Monasticism in the British Isles


Monasticism in the British Isles goes back a long way. Although historic details are scant, there is evidence for foundations as early as the late fourth century. Most were in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and followed the Celtic model. Missionaries from these places brought Christianity to England: the earliest known monastery in England was at Beckery, near Glastonbury, in Somerset.
   The Roman model arrived in 596, when Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to convert the Anglo-Saxons, starting with King Æthelberht of Kent. His mission was successful: eventually the Benedictine rule took over in England, though the Celtic tradition remained for several centuries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  There was some decline in monasticism by the ninth and tenth centuries, but the arrival of the Normans gave it a boost, and many new Monasteries were founded.
  The next three centuries saw continuous growth, along with the arrival of a host of new orders: monastic, canonical and mendicant. I will start this study with a look at the Cistercians. Eventually, 89 Cistercian monasteries were established in the British Isles: we won’t be visiting all of them!



Tintern Abbey


Rievaulx Abbey

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