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monasteries

monasteries, or religious communities of men or women living apart from secular society, had their origin in the early church in Egypt where hermits (the word monk is derived from the Greek monos, one alone) came together to live a common life of contemplation and work under the direction of an abbot (from Aramaic abba, father), such as Pachomius, generally regarded as monasticism's founder. Pachomius' codification of the monastic way of life (or ‘rule’) was followed by several others including those of Basil (most influential in the eastern church), Augustine of Hippo, Caesarius of Arles, and Benedict of Nursia or Monte Cassino. His rule later became dominant in the West. Monastic communities spread rapidly with the expansion of Christianity following the conversion of Constantine. The first monasteries in the British Isles were established in the 5th cent. in Ireland, probably from Gaul, where the most influential figure was Martin of Tours (d. 397). Thereafter communities spread throughout Celtic Britain, notable centres being at Iona under St Columba, at St Davids, and later at Lindisfarne (or Holy Island). Monasticism was introduced into Anglo-Saxon England by Augustine of Canterbury, himself a monk, the first community being St Augustine's, Canterbury (c.598). By c.650 many monasteries had been founded throughout Britain: some were communities of men and women, the most famous being Whitby ruled by its abbess, Hilda. They followed a wide variety of rules and customs. Attempts to standardize these under the rule of Benedict were made by Wilfrid of Ripon and Hexham, Benedict Biscop of Jarrow-Monkwearmouth, Theodore of Canterbury, and others, but were not wholly successful. The Viking raids that began in 787 and continued for over a century destroyed all the northern and eastern houses, while in areas less affected most fell under the control of secular lords, who appropriated their property and appointed members of their family as lay abbots. Recovery accompanied Anglo-Saxon political recovery under the Wessex dynasty. Monasteries were founded, or refounded, often with support from the continent, particularly from Flanders and Lorraine, where there was a new reformed monasticism that looked for a more rigorous communal life, greater austerity, and freedom from secular authority, though operating in association with lay patrons and advocates. The nature and extent of the 10th-cent. reform, led by three monk-bishops, Dunstan of Canterbury, Æthelwold of Winchester, and Oswald of Worcester, who produced (c.970) with the support of King Edgar a new codification of the rule, the Regularis concordia, remains controversial, as does the state of Anglo-Saxon monasticism prior to the Norman Conquest. By 1066 there were some 35 male houses and 10 nunneries. Many, especially the former, were wealthy landholders, such as Winchester, St Albans, Bury St Edmunds, or Worcester, while the nunneries included great aristocratic institutions at Shaftesbury and Wilton. Virtually all were concentrated in the old kingdom of Wessex, the west midlands, and the Fens.

The Norman Conquest resulted in the seizure of some monastic lands by the invaders, but generally set-backs were temporary and monasticism was invigorated by new foundations such as Chester, Shrewsbury, St Mary's York, and Durham, as well as by the reforms of Lanfranc of Canterbury, whose Constitutions were widely adapted. These reflected contemporary good practice in Norman monasticism, and were influenced by Cluny, whence a number of priories were also established. The late 11th and 12th cents. also saw an increase in the number of houses for women, some of which belonged to new orders, such as the Gilbertines and that of Fontevraud. In 1128 the first Cistercian community in Britain was established at Waverley (Surrey). Cistercian monasteries and, to an even greater extent, Augustinian priories constituted the most numerous foundations of the 12th cent.

Thereafter monastic foundations declined markedly: few patrons had the necessary resources to endow a new community, though they might continue to support an existing one linked to their family or by tenurial relationship, while the crown became increasingly concerned at the loss of services and control occasioned by grants of land (in ‘mortmain’) to the church. Ecclesiastical patronage was especially directed at the new mendicant orders of friars, and chantries, frequently established in cathedrals and other churches to pray for the souls of donors and their families, tended to replace monasteries in the pious affections of the laity. Nevertheless the economy of most monasteries, some of which like Winchester and Christ Church, Canterbury, led the way in agricultural and administrative innovation, prospered during the 13th cent. The next century, however, saw serious structural crises consequent upon the Black Death, exacerbated in some instances by the Anglo-Scottish wars. The spiritual and intellectual condition of the late medieval monasteries is more controversial, but there is little doubt that there was decline from the ‘golden age’ of the 12th and 13th cents., as friars took the lead in theological debate and universities began to replace monasteries as educational centres. By the time of the dissolution (1536–40) many monasteries were finding it difficult to attract sufficient recruits, though the Valor Ecclesiasticus (1535) revealed that many communities still enjoyed considerable revenues.

A few monasteries, notably Douai, were established on the continent by English Benedictine monks early in the 17th cent. and the Douai community returned to England after the French Revolution, a time when other continental monasteries transferred to England, forming the nucleus for the re-emergence of Roman catholic monasticism in England, while a number of Anglican communities were founded through the influence of the Oxford movement.

Brian Golding

Bibliography

Burton, J. , Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain, 1000–1300 (Cambridge, 1994);
Knowles, D. , The Monastic Order in England (2nd edn. Cambridge, 1963);
——
The Religious Orders in England (3 vols., Cambridge, 1948–59);
Lawrence, C. H. , Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages (1989).

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monastery

monastery. Building or group of buildings arranged for the occupancy of members of a religious Order, or of persons desiring religious seclusion. European medieval monastic architecture derives from C6 types evolved under the rules of the Order founded by St Benedict, of which the C9 plan of St Gall, Switzerland, is the earliest surviving drawn example, with cloister, chapter-house and dorter, refectory, and infirmary set well away to the south-east. In terms of architectural organization the Benedictine plan was of a high order, and was the basis for the Cistercian monastic plan, of which Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal, Yorkshire (mostly C12 and C13), is a fine example.

Bibliography

Braunfels (1972);
Horn & and Born (1979);
Jane Turner (1996)

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monastery

mon·as·ter·y / ˈmänəˌsterē/ • n. (pl. -ter·ies) a community of persons, esp. monks or nuns, living under religious vows. ∎  the place of residence occupied by such persons.

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monastery

monastery XV. — ecclL. monastērium — ecclGr. monastḗrion, f. monázein live alone, f. mónos alone.
So monastic XVI. — (O)F. monastique or late L. monasticus — Gr. monastikós.

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monastery

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promissory •janissary • necessary • derisory •glossary • responsory • sorcery •grocery • greengrocery •delusory, illusory •compulsory • vavasory • adversary •anniversary, bursary, cursory, mercery, nursery •haberdashery •evidentiary, penitentiary, plenipotentiary, residentiary •beneficiary, fishery, judiciary •noshery • gaucherie • fiduciary •luxury • tertiary •battery, cattery, chattery, flattery, tattery •factory, manufactory, olfactory, phylactery, refractory, satisfactory •artery, martyry, Tartary •mastery, plastery •directory, ex-directory, interjectory, rectory, refectory, trajectory •peremptory •alimentary, complementary, complimentary, documentary, elementary, parliamentary, rudimentary, sedimentary, supplementary, testamentary •investigatory •adulatory, aleatory, approbatory, celebratory, clarificatory, classificatory, commendatory, congratulatory, consecratory, denigratory, elevatory, gyratory, incantatory, incubatory, intimidatory, modificatory, participatory, placatory, pulsatory, purificatory, reificatory, revelatory, rotatory •natatory • elucidatory • castigatory •mitigatory • justificatory •imprecatory • equivocatory •flagellatory • execratory • innovatory •eatery, excretory •glittery, jittery, skittery, twittery •benedictory, contradictory, maledictory, valedictory, victory •printery, splintery •consistory, history, mystery •presbytery •inhibitory, prohibitory •hereditary • auditory • budgetary •military, paramilitary •solitary • cemetery • limitary •vomitory • dormitory • fumitory •interplanetary, planetary, sanitary •primogenitary • dignitary •admonitory, monitory •unitary • monetary • territory •secretary • undersecretary •plebiscitary • repository • baptistery •transitory •depositary, depository, expository, suppository •niterie •Godwottery, lottery, pottery, tottery •bottomry • watery • psaltery •coterie, notary, protonotary, rotary, votary •upholstery •bijouterie, charcuterie, circumlocutory •persecutory • statutory • salutary •executory •contributory, retributory, tributary •interlocutory •buttery, fluttery •introductory • adultery • effrontery •perfunctory • blustery • mediatory •retaliatory • conciliatory • expiatory •denunciatory, renunciatory •appreciatory, depreciatory •initiatory, propitiatory •dietary, proprietary •extenuatory •mandatary, mandatory •predatory • sedentary • laudatory •prefatory • offertory • negatory •obligatory •derogatory, interrogatory, supererogatory •nugatory •expurgatory, objurgatory, purgatory •precatory •explicatory, indicatory, vindicatory •confiscatory, piscatory •dedicatory • judicatory •qualificatory • pacificatory •supplicatory •communicatory, excommunicatory •masticatory • prognosticatory •invocatory • obfuscatory •revocatory • charlatanry •depilatory, dilatory, oscillatory •assimilatory • consolatory •voluntary • emasculatory •ejaculatory •ambulatory, circumambulatory, perambulatory •regulatory •articulatory, gesticulatory •manipulatory • copulatory •expostulatory • circulatory •amatory, declamatory, defamatory, exclamatory, inflammatory, proclamatory •crematory • segmentary •lachrymatory •commentary, promontory •informatory, reformatory •momentary •affirmatory, confirmatory •explanatory • damnatory •condemnatory •cosignatory, signatory •combinatory •discriminatory, eliminatory, incriminatory, recriminatory •comminatory • exterminatory •hallucinatory • procrastinatory •monastery • repertory •emancipatory • anticipatory •exculpatory, inculpatory •declaratory, preparatory •respiratory • perspiratory •vibratory •migratory, transmigratory •exploratory, laboratory, oratory •inauguratory • adjuratory •corroboratory • reverberatory •refrigeratory • compensatory •desultory • dysentery •exhortatory, hortatory •salutatory • gustatory • lavatory •inventory •conservatory, observatory •improvisatory •accusatory, excusatory •lathery •feathery, heathery, leathery •dithery, slithery •carvery •reverie, severy •Avery, bravery, knavery, quavery, Savery, savory, savoury, slavery, wavery •thievery •livery, quivery, shivery •silvery •ivory, salivary •ovary •discovery, recovery •servery • equerry • reliquary •antiquary • cassowary • stipendiary •colliery • pecuniary • chinoiserie •misery • wizardry • citizenry •advisory, provisory, revisory, supervisory •causerie, rosary

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