Chillenden, Thomas

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Prior of Christ Church, Canterbury; d. Aug. 15, 1411. He was professed a Benedictine at Christ Church in 1365 and was a scholar at Canterbury College, the cathedral priory's college in Oxford, becoming bachelor of Canon Law by 1378 and doctor by 1383. He also studied Canon Law at the Roman Curia in 1378 to 1379. He wrote a number of canonical studies, one of which, the Sexti libri decretalium reportorium, presumably had some reputation, since five copies still exist. Chillenden was an outstanding administrator. He became treasurer of Christ Church in 1377 and retained the office after his election as prior in 1391. He abandoned the policy of direct exploitation of the conventual estates and leased them all, a program being forced on every great landowner as a result of the decline in population following the black death. He secured good terms for these leases and thereby greatly increased the revenues of the house. In consequence he was able to undertake an extensive rebuilding program for Canterbury; he employed the great mason Henry Yevele to rebuild the cathedral nave, which, together with the choir screen and chapter house, justifies Leland's tribute of Chillenden as "the greatest Builder of a Prior that ever was in Christes Chirche." Other building projects were carried out on conventual properties and at Canterbury College. Chillenden declined his election to the see of Rochester in 1400. In 1409 he attended the Council of pisa as a delegate of the province of Canterbury.

Bibliography: d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge, Eng. 194860) 2:189190. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford 195759) 1:415416.

[r. l. storey]