Meaux (Melsa), Abbey of

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Former cistercian house, near Beverley, Yorkshire, England, Diocese of York, founded from fountains in 1150 by William le Gros, earl of Albemarle. The first abbot, Adam, resigned in 1160 and dispersed the community because of lack of endowments. Under Philip, his successor, Meaux was impoverished by lawsuits, bad crops, and the ransom for King Richard; and the community dispersed once again. When the abbey refused King John's levy, his vengeance necessitated yet another dispersal in 1210. Monastic life resumed in 1211, but bad administration throughout the 13th century accumulated debts; these were, however, reduced from £4,000 to £400 by 1339. In 1349 the plague killed 40 out of 50 inmates; this calamity was followed by internal dissensions concerning abbacy. William of Scarborough, abbot from 1372 to 1396, enriched the fabric of the church; he was succeeded by Thomas Burton, a man of considerable ability, who represented the Yorkshire Cistercians at Vienna during the western schism, taking the place of the abbot of clairvaux for the Cistercians of the Roman obedience. He resigned in 1399 and devoted the rest of his life to writing the history of the abbey, Chronica de Melsa (ed. E. Bond, Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, ). Meaux possessed a splendid library and a wonderful collection of relics, listed in the Chronica. The last abbot, Richard Stopes, and 24 monks surrendered the abbey on Dec. 11, 1539.

Bibliography: w. dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum (London 165573); best ed. by j. caley et al., 6 v. (181730) 5:388-398. a. earle, Essays upon the History of Meaux Abbey (London 1906). w. page, ed., The Victoria History of the County of York, 4 v. and index (London 1907-13). d. knowles and r. n. hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales (New York 1953) 111. d. knowles, The Monastic Order in England, 9431216 (2d ed. Cambridge, Eng. 1962) 349, 353-354, 368-369, 636.

[c. h. talbot]