Duke William of Aquitaine founded Cluny Abbey in 910. It was exempt for visitations from it’s local bishop answering, instead, directly to the Pope. Like all monastics the monks at Cluny followed the rule of St Benedict but it placed a new emphasis on the liturgy. Ceremony, prayer, mass and psalms became the focus of the day.
William the Conqueror wanted the Cluniacs in England but the first one was founded at Lewes by William de Warenne. Lewes was not an abbey, it was priory. All Cluniac houses remained dependent upon their mother house at Cluny for direction. Bermondsey followed and William Rufus who did not have a reputation for piety gave it rich endowments. In total there would be some 35 Cluniac foundations in medieval England.
Faversham was founded by King Stephen and his wife Matilda in 1147 when Stephen donated his manor as the location of a new abbey – to be called St Saviour’s. A group of monks from Bermondsey, under licence and with permission from the mother house at Cluny to build the new priory – or rather abbey. It was understood that the new foundation was to be as free and independent as Reading Abbey, another Cluniac foundation. Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I and is where he is buried. This was to be the place where the House of Blois would be buried. Stephen, his wife and son Eustace were buried there.
Henry II confirmed the grants and charters that Stephen made and it was still a Cluniac foundation. It remained Cluniac in the reign of his grandson Henry III but it was independent and ultimately not so important as Reading Abbey, the House of Blois lasting precisely one generation. It’s status as an abbey was contrary to Cluniac identity. Thus in the reign of Henry III, although it was founded by Cluniacs Faversham became a Benedictine Abbey.
At the dissolution the bones of Stephen and his family were disinterred. Their empty graves were discovered during archeological survey in 1965 but it is thought that they might have been moved to St Mary’s Church rather than dumped in Faversham Creek
Friday again – time flies when you’re doing all those little jobs that you’ve been putting off for the last two decades.
William the Conqueror was of course the Duke of Normandy and is buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen which he founded prior to the conquest and his wife Matilda of Flanders was buried in the sister abbey, the Abbey of the Holy Trinity or Abbey Aux Dames as it is also known in Caen. William the Conqueror’s funeral was a bit on the traumatic side according to Orderic Vitalis because the body was too big for the coffin and there was a bit of an explosion as a consequence.
William Rufus who had a nasty accident with an arrow in the New Forest on 2nd August 1100 was buried in Winchester Cathedral. His bones are believed to be somewhere in the mortuary chests that house the remans of Saxon and Medieval Kings which were desecrated in 1642 by Parliamentarians.
Henry I and his first wife Edith or Matilda of Scotland as she became after her marriage are the first royal burials in Westminster Abbey following the interment of Edward Confessor who was buried in the abbey he founded in 1066. His second wife Adeline eventually became a nun and was buried in Affligem Abbey in Brabant.
King Stephen and his wife Matilda of Boulogne were buried in Faversham Abbey in Kent. The royal tombs were destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries.
Henry II is buried in Fontevrault Abbey in France along with his estranged queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard I better known as the Lion-heart – Richard’s wife Berengaria can be found in Le Mans Cathedral. Henry’s daughter-in-law Isabella of Angoulême is also buried in Fontevrault whereas King John is is buried in Worcester Cathedral. It probably would have been complicated to transport his body to France given that the Barons War was underway and the french were invading England at the time.
Henry III is another Westminster burial where as his wife, Eleanor of Provence, is buried in Amesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. The tomb was lost upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Edward I famously died at Burgh-by-Sands as he was about to cross the Solway on yet another attempt on Scotland. His body was transported back to Westminster Abbey to lay beside his beloved wife Eleanor of Castile.
Edward II, who allegedly died after an incident with a hot poker in Berkeley Castle is buried in Gloucester Cathedral – although there is a theory that he wasn’t killed in which case he is clearly not in the cathedral but so far as regular history is concerned that’s where he can be located. Edward’s estranged wife Isabella of France was buried in Greyfriars Church, Newgate and was yet another loss during the Reformation.
Philippa of Hainhault is also buried in Westminster along with her husband Edward III. Their grandson Richard II married Anne of Bohemia who died of the plague. She can be found in Westminster as can Richard who died in Pontefract Castle, possibly from starvation having been usurped by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke. He was originally buried in King’s Langley Church in Hertfordshire but was relocated in 1413.
Henry of Bolingbroke who became Henry IV was married firstly to Mary de Bohun. She died before he became king so technically her burial place in Leicester is not the resting place of a royal. Henry’s second wife Joan of Navarre is buried in Canterbury Cathedral along with Henry.
Both Henry V and his wife Katherine of Valois are buried in Westminster Abbey. Their son Henry VI was murdered by Edward IV bringing the Wars of the Roses to a close on 21 May 1471. He was first buried in Cherstey Abbey in Surrey so that he couldn’t become a focus for disgruntled Lancastrians but he was then removed to St George’s Chapel in Windsor in 1485. Somewhat ironically the man who ordered his murder is also buried in St George’s Chapel along with his wife Elizabeth Woodville – thus disgruntled Yorkists didn’t have a focus either. Edward V was never crowned and disappeared in the Tower – depends which conspiracy theory you believe as to where his remains might be. There is an urn in Westminster Abbey that contains the bones of two children found in the Tower in 1674 during building work.
Richard III, famously the king under the carpark was initially buried in the Collegiate Church of St Mary Leicester and can now be found in Leicester Cathedral along with some beautiful modern stained glass windows. His wife Anne Neville who probably died from tuberculosis is in Westminster Abbey.
Henry VII and Elizabeth of York are in Westminster as are their grandchildren Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. Henry VIII is in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His wives are buried as follows: Katherine of Aragon is buried in Peterborough Abbey. her original tomb was destroyed during the English Civil War. Anne Boleyn was executed and buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. Jane Seymour is next to her chunky spouse in Windsor. Anne of Cleves is in Westminster Abbey. Katherine Howard is in the Tower (and of course that’s where Lady Jane Grey the nine days queen of England can also be found) and Katherine Parr is buried in Sudely Castle Chapel.
On to the Stuarts. James is buried in Westminster with his wife Anne of Denmark. Charles I was buried in St George’s Chapel Windsor following his execution. His queen Henrietta Maria is in the Cathedral St Denis, Paris. Charles II is in Westminster but his wife Katherine of Braganza returned to Portugal following Charles’ death and is buried in Lisbon. James II was forced to flee in 1688 when William of Orange and James’ daughter Mary were politely asked to invade to save England from Catholicism. James’ first wife Anne Hyde is in Westminster but she died before James became king. James was buried in the Chapel of St Edmund in Paris. The idea was that he might one day be relocated to Westminster. Unfortunately his remains were still in France at the time of the revolution and somas people believe it disappeared.
William of Orange and his wife Mary are in Westminster as is Queen Anne and her husband George of Denmark. All of Anne’s children are also buried in Westminster Abbey in the same vault as Mary Tudor.
Anne was the last of the Stuart line and so the protestant Hanoverians arrived. George I is buried near Osnabruck but George II is in Westminster whereas George III, George IV and William IV are in St George’s Chapel Windsor. Queen Victoria initially buried her husband Albert in St George’s Chapel but he was removed to the Royal Mausoleum, Frogmore, Windsor where he is interred with Queen Victoria who died at Osbourne House on the Isle of White in 1901.
Edward VII is buried along with his queen, Alexandra in St George’s Chapel, Windsor as are George V and Mary of Teck. George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother are also buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Edward VIII abdicated before he cold be crowned. He is buried in Frogmore.
During the later Anglo-Saxon period all monasteries were Benedictine. Benedictine monks follow the rules written by St Benedict in the early sixth century (535-540) for his monastic foundation at Monte Cassino. The rule covers what monks are and aren’t allowed to do as well as regulating their days and nights with regard to Divine worship, study, manual labour and prayer. However, as the medieval period went on many monks, such as the Benedictine in the manuscript image to the left of this paragraph developed a reputation for behaving in a decidedly unmonastic manner.
By the eleventh century, Cluny Abbey, which followed the rules of St Benedict, as indeed did every monastic order that followed, chose to reinterpret the rules. The order applied itself to the liturgy rather than educational and intellectual work expanded. In England, William Warenne founded the Cluniac abbey at Lewes just after the conquest. William the Conqueror requested more Cluniac monks to come from their mother abbey in Cluny to England but was unsuccssessful in the first instance. Gradually though more Cluniacs did arrive. William Rufus, not known for his piety, encouraged the Cluniacs to come to England as did his brother King Henry I who funded Reading Abbey which interestingly was inhabited initially by Cluniac monks but did not go on to become a Cluniac establishment. The royal family continued to support the Cluniac order. King Stephen founded the Cluniac priory at Faversham which became notable as the burial place for his family. In Yorkshire Pontefract was a Cluniac establishment. Despite this early popularity the Cluniacs did not prosper as an order in England as the centuries progressed not least because all Cluniac houses were daughter houses following the rule and direction of the mother-house in Cluny and thus aliens. Whilst the Plantagenets held a huge European empire it wasn’t a problem but as English monarchs found the size of their continental domains dwindling they didn’t want monks who looked to Europe for direction and preferred to sponsor home-grown talent.
The Cistericans, pictured left, were founded in 1098 by the monks of Citeaux who believed in austerity and hard work – again a reinterpretation of the rule of St Benedict and reforms designed to counter perceived laxity in other monastic houses. Their habit was made from unbleached wool. These were the so-called ‘White monks.’ They arrived in the south of England in 1128. In 1132 Walter Espec gave the white monks land at Rievaulx – the rest as they say, is history. Fountains Abbey is also a Cistercian foundation. Unlike the standard Benedictine monks they refused gifts and rights of patronage – in short anything that would have made them easily wealthy. Instead they cultivated the wilderness. An emphasis was placed upon labour. The great Yorkshire abbeys acquired land and farms over the next two hundred years extending south into Derbyshire and north into Cumberland. In 1147 Furness Abbey was founded. At that time Furness was in Lancashire rather than Cumbria as it is in present times.
The next influx of monastic types were the Charterhouse monks or Carthusians as they should be more properly named. This order was developed by the monks of Chartreuse. The first monastic foundations for this order were in Somerset at the turn of the twelfth century. They lived in isolation. Each monk had a cell and a cloistered garden. They did not see one another, even for Divine service as each stall was screened – together but alone. They arrived during the reign of King Henry II as part of the monarch’s penance for the death of Thomas Becket. The Carthusians restricted the numbers of monks in each priory to 13 monks composed of a prior and twelve monks and eighteen lay brothers. There was a vow of silence and they were vegetarians. The order did not really take off until the fourteenth century by which time monasticism was suffering on account of the Black Death: changing economy and social structures. In Yorkshire the Carthusians established Mount Grace Priory in 1398. Today its ruins remain the best preserved Carthusian monastery in England. The seated Carthusian on the right is an early eighteenth century portrayal and can be found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of these orders only the Carthusians do not have nuns as well as monks.
So far, so good. Part two of Medieval Monastic orders will cover the canons and part three will cover friars.