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Downside Abbey


Benedictine abbey 12 miles south of Bath, south England. The community originated in Douai (France) in 1607, moved to Downside in 1814, and became an abbey in 1900. Englishmen, unable to become monks in England, joined Benedictine houses in Spain and then moved to Douai in the Spanish Netherlands, seeking to found a monastery and work among English Catholics. Abbot Philip de Caverel of nearby saint-vaast helped establish conventual life (1607), gave funds for building and endowment, and joined to the community (St. Gregory) a house of studies for his own monks who were members of the University of Douai. Augustine Bradshaw was the first prior. A school for boys (founded 161418) flourished until the French Revolution, averaging 50 students, all English until the last years. Six martyrs from the many monks who worked among Catholics in England were beatified in 1925: John roberts, Ambrose barlow, George Gervase, Philip Powell, Maur Scott, and Thomas Pickering. By 1793, when the Revolutionary government closed it, St. Gregory was an accepted establishment of Douai, where its monks taught in the university. Half the monks and pupils escaped to England and in 1794 were joined by the rest, who had been imprisoned in Picardy for several months. They were at Acton Burnell in Shropshire on the estate of an alumnus, Sir Edward Smythe, until they purchased Mount Pleasant at Downside (1814), where they have since flourished.

The Divine Office is solemnly performed with a daily solemn Mass in the church. This edifice (330 feet long) possesses the relics of Bl. Oliver plunket. The monastery was near completion in 1965. The monks engage in pastoral work, but their principal occupation is teaching in the abbey's school, one of England's leading public schools. The Downside Review, devoted to theological studies, is well known. Bernard ullathorne, Bede polding, and Roger Bede vaughan were Downside monks who helped establish the Church in Australia and ameliorate the lot of convicts there. ealing abbey (London) in 1955 and Worth Abbey (Sussex) in 1957 became independent houses with large schools. Outstanding monks of Downside include the historian Cardinal Aidan gasquet, the scholar Cuthbert butler, the liturgist Hugh Connolly, and John chapman.

Bibliography: b. hicks, H. E. Ford, First Abbot of Downside (London 1947). b. sankey, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 14:767768. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 1:998. o. l. kapsner, A Benedictine Bibliography: An Author-Subject Union List, 2 v. (2d ed. Collegeville, Minn. 1962) 2:203204. m

[c. mccann]

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