore, the brother Ealph our 
elect, we present to your royal majesty by our beloved 
fellow-monks William of Byhalt, Eichard of Canterbury, 
and Solomon of Kipple, humbly and devoutly beseeching 
that you would deign to admit him, our aforesaid, as elect, 
and for ourselves to give your royal assent and favour to 
the election made by us. And further, asking, for the elect, 
whatever may be pleasing your royal will. In testimony 
whereof our common seal is appended to these presents. 
May the Most High keep you all. 

"Given in our chapter at Canterbury, the viii of the ides 
of March in the year of the Lord 1309." 

The affair at court was speedily settled; and by the 
seventeenth of the month the monks had returned to Canter- 
bury with letters from the king and queen to the pope, to 
whom the elect had now to go in person for confirmation. 
They also had letters to recommend them to the king of 
France, through whose dominions they had to pass on their 
road to Avignon, where the pope (Clement V.) then was. 

The king's letter to the pope is as follows : 

" To the most holy father in Christ, the lord Cl., by divine 
Providence, the high priest of the most holy Roman 
and Universal Church, Edward, by the same grace, 
king of England, &c., devoutly kissing the sacred 

" It becometh us, amidst the other cares which press upon 
us, with watchful care to take heed of the welfare of those 
monasteries of our kingdom which are in our patronage ; 
that when widowed, they may be comforted by the solace of 
a pastor, and to frequently stir up your clemency for the 


relief of burthens. Since therefore the religious man, our 
right-well beloved in Christ, brother Kalph de Bourne, elect 
of the monastery of St. Augustine's at Canterbury in our 
patronage (to whose election we have given our royal assent 
and favour with the hope of obtaining confirmation of the 
same from your holiness), now approaches your presence : 
bearing in mind that the aforesaid monastery is greatly in 
debt, 1 and that the state of the house may, by the industry 
and circumspection of the elect, be in the future retained, 
we do specially commend to your holiness the elect as one 
who is provident, and circumspect in spiritual as well as in 
temporal affairs, and endowed with other kinds of virtue, 
asking with affectionate prayer that you would deign to 
admit the aforesaid elect, in those matters which he has 
to do with your holiness, to the favour of a hearing and to 
send him back to the aforesaid monastery with his business 
happily finished. 

" Given at Westminster the xiii day of March in the third 
year of our reign." 

The queen wrote in similar style commending the elect 
to the pope's favour. Together with their letters was a 
licence to Robert of Kendal, the constable of Dover Castle 
and warden of the Cinque Ports, to allow the elect to pass 
over to France. 

At the kalends of April the elect set out for Avignon ; 
but, before he started, money for the journey had to be 
obtained. The monastery paid over to one Guy Donatus, a 
Florentine merchant and member of the society of "Bards" 
of Florence, a sum of fifty pounds sterling and received back 
from him bills of exchange. Letters of procuration at the 
papal court were then made out, and a document from the 
monastery to the pope begging for his confirmation of their 
election was drawn up. In this latter, after recounting 

1 On account of Fyndon's building. 


the royal licence and the result of the election, the prior and 
convent say : " We must humbly entreat your holiness to 
deign to confirm the above-mentioned election and to bestow 
on our elect the gift of the Blessing that having God as his 
authority he may rightly and profitably rule both us and 
others in those things which pertain to his abbacy." 

The papers which had to be taken to Rome consisted of : 
(i) the royal licence to elect; (2) the formal appointment 
of the day of election ; (3) all documents concerned with the 
preliminaries; (4) the letter to the pope asking for confir- 
mation, signed by all the community and sealed with the 
common seal ; (5) the decree of election signed and sealed 
in a similar way; (6) the royal letters of assent; (7) the 
notarial accounts of the election; (8) the protest against 
unlawful voting (this was only to be produced if any ob- 
jection was made that some of the electors were suspended 
or excommunicated); (9) and finally a public testifica- 
tion of the date of the setting out from Canterbury to 

We learn nothing more from the consuetudinary about 
this election. But this formidable array of documents 
secured the confirmation after the dues had been paid. The 
abbat was blessed by the pope ; and on his return to St. 
Augustine's, which he approached barefooted in all humility, 
he was received with great solemnity by the community and 
with chant and prayer, was duly installed. And while the 
Te Deum was being sung the monks, one by one, went up 
to pay their homage to their new pastor by kissing his 
hand, and then as to their father by kissing him on the 
mouth. The ceremony concluded by the solemn abbatical 
blessing. 1 

1 Nor was a great feast forgotten on that festive occasion. The new 
abbat showed his hospitality by an enormous banquet which Thorne in 
his chronicle (Decem Scriptores, p. 2010) mentions " not that we may follow 
his example, but admire it." Among the articles consumed were 1 1 tons 


Once installed, on high church festivals the abbat had to 
assist at matins l and lauds and terce, in alb and cope and 
mitre, gloves and ring ; and with pastoral staff in hand 
stand at his seat amid his assistants, who were also clad in 
copes. After terce a solemn procession round the church 
took place. The community, vested in albs and copes, 
with the abbat would tarry before some statue or shrine, 
and make what is called a station; and there sing some 
special anthem with its proper versicles and prayers before 
continuing the procession. Afterwards, the abbat would pre- 
pare himself for pontifical mass, and would put on the tunic, 
the dalmatic, and sandals and buskins, besides the chasuble ; 
and he would take his seat in a special cathedra which was 
placed near to the altar. Then he would sing mass according 
to the " use " of his own church, and employ a missal claim- 
ing to be identical with that brought by St. Augustine from 
Rome itself. 2 One striking feature was the solemn benedic- 
tion given immediately after the Pax Domini, when turning 
to the people and using both mitre and staff, he chanted 
the formula of blessing contained in the Benedictionale, 
and which varied with the feast. At vespers, two of his 
assistant priests came in at the Magnificat with the thurifers, 
and when the abbat had put in the incense, they accom- 
panied him for the thurification of the high altar, and the 
altar behind, and the shrine and altar of St. Augustine. 
One gave his thurible to the abbat, and held back the cope 

of wine (at a value of 24) ; 30 oxen (^27) ; 34 swans (j) ; 500 capons 
(6) ; 1000 geese Gi6) ; 200 sucking pigs (100 shillings) ; 9600 eggs (4 
i os.) ; 17 rolls of brawn (65 shillings) ; coals (48 shillings) ; wages of cooks 
and servants (6} total ^287, 53. Six thousand guests sat down to a 
banquet of three thousand dishes. 

1 At the great feasts the abbat, while the Te Deum was being sung, 
came in vested as for mass, and, having incensed the high altar, sang the 
gospel of the day. 

2 See Kule's most valuable and learned Introduction to the Missal of St. 
Augustine's, Canterbury. t 

VOL. I. S 


while the prelate incensed the altars, the second assistant 
meanwhile incensing the altars together with the abbat. After 
the altar and shrine of St. Augustine had been honoured, the 
abbat and his chaplain remained before the shrine, while the 
two priests went with their smoking thuribles to incense all 
the other altars and shrines. They then all returned in pro- 
cession to the choir, when the usual incensing took place, 
and the stately function ended with the abbatial blessing. 
On feast days, when he himself did not celebrate, he assisted 
at the function in cope, mitre, and gloves, with the staff, and 
took his place between the cantors ; and at the end of the 
service proceeded to his throne, whence he gave the final 
benediction. Whenever he was present, even if only in his 
ordinary choral dress, the deacon always came to him for the 
blessing before the Gospel, and the holy text was carried to 
him to be kissed, and the incense to be blessed, and the pax 
brought from the altar. To him also fell the duty of blessing 
and distributing the ashes at the beginning of Lent, the 
candles on the feast of the Purification, and the palms on 

If at home, he was bound to be present at all vespers of 
twelve-lesson feasts, and on all vigils; but he was not re- 
quired to be at lauds, unless he officiated solemnly, save on 
the Wednesday before Christmas and on the eve of that 
feast. The other days in the year he was not bound to be 
at either vespers or lauds except the three days before Easter 
and the whole of the following week, and also Whitsuntide. 
At the office for the dead he was only present on [special 
anniversaries ?] or for the funeral of a monk ; and then only 
for matins. 

The Household. As befitted so high a prelate and so im- 
portant a spiritual baron, in accordance with the requirements 
of the times, he was obliged to keep up a large household 
in the building set apart for his use, known as the abbat's 
lodging. He had to receive many visitors and keep up a 


state which would only bring disorder and discomfort into 
the monastery if the monks had to be subjected to these 
annoyances. But his intercourse with his monks was close 
and intimate, as his duty as pastor and father required. 

The Chaplains. Foremost in his household were the 
chaplains, two in number. The consuetudinary says : " The 
chaplains of the abbat ought to be courteous and discreet, 
and affable to all, and especially to strangers." They are 
bound to foster, as far as they can, the mutual love of abbat 
and convent. Both should say mass every day, and in 
turns take the office of assisting the abbat at his mass and 
attending upon him in the church and elsewhere. When- 
ever he went abroad they bore him company, and one of 
them carried a diurnale, in case the abbat wished to say 
office. They were in charge of his household, and ordered 
everything and corrected what was amiss. The elder had 
the charge of the abbatial cellars, the keys of which were 
taken to him every night. The prelatial jewels and money 
were in their care, and they had to have ten pounds in ready 
oash always in the house. To them belonged the duty of 
giving out the alms the abbat dispensed when he went abroad 
from the monastery. An account every year of all expendi- 
ture had to be given. They were also charged with the 
special care of the abbat's guests ; and when he was at home, 
had to invite certain of the monks to eat at the abbatial 
board. The younger had also the duty of reading at the 
abbat's meal, unless for some reasonable cause another had 
the office. 

The Chamberlain. The chamberlain acted as a kind of 
secretary for documents which came under the seal. He 
took charge of the abbat's cup and napkin at meal times 
and saw that the guests were likewise provided, and that 
the wine was served in due course. " And it is to be borne 
in mind that from all who come to do homage to the abbat 
lie has either half a mark or an outer garment, the which he 


should civilly and meekly ask for before they take their 

The Seneschal. The seneschal, when the abbat was going 
to dine in the hall, had overnight (between vespers and 
compline), together with the cellarer and cook, to wait on 
the abbat and receive his orders for the morrow, and to 
inquire of the number of guests to be provided for. He had 
to see that the " commons " (liberatio) of the hall were duly 
provided. After grace, he set before the abbat the dishes 
which the servant brought up. 

The Marshal of the Hall. The marshal of the hall minis- 
tered the water for washing the abbat's hands before and 
after meals, and performed the same office for the chief 
guests. He arranged these latter in their proper places. 
" He is not to allow the servants to approach the tables toa 
hastily. . . he is also not to allow a tumult of loose behaviour 
in the hall, especially among the waiters (garciones), and if 
he finds any one obstinate or rebellious, he shall presently 
cause him to be put without the hall, until humble satisfac- 
tion is made. If any one comes in after the first course, he- 
is to take care that that course is served to the late comer. 
He shall punish those who throw their bones or beer-mugs 
on the ground." 

The Carver. The carver, who has always to have a clean 
napkin over his shoulder and at least two shining knives, is 
not to begin carving before the reading has begun. 

The Waiter. There was also a waiter who carried a 
napkin and handed the dishes to the seneschal. Everything 
he carried had to be covered with this napkin. 

The Pantler. The pantler had charge of the bread and 
the napery, and all other necessaries for the abbat's table. 

The Master of the Horse. The master of the horse had to 
see to the feeding of the horses, and have a special care of 
my lord abbat's palfrey. He had to buy the oats and corn, 
and to see to the shoeing. 


The Cook. The cook had no small office. After he had re- 
ceived his instructions he had to provide all that was neces- 
sary ; " and when the abbat was at home ought to go with 
the cellarer's buyers into the town to purchase better articles 
for the abbat and his guests." He had to prepare with his 
own hands whatever was for the abbat's own consumption, 
and was not to allow any one to help him. Every day 
he had to see that the kitchen utensils were scrupulously 
cleaned. He is never to be without some good seasonings 
(salsamentis), which he is himself to prepare, and is to take 
care that in the seasoning for the abbat he is not to use too 
much ginger. Immediately after every meal the cook has to 
collect the silver cooking utensils and return them to the 
chamberlain. He is always to keep the door of the kitchen 

The Valet. The valet gave out the linen and plate neces- 
sary for the abbat's table to the pantler, and the wine and 
silver goblets when the chamberlain gave the order. He was 
the personal attendant of the abbat, and waited upon him in 
his private rooms. 

The Cupboard-man. The cupboard-man had to keep the 
cups dry and replace them after each meal. 

The Porter. The porter kept the door, and only allowed 
those to enter the hall who had a right. " He is not to 
allow ribald fellows to stand about the door of the house, 
nor upon the steps ; he is to answer every one civilly and 
kindly, and is to take care that dogs do not remain in 
the hall." 

The Hall Cook and Servant. The hall had its own cook 
and servant. They should " so well and honestly prepare 
and see to the good of those who eat in the hall, that no 
complaint about them should reach the abbat's ear, if they 
desire to keep their position." 

The Ablat's Messenger. The abbat's messenger should be 
a prudent man, smooth-spoken, bold, and ever diligent 


(impiger) and trusty ; always prompt and ready. He was not 
allowed to receive anything from outside without the abbat's 
leave. He had to know the gossip of the place about such 
travellers as were passing by or tarrying in the neighbour- 
hood, so as to let the abbat or his chaplains know who to 
invite. He helped in the kitchen. 

The Palfrey-man. The attendant on the palfrey held the 
bridle when the abbat was mounted. He distributed also 
the alms given on a journey. He also helped the valet in 
the personal service. 

The Almoner. The almoner saw to the distribution among 
the poor of the daily leavings of the abbat's table. He too 
helped in the personal service, and in his instructions he 
is particularly warned to take heed, " under pain of dis- 
missal, that he does not in any way reveal the secrets of 
the closet." 

The Hall. The cellarer was charged with the cleanliness 
of the hall and the respect due to the guests. A fire was 
provided during the meals from All Saints till the Purifica- 
tion ; and during supper eleven candles were provided ; but 
on fasting days only three, unless strangers were present. 
In this common hall all guests, monks or others, dined and 
supped unless they were specially bidden to the abbat's 
private apartments or arrived at hours too late for the 
common meal. 

The Servants of the Household. Such were the officers of 
the abbat's household. Each of them had, besides their 
duties, their own perquisites and salaries, and servants to 
attend upon them. In a list of the household of abbat 
Nicholas de Spina we read that the chamberlain had a com- 
panion, a squire, together with boys and horses at his dis- 
posal ; the physician 1 was allowed a squire, two boys, and two 
horses ; the seneschal had his squire and three boys, and as 

1 It is interesting to note that the physician was not one of the monks, 
but evidently a layman cunning in leechery. 


many horses. And so with the others in less degree. The 
marshal of the hall had "one honest boy" and one horse, 
likewise the pantler ; but his boy is described as not only 
" honest " but " trusty and discreet." The master of the horse 
had his boy, too, " one who knows how to shoe " ; and the 
abbat's cook was only allowed "an honest and knowing 
boy," but no horse. 

From the same list we learn that my lord abbat was 
served always with four courses, the household with three, 
and the servants with two. 

The abbat's intercourse to his community was marked 
with the greatest deference on their part. Whenever he 
passed through the cloister or by any other place where the 
brethren were sitting, they rose and bowed whilst he passed. 
If they were standing they uncovered their heads and bowed. 
Should he in any place have occasion to rebuke a brother, 
at once the monk knelt before him and remained in that 
humble posture until bidden to rise. " But the abbat should 
wisely take care that he should not do this before seculars ; 
neither should he allow this to be done for anything ; for it 
is not becoming that he should by word of mouth sharply 
chide any brother before seculars." 

Whenever he sat no one presumed, uninvited, to sit 
besides him ; but according to the old custom, if so bidden, 
the brother should kneel and kiss the abbat's knees, if he 
allows, and then humbly take his seat. Whenever any- 
thing was handed to the abbat, or received from him, the 
prelate's hand was kissed, and if he were sitting the monk 
knelt before him. On the occasions that he dined in the 
refectory with the monks, the prior and two of the brethren 
served at the washing of his hands. 

The ordering of the whole monastery depends upon his 
will ; but nevertheless nothing is, as the Eule says, to be 
taught, commanded, or ordered (quod absit) beyond the 
precepts of the Lord. But also neither should anything be 


attempted against the approved customs of the monastery 
without consulting the seniors. If while he is absent some- 
thing new has, by necessity or reason, to be arranged, on 
his return it is for him to decide, with the advice of the 
seniors, what has to be done. If he has been absent for 
some time (fifteen days), on his return he has to visit the 
sick, and with pity and paternal affection console them. 
If according to the old custom he sleeps in the dormitory, 
and remains in bed in the morning, no sound is to be 
made ; but the master of novices, if he sees the hour is 
passed at which the prior is used to call them, is to rise 
as quickly as he can and call up the novices by touching 
them gently with a rod. When they are awakened, they 
go out of the dormitory, wash and comb their hair, and 
having said the usual prayer, go to their school, where in 
silence they wait until the abbat gets up, and then they go 
to prime. 

When the abbat dies, all he has goes back to the monas- 
tery and he is buried like one of the other monks ; except 
that, vested as a priest and clad in pontificals, with his 
staff on the right arm, he is laid out for the tomb. The 
schedule of absolution, a plate of lead bearing his inscrip- 
tion and date, a chalice and a paten, together with bread 
and wine, are buried with him, and the nearest abbat or 
bishop is invited to celebrate the funeral offices. 


The Prior. The prior was the chief of all the officers in 
the monastery, and was treated with a deference only less 
than that shown to the abbat himself. Like him he had a 
lodging apart, although he slept in the common dormitory. 
He was selected by the abbat out of three names elected by 
the convent. The precentor had the right of nominating 


one, the right side of the choir another, and the third by 
the left side. He is to be obeyed by all, and has to set 
an example of exactness in observing all rules. He is 
bidden to make himself be more loved than feared. When- 
ever he enters the chapter-house or the choir, all rise to 
salute him ; but the monks don't rise when he passes by, 
only if he goes to sit in the cloister, those near his seat 
rise. It is his office, when the Rule is read in chapter, to 
comment on it in French for the sake of the more simple 
brethren ; or to assign the duty to some one else. In the 
absence of the abbat he rules the monastery, and with 
the advice of the seniors can make what regulations are 
necessary. He holds chapter, and can inflict penances for 
breaches of the rule. "But according to modern usage, 
each obedientiary punishes his own servants, and removes 
those he considers ought to be removed and appoints others 
in their place, those only excepted who have received their 
appointments directly from the abbat and convent. The 
obedientiaries, if there chance to be anything negligent or 
slothful in their servants, shall sharply chide them if the 
prior so determines." The prior can withdraw from such 
of the household who are rebellious and incorrigible, their 
allowances until they make satisfaction, saving always the 
abbat's rights when he is at home. It pertains to the prior 
to give leave to the monks to be bled ; and he also appoints 
the hours and days for baths. He can give dispensations 
from choir, even in the abbat's presence ; and can also 
give leave to the weak, and those requiring it, to eat meat 
out of the refectory. He is always on duty ; but when he 
is obliged to be absent, the sub-prior is appointed to take 
his place. In olden days, after the first prayer before 
matins, he used to take a lantern and go through the 
dormitory and other places to see lest any one, overcome 
by sloth, had remained behind. But in modern time this 
duty has been assigned to the scrutatores ordinis. At 


compline, having taken holy water from the hebdomadary, 
he used to remain until the monks had passed by, to see 
whether all had been present and whether they had observed 
due reverence and order, and whether, according to the 
custom, they had put up their hood on leaving the choir. 
But this office also is now done by the scrutatores. The 
prior sees that all go to the dormitory. Before the daily 
chapter he takes counsel with the other priors about the 
defects which call for correction ; and the priors have to be 
unanimous in all things concerning reformation. 

The Sub-prior or Claustral Prior. The sub-prior or claus- 
tral prior was the officer who had the most direct relation 
with the monks. He was always with them and was re- 
sponsible for the order and discipline of the house. In the 
absence of the prior he took his place, and had the same 
powers of dispensation. From time to time he had to go the 
rounds of the house, and had to know what every one was 
doing. It was an important part of his duty to visit the sick 
every day. Among his general powers of dispensation was 
that of leaving the cloister, but not of going into the town. 
He is not to give any one leave to stay outside the monastery 
for two days, unless the prior from ill health is away from 
the dormitory. All who with leave are going outside the 
monastery, and will not be back for the next meal, have 
to tell him. The claustral prior on certain days presided 
at the chapter, and on these days he could grant many 
other dispensations. When the prior was away or could 
not be found, the claustral prior could then give leave for 
the monks to go into the town or elsewhere, but not to take 
refreshments unless it was his day for holding chapter, or 
there was any reasonable cause. He also had to see that all 
were present at the office. 

The third and fourth Priors. The prior and the sub-prior 
appointed two guardians or Exploratores ordinis, who were 
a kind of domestic police. " As the choir, or the cloister, or 


the refectory, according to the right and ancient custom, 
should never be without two watchers of the order if it can 
be done ; if one has to go out, the other remains." They 
are warned not to indulge in private malice in reporting a 
monk, nor from private friendship shut their eyes to any 
negligences. They cannot rebuke, but can only publicly ' ' pro- 
claim " or report the negligence at the next day's chapter. 
" If they find any one outside the cloister talking, the speaker 
has to rise and tell them that he is speaking with the 
leave of the prior or sub-prior. The guardians neither by 
sign nor word answer them, but modestly pass on, listening, 
however, with intent ears whether the conversation be useful. 
They go their rounds, one by one, not together. They are 
not allowed to go into the offices of the house, but can open the 
doors and look whether the brethren are properly engaged. 
They had certain fixed times for going round, but were free 
to do so whenever they thought fit. If a monk met them on 
their rounds, he had to stand still and uncover his head and 
wait till the guardian had seen him and passed by. But they 
are never allowed to go where the prior and sub-prior are, 
nor ever into the abbat's or prior's lodgings ; nor into the 
infirmary nor the guest-house, unless there be some grave 
reason. " The guardians should be unanimous in all things 
and agree together, presuming upon nothing out of the spirit 
of contention, or a vain glory in their position." If the 
priors were all absent from the cloister, the monks had to 
get permission from the senior priest, but he could, as a 
rule, only give leave to go into the gardens; but even 
he, if there was any necessity, could give leave to go into 
the town, so wide and sensible was the rule in practice. 

The Cantor. The cantor or precentor not only had to 
take care that the offices in choir went smoothly and had 
to arrange for the distribution of the various parts, to set 
the pitch and correct mistakes, but he was also the librarian 
(Armarius) and had charge of the books, and had to keep 


a stock of parchment and other requisites for the use of the 
monks. In chapter he had publicly to accuse such as had 
been guilty of faults in psalmody. In his charge was one 
of the three keys of the chest which contained the common 
seal of the house. He was not to be treated too strictly in 
respect to absences from choir on account of his various 
duties, but he must not without manifest reason omit two 
successive hours, nor on the same day be absent from matins 
or vespers or compline. He has to arrange the tabula or 
list of masses and choral duties. During the Benedictus and 
Magnificat he goes from side to side of the choir, to en- 
courage and give an example to the brethren of devout 
singing ; but he has to be back in his place for the Gloria 
Patri. At processions he walks between the two choirs to 
keep them united in the chant. On great feasts he rules 
the choir with six companions in copes, and preintones the 
Gloria to the celebrant ; and his is the duty of singing the 
choice portions of the Gradual and of the Tract. If necessary, 
during the singing he makes signs with his hands to modu- 
late the chant according to his judgment. The importance 
of the precentor's office may be judged from the fact that 
he had the power to nominate one out of three for the post 
of prior, and had the same privilege in the appointments of 
sacrist and almoner. 

The Succentor. The succentor was in all things the aid 
of the precentor. But to him especially fell the duty of 
preparing the juniors for the parts they had to take in the 
office. He also had to arrange the collects and their order 
for the officiant. On him also was the duty of drawing up 
the mortuary notices (Bremcula) and despatching them to the 
various houses. 

The Sacrist and his companions. The sacrist was one of 
the obedientiaries that represented the choice of the convent. 
He had the care of the church, the plate, the vestments, and 
was responsible for the candles and the lighting not only of 


the church l but of the whole establishment. He also had to 
provide mats for the choir and those on the north side of 
the cloister "from the abbat's parlour as far as the dormitory 
door ; " smaller ones for the novices, those for the chapter- 
house, and those before every altar. All these had to be re- 
newed every year. On him depended the arrangements to be 
made for the burial of the confratres. Out of the funds set 
apart for his office, he had to keep the roofs of the church 
in order, besides those of the chapter-house and of that part 
of the cloister jutting on to the church. He was not to talk 
in the church " save for explaining some miracle or the 
power of some relic or some notice ; and this, if necessary, 
not openly but briefly, that it may seem as though done in 
silence." The work of the sacrist was shared in by four 
other monks, viz. two sub-sacrists (they could not enter the 
sacristy without leave), a treasurer or Revestiarius, whose 
special care was the relics, and a companion. These and 
the sacrist himself slept in the precincts of the church itself, 
so as to be always on guard and ready for opening and 
closing the church. At the first sound of the bell the five 
get up and call the servants of the church ; and it is laid 
down that if they are not at office or mass they are to be 
more sharply rebuked than those who sleep in the dormi- 
tory. After compline they have to prepare the candles for 
matins. Each novice and any one else who wished had one, 
and there was one for the readers of the lesson and one for 
the officiant. This last the sub-sacrist was to light, and to 
see that it was a taper so well made as to give plenty of 
light for the old monks and for those with weak sight. 
During the Te Deum the sacrist had to see that the bell- 
ringers did their duty and rang for lauds. 2 On Sundays the 

1 A note is made that the paschal candle is not removed until the day 
after Trinity Sunday. 

2 Et tune pulsandum est ad laudes. The custom of ringing the bells during 
the Te Deum is not as a sign of joy during that hymn, but is solely with the 
view of giving notice that lauds, the original night office, is about to begin. 


sub-sacrist has to get salt from the refectory-master for the 
blessing of the holy water, and what is over he returns to be 
distributed among all the salt-cellars in the refectory. 

For the care of the altars special rules were laid down. 
After a feast day all the special ornaments had to be re- 
moved before prime of the next day. The high altar was 
always vested in a frontal (on great feasts there was a 
splendid silver frontal). The high altar should never be, 
quod absit, without the pyx, with the Eucharist and the 
book containing the four gospels and the name of our 
deceased brethren and benefactors written therein; so that 
the priest who celebrates there may have a special remem- 
brance of them, for instance : " And of all our brethren and 
benefactors whose names are written in this book." In this 
spirit of reverence for the holy altar servants were never 
allowed to approach it or even to enter the sanctuary except 
to do some work the monks could not do themselves. When 
the treasurer put out the relics, he had to wear an alb and 
to say with his assistant the seven penitential psalms and 
the Litany of the saints; it was his duty, too, to assist the 
abbat in the sacristy when he washed his hands and combed 
his hair before pontificating. Before every Easter, and as 
often as necessary, the corporals were washed. They were 
not dried at a fire, nor in the sun, nor in the wind, for fear 
of smuts, but inside the house. After washing, the linen 
(albs included) had to be "reconciled" by the abbat or 
sacrist before use. The same ceremony had to be gone 
through if any of the sacred vestments fell on the ground. 
To the sacrist and his companions belonged the bells, and 
they had to instruct the servants when and how to ring 
them. The big bell was rung on the feasts of Christmas, 
Easter, Whitsuntide, St. Augustine, SS. Peter and Paul, and 
the Assumption. The clocks of the establishment were also 
under their care. When the abbat was present at a mass, 
the sub-sacrist had to prepare an offering of bread and wine 


which the abbat made, and assist him when he washed the 
priest's hands at the offertory and after the Communion. 
Once a year at least the sub-sacrist made the altar breads. 
Grain by grain the corn was chosen and placed in a clean 
bag, and then it was sent by a trusty servant to the abbey 
mill, which had to be specially cleaned for the occasion. 
When the breads themselves were to be made, the sub- 
sacrists, after washing their hands and faces, put on albs and 
covered their heads with amices and then made the paste. 
The servant who held the irons is ordered to wear gloves. 
While the work is going on (and the making of a large 
supply of altar breads to last perhaps for a year was 
necessarily a long business), the monks employed said the 
regular hours as well as those of our Lady and also the seven 
penitential psalms, together with the Litany. Otherwise it 
was all done in silence. A special note is made that the 
wood for the fire ought to be very dry and prepared many 
days previously. 

The Cellarer, Sub-cellarer, and the Corn-master. To the 
cellarer belongs all that concerns food, meat, fish, &c., " and 
ought to be, according to the Kule, the father of the whole 
congregation," and to have a special care to provide for the 
wants of the sick. On the day when the chapter in the Kule 
about his office (cap. xxxi.) is read, he had to give "an 
honest and festive service " to the monks in the refectory. 
He has to attend the daily chapter, high mass, and the 
collation, and at the offices for the dead and vespers and 
matins of twelve-lesson feasts, and at all processions; for 
the rest he was dispensed. He could not go out of the 
monastery without permission, and always had to leave word 
where he had gone to, in case he was wanted. When he did 
not attend choir, he said his matins in the chapel of St. 
Gregory, along with those who had been bled or were other- 
wise excused. He eat in the common refectory or at the 
.abbat's lodging. Guests were to be received by him in a 


courteous (curialiter) manner, "and in all things he is to 
honourably minister to them." The servants of the house- 
hold are under his care, and it is to him they take their oath 
of fidelity. Every day while the convent is at dinner he 
stands by the kitchen window to see that there is no defect 
in the service. It is part of his duty to dispense the 
extra dishes by way of pitance. For instance, the monk 
who sang the high mass always received on that day an 
extra pitance. The mill, the gardens and orchards were 
under his charge, and the general care of the buildings was 
part of his duty. He is told to be affable and pleasant 
in his dealings with the monks, and is never to send any 
one away annoyed by word of his. He has the power of 
punishing the servants, by rebukes, by ordering them to 
be flogged with a thin rod, or by fining them ; which fines 
went to the poor, or for candles to be burnt before some 
shrine. Then, " all and each of the brethren, four times in 
the year, can receive from the sub-cellarer, without any con- 
dition, an Exennium ! in honour of their friends who come 
to visit them, or can send it to them." The sub-cellarer 
had to see that " the convent bread is sufficiently white, and 
reasonably fermented and of good taste ; " and also of the 
beer; that it is well purified (defecata), of good colour, 
bright, and well malted (granata) and of good flavour. The 
fish was to be in season and fresh, not kept for two or three 
days and stinking, for "that it should not be from the 
refuse of the people that the holy congregation be fed." 
The bill of fare had to be sometimes changed, lest disgust 
be generated, according to the saying, Idemptitas parit fasti- 
dium. 2 Concerning the pitance, the cellarer shall see that 
it is good, delicate, and well and decently (curialiter, a 
favourite term) prepared," with everything necessary. The 
food has to be ready and well cooked before the monks 

1 An Exennium was some little gift in the way of eatables or drinkables. 
2 Toujour perdrix I 


enter the refectory, " for it is better that the cooks should 
wait to dish up than that the servants of God should be kept 
sitting and waiting without their food." 

The Guest-master. The guest- master represented the 
hospitality of the monastery. He is always to keep the 
guest-house supplied with beds, chairs, tables, towels, and 
everything else needed for the comfort of the guests. 1 When 
he hears of an arrival he goes to meet them, and, benignly 
receiving them, tells the guests whether it is a fast or feast 
day in the monastery. According to the Rule, they are taken 
to the church, and thence, after prayers, to the parlour, and 
saying Benedicite, he salutes them with a holy kiss. He then 
asks their names, residence, and country ; and having ascer- 
tained these, leads them to the hospice, where, sitting down 
with them, he reads to them, as the Rule says, something from 
the divine page, and then speaks a few words salutary to 
their souls. If the guests are monks and strangers to this 
place, he then shows them the cloister and the dormitory, 
and, if time allows, the offices ; and, for the sake of consoling 
them (consolandi gratia, another favourite phrase), he can 
take them over the whole monastery. The guests have to- 
be treated especially well, and "all humanity and honour 
and welcome " shown to them by all. If the guest chances 
to be a conventual prior of some house, he is always to have 
the same allowances, both at dinner and supper, as the prior 
of St. Augustine's; and a stranger abbat is served in the 
refectory as the abbat of the monastery himself. A liberal 
allowance of four candles, according to the right and ancient 
custom (ex recta et antiqua consuetudine, another phrase of 
frequent occurrence) is made for each monk guest, and eight 
for a conventual prior. Should any guest wish to speak to 
the abbat or prior, or to one of the claustral brethren, he 
has to apply to the guest-master, who procures leave. If a 

1 For monk -guests froocos eisdem per famulum suum continue destindbit. 
VOL. I. T 


stranger (a monk) behaves in an unseemly manner, so that 
his offence is great and known to all, the guest-master has to 
proclaim him at chapter, and there publicly he makes satis- 
faction. But if the fault is light he is not to be cited, but 
secretly rebuked and warned to behave himself better, " so 
that he may understand that in this house monastic observ- 
ance flourishes." No monk-guest can go out of the enclosure 
without the guest-master's knowledge : neither ought he to 
leave when a brother is lying dead, until the funeral is over. 
If, quod absit, he should have any complaint about the food 
or drink supplied to himself or to his servants or horses, or 
any want of the usual necessaries, the guest-master has to 
mention it at the next chapter, and the president thereof 
proclaims "the brother who has thus brought discredit upon 
God and the Church." If any strangers (monks) come after 
the grace has been said, they are to take their meals in 
the refectory, and with the guest-master do penance for 
coming in late; and are then to be seated here and there 
among the seniors. If there are guests at the high table 
(ad skillam) they stay behind after dinner, and the guest- 
master remains also. But if they are invited to dine with 
the abbat or prior, the guest-master takes them there, and 
returns after the meal to conduct them back again. If they 
are not kept behind by the president, the guests have to go 
out with the rest of the monks to the church, but remain 
outside the choir, where with the guest-master they finish the 
grace. " But if they be monks of St. Edmund's, or from a 
monastery especially connected with ours," they enter the 
choir with the rest of the convent. If they remain behind 
with the president and guest-master, and such other monks 
as the superior chooses, behind the door of the refectory they 
are, as far as can be in silence, " exhilarated and consoled " 
by drinking; they are then, "according to the right and 
antient custom," taken to the guest-quarters, where doubt- 
lessly they were duly " consoled." The guest-master has to 


warn his guests of the hours and places. He supplies all 
their wants, even to clothing if need be, and distributes to 
them what is wanted from the store of clothes belonging to 
the deceased monks of the house. Only a monk of the order 
is thus to be made as one of the family; all other guests, 
religious and secular, are entertained in the outer guest- 
house. According to the old custom, as long as a benedic- 
tine guest behaves "with probity and honesty," he can stay 
as long as he likes ; but if he be found to be a wanderer 
(gyrovagus) and acting in an unseemly manner, he is to be 
corrected in chapter with both words and stripes, according 
to his fault, and then allowed to depart. A monk who comes 
on foot is only to be received in the outer guest-house, for he 
may be a truant (trutannus). He (and also poor chaplains 
and clerics) is to receive from the almoner only entertainment 
for the day, and is sent to sleep somewhere in the town. 
But any monk who comes as a guest of one of the convent 
is to be treated as one of the community. The parents 
and relatives of the monks are received in the outer guest- 
house, and are there to be most honourably and abundantly 

The Master of the Crypts. The master of the crypts had 
to provide there for the daily mass after prime, at which all 
the juniors assisted. It was a mass of our Lady, and used to 
be sung. 

The Almoner. The almoner had to visit the almonry two 
or three times a day, and see to the distribution of food to 
the poor which was made daily on behalf of the monastery. 
He also visited the sick poor of the neighbourhood and took 
them certain " consolations," and saw that they were properly 
provided with what was necessary. Anything they asked for 
was to be got if possible. The almoner did not personally 
visit sick women, but sent his servants in his place. 

The Refectory -master. The refectory-master has to see 
that the tables are properly prepared. On days when the 


convent take supper he has to lay five loaves before the 
president, viz. three " choyns " and two loaves of ordinary 
bread, one for dinner and one to be kept for supper. He 
has also to provide a loaf for the mixtum. On certain days 
the convent had a better bread; simnel bread (siminella), 
on some, and a species of gateau (gastellum) on others. He 
has to taste the drink provided for the refectory. He has 
to see to the lavatory outside the refectory being kept in a 
proper state. He provides mats for the benches and straw 
for the floor. At the beginning of each meal he "rever- 
ently " places a spoon before each monk, but five or six before 
the president on account of guests ; and towards the end of 
the meal gathers them up again. Also when they have 
wine he himself lays out the silver wine-cups ; and after the 
pitance, he carries honourably up through the refectory the 
cheese, and places it before the president and breaks it 
curialiter, and then passes it to the guests and to the monks. 
He must not speak " except for the sake of consoling, and 
then not openly but briefly." He has to see that the table- 
linen is changed whenever there is a general shaving of 
the convent, or of tener if necessary ; also that six towels are 
placed in the cloister every Sunday morning before the pro- 
cession. Of the five at the lavatory near the refectory one is 
kept for the sole use of the claustral prior, the other four being 
for general use. The sixth hangs at the smaller lavatory near 
the church door. At the high mass each day, as soon as the 
first Agnus Dei was sung, the three servers for the week, 
together with the reader, left the choir to take in the refec- 
tory the mixtum allowed by the Rule (cap. xxxviii.). It was, 
according to the day, bread and beer ; or vegetables, or eggs, 
or fish, or cheese. The refectory-master had to serve them 
without delay, and with all care and honour. They ate 
sparsely, for they had to return to the choir for the next 
hour of the office. 



When a young man desired to enter the monastery of 
St. Augustine's, he had to remain for some time in the 
guest-house as a postulant. When the day was fixed for 
his admission, or as it was called " the shaving " of his head 
(rastum), the prior gave him notice that three days before 
he was to dine with the abbat. The abbat would then call 
the prior and two or three of the seniors, and they appointed 
the novice-master who was charged to instruct him in all 
necessary for his state, and to supply all his wants. The 
abbat then, after some kind words, left the youth in the 
hands of the master, who examined him and found out if 
he had everything he wanted for the time of his probation. 
The postulant was then warned to cleanse his soul by con- 
fession if necessary, and was instructed in the rudiments 
of monastic ceremonial. These instructions were spread 
over the intervening days, on one of which the postulant 
dined with the prior. On the day of the rastura, after 
prime, he attended the mass of our Lady and made an 
offering after the Gospel. His master then took him to 
the chapel of St. Bridget and there prepared him diligently 
for the ceremony. When the hour arrived he went with his 
master into the chapter-house where the convent was assem- 
bled, and having profoundly prostrated himself before the 
abbatj was asked by him what he desired, and replied in the 
customary form. He was then bidden to rise, and was told by 
the abbat how hard and trying was the life he desired. He 
was asked if he was free-born, in good health, and free from 
any incurable disease ; if he was ready to accept hardships 
as well as pleasant things, to obey and bear ignominy for 


the love of Christ. To these he answered, " Yes, by the grace 
of God." Then pursuing the examination, the abbat asked 
if the postulant had ever been professed in any other stricter 
order ; whether he was bound by any promise of marriage, 
free from debt and irregularity. On receiving an answer in 
the negative, the abbat granted his prayer ; and he was forth- 
with taken by the novice-master to have his head shaved and 
be invested with the monastic habit. Now he was under 
tutelage, and remained a "novice" until he was ordained 
priest, although only for one year was he technically such. 1 

The life for novices was regulated in the greatest detail. 
For instance the ceremonial used in the refectory was minute 
and tended to secure regularity and recollection, together 
with courtesy one to another. They had to enter in due 
order, bow to each other, and while the others were coming 
in had to say silently a De profundis as a solace for the holy 
souls. After grace had been said they were to take their 
places at the table, but not to stir till the reading had 
begun ; then they should uncover their loaves, put their cup 
in its place, and get their knives and spoon ready. They 
were taught not to drink until the signal was given. From 
the consuetudinary we learn that the novices communicated 
every Sunday and on the feasts of Christmas, Ascension 
day, the three last days of holy week, the three days of 
their profession, and the ember-days. They were taught to 
have great reverence for the abbat and for all bishops and 
prelates. If by chance the abbat came to give them a 
conference, they all humbly sat on the ground at his feet. 
During their year's probation the novices never eat meat 
except under most extraordinary circumstances. There are 
minute directions about changing their clothes and the 
times, places, and manner thereof ; about the care of the 

1 The novice-master had an assistant " in that the most laborious and 
tiresome of all ministries." 


lavatory and personal cleanliness; about blood-letting and 
the bath, &C. 1 

As the time for profession approached, the novices were 
instructed how to read and how to chant, how to serve in 
the church, and how to bear the thurible. Offices were dis- 
tributed week by week, first to one side of the choir then 
to the other ; so all had an opportunity of learning. Before 
the day came they had to write out the formula and then 
petition in chapter for the grace of profession, and pass 
through a public examination as upon entry. The cere- 
mony was performed by the abbat during the mass, after 
the Gospel had been sung. For three days after their 
profession the hood was worn over the face (usque ad 
medium nasi), and they kept rigorous silence. At the fol- 
lowing chapter, the newly professed took oath to preserve 
the secrets of the chapter ; not to complain out of spite or 
wicked zeal against the priors and officers of the order ; and, 
as far as in them lay, not to allow the monastery to be 
burthened with debt. 


The monk's life was largely spent in the cloister. There 
all sat in order and in fixed places. No one was allowed 
to go outside the cloister without leave. Silence was always 

1 It must be remembered that novices were, as a rule, but young men 
and had to be trained into habits of regularity and politeness, without 
which community life would be unbearable. And such rules as are laid 
down in the consuetudinary are, after all, only the expression of regulations 
which tacitly exist in every well-ordered family. They were inspired by 
the same thoughtfulness for the feelings of others which is the mark of 
a true gentleman wherever he is to be found. The rules were not left to 
the individual ideas of any one novice-master, but were the established 
and written rules of a house that had traditions of seven hundred years 
at its back when this consuetudinary was written, and was therefore 
able to stamp with an unmistakable character all who were educated 
within its walls. 


observed save on certain days and times when conversation 
was allowed. At other times, they had to obtain leave to 
go into the parlour (locutorium) in order to speak. The 
abbat, according to his preference, sat at the top of the east 
cloister near the chapter-house door ; the prior in the north 
cloister near the parlour door, the sub-prior in the eastern 
cloister near the smaller lavatory; the third prior on the 
western side. The novices and scholars used the southern 
cloister as their school. No one sat in the eastern cloister 
except the abbat and sub-prior and those appointed to hear 
confessions. Those brothers who were in penance also sat on 
this side. In the cloister they all sat one behind the other : 
but sideways when talking was allowed. On these occasions 
" Let no one dare to ask about the gossip of the world nor 
tell it, nor speak of trifles or frivolous subjects apt to cause 
laughter. No contentions are to be allowed. While talking 
is allowed, no brother should read a book or write anything 
unless he sits altogether apart." The monks were not 
allowed to go to the novices. These were not allowed to 
speak or to sit close to one another. They were always 
under the eye of a guardian, who while he was on duty was 
not allowed to read or write or do anything which would take 
his eyes away from watching. The monks seem to have 
always worn their hoods during the daytime. French was 
the general language of the monastery Latin only occasion- 
ally. In the cloister took place the weekly washing of the 
feet, and while the monks were engaged in the process they 
wore their hoods drawn over their faces. Shaving took place 
here. The prior fixed the day (in the winter once in two 
weeks, in the summer twice in three weeks) and four barbers 
attended. The seniors were shaved first, "because in the 
beginning the razors are sharp and the towels dry," says the 
consuetudinary. The cloister was spread with straw in the 
winter and with green rushes in the summer. 



In the refectory the monks preserved their respective 
places. They had to wash their hands before entry, and 
each say the De profundis while taking his place. At the 
sound of the skilla, which the president strikes, grace is 
begun, always by the precentor or succentor. The monks 
stand facing the east. At the end of the grace the reader 
approaches the step before the high table and asks the 
blessing. Until he has read the first sentence the monks 
sit quietly at the table. Should the reader, however, not be 
able to find the book at once he recites a short sentence from 
Scripture (Deus car Has est), so as not to keep them waiting 
unduly. The one who presides sits in the middle of the 
high table and has the little bell to give signals. The guests 
are placed on either of his sides. Should a bishop or abbat of 
some other order be present, out of respect he takes the chief 
place, but does not preside at the skilla ; a benedictine abbat, 
however, presides as if at home. The various dishes are taken 
first to the superior and then in order round the community. 
The monk who sang the high mass that day is always served 
after the guests, and then the non-professed novices. No 
waiter (the monks, all but the novices, served week by week) 
is allowed to carry three dishes at once. The refectory being 
the common dining-hall, no singularity in eating or drink- 
ing is allowed. No noise to be made ; for instance, if there 
are nuts, they are not to be cracked with the teeth, but a 
monk is privately to open them with his knife, so as not 
to disturb the reader. Should he spill anything, he has to 
go and do penance in the middle of the refectory if strangers 
are not present. He is not to make signs across the 
refectory, not to look about or watch what the others are 
doing ; he is not to lean on the table ; his tongue and eyes 
are to be kept in check, and the greatest modesty observed. 


His ears, however, are always to be attentive to the reading 
and his heart fixed on his heavenly home. He eats with 
his head covered with the hood. " No one, whether in the 
refectory or outside, should drink without using both hands 
to the cup, unless weakness in one hand prevents him. . . . 
And this manner of drinking was common in England 
before the coming of the Normans." If the president sends 
any special dish to some one brother, the receiver rises 
in his place and bows his thanks. When the meal is 
finished each monk covers up the bread that has to serve 
for supper, and sets his knife and spoon and salt vessel in 
order. They then begin grace, and go out in procession to 
the church where it was finished. The reader and the servers 
have to go out also, but do not go into the choir ; and as 
soon as they have privately finished their grace they return 
to the refectory for their meal, which is served precisely as 
the others. But they " as a reward of their labour ought to 
be served in the most honourable and best manner possible, 
both of the vegetables and pitance, and of the extra dish." 


One of the most important features in the government of 
the abbey was the daily chapter ; it was the mainspring of 
discipline and the upholder of fraternal charity. Without 
such an institution it would have been impossible to govern 
the house. According to the old custom, every day before 
the chapter, the prior summoned the guardians of the order, 
some of the seniors and other discreet monks, if necessary, 
to consult with them about what should be treated of in the 
chapter or corrected ; so that nothing should ever be done 
there on the spur of the moment or without advice. In 
chapter only those things which pertained to salvation were 
to be treated of, business matters being spoken about else- 
where ; but any pressing business which required the know- 


ledge and assent of the whole convent could be briefly gone 
into after the main business was completed. All in the house 
were bound to attend. The superior entered first and was 
followed in due order by the seniors ; and when all had 
taken their places a junior read the martyrology for the day. 
The tabula or list of duties and notices was then read, and 
each monk on hearing his name bowed. Then followed a 
discourse if the superior thought fit, and at the end he said 
Loquamur de or dine nostro. At this point the non-pro- 
fessed novices rose and went out. 1 

There were " three voices " recognised in the chapter : 
the accuser, the answerer, and the judge ; and another 
"five voices," to wit: he who presided; the guardians of 
the order ; the precentor and succentor ; the brothers charged 
with keeping the silence, " because silence is called the key 
of the whole order " ; and then the almoner and sub-almoner. 
These five in their order were the first to " proclaim " any 
one whom through their respective offices they knew had 
infringed the rule. The monk so proclaimed had to go out 
into the centre of the chapter and, prostrating, made con- 
fession of his fault, and, saying mea culpa and promising 
amendment, then received penance and rebuke. Should he 
be accused falsely he could " sweetly " say that he has no 
recollection of the fault. Special severity was to be shown to 
he juniors, for then " order will much better flourish in the 
congregation." Every one who had ceased to be under ward 
had a right to speak in the chapter on three points ; defects 

1 " The word capitulum can conveniently be said to mean caput litium, 
for in chapter all strife is put an end to and any discord or dissension 
there may have been among the brethren. The chapter-house is the 
workshop of the Holy Ghost, in which the sons of God are gathered to- 
gether and reconciled to Him. And it is especially the house of confes- 
sion, the house of obedience, mercy, and forgiveness ; and the house of 
unity, peace, and tranquillity, in which whatever exterior offence com- 
mitted to the knowledge of the brethren is confessed, and by satis- 
faction is mercifully forgiven." 


in the public worship, the breaking of silence, and the 
distribution of the alms. On other subjects he must 
ask leave to speak. But the abbat's councillors, four- 
teen or sixteen seniors (senpectes vel senes), chosen from 
both choirs, have freedom of speech when any matters 
which concern observance and the increase of religion 
are discussed. Any one who speaks is to be heard by 
all, and is not to be rebuked for what he says unless he 
speaks disrespectfully. Any one disagreeing with what 
has been said, can with all modesty and reverence dis- 
pute the matter, "lest discordant contention finds place 
for overthrowing of the order." But disturbers of the 
chapter, the disobedient and those disrepectfully contend- 
ing with their superiors, are to be sharply corrected by 
words, stripes, and fasts, that their bad example may not 
corrupt others. Provision is made against any insulting 
language to the president of chapter, and should such occur 
the guardians and all seniors are at once to proclaim him. 
Every fault confessed has to be punished. If in penance a 
monk is ordered to receive stripes, the president appoints one, 
never the proclaimer nor a junior, to execute the sentence ; 
and the culprit, according to the old usage, prostrated and 
received on his bare shoulders the number of stripes or- 
dained. 1 But according to the later custom he sits with his 
face and head enveloped in the hood. "While corporal 
discipline of this kind is being inflicted upon a brother all 
the rest sit with bowed and covered head, and with kind and 
brotherly affection should have compassion on him." In the 
meanwhile no one speaks, or even looks at him, except the 
president and the inflictor and some of the elders, especi- 
ally the confessors of the house, who can intercede for him. 
The list of punishments is given, and is divided into those 
for light faults, such as : separation from the common table ; 

1 According to the old custom a thick rod was used ; but in later days 
a birch of "several lither twigs." 


to take the meal three hours later than the community ; l 
to take a lower place in choir and chapter ; not to celebrate 
mass nor to assist ministerially ; not to read in public, nor 
sing nor act as thurifer or acolyth ; not to make the offer- 
tory, nor receive the pax or the holy communion ; to pros- 
trate during part of every office. For grave faults perpetual 
silence (in choir as well as elsewhere) ; bread and water every 
Wednesday and Thursday ; the last place in the community. 
For the very grave crimes imprisonment according to the 
Rule. Such an one had also to lie prostrate in the doorway of 
the church at each hour, so that the monks passed over his 
body on entering or going out, and he had to sit outside 
the choir as one excommunicated. 

If any one in chapter became altogether rebellious and 
would not be otherwise controlled, he was seized by the 
brethren, who took away his knife and girdle, lest he should 
in his madness do harm, and was then put into the prison. 

Every one was liable to be proclaimed, even the abbat; 
but he, as a rule, had to be reverently spoken to by some of 
the seniors outside the chapter, should he have been guilty 
of any serious fault. But if his fault was notorious and it 
was judged useful, he could in a few words be proclaimed in 
the chapter. The prior, when proclaimed, stood in his place 
and bowed. If it was a serious offence, two of the seniors 
at his request go into the middle and do penance in his 
stead. The abbat is warned by the consuetudinary to have 
a great respect for his prior, and not to rebuke him publicly 
for an indiscreet word or so. The obedientiaries are not 
to be proclaimed by the names of their offices, but by their 
simple name and number e.g. Nonnus A quintus vel nonnus 
A decimus. If by chance there are several of the same name, 
all of them have to rise until the proclaimer indicates which 
one he refers to. There are to be no mutual proclamations 

1 The time, while the others were eating, had to be spent in prayer in 
the church. 


in the same chapter, nor is any one to proclaim after he has 
once sat down. The proclamations over, any monk who had 
a petition to make then went into the middle, and prostrat- 
ing, in answer to the abbat's demand what he asked, replied, 
" I ask and beseech God's mercy and yours for " according 
to his need. This was the occasion when a monk asked for 
prayers for his deceased parents and relations, for himself 
before ordination, for leave to give up some work imposed 
upon him, for mercy for others, for leave to go to the 
infirmary, or for the blessing before profession, &c. These 
petitions being heard and granted, if judged well, any lay- 
men or others who desired confraternity were admitted by 
the chapter, and their petition was granted. The business 
being completed, prayers for the dead were said by the 
president, and upon the signal the blessing was given and all 


The dormitory was a place of perpetual silence. The 
monks wore their hoods drawn over the face, and walked 
with slow and grave footsteps and eyes cast down. After 
compline the convent go processionally to the dormitory, 
and according to ancient usage paused at the latrine for 
the common need. On entering the dormitory, each stood 
before his bed and said privately the compline of our Lady. 
They then prepared their beds for the night, and took off 
their upper garments according to a fixed rule 1 and got into 
bed. If any one was in the habit of calling out in his sleep, 
he slept elsewhere than in the common dormitory. 

The monk rose at midnight for matins. Some, to stir up 
their fervour, used the words, JScce sponsus venit, exite obviam 
ei ; others, the words Surgite mortui qui jacetis in sepulchris 
vestris et occurrite ad judicium. The prayers used while 

1 " Vestiti staminis,femoralibus et caligis atque cincti cingulis aut vestibus vel 
carrigiis dormire debent." 



getting up were the Ave Maria, with special reference to 
the midnight hour at which Christ was born. After the 
office they went back to the dormitory. When they rose 
again before prime, they signed their foreheads with the 
cross and said, each one, the Credo and the prime of the 
little office of our Lady. According to the regulation, all 
had to have their feet out of bed before the sound of the 
caller has ceased; and he is instructed to sound slowly, as 
it were for the space of a Miserere. On rising they turn 
back their beds and go to the lavatory to wash and comb 
their hair ; then to the church for prime ; after which came 
the private masses. 

In the olden days the monks changed their clothes on the 
occasion of the bath, which used to be taken four times 
a year. But since a stricter interpretation of the Rule 
was introduced, and the general bathing allowed only twice 
a year, the monks were allowed to change their clothes 
when they wished. They had a specified mode of making 
the change, which was always done after prime ; and after 
putting on their clean clothes they were ordered to wash their 
hands before returning to the cloister. 

There was a siesta in the middle of the day, for which 
they had to undress as for the night. Each bed-place had 
a shelf and a hook provided, but no other convenience 
except for the old and infirm. The bed-clothes were not 
to be of scarlet or any vivid colours. Great cleanliness 
was ordered in the dormitory, and no dirty or old boots 
were allowed to be kept in it. The chamberlain was re- 
sponsible for the well-keeping of the dormitory, and had 
to have it thoroughly cleaned out, at least once a year. Hay, 
changed often, was strewn on the floor, and a large mat two 
and a half feet wide (which the guardian of the manor of 
Northburne had to provide) stretched the whole length of 
the dormitory. The beds were of straw, and had to be re- 
newed every year. The chamberlain, besides the care of the 


dormitory, had to see to the monks' clothing, and had to 
make on stated days a distribution of various articles of 
clothing. Each monk had a new habit at least once a year, 
also one pilche, 1 one set of night wear, and one pair of 
slippers, &c. Boots were to be renewed once a year, and 
" no one could refuse to accept a pair of boots, if too large ; 
but the chamberlain should do his best to get each one 
fitted." The old clothes were given to the poor, and there- 
fore it is laid down that the monks' clothing is not to be 
mended too much. 


The prior or guardians have to visit the infirmary every 
day after the private masses, after each meal, and after 
compline, to see the sick and make inquiries and receive 
complaints. If a brother is unwell, he has to get leave to 
go to the infirmary, and goes to the cellarer and gets for his 
consolation, doubtlessly, from him a good fat capon and some 
wine, from the sacrist a supply of candles, &c. ; and thus 
supplied, is prepared for any contingency. He has to go 
to the infirmary for at least eight days, and during that time 
is not allowed, without special leave, to celebrate mass, but 
has to assist at the daily mass said in the infirmary. "In 
the infirmary no unseemly noise should at any time be made, 
nor should any sound of musical instruments be ever openly 
heard there. But if it is considered necessary for any one 
who is weak and ill, to have his spirit cheered up by the 
sound of music and harmony, the infirmarian can provide 
such relaxation. The sick brother is taken into the chapel 
and the door shut ; then some brother or some honest and 
private servant can, without offence, play sweetly the music 
of the harp for his delectation. But great care must be 
taken lest any sound or melody of this kind should be 

1 These were of lamb's wool, cat or wolf's skin. 


heard (quod absit) in the infirmary hall, or in the cells of the 
brethren." The sick are to have every attention and all that 
they want ; and it is ordered that one of the servants of the 
infirmary has to go into the town to the apothecary when 
required to get the medicines, to collect herbs for decoctions, 
and, under the doctor's orders, to make the tisanes, &c. 

Should these, together with the fat capon and other con- 
solations, prove efficacious, the brother, when restored to 
health, had to present himself before chapter and ask ab- 
solution and penance for all the faults and infringements 
of the Kule he had been guilty of while ill. But if the 
sickness was unto death, the end was met and prepared for 
as became monks. 

When it was announced that a brother was dying, the 
whole convent gathered together in the church, together with 
the abbat, and then went in procession to visit the sick, and 
to anoint him. The monks, headed by juniors bearing the 
holy water, cross, candles, and thurible, chanting the seven 
penitential psalms, set forth towards the infirmary. The 
sacrist followed bearing reverently the holy oil, and the 
abbat in alb, stole, and maniple humbly followed, accompanied 
by his chaplain bearing the ritual. Arrived at the place, 
the monks stand choirwise and continue their chanting while 
the sick man is aspersed and incensed. The public con- 
fession is made by the sick man himself if possible, and he 
is absolved by all his brethren, and absolves them in turn. 
Then, according to the old usage, after having kissed the 
cross he is anointed by the abbat. Meanwhile a priest goes 
with acolythes and candles to the church and brings the 
Sacrament of Christ's Body, borne on a paten, to the sick 
chamber, and on entering all kneel and adore. The mouth of 
the sick monk is rinsed out before he receives the sacred host, 
and immediately before communion he makes his profession 
of faith and receives the ablutions of the priest's fingers after- 
wards. For eight days after the anointing, special prayers 

VOL. I. U 


are said for the sick man by the convent, at the end of each 
office and also at the morrow-mass. And now the sick man 
prepares himself for death by resuming the old ascetic 
practices. No longer does he take meat (unless he recovers), 
nor does he use a softer bed than usual. One of the monks, 
priest or deacon, whomsoever the sick man names, is assigned 
to him as tutor and friend, and special servants, who have 
special privileges, are appointed to wait on him. He is never 
left until death supervenes or he recovers. The brother is 
constantly to read the passion of our Lord to him as long as 
he can hear ; and when unable to do so, the psalter is said 
to assist him in his agony. When death is at hand, accord- 
ing to the old custom, ashes were strewn on the floor in the 
shape of a cloth, and haircloth laid thereon ; and on to this 
penitential bed the dying man was gently lifted, according 
to the example of St. Martin, who told his disciples that 
Christians ought only to die on ashes and sackcloth. But 
the more humane usage of later times modified this custom, 
and the ashes and haircloth were put upon the bed itself. 
As soon as the agony began the convent were summoned, 
and with thurible and cross, and singing Credo and peni- 
tential psalms, they assisted at the departure of their brother. 
The deceased, clad in his night garments (it was specified 
that the clothes had to be good, even new), with his face 
covered with a sudarium, was borne into the church, and 
there the office of the dead was sung, and vigil kept around 
the body, which was never left until the funeral. He was 
borne to the grave by his brethren, and laid therein by two 
monks vested in albs. In the chapter immediately after 
his death, the convent took the discipline conventualiter for 
the relief of his soul. For thirty days office was said for 
him, and the month's mind duly kept. Doles were made 
to the poor on his behalf ; and each priest in the house said 
ten masses, and those not priests ten psalters. Notice of 
the death was sent to all religious houses in Great Britain, 


except to the mendicants, and a dirge and mass celebrated 
in each. In the houses specially connected with St. Augus- 
tine's, the name of the dead was inserted by the precentor 
in the Martyrology, and besides the public mass each priest 
said one, and the others read fifty psalms. 

When news came of the death of a con/rater, a dirge and 
solemn mass was sung as the official act of the convent, and 
each priest said a mass, and the other monks fifty psalms. 
The name of the con/rater was entered in the Martyrology, 
and his anniversary kept as that of one of the monks. It was 
also inserted in the next Ireviculum which was sent out, 
and thus he shared in the prayers of every house. 


Among the regulations scattered throughout the consue- 
tudinary are some of special interest. In the Eeformation- 
cula of abbat Nicholas Thome it is laid down that on days 
when the convent assisted at a sermon they could say the 
usual penitential psalms privately ; and this and the like 
dispensations were given, so that the office itself might be 
said more slowly and more devoutly. The eating of meat 
was allowed to the brethren who bore the weight of the 
office ; but never in the refectory but in the domus miseri- 
cordiarum, and always with the provision that never less than 
thirty monks were to be present at the ordinary meal in the 
refectory. No seculars were to be allowed in the domus 
misericordiarum, and the monks had to serve themselves. 
Obedientiaries and others whom business took abroad were 
not allowed to eat meat, especially in public; for, it is 
recognised " this is against the Rule, and altogether against 
canonical institution." 

" Let the confessors discreetly do all that belongs to their 
office, viz. to know how to weigh and discern between sin 


and sin ; between person and person ; between manner and 
manner; and what circumstances aggravate a sin." 

"Also let the brethren frequently confess, at least once 
a week ; and not only once but twice or thrice, or daily if 
their conscience demands it, for it is said the just man falls 
seven times a day. And those who confess, let them be ready 
to receive and duly perform penance." The confessors have 
every month to give in, to the abbat or other superior, the 
names of those who confess to them, and whether they 
confess according to the above manner. Those who do not 
confess within the ordinary times are to be rebuked and 
publicly punished in the chapter. 

No priest is to refrain from celebrating more than four 
days without the superior's consent; nor the others from 
weekly communion. Transgressors were to be put on lenten 
fare till they repented. 

The monks were not allowed to write or receive letters 
without permission. 

" That our Eule of our holy father Benet be held by all in 
great reverence. That the statutes of the popes, of the legates, 
and of the general chapter of our order are to be read in the 
chapter-house at fixed times, and are to be observed as 
far as they do not go against our privileges or reasonable 

That the monks all dress alike, the same cut, the same 
colour and material. 

That in processions the monks should go orderly and 
gravely, and that there should be a distance of seven feet 
between each monk. 

That no brother should become a guardian or have ward 
of seculars without special leave. No one is to take part in 
secular disputes unless for the convent or church. 

The brethren were for the future forbidden, under pains 
provided for in the canons, to play at chess, dice, &c., or 
to use bows or slings, or run with poles, or throw stones, 

**' * 


big or little, or to be present at fights or duels, or baiting, 
or cock-fighting, or to run in the woods, with shout and 
hounds, in the profane sport of the chase. 

That behaviour is to be guarded between the monks and 
seculars as well as among themselves : and that no one gives 
ear to rumours or such like fatuities which profit not the soul. 

That all wicked carnal affections and foolish consortings 
be repressed ; and all giving of blows is forbidden. 

That the younger monks, after they have finished their 
tutelage, should study Holy Scripture, for nothing is more 
hateful than not to know how to occupy oneself. Let them 
learn off by heart the epistles and gospels for the whole 
year. Before they venture to read them publicly, they must 
be diligently practised. 

There are some who practise private acts of mortification 
and leave unobserved those prescribed by the Rule. Such as 
these are to be rebuked. 

Since some of the monks get bled too often and without 
necessity, in order to get the solatium allowed at those times, 
it is ordered that bleeding is only allowed once in seven 

Those who have leave to go outside the enclosure do not 
therefore get leave to eat and drink outside, or to go to the 
houses of seculars. On journeys, monks are to go to houses 
of our own order in preference to any other. 

No one is to be promoted to the priesthood save by a 
special favour and by the advice, of the seniors. If any 
youth of ability is sent to the university, he has to know 
by heart, before he is allowed to go, the psalter, the 
hymns, canticles, communion of saints, the ferial antiphons, 
and short responsories, and all the versicles of the whole 

There are some who claim a general dispensation from 
compline. No such licence is ever to be given. Permission 
is only granted in individual cases from certain and reasonable 


causes. Those who are dispensed are to say their compline 
sitting near the chapter-house door, and not walking about 
the cloister. They, also, are to be in the dormitory before the 
curfew sounds. 

"And let the brethren take heed that they fail not in 
these, for very perilous it is to fail in such laws until 
they have been revoked by the abbat, or with his permission 
by the prior or sub-prior in full chapter. There are some 
who attach little weight to the precepts of chapter, and say : 
1 We will do what is ordered for two or three days, so that 
we may seem to accept and obey them ; but beyond this we 
don't care.' Such as these wickedly sin." 


Printed by BALLANTTNE, HANSON 6* Co. 
Edinburgh 6* London 

Date Due