12. F2012 Church Reform in the 10th-11th century


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Notes on reform of the English monasteries in the late 10th-early 11th century

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  • Throughout the medieval period, the church had an uneasy relationship to its lay patrons. The church was very willing to accept material favors and privileges from nobles and kings. Land was the most secure form of wealth, and if the church was to finance ambitious projects,  it needed to have land. At the same time, the church, which saw itself as a spiritual organization essentially different from all others, wanted to enjoy complete freedom in the way it used those privileges, gifts, and lands that it received.But a family that had endowed a church or monastery tended to think of that institution as part of their family estates. It was very common for monasteries in particular to be headed by a member of the founder's family generation after generation, in this way serving as a prop for the dynasty. In such an organization, spiritual goals and strict eccelsiastical discipline could easily be forgotten.  Institutions and property became "secularized" -- converted to worldly (ordinary) uses.  This was a perennial problem in the Middle Ages.In times of insecurity or turmoil, more drastic secularization was likely. This might simply be theft of church property by a local warlord, or the appropriation of  church offices.   Another type of secularization involved a church corporation turning over some of its land to a protector in return for a low, low rent.These drastic types of secularization were dangerous to church discipline, because they either removed an institution from ecclesiastical control or  impoverished the corporation. Hereditary nature of abbotsPolitical power of bishops
  • In the tenth century, all over Europe, the most dedicated churchmen saw a crying need for reform, because Viking raids and civil wars had resulted in a lot of secularization..The consequences for the church's mission as an unwordly institution were what you might expect. Things seemed worse in the monasteries that survived.  It was hard to find disciplined monasteries at the beginning of the tenth century.  Many so-called monks had wives and children.  Not too many people objected to marriage for the "secular" clergy (those parish priests and other clergy who lived "in the world"), but married monks could not be monks at all. Any further accusations against them -- and reformers talked about debauchery and dissipation at length -- were just icing on the cakeMost people took this stuff for granted, I suppose, but a zealous minority was really alarmed.  Some were dedicated monks; others, perhaps surprisingly, included some very influential lay people. Even people who had built their power on stolen church property sometimes put much of their ill-gotten gains into reforming monasteries.Monasticism was the key for the reformers because there was a consensus in society that a good monk and his prayers were pleasing to God in a way that no else could be. Lay people who were religiously inclined knew that their normal lives were not pleasing to God; nor could their unaided prayers move him. They needed intercessors -- those who could speak to God for them. Dead saints might help, but among the living, the good monk held a unique place. Some very powerful and of course very worldly men and women in the tenth century became patrons of a purer monasticism because they wished to have that heavenly connection.The new monasticism, where the rules were taken seriously, began with a few determined monks who convinced patrons to give them land for a new foundation, or to make them abbots of old monasteries that could be turned into strict communities. The reforming abbots who succeeded became monastic superstars. They were sought after by other patrons who also wanted that heavenly connection, and who gave them further monasteries to reform.Monastic reform in England was due to the efforts of three clerics.The first was Dunstan, who was a nobleman from Wessex with connections at the royal court. Another was his close friend Aethelwold, another West Saxon, and also of high rank. The third was Oswald, interestingly enough from a Anglo-Danish family, but one well-established in the church. He was related to two archbishops.  Their common trait was that, despite being born into comfortable circumstances, and having easy access to good careers either in the church or outside it, they felt compelled to work for radical change. The Rule of St Benedict formed the fundamental guide to the domestic and religious way of life for every monastic community in Western Europe. The Benedictine reform movement of the mid to late tenth century saw the Rule firmly established as the supreme rule of governance for English monasteries; and it was put within intellectual reach of every monk and nun by being translated into the vernacular. The Liber Eliensis (of Ely abbey) records that King Edgar and Queen Ælfthiyth themselves directed Bishop Æthelwold to translate the Rule into English, granting him in return the estate of Sudbourne (Suff.). Other translations followed, and a total of nine manuscripts survive with translations in the form of continuous prose or as glosses.[1] However, a work that had been composed in mid-sixth century Italy, and which owed much of its strength to its elasticity and lack of precision, required supplementation in all sorts of details. The first such collection of rules to be put together was itself partly derived from some continental reformed monastery, although it took shape – according to its Proem – as a product of a Church Council (of bishops, abbots and abbesses) held at Winchester in c. 970: the Regularis Concordia or ‘Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation.’[2] Two manuscripts survive of this, one of the later tenth and the other of the later eleventh century, and both apparently from Christ Church cathedral, Canterbury. As will be seen, however, it evidently circulated quite widely.The Regularis Concordia is principally concerned with the performance of the liturgy, or at least with the religious life of the community: all this is regulated in considerable detail. The Reformer's ideals demonstrate the close relationship betweenpolitics and culture. The new norms of the Reform were legitimated by acontemptuous downgrading of the immediate past and the recreation ofan earlier golden age. Reform rhetoric claimed that the pre-Reformchurch was degenerate, run by libidinous and impious clerks. It lookedto the seventh and eighth centuries for inspiration, resurrecting the cultsof long-dead and often obscure ¢gures like Swithun and refounding newmonasteries on the sites of ancient houses like Ely and Peterborough.ãñThe traditions of the earlier tenth century were rejected in favour ofContinental practices: Caroline Minuscule replaced Anglo-Saxon scriptin Latin manuscripts and Deshman has shown that the Benedictional ofÓthelwold deliberately eschewed native ornament.äò All the Reformersturned to continental styles for inspiration but Óthelwold's circle wasthe most extreme in this respect: Style One Caroline Minuscule,associated with his houses, was particularly pure and free from nativeforms. Style Two Caroline Minuscule, linked to Dunstan and his founda-tions, was by contrast tolerant of insular letter forms
  • St Laurence's Church, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, is one of relatively few surviving Saxon churches in England that does not show later medieval alteration or rebuilding.St Laurence's Church, Bradford on Avon, 2005The church is dedicated to St Laurence and may have been founded by Saint Aldhelm around 700, although the architectural style suggests a 10th or 11th century date.The date of the building has been much debated, but careful investigation in the middle of the 20th century has led to the belief that the main fabric dates from Aldhelm's lifetime,[citation needed] the original chapel being as later described by William of Malmesbury, but some details belonging to a later restoration at the end of the 10th century.
  • Believed late Anglo-Saxon. Lintel shows dog chasing cat upside down.
  • Anglo-Saxon and Norman elementsThe nave is mostly original, and dendrochronological research in the 1960s dated it to 845. In 1995, however, this date was revised to 1053 +10 -55 years (sometime between 998 and 1063).[5] It is made of large split oak tree trunks, which was a traditional Saxon way of building. The flint footings of the chancel wall and the pillar piscina inside the sanctuary are all that are left of any Norman work. Tower Stuart Brick chancel 1500sA timber-framed church at Greensted in Essex, thought to be Europe's oldest wooden building, has been dated to shortly after 1053 (strictly, 1053+10-55 years) by dendrochonologists from Sheffield University. The church had been thought to date from the 9th century, because of a faulty dendro reading taken in about 1960. Excavation in the 1960s, however, found possible traces of an earlier chapel.
  • 12. F2012 Church Reform in the 10th-11th century

    1. 1. The Church in the 10th and early 11th centuries
    2. 2. Burhs and the Church• Sites for collegiate churches with schools• Continue Alfred’s policy of lay education• Educate the ‘heathen’ in newly conquered territory• Ideological unity
    3. 3. Monasteries ‘Refound’ and ‘Reform’• Found or refound• Recover from destruction• Provide services in new area• Endowments – Religious causes – Secular causes
    4. 4. Monasteries ‘Refound’ and ‘Reform’Reform• Rule of St. Benedict• Dunstan, Aethelwold, Oswald• 970 Regularis Concordia
    5. 5. Monasteries - Influence• From 959 to 1016 Almost all bishops come from monasteries
    6. 6. St. Laurence’s Church, Bradford on Avon
    7. 7. Tympanum, Church of St. Mary, Stottesdon, Shropshire
    8. 8. Greensted Church,Essex, ~1053