Monastic Reform Under the Normans

How did the Normans reform the monasteries?
As well as the reforms to the Church, the Normans made a number of reforms to monasteries in England.
Why did the Normans reform the monasteries?
There were a number of reasons why the Normans wanted to reform the monasteries. These were problems that had been raised by the pope.
  • Monasticism had declined in England. Many monasteries had been destroyed in Viking raids for two hundred years, and many of their treasures had been looted.
  • Monasteries relied on gifts of land from secular lords. This raised the concern that monasteries had lost their independence.
  • The was a great concern that monks were becoming lax, and were not following the Benedictine Rule properly.
How did the Normans reform the monasteries?
After Lanfranc became Archbishop of Canterbury, he set about reforming the monasteries, at the same time that he was reforming the Church.
  • Lanfranc reformed the liturgy (the words of church services), to make it more like that used in the rest of Europe.
  • The role of the abbot was clearly defined, and a new monastic hierarchy was put in place.
  • Lanfranc also created strict rules about when and how people could be made into saints.
  • Lanfranc ensured that monks' lives were more strictly regulated. They would be seen to be more pious, and therefore they would be more respected.
  • Over time, the Saxon leadership of the monasteries was replaced by Normans. In 1086, only three Saxon abbots remained in charge of monasteries.
What were the Cluniac monasteries introduced by the Normans during the monastic reforms?
Cluniac monasteries were a new type of monastery, first introduced to England in 1077. They followed the Benedictine Rule, but were slightly different from other Benedictine monasteries.
  • The Benedictine Rule was imposed more rigidly in Cluniac houses than at other monasteries.
  • The Cluniac foundations were answerable only to the Abbot of Cluny in France. Therefore they were not subjected to secular interference.
  • The leaders of Cluniac foundations had to travel to Cluny every year to meet with the Abbot. They dealt with any issues or problems together.
  • Many Cluniac foundations were exempt from military service and other feudal duties. This meant that they were not subjected to secular interference.
How successful were the Norman reforms to the monasteries?
The Norman reforms to monasticism were a success, and caused a great revival in monasticism in England.
  • The number of monks and nuns in England increased. In 1066 there had been around 1,000, and by 1135 there were nearly 5,000.
  • The number of monasteries grew, from around 60 to over 250.
  • In 1066 there had been four cathedrals with attached monasteries. By 1135, ten out of 19 cathedrals had monasteries.
  • The reforms were not accepted everywhere. At Glastonbury Abbey, in 1083, the monks refused to accept a new chant. The abbot sent knights to enforce the change, and three monks were killed, along with 18 wounded.
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