In the following century, lady margaret beaufort obtained the property of Creake abbey (whose religious had all died of Black death in 1506) to fund her works at Oxford and Cambridge. She was advised in this action by the staunch traditionalist John Fisher, bishop of Rochester. In 1522, fisher himself dissolved the women's monasteries of Bromhall and Higham to aid St John's College, cambridge. That same year Cardinal Wolsey dissolved St Frideswide's Priory (now Oxford Cathedral ) to form the basis of his Christ Church, Oxford ; in 1524, he secured a papal bull to dissolve some 20 other monasteries to provide an endowment for his new college. In all these suppressions, the remaining friars, monks and nuns were absorbed into other houses of their respective orders. Juries found the property of the house to have reverted to the Crown as founder. The conventional wisdom of the time was that the proper daily observance of the divine Office of prayer required a minimum of twelve professed religious, but by the 1530s only a minority of religious houses in England could provide this. Most observers were agreed that a systematic reform of the English church must necessarily involve the drastic concentration of monks and nuns into fewer, larger, houses; potentially making much monastic income available for more productive religious, educational and social purposes.
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These property rights were therefore automatically forfeited to the Crown when their English dependencies were dissolved by Act of Parliament. But the example created by these events prompted questions as to what action might be taken should houses of English foundation cease for any reason to exist. Much would depend on who, at the time the house ended, held the status of founder or patron; and, as with other such disputes in real property, the standard procedure was to empanel a jury to decide between disputing claimants. In practice, the Crown claimed the status of 'founder' in all such cases that occurred. Consequently, when a monastic community failed (e.g. Through the death of most of its members, or through insolvency the bishop would seek to obtain Papal approval for alternative use of the house's endowments in canon law. This, with royal agreement claiming 'foundership would be presented to an 'empanelled jury' for consent to disposal of the property of the house in civil law. The royal transfer of alien monastic estates to educational foundations inspired bishops, and as the 15th century waned, they advocated more such actions, which became common. The subjects of these dissolutions were usually small, poor, and indebted Benedictine or Augustinian communities (especially those of women) with few powerful friends; the great abbeys and orders exempt from diocesan supervision such as the cistercians were unaffected. The consequent new foundations were most often Oxford University and Cambridge University colleges: instances of this include john Alcock, bishop of Ely dissolving the benedictine nunnery of saint Radegund to found Jesus College, cambridge (1496 and William waynflete, bishop of Winchester acquiring Selborne Priory.
All these suppressions enjoyed Papal approval. But successive 15th-century popes continued to press for assurances that, now that the avignon Papacy had been defeated, the confiscated monastic income would revert to religious and educational uses. The medieval understanding of religious houses as institutions associated monasteries and nunneries with their property; that is to say, their endowments of land and spiritual income, and not with their current personnel of monks and nuns. If the property with which a house words had been endowed by its founder were to be confiscated or surrendered, then the house ceased to exist, whether its members continued in the religious life or not. Consequently, the founder, and their heirs, had a continuing (and legally enforceable) interest in certain aspects of the house's functioning; their nomination was required at the election of an abbot or prior, they could claim hospitality within the house when needed, and they could. In addition, though this scarcely ever happened, the endowments of the house would revert to the founder's heirs if the community failed or dissolved. The status of 'founder' was considered in civil law to be real property ; and could consequently be bought and sold, in which case the purchaser would be termed the patron. Furthermore, like any other real property, in intestacy and some other circumstances the status of 'founder' would revert to the Crown; a procedure that many houses actively sought, as it might be advantageous in their legal dealings in the king's courts. The founders of the Alien Priories had been foreign monasteries refusing allegiance to the English Crown.
Owing to the fairly constant state of war between England and France in the late middle Ages, successive english governments had objected to money going overseas to France from these Alien Priories, as the hostile French king might get hold. They also objected to foreign prelates having jurisdiction over English monasteries. Furthermore, after 1378, French monasteries (and hence alien priories dependent on them) maintained allegiance to the continuing avignon Papacy. Their suppression was supported by the rival Roman Popes, conditional on all confiscated monastic property eventually being redirected into other religious uses. The king's officers first sequestrated the assets of the Alien Priories in under Edward i, and the same thing happened repeatedly for long periods over the course of the 14th century, most particularly in the reign of Edward iii. Those Alien Priories that had functioning communities were forced to pay large sums to the king, while those that were mere estates were confiscated and run by royal officers, the proceeds going to the king's pocket. Such estates were a valuable source of income for the Crown in its French wars. Most of the larger Alien Priories were allowed to become naturalised (for instance castle Acre Priory on payment of heavy fines and bribes, but for around ninety smaller houses and granges, their fates were sealed when Henry v dissolved them by act of Parliament. The properties were taken over by the Crown; some were kept, some were subsequently given essay or sold to henry's supporters, others were assigned to his new monasteries of syon Abbey and the carthusians at Sheen Priory ; others were used for educational purposes.
Unless they were notably bad landlords or scandalously neglected those parish churches in their charge, they tended to enjoy widespread local support; particularly as they commonly appointed local notables to fee-bearing offices. The friars, not being self-supporting, were by contrast much more likely to have been the objects of local hostility, especially since their practice of soliciting income through legacies appears often to have been perceived as diminishing anticipated family inheritances. English precedents of the Church edit main article: Alien priory by the time henry viii turned his mind to the business of monastery reform, royal action to suppress religious houses had a history of more than 200 years. The first case was that of the so-called 'Alien Priories'. As a result of the norman Conquest, some French religious orders held substantial property through their daughter monasteries in England. Some of these were merely granges, agricultural estates with a single foreign monk in residence to supervise things; others were rich foundations in their own right. Lewes Priory was a daughter of Cluny of Paris and answered to the abbot of that great French house).
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Even in houses with adequate numbers, the regular obligations of communal eating and shared living had not been fully enforced for centuries, as communities tended to sub-divide into a number of distinct familiae. In most larger houses, the full observance of the canonical hours had become the task of a sub-group of 'Cloister Monks such that the majority of the professed members of the house were freed to conduct their business and live much of their lives. Extensive monastic complexes dominated English towns of any size, but most were less than half full. From 1534 onwards, Cromwell and King Henry were constantly seeking ways hathaway to redirect ecclesiastical income to the benefit of the Crown—efforts they justified by contending that much ecclesiastical revenue had been improperly diverted from royal resources in the first place. Renaissance princes throughout Europe were facing severe financial difficulties due to sharply rising expenditures, especially to pay for armies, fighting ships and fortifications. Most tended, sooner or later, to resort to plundering monastic wealth, and to increasing taxation on the clergy. Protestant princes would justify this by claiming divine authority; Catholic princes would obtain the agreement and connivance of the papacy.
Monastic wealth, regarded everywhere as excessive and idle, offered a standing temptation for cash-strapped secular and ecclesiastical authorities. In consequence, almost all official action in respect of the dissolution in England and Wales was directed at the monasteries and monastic property. The closing of the monasteries aroused popular opposition, but recalcitrant monasteries and abbots became the targets of royal hostility. The surrender of the friaries, from an official perspective, arose almost as an afterthought, as an exercise in administrative tidiness once it had been determined that all religious houses would have. In terms of popular esteem, however, the balance tilted the other way. Almost all monasteries supported themselves from their endowments; in late medieval terms 'they lived off their own'.
Cardinal Wolsey had obtained a papal Bull authorising some limited reforms in the English Church as early as 1518, but reformers (both conservative and radical) had become increasingly frustrated at their lack of progress. Henry wanted to change this, and in november 1529 Parliament passed Acts reforming apparent abuses in the English Church. They set a cap on fees, both for the probate of wills and mortuary expenses for burial in hallowed ground; tightened regulations covering rights of sanctuary for criminals; and reduced to two the number of church benefices that could in future be held by one. These Acts sought to demonstrate that establishing royal jurisdiction over the Church would ensure progress in "religious reformation" where papal authority had been insufficient. The monasteries were next in line. Scarisbrick remarked in his biography of Henry viii: Suffice it to say that English monasticism was a huge and urgent problem; that radical action, though of precisely what kind was another matter, was both necessary and inevitable, and that a purge of the religious orders.
6 Thomas Cromwell by hans Holbein : Chief Minister for Henry viii and Vicegerent in Spirituals; created the administrative machinery for the dissolution The stories of monastic impropriety, vice, and excess that were to be collected by Thomas Cromwell 's visitors to the monasteries may. But the religious houses of England and Wales—with the notable exceptions of those of the carthusians, the Observant Franciscans, and the Bridgettine nuns and monks—had long ceased to play a leading role in the spiritual life of the country. Other than in these three orders, observance of strict monastic rules was partial at best. 7 The exceptional spiritual discipline of the carthusian, Observant Franciscan and Bridgettine orders had, over the previous century, resulted in their being singled out for royal favour, in particular with houses benefitting from endowments confiscated by the Crown from the suppressed alien priories. Otherwise in this later period, donations and legacies had tended to go instead towards parish churches, university colleges, grammar schools and collegiate churches, which suggests greater public approbation of such purposes. Levels of monastic debt were increasing, and average numbers of professed religious were falling, 8 although the monasteries continued to attract recruits right up to the end. Only a few monks and nuns lived in conspicuous luxury, but most were very comfortably fed and housed by the standards of the time, and few any longer set standards of ascetic piety or religious observance. 9 Only a minority of houses could now support the twelve or thirteen professed religious usually regarded as the minimum necessary to maintain the full canonical hours of the divine Office.
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At that time, quite a few bishops across Europe had come to believe that resources expensively deployed on an unceasing round of services by men and women in theory set apart from the world would be better spent on endowing grammar schools and university colleges. Pastoral care was empire seen as much more important and vital than the monastic focus on contemplation, prayer and performance of the daily office. 5 Erasmus had made a threefold criticism of the monks and nuns of his day, saying that: in withdrawing from the world into their own communal life, they elevated man-made monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience above the god-given vows of sacramental baptism; and. The cult of relics was by no means specific to monasteries, but Erasmus was scandalised by the extent to which well-educated and highly regarded monks and nuns would participate in the perpetration of what he considered to be frauds against gullible and credulous lay believers. Summarising the state of monastic life across Western Europe, david Knowles said, The verdict of unprejudiced historians at the present day would probably be—abstracting from all ideological considerations for or against monasticism—that there were far too many religious houses in existence in view of the. Reforms edit pilgrimages to monastic shrines slogan continued to be widely popular, until forcibly suppressed in England in 1538 by order of Henry viii. But the dissolution resulted in few modifications to the practice of religion in England's parish churches; in general the English religious reforms of the 1530s corresponded in few respects to the precepts of Protestant Reformers, and encountered much popular hostility when they did. In 1536, convocation adopted and Parliament enacted the ten Articles of which the first half used terminology and ideas drawn from Luther and Melancthon ; but any momentum towards Protestantism stalled when Henry viii expressed his desire for continued orthodoxy with the six Articles.
They continued, albeit in greatly reduced numbers and radically changed forms, in those states that remained Catholic. But, the religious and political changes in England under Henry viii and Edward vi were of a different nature from those taking place in Germany, bohemia, france, scotland and Geneva. Across much of continental Europe, the seizure of monastic property was associated with mass discontent among the common people and the lower level of clergy and civil society against powerful and wealthy ecclesiastical institutions. Such popular hostility against the church was rare in England before 1558; the reformation in England and Ireland was directed from the king and highest levels of society. These changes were initially met with widespread popular suspicion; on some occasions and in particular localities, there was active resistance to the royal program. Complaints edit dissatisfaction with the general state of regular religious life, and with the gross extent of monastic wealth, was near to universal amongst late medieval secular and ecclesiastical rulers in the latin West. Bernard says there was widespread concern in the later 15th and early 16th centuries about the condition of the monasteries. A leading figure surgery here is the scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus who satirized monasteries as lax, as comfortably worldly, as wasteful of scarce resources, and as superstitious; he also thought it would be better if monks were brought more directly under the authority of bishops.
landed estates, and 'spiritual' income. In consequence of this, religious houses in the 16th century controlled appointment to about two-fifths of all parish benefices in England, 2 disposed of about half of all ecclesiastical income, 3 and owned around a quarter of the nation's landed wealth. An English medieval proverb said that if the Abbot of Glastonbury married the Abbess of Shaftesbury, the heir would have more land than the king of England. 4 The 200 houses of friars in England and Wales constituted a second distinct wave of foundations, almost all occurring in the 13th century. Friaries, for the most part, were concentrated in urban areas. Unlike monasteries, friaries had eschewed income-bearing endowments; the friars, as mendicants, expected to be supported financially by offerings and donations from the faithful, while ideally being self-sufficient in producing their own basic foods from extensive urban kitchen gardens. The dissolution of the monasteries in England and Ireland took place in the political context of other attacks on the ecclesiastical institutions of Western Roman Catholicism, which had been under way for some time. Many of these were related to the Protestant Reformation in Continental Europe. By the end of the 16th century, monasticism had almost entirely disappeared from those european states whose rulers had adopted Lutheran or Reformed confessions of faith (Ireland being the only major exception).
Act of Supremacy, passed by, parliament in 1534, which made him, supreme head of the Church in England, thus separating England from. Papal authority, and by the, first Suppression Act (1536) and the, second Suppression Act (1539). Bernard argues: The dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s was one of the most revolutionary events in English history. There were nearly 900 religious houses in England, around 260 for monks, 300 for regular canons, 142 nunneries and 183 outsiders friaries; some 12,000 people in total, 4,000 monks, 3,000 canons, 3,000 friars and 2,000 nuns. If the adult male population was 500,000, that meant that one adult man in fifty was in religious orders. 1, contents, context edit, at the time of their suppression, a small number of English and Welsh religious houses could trace their origins. Anglo-saxon or, celtic foundations before the, norman Conquest, but the overwhelming majority of the 625 monastic communities dissolved by henry viii had developed in the wave of monastic enthusiasm that had swept western Christendom in the 11th and 12th centuries. Few English houses had been founded later than the end of the 13th century; the most recent foundation of those suppressed was the. Bridgettine nunnery of syon Abbey founded in 1415.
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This article is about the specific act by king Henry viii of England. For the general phenomenon, in various countries and times, see. The, outsiders dissolution of the monasteries, sometimes referred to as the. Suppression of the monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 15 by which. Henry viii disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in, england and Wales and, ireland, appropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and provided for their former personnel and functions. Although the policy was originally envisaged as increasing the regular income of the Crown, much former monastic property was sold off to fund Henry's military campaigns in the 1540s. He was given the authority to do this in England and Wales by the.