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What were they all about?

  • Monasteries were places where groups of men or women could live together and worship God. There were lots in London. The men were called monks and the women were called nuns. They belonged to different groups called 'orders,' like the Benedictines or the Carthusians.
  • Some monasteries had canons (priests) living there. Sometimes they were called colleges or 'collegiate churches'.
  • Some monasteries had monastic knights living there. They helped pilgrims.
  • There were similar places called friaries where preachers called 'friars' lived. 
  • A monastery is sometimes called an 'abbey' or a 'priory'. Monasteries for women are also sometimes called 'nunneries' or 'convents'.
  • Monasteries always had a big church surrounded by lots of other buildings for the monks, canons or nuns to live and work in.
    • If there was room around the City, they grew food & looked after farm animals.
    • They made metalwork, needlework & decorated books for their churches.
    • They ran hospitals, guesthouses and schools (for very rich children).
    • They looked after relics and pilgrims.
    • They prayed for the souls of rich people who gave them money.
    • They owned lots of land and rented it out to farmers & merchants.
  • A wall around the outside formed an enclosure. Monastery buildings within an enclosure are called the 'enclave'.
  • When King Henry VIII made himself head of the Church in England in 1534, the monasteries would not accept him as their new leader. They wanted to stay as Roman Catholics.
  • So two years later, he started closing them all down, pulling them down and taking all their money. This is called the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • A few monasteries were set up again in Victorian times when you were again allowed to be a Catholic if you wanted.



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