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Lewes, Priory of


Former Benedictine monastery, in present-day Lewes, Sussex, England. Founded between 1078 and 1081 by William de Warenne, earl of Surrey, and his wife, Gundreda, it was the earliest Cluniac foundation in England. It was dedicated to St. Pancras. The original community, sent by St. hugh of cluny, consisted of three monks and a prior. By the terms of the foundation charter the prior was to be nominated by the abbot of cluny from among the three best monks in the house, precedence being given to the abbots of Cluny itself and of La charitÉ-sur-loire. The abbots of Cluny had few rights of oversight of Lewes and her dependencies, which came to number a dozen monasteries and cells. In 1351 Lewes bought a charter of denization from King Edward III to secure immunity from royal control; and in 1410 the abbot of Cluny appointed John Burgherst, prior of Lewes, vicar-general of all the Cluniac houses in England, a measure that caused resentment in those communities that had not been founded directly from Cluny. In 1480 Pope sixtus iv exempted Lewes from the jurisdiction of Cluny and placed it directly under the Holy See. The house was surrendered to King henry viii on Nov. 11, 1537, and the church and monastery were demolished by Giovanni Portinari and his assistants between Feb. 16 and April 11, 1538. The lands were given to the Cromwell family.

Bibliography: r. graham, "The English Province of the Order of Cluny in the 15th Century," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th ser., 7 (1924) 98130. Victoria History of the County of Sussex, ed. w. page, v. 2 (London 1927). d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1962) 151, 153, 154158, 281282. d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge, Eng. 194860) 2:159160, 167168; 3:280, 285, 350, 384.

[b. hamilton]

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