medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
From: John Briggs <[log in to unmask]>
>On 27/11/2012 19:48, Christopher Crockett wrote:
>> as i say, it was a passing reference (in the opening passage of a charter)
and i didn't pay much attention to it --except to note with surprise that the
relatively modest priory (the church survives) seems to have had a "cloister"
in the late 11th or early 12th c.
>> (this, btw, is also the first and only time i ever came across the mention
of any priory having a cloister.)
> I think we've had this argument before, but the difference between a
priory and an abbey is simply that the former is headed by a prior and
the latter by an abbot.
you've gotten no argument from me about that --the OED on The Innernets says
that that is the situation, so it must be true.
i believe that the previous discussion (hardly an "argument") was over what to
call a collegial/collegiate church which was headed by an abbot.
i have an 1140s document in which the clerical son of Louis VI/brother of
Louis VII refers to himself as "abbot of the royal abbeys"
[_abbas...abbatiorum_? i can't recall] --of which there were 6 or 8-- so i got
it into my head that it was o.k. to refer to these institutions as "abbeys"
and inquired on the List if my fantasy was indeed Reality Based.
someone here (no names, please) disagreed, insisting upon the appellation
as i recall, little blood was spilt, the ListMommie did not have to intervene
and the discussion died a quiet and welcome death.
>This could depend as much as anything on the order (not that there were
"orders" in the late 11th or early 12th centuries, of course.) For example,
all Cistercian houses, regardless of size, are abbeys, and most Augustinian
houses, again regardless of size, are priories. For Benedictine houses (as
they were to become), it *does* tend to depend on size, but also on whether
the priory is notionally a daughter of another house.
though the term "order" might not appear in the 11-12th c. documents, it is
certainly useful to use that term to distinguish between what later became
"orders" --i.e., if the word "order" didn't exist we would have to create it.
among the idiosyncratic, aberrant quirks of the Western Fringe of Europe it
may well be the fact that most "Augustinian houses" are priories.
this is certainly not the case on the Main Land.
in fact, i can't really think of a singular "Augustinian" (11th-12 c.) house
i've come across in France which was headed by a prior --collegial churches
always seem to be headed by an abbot, both before and after their reform.
"Augustinian" is the dispositive word here --it is only applicable (and that
only rarely, in the documents) to refer to secular collegials/abbeys which
have been taken over and reformed.
for instance, when Bishop Godfrey of Chartres reformed the secular church of
St. Mary Madeleine of Chateaudun, he addressed the newly installed abbot of
the place thus:
...Archenbaude, Beate-Marie-Magdalene Castriduni venerabilis abbas,...in
ecclesia vestra canonicum habitum secundum sancti Augustini instituta indutus
such mentions of St. Augustine are rare, but do occur.
to my [very limited] knowledge, the word "regula" does not.
when Bishop Ivo of Chartres (Godfrey's immediate predecessor) reformed the
secular collegial of St. John of Chartres in 1099, he said
"Ego...Ivo...Carnotensis...episcopus...in pretaxata Sancti Joannis ecclesia
canonicos tales esse decernimus, qui proprietate posthabita canonicam
haberent vitam juxta beati Augustini institutionem...
in 1119 Bishop Godfrey confirmed Ivo's reform using exactly the same words.
so, it seems clear to me that what was in play here may well have been the
"Rule of St. Augustine" though, as i say, i don't think "regula" is ever used;
and i suppose these houses *could* be called "Augustinian" though that is not
the way they were referred to.
>What you may be thinking of is similar to the situation with the "alien
priories" in England, which were mostly dependants of French houses. Most of
these were in fact what we would call "granges" (a word which I would hazard a
guess to not exist in France...) rather than actual "priories".
well, a good Rule of Thumb to follow might be, if there is no "prior" at the
place, there ain't no "priory."
calling a "grange" a "priory" is, well, it's just Kinky, John.
those places sound to me like they were just money pumps, whose sole function
was to suck the local profits out of the country to the Mother House.
rather like a McDonald's franchise --but all Suck, without any goods being
but, i will Defend to the Death your right to call them anything you wish, out
there on the Kinky Western Fringe.
my use of the term "priory" in my original post was quite deliberate and, i
believe, accurate (even though "priory" [in Latin] isn't found in the
documents, but there is a prior mentioned with that title) and did not depend
at all on the size of the place. i believe the smallest one i came across was
said to have consisted of three monks (maybe without one of them being called
if it was headed by a prior....[viday soupra]
i believe the place i was thinking of --which was desecrated and had to be
undeconsecrated-- was a relatively small priory of Marmoutier, which had at
least a baker's dozen priories in the diocese of Chartres (MM was a house
favored by the "Thibaudian" counts of Blois/Chartres after they got kicked out
of Tours round about 1,000).
the largest of these MM priories was that of St. Martin[-au-Val] outside of
which also happens to be (by far) the largest surviving example of 11th c.
architecture in the diocese.
i have always assumed that it had a cloister --though mention of one does not
seem to have survived in the documents.
and, yes, Brenda, all the Cluniac dependencies were priories, no matter what
their size, if they were headed by a Prior --and they *never* have an Abbot.
this includes one of the largest, St. Martin-des-Champs outside the walls of
but not the Cluniac dependency of Marcigny (not far from Cluny), which seems
to have been a kind of retirement home for noble women who were found to be
underfoot when their kids grew up (Countess Adela of Blois/Chartres and the
Lady of Le Puiset, Vicountess of Chartres retired there in the 1120s).
that place was headed up by....wait for it... a Prioress.
funny how that works, isn't it?
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