Destruction and Revival

Destruction by the Danes

A series of Viking raids beginning in 802 resulted in the destruction of the monastery at Iona and the murder of many of the people there. The Vikings repeatedly invaded Britain looting the churches and monasteries for their riches and killing the monks. Monastic life in Britain almost completely died out during the period of the Viking raids and it wasn't until the end of the Alfred the Great's reign that things began to improve.

802
 

Vikings raid Iona

The monastic community founded by St. Columba on the tiny island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland was attacked by the Vikings. The Vikings returned in 806 killing over sixty of the people living there.

807
 

Vikings raid island of Inishmurray

The monastic community on the tiny and remote island off the north west coast of Ireland was attacked by the Vikings.

814
 

Vikings attacks

The monastery on the island of Noirmoutier just to the south of the River Loire's mouth was attacked.

870
 

Crowland Abbey destroyed

Danes attack Crowland Abbey and burn it down.

Archbishop Dunstan

During the reign of King Edgar (944-975) Dunstan the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk himself, restarted the population of the monasteries. Situated mainly in the south of England these new monasteries included Glastonbury, Ely, Christ Church and Bury St. Edmunds. The new monasteries followed the Rule of St. Benedict.

943 (18)
 

Dunstan and Glastonbury

Dunstan moved to Glastonbury where he placed the monastery under the rule of the Benedictine Order and became the abbot there.

956 (31)
 

Dunstan sent into exile

Eadwig sent Dunstan into exile. The reason for this is that Dunstan had caught Eadwig and Aelgifu together before they were married and at a time when Eadwig should have attended an important meeting. Dunstan must have upset Eadwig at this point and was sent into exile.

959 (34)
Oct 1

Edgar becomes King of England

At the death of Eadwig, Edgar became King of England. He appointed Dunstan Archbishop of Canterbury.

960 (35)
 

Dunstan becomes Archbishop of Canterbury

Dunstan became Archbishop of Canterbury.

964 (39)
 

Benedictines at Winchester

At the bidding of St. Dunstan Benedictine monks moved from the Abbey of Abingdon to Winchester. Work began on a new Saxon church on the site.

972 (47)
 

Consecration of Peterborough Abbey

Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Oswald, the Archbishop of York, consecrated the abbey at Peterborough in the presence of King Edgar.

975 (50)
July

Edward becomes king

Edward, the eldest son of Edgar, became the king of the English at the age of fourteen when his father died. Dunstan became his guardian.

983 (58)
 

Monastery at Worcester

Oswald founded a Benedictine monastery at Worcester dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. Oswald became bishop of Worcester upon the recommendation of Dunstan.

(Approximate age in brackets)

William the Conqueror »

William the Conqueror brought many Norman followers with him from Normandy including religious people and church builders. As they had done back in Normandy, the Normans started building new monasteries all loyal to William. The old Saxon buildings were demolished and work began on new modern churches. William held a Benedictine monk called Lanfranc in high regard and he was elevated to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Across Europe many monasteries were founded during the period of the First Crusade.

1070 (42)
 

Lanfranc becomes Archbishop of Canterbury

William the Conqueror placed Lanfranc in the position of Archbishop of Canterbury a move designed to strengthen his hold on the English throne. Thomas of Bayeux, a pupil of Odo (William's brother), was put in the position of Archbishop of York after the death of Ealred who died on September 11, 1069. Archbishop Stigand was imprisoned in Winchester.

1072 (44)
 

Serlo takes over at Gloucester

Serlo, William the Conqueror's chaplain, revived the floundering monastery at Gloucester and started major rebuilding work. Serlo died in 1104.

Selected Benedictine abbeys in Britain
Abbotsbury Abbey
Abingdon Abbey
Bath Abbey
Battle Abbey
Bingham Priory
Birkenhead Abbey
Blyth Abbey
Boxgrove Priory
Bury St. Edmunds
Chepstow Priory
Crowland Abbey
Deerhurst Priory
Dover Priory
Evesham Abbey
Finchdale Priory
Glastonbury Abbey
Lindisfarne Priory
Little Malvern
Malmesbury Abbey
Malvern Priory
Milton Abbas Abbey
Monk Bretton Abbey
Muchelney Abbey
Pershore Abbey
Reading Abbey
Romsey Abbey
Selby Abbey
Sherborne Abbey
Shrewsbury Abbey
St. Augustine's Abbey
St. Bees Priory
St. Michael's Mount
St. Nicholas Priory, Exeter
Tewkesbury Abbey
Thorney Abbey
Tutbury Priory
Westminster Abbey
Usk Priory
Whitby Abbey

New Foundations

Generally there were two ways in which an abbey or priory was founded. The first method was by a hermit who had achieved some fame, followers and then received a donation to build a church. The second method was when an existing abbey sent out a small number of monks to colonise a new one. The land was usually donated by a Lord who wanted to have a religious house on his land with monks who would pray for him and his family. The land owner would then build some temporary wooden accommodation in preparation for the monks' arrival. In the case of the Cistercians an abbot and twelve monks would be sent to colonise the new location. Once the monks were settled and happy with the location more monks would arrive to start work on a stone church. In some cases the land provided by the land owner was not suitable and a new location was found.

In some cases the founder of the abbey or monastery became a member of the community and lived out their lives there. Important founders included King David I of Scotland who founded many religious houses.

907
 

Romsey Abbey founded »

According to medieval accounts the abbey for nuns was founded at Romsey by Edward the Elder in this year.

910
 

Abbey of Cluny founded »

The abbey of Cluny was founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine (d.918). The abbry became founding member of a new Order of Monks known as the Cluniacs. All of Cluny's daughter houses sent money back to the abbey and it became very rich.

964
 

Benedictines at Winchester »

At the bidding of St. Dunstan Benedictine monks moved from the Abbey of Abingdon to Winchester. Work began on a new Saxon church on the site.

972
 

Consecration of Peterborough Abbey »

Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Oswald, the Archbishop of York, consecrated the abbey at Peterborough in the presence of King Edgar.

983
 

Monastery at Worcester »

Oswald founded a Benedictine monastery at Worcester dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. Oswald became bishop of Worcester upon the recommendation of Dunstan.

999
 

Durham Cathedral consecrated »

Bishop Aldhun, the first Bishop of Durham, consecrated a cathedral at the location where the remains of St. Cuthbert had been relocated to. The remains were at Lindisfarne and were moved because of the danger of Viking raids.

1040
 

A new minter at Much Wenlock »

Earl Leofric builds a new Minster on the site of older religious buildings at Much Wenlock.

1048
 

Aldred founds Monastery at Gloucester »

Aldred, bishop of Worcester refounded a monastery at Gloucester. A monastery had already been founded at Gloucester in 681 by Ostric.