The revival of monasticism in England in the tenth century, whose spirit had been so severely damaged during the Viking invasions of the ninth century, was led by the great Benedictine monk, Archbishop and advisor to the royal house of Wessex, St. Dunstan. Through the efforts of Dunstan and others, by the year 1066, there were some three dozen Benedictine houses in England, a number which would grow to 136 by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-sixteenth century.
Each Benedictine abbey was an autonomous body, only loosely tied to other Benedictine communities by mutual adherence to the "rule". Larger houses were ruled by an abbot, and smaller communities, known as priories, were responsible to the "mother" abbey, and were governed by a prior.
Over the years, the Benedictines became known for their church architecture. Seven of the great Cathedrals were once Benedictine abbey churches: Canterbury, Rochester, Winchester, Durham, Norwich, and Ely. Benedictine life centered on liturgical celebration, and scholarship. Monks copied ancient manuscripts, and kept learning alive throughout the middle ages, with schools and universities rising up around their monastic centers. Benedictine monasteries could be found throughout Europe, and became the predominate form of monastic life. In 1539, it was calculated that, over their thousand year history, there existed over 37,000 Benedictine monasteries.
In Europe, Benedictines were very influential people. Their brother/sisterhood had included 11 emperors, 20 kings, 15 sovereign dukes and electors, 13 sovereign earls, 9 empresses and 10 queens. In England, Benedictine monasteries were quite wealthy and exerted great influence on society.
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