Glastonbury Married Cleric Monks
by Stephen d’Guelph Brunswick
TABLE OF CONTENTS
– THE MARRIED ABBOTS –
– CELTIC BANGORS, NOT ROMAN MONASTERIES –
– MARRIED MONKS AND NUNS –
– GENEALOGIES OF CELTIC MONASTIC FAMILIES –
– THE DANES LEFT GLASTONBURY ALONE –
– WELSH KINGS PROTECTED GLASTONBURY –
– CULDEAN MISSIONS ABROAD –
– THE HEREDITARY LEADERS –
The Married Abbots
The Venerable Bede(672-735) complained against the Celtic church in general. As quoted from Egberti Dialogus de Ecclesiatical Institutions Page 274 and Origines Anglicanae Page 127, we find several points.
One of the main points that stand out is his statement:
“Many of the Abbots were married men”.
These words “many abbots” tells us this wasn’t just a few. Many would like to believe that Britain actually had only celibate communities, and that the ones who were actually married were just an exception. However, it was the general rule in the Celtic church, that the “Abbeys/Monasteries” (or Bangors) who also had a strict rule, didn’t fall in line with Rome’s version of Monasticism.
Was Bede really such an agent of Rome?
One must realize these weren’t some exceptions, but Bede was indeed attacking the Celtic church overall. There are many proofs of this. He was an activist against the Celtic obervance of Easter in favor of the Roman version. This was pivotal in determining his true allegiances within the church. Columbanus’ most epic fight against Rome was on this topic of Easter. Furthermore, Bede was the only English born priest to have ever been called a “Doctor of the Church”. While Bede did do many great things for the church, still others did much greater, without the Roman elevation.
While he has been considered a great English historian, we should take his statements as true, that
“Many of the Abbots were married men”.
Indeed, they were. Whether or not he agreed with it, it doesn’t matter. This statement in and of itself speaks volumes. He also said said these married Abbots were also military Captains at the same time they had rule of their Monasteries.
Bonwick wrote in his “Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions”:
|“Their(the Culdees’) most bitter enemy in early Christian days was the Venerable Bede, who denied their claims to orthodoxy.
But, since he was a Saxon, and a priest under Roman rule, his charges have been slightly heeded. Their maintenance of an hereditary priesthood was not merely Jewish, as he supposed, but of Druidical sympathy. “
In Rawlinson’s “Antiquities of Glastonbury” we read on page 88 that in the time of Dunstan the Benedictine, that all the celibate Monks were taken out of Glastonbury Abbey and replaced with married Clergy. So “married Clergy and Monks” were synonymous terms at the Glastonbury Abbey. Against Rome’s definitions, Glastonbury held a seniority in such matters to properly govern their autonomous religious houses. However, still, they followed the most strict Essenic purity laws.
Celtic Bangors Were Different From Roman Monasteries
Bede is a source of much information that is recorded on the Celtic Bangors (Monestaries). He was born only long after the damages were inflicted by the Roman monk Augustine.
You may read about the great Massacre of Culdean Monks at Bangor is-y-coed that Augustine was implicated in. However all was still much apparent even for Bede to see and know the difference between a Roman Monestary and Celtic Bangor. Bishop David of Wales (our great Culdean Saint) was part of the holy synod that included the Bangor is-y-coed Monestary. He was consecrated as Archbishop at Jerusalem, and spread the more strict Israelite (Essenic) version of Monasticism that included having provisions that facilitated the growth of the family of the Monks, and having many descendants as cataloged in the “Welsh Genealogies of Saints”, also known as “the St. Ynys Prydain, or Pedigrees of the Saints of Britain”. The Bishops consecrated by Archbishop David also carried on this more strict version of Monasticism within the Celtic Bangors. Bede gleefully reveled in the slaughter of these Monastics, even by a pagan Northumbrian king Aethelfrith, given they were British Christians and thus had refused to follow St Augustine’s advice and celebrate Easter following the Roman calendar. Bede was also a Geordie and hence naturally sympathetic to his own kingdom’s pagan ancestors.
Even up to the 12th Century we see that the Roman Church was so biased against the Celtic (Culdean) monasticism, that it refused to admit even Saint Patrick or Columba ever were Monks!
As Bonwick recorded in his “Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions”:
|“If St. Patrick, St. Columba, and other early Irish Saints had been true Monks, why did St. Bernard, in his Life of Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh(1130AD), say that up to that time there was not a monk in Ireland. Columba certainly took Culdeeism to Scotland from Ireland. In the Bog of Monaincha are two islands. On one was a monastery or men, their wives occupying the neighbouring Woman’s Isle.”|
In the 4th and 5th Centuries we see a vastly different situation from the current monasticism we know of these days. In short, each Abbey(or Monastery) had it’s own autonomous rules that provided for the families of the Monks to have separate facilities. This is not evident in the Roman version, but the members are expected to be unfruitful and not to keep God’s first commandment, “to multiply” and replentish (or fill) the earth with descendants.
We find in Celtic Monasticism, as well recorded by Hardinge, that the Culdean Monks could always go out to visit their lands, wives and children. However, once they have returned to the Bangor, a very strict form of Essene Monasticism was again followed. Even missing a footwashing could implicate one as a major offence.
Saint Bernard in his Vita(life history) of Saint Malachi wrote,
|“The Culdees at St Andrews, however, were not permitted, after they had entered into this monastic establishment, to keep their wives in their houses.”
We can clarify, the “entering of the monastic establishment of St Andrews” included getting a ministerial cell within the Monastery. As the duties did call for them to be busy about the Lord’s work within the church, they weren’t to be tending to / keeping up after the wife at home. In any case there weren’t ample quarters for her to stay long at the monastery, but visits were no doubt in order.
That would be in agreement with the regular purity laws from the First Century. We read about this practice of ministerial purity as done by King David, when his soldiers hungered, they were given a one time exception to be allowed to eat the consecrated priests’ bread, only if they hadn’t been with any women (1 Samuel 21:5).
We know this goes back to the Levitical law of being ceremonial unclean till evening after any contact with bodily fluids(Leviticus 15:18). The ceremonial cleanliness was practiced by all believers in every home. These commandments are not only for within the homes, but for reverence in approaching the sanctuary.
So we see that officiating in Godly ceremonies has always been understood to be approached in a clean state both bodily and internally. While some would call it common sense, it is nevertheless outlined in the Levitical laws. The extra care for the Clergy to be clean is very right and Biblical, especially as it relates to the Ministerial administration of the Sacraments.
The following quote gives more light to this practice. A Prebendary official of Dunkenveld, Alexander Myln said this about the Culdees:
|“after the usage of the eastern church, had wives, abstained from them, when it came their turn to minister.” (MS. V. Dalrymple’s Collections, p. 244.)
Athanasius (circa 373) wrote that:
|“although many bishops were unmarried, many Monks were fathers of children, these things are at liberty and no prohibition is laid upon them…”|
(Full quote is found in the following chapter “Married Nuns and Monks”. )
Augustine of Hippo (North Africa, circa 430) in his denouncing a group of heretics who mis-used the name “Apostolics” because they were arrogant to be excommunicating married Monks. Augustine wrote that:
|“our Monks kept both land and were married”. (paraphrased)|
(Full quote is found in the following chapter “Married Nuns and Monks”.)
All the while, Saint Patrick, who lived shortly after Augustine, had reportedly equated Glastonbury with the Monasteries of Egypt.
Williams, in his, “The Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the Cymry: Or, The Ancient British Church “, wrote:
|Padrig (Saint Patrick) 385-461AD is said to have rendered Bangor Wydrin (Glastonbury)similar in character to the monasteries of Egypt, and to have become its first abbot. Under him, it was further enriched with lands and possessions, the gifts of kings and princes. (MS. libell. de reliquis coenobii Glaston. circa tem. R. Henrici III. script. Johan. Tinmuthensis in Vita Patricii. Tabula Magna Glastoniens. MS. in Bibliotheca Collegii S. Trinitatis. Cantabrig. &c. apud Usher, pp. 56,58.)|
While Rome’s monasticism took many centuries to refine and develop, the Celtic and Eastern church was thriving. Not only were the Monks owning land, but they had many children succeeding them, as Augustine described the Egyptian (Eastern) churches practiced at the time.
Numerous pre-6th Century Welsh Saints are venerated in the Eastern church. You may request from us the extensive calendar of several hundred Celtic Saints on the Island that predated the Roman Augustine’s arrival.
Glastonbury, as known the world over, was the “Fountain and Origin of All Religion”, the first above ground Christian church that has been legally established in the world, did have this older school of the prophets. As taking in a great deal of the original Holy Apostles, all would be wise to do a strong analysis of the Welsh practices. Some would say they equal the “Desert Fathers” in precedence. Others will say they shine far greater in importance to our faith. We in the Orthodox Church of the Culdees are one of the few churches who set our precedence with the Celtic definitions. While Rome never fully yielded to Glastonbury’s precedence, many other nations did yield to Glastonbury’s precedence.
There were numerous recognitions within the churches of the world, that they would yield to Glastonbury on points of antiquity and precedence.
At the Synod of Pisa in 1409, Council of Constance in 1417, Synod of Sienna in 1424, and the Council of Basel in 1434. There was reached a consensus that the Churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain.
This was for the sole basis of Glastonbury being the first church of the Hebrew Apostles of Christ.
As we read, the Roman agent Bede didn’t like the fact that Culdean Monks were married and would retain and inherit lands, and that many would bequeath or endow the lands to their sons or daughters.
Glastonbury’s Monestary was anciently known as BANGOR WYDRIN (also spelled Ineswitrin or Ynys Witrin)
The Abbots of Glastonbury, according to numerous charters, confirmed from the earliest times, unto the latest, could only be chosen or elected out of their own body. Only could one be solicited from abroad, if there wasn’t even one among their ranks, even the lowest and youngest who was capable of fulfilling the position. Installations by a heirarchy of Rome was made impossible at Glastonbury, and none could be made subject to the bishops of surrounding territories. These matters were confirmed, ratified and defended by numerous Kings together in agreements with the Abbots. Full sovereignty and autonomy over secular matters of the region were inherent in the Abbots and Monks.
BANGOR WYDRIN (Glastonbury) was a distinguished establishment, as it appears from the following Triad:
|“The three principal choirs of the isle of Britain; -Bangor Illtyd Varchawg, in Caer Worgan; Cor Emrys, in Caer Caradawg; and Bangor Wydrin, in the isle of Avallon; and in each of these three Bangors were two thousand four hundred saints, that is, one hundred were engaged alternately every hour, both day and night, in celebrating the praise and service of God, without rest, without intermission.”
The British traditions refer to the origin of the college at Glastonbury to Elvan. According to William of Malmesbury an institution similar to the foregoing, consisting of twelve members, and endowed with twelve members, and endowed with twelve portions of land, existed here in the earliest period of Christianity. This did not flourish long; but we are informed that in the reign of Lleirwg, it was restored to its original position by Dyvan and Fagan, with the consent and authority of the monarch, who confirmed its ancient charters.
Padrig(Patrick) is said to have rendered Bangor Wydrin (Glastonbury)similar in character to the monasteries of Egypt, and to have become its first abbot. Under him, it was further enriched with lands and possessions, the gifts of kings and princes. Many natives, whose names are now lost, succeeded him in his dignity, before the institution finally passed into the hands of the Saxons.
According to the records of Glastonbury, Dewi(David) visited the island with seven suffragans, for the purpose of dedicating is ancient church. An anonymous author of his life says expressly that he “founded” the monastery; whilst the compiler of “Brut y Twysogion” is positive that Ivor “made the great friary in the isle of Avallon” in the year 683, out of gratitude to Almighty God for the victories which he had obtained over his enemies. But such statements were no doubt made, in consequence of a vague knowledge as to the nature of the services which those persons rendered to the establishment. Its endowment was augmented by king Arthur, who was also, with his wife Gwenhwyvar, buried in its holy ground.
Bangor Wydrin was wrested from the native Britons in the reign of Ina, king of the West Saxons. A.D. 721.
Married Monks and Nuns
The following is taken from Chapter 3 of “The Ancient British and Irish Churches: Including the Life and Labors of St. Patrick” by William Cathcart Pub. 1894:
MARRIED MONKS AND NUNS.
Many of the early monks and nuns married—They lived in their own houses—These persons led stricter lives than others in their ordinary dwellings—They gave much time to devotions and Bible study—Such was the course of Pelagius—Bingham on married monks—Athanasius on monks who were fathers of children—Augustine’s statement—Many of St. Patrick’s monks and “virgins of Christ” were no doubt married—Devoted much time to Scripture reading—Probably conducted cottage Bible schools very extensively—There is no evidence that Patrick ever established a monastery.
COLLIER writes that : (1)
Those were called monks at Rome in Pelagius’ time [the beginning of the fifth century] who had no office in the church, but yet retired from the common employments of the world for religious studies and devotion. Thus Garnerius confesses that Pelagius was not otherwise a monk than as those were so called who led stricter lives than others within their own houses. The chief employment of these persons, next to their devotions, was the study of the Scriptures, as appears from Jerome’s epistles; and here some person of particular eminency used to instruct his disciples (from the Bible). This was Jerome’s practice at Bethlehem. This office Ruffinus performed to Pammachius, and to Melania and her family. And so did Pelagius at Rome. It was under this employment that he wrote his short commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles, and his letters to Melania and Demetrias.
This is the testimony of all scholarly, impartial historians. That great student of the antiquities of the church of Christ, Joseph Bingham, writes : (2)
Thus much is certain from the express words of Athanasius and St. Augustine, that in their time some went by the name of monks who were married men and possessed estates. For Athanasius, writing to Dracontius, a monk, to persuade him to accept a bishopric, to which he was averse, because he thought it would not consist with his ascetic way of living, uses this argument to him: “You may still, after you are made a bishop, hunger and thirst with Paul, and abstain from wine with Timothy, and fast frequently as St. Paul was wont to do. Many bishops are not married ; and on the other hand, many monks are the fathers of children; you may also find bishops that are fathers of children, and monks that are not so; clergy that eat and drink, and monks that fast. For these things are at liberty, and no prohibition laid upon them ; every one exercises himself as he pleases.” From these words of Athanasius ( who died A. D. 372] it seems plain that as yet the rules of the monastic life obliged no man to renounce either his possessions or a married state, but he might use both if he pleased, without any ecclesiastical censure. And though the case was a little altered with some monks before St. Augustine’s time [he died in A. D. 430], yet others reserved to themselves their ancient privileges; for St. Augustine, writing against the hereticks who called themselves “ Apostolics,” says : “ They arrogantly assumed to themselves that name because they rejected all from their communion who had either wives or estates, of which sort the Catholic church had many, both monks and clergy.”
Augustine died when Patrick had labored about forty years in Ireland. He was the most influential man in Christendom; or that had been in it since the days of the apostles. He was such a friend of the monkish system that he set up that way of living among the clergy of Hippo, by “making the bishop’s house a monastery of clergymen,” as he says. And yet, the greatest theologian of the Christian ages, during Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, denounced the heretical “ Apostolics” for excommunicating the “ many monks and clergy of the Catholic church who had either wives or estates.”
Bingham modestly adds :(3) “So that at least some monks were still at liberty to enjoy both a conjugal state and possessions of their own, without any impeachment of apostasy, or breach of vow in the Catholic church.” These monks with wives and property, of course, “led stricter lives than others within their own houses.”
St. Patrick in his “Confession ” speaks joyfully of the lately idolatrous Irish ” as having become the people of the Lord.” “Sons of the Scots [Irish] and daughters of chieftains are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ.” Patrick does not write a word in his little works about a convent or a monastery, or about a special residence for any considerable number of them. These persons lived in Ireland as many of them at first lived elsewhere, in their own homes, often married, and only differing from other Christians by special consecration to God.
In populous places, where the Christians were somewhat numerous, we can imagine these lovers of the Bible forming ten or twelve little companies, each one of which would visit some family and their invited guests, and read and expound to them the book of God; and continue these Bible readings in suitable places during portions of every day in the week. And we can suppose that they had also a daily Bible and supplication meeting for their own profit at each other’s dwellings. We can comprehend some measure of their’anxiety, as they plead with God very frequently that they might be kept as true virgins and monks of Christ, and not chiefly as the treasures of husbands or wives; or the slaves of mammon or pleasure.
These devoted disciples—“living sacrifices” to Christrendered noble service in the evangelization of Ireland and in building up Patrick’s converts in scriptural knowledge; a service all the more valuable on account of the scarcity of copies of the divine word and of the multitudes who could not read. There were undoubtedly numbers of married and single persons among these specially consecrated helpers of the apostle of Ireland, just as St. Augustine, writing during a part of Patrick’s Irish labors, speaks of “many monks and clergy of the catholic [universal] church, who had either wives or estates.” St. Patrick’s monks and virgins of Christ, wedded or unmarried, were parts of the “ bride, the Lamb’s wife” to whom her heavenly Husband was the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely.
1. Collier’s ” Ecclesiastical History,” Vol. I., p. 95.
2. “Antiquities of the Christian Church,” Book VII., chap. 2, sec. 6.
3. Bingham’s “ Antiquities of the Christian Church,” Book VII., Chap. 2, Sec. 6.
Genealogies of Celtic Monastic Families
According to Saint Paul, you couldn’t be an Elder in any church unless you “were the husband of one wife”. Within the Hebrew polity of the Culdees, it also had been long established that you couldn’t be an elder in any church unless you were married. If only living as an unmarried Monk in their years of education, it would have made this difficult to obtain. Within the Culdee it was long admonished that Bishoprics were handed down from father to son, even at St. Andrew’s. While the Monks of Glastonbury were a part of this greater Hebrew order of the Culdee, they weren’t all priests. It’s recorded most of the Monks were prophets, which in Hebrew law is also hereditary, dubbed “sons of the prophets”, etc.
In our longer histories of the Celtic Saints, the “Welsh Genealogies of Saints” etc, there is ample evidence of Celtic Monastics having their sons succeed them. The Celtic Monestaries or “Bangors”(as they are called in Welsh) often had many generations of sons in succession.
Jamison in his “Ancient Culdees”, wrote in Chapter 2:
|“..like the priests under the law(Rabbis), they were succeeded by inheritance”
“..in the church of Saint Andrews the Culdees came into the office hereditarily”
“The Culdees of Ireland practiced hereditary succession, the Bishopric of Armagh, could demonstrate fifteen generations.”
Many like to refer to Gildas. The famous British Monk Saint Gildas had several children in England and France. Three of them became Abbots, and Gildas’ father also was an Abbot. Gildas founded and led Monestaries in both countries. After his missionary activities at Brittany, he later retired to lead the Monks at Glastonbury. Among his several sons were Peirio, Cenydd, Noethon and Tydecho. His son Saint Neothon also led the Monestaries of Llantwit and Llancarfan, and was succeeded by his son Cynddilig.
Like many other Abbeys, the Culdee Abbices passed from father to son. Of course, like all priestly installations, those who would perform the daily ceremonies had to follow a more rigid ceremonial purity. This is cataloged by Hardinge in his history of “the Celtic Church in Britain”. As Glastonbury was founded in the First Century by Hebrew Priests and Apostles, it remains a good example of these rules.
The Monks of Glastonbury were often only for a short term in their youth being educated at this holy site of worship. Others, like many married Kings, decided to retire there. Generation after generation of Culdean families had been educated and served there in the priesthood.
In the “Antiquities of Ireland”(1804) by Ledwich, we read more about the strict purity laws that were practiced in pgs 111-112,
|“It would be doing injustice to the subject, and leaving this little history imperfect, to omit some practices of the Culdees, which deserve notice. They as well as the British monks supported themselves by the labour of their hands. In this they resembled their Archetypes of the East. The Culdees were married, but when it came to their turn to officiate they did not cohabit with their wives. By the 28th canon of the African Code, sub-deacons who handle the holy mysteries, deacons, priests, and bishops are directed at their several terms to abstain from their wives. By terms, as explained by the 13th of the Trullan canons, are meant the times of their ministration; or as the old Scholiast on the 3rd African understands it, some time before and after the Eucharist. A practiced derived from Egypt to the Jews, and from them adopted by Christians. Celibacy was unknown for the first 300 years of the church.
Northumberland was converted by Irish Culdees: in 950, the priests of that country published canons; one was, “if a priest dismisses one wife and takes another let him be an anathema!” Here the censure falls on second marriages. The Culdees at St. Andrew’s were married to the year 1100.”
There is some speculation if “Columbanus the younger” was actually the son of Saint Columbanus who sailed together with him to the Continent. To prove the Clergy were married we need only focus on the times before the “Great Schism”. We know even today in the Eastern church that all Clerics are married. When the Eastern and Western church was still one, it was well understood that at least regular priests were married.
While there has always been autonomy for the local Monasteries, even Benedictine Monks had largely been married. This was even moreso at Glastonbury, with the many independence charters showing they are not under Roman Bishops’ jurisdictions at all. The church at Glastonbury was established by the Saint Joseph the Culdee in the first century. He himself was a member of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. Jerusalem Bishops later consecrated Saint David of Wales who rebuilt upon the church he built.
So whether or not St. Dunstan had successfully converted Glastonbury into a Benedictine Abbey is a moot point on the subject of married (though solo) Monks. While Benedictines were often welcomed, that was short lived in the time of Dunstan. The Benedictine reformer St. Dunstan was banished twice from Glastonbury (before he even became a Benedictine). However, he never changed the Hebrew policy of married Clergy. In any case, the only effect he may have had was encouraging a larger protest against celibacy within Glastonbury and England.
The gap of 500 years after the great schism is full of documents that demonstrate protection from the Kings of England, as well as the Pope confirming the Glastonbury Abbey’s right of independence of all authority of the Bishops of Rome. While the rule of Saint Dunstan may have become prevalent at one time, there is no real confirmations that married Monks could have ever been removed at any time.
While in the 15th Century priests were being martyred for preaching against celibacy in Switzerland, Glastonbury also held their own against all forms of outer influence. By the 16th Century Henry VIII already abolished all the Monasteries in England. The epic protestant wars of Switzerland and Luther were on this foundation of response to the martyrdom of the Zwinglian priests who preached in preference of married clergy. Glastonbury didn’t have to put up any fierce resistance against Rome, because of the full autonomy and rights that extended for Glastonbury Monks, chartered rights even to decide in civil and criminal matters throughout England.
Anciently only the eunuchs were absolutely celibate! These were castrated from birth or at choice.
The Danes Left Glastonbury Alone
Glastonbury’s Cathedral was four times bigger than Constantinople’s, they didn’t have as much courage as Henry VIII!
St. Dunstan, in the year 988, 32 years after his banishment from Glastonbury, had died, and was buried at Canturbury. The Danes, after a swift invasion had razed Canterbury, and from Kent to London the inhabitants murdered, tortured, beaten or sold to slavery and its buildings burnt. They primarily attacked the Roman institutions that the English hated. St. Alphege, the primary Archbishop furthering Dunstan’s cult was imprisoned, tormented and finally, murdered in 1012. However, Glastonbury soon was the only untouched monetary, and had the only respectable structures left standing. Out of the 8,000 Benedictine Monks, only 800 survived this “revolution”, and these were ill treated. The Culdees of the period weren’t Benedictine. There was no resistance against the Danes.
Canute was from a long line of Judah Kings and he instituted what we know as “Dane Law” that still exists today. It is the basis of common law, the Magna Carta, and even the US Bill of Rights. King Canute who honoured Glastonbury, granted the Monks permission to move the remains of King Ironside of Wessex and St. Dunstan to Glastonbury, because of their great love for the abbey.
The Court Bishop of the Danish King Knut(or Canute) the Great was Sigfrid, a Monk of Glastonbury.
In 1032 King Canute the Dane came to Glastonbury with Archbishop Ã†thelnoth of Canterbury to pray at the tomb of the King Edmund Ironside of Wessex, whom he used to call his brother, and there gave a very rich pall to lay on King Edmund’s tomb, embroidered with apples of gold and pearls; and at the same time confirmed all the privileges that his predecessors had granted to this monastery.
Welsh Kings Protecting Glastonbury
In AD 712 King Ina married Guala, the Welsh representative of the last king of Wales, Cadwalader. He had made it law that all Saxon Nobles should marry British Princesses, and vice versa.
Further background on the subject married Monks may be gleaned from information on the last Welsh Kings (who were all Monks of Glastonbury Abbey):
King Athelstan was a monk at Glastonbury for the last three years of his life, and it was for that period the headquarters for his court.
King Edmund succeeded his brother Athelstan, and entered Glastonbury also as a monk. He often kept his court at Glastonbury, and banished St. Dunstan from his court, later to not only let him back in but elect him as Abbot. Dunstan never ousted any of the married priests, although he was a celibate. King Edmund was assassinated in 946 near Glastonbury.
His son King Edwy, (as is in Haydn’s list of the Kings and Queens of England had the harshest words against St. Dunstan, in accordance with Edmund’s ordeal?) and that this King had not only banished him, but outlawed St. Dunstan, forcing him to flee to the Court of his kinsman Arnulf, Count of Flanders. There he entered a Benedictine Monastery at Ghent. That was the start of St. Dunstan’s new school as a Benedictine. Within two years King Edwy was dead, after much of England revolted against him, and declared Edgar King.
A charter of King Inna of England described our See as,
|Ecclesia Britannia prima, et fons et origo totius religonis. (The first church of Brittany, and the fountain and origin of all religion.)|
It was in 725 AD that King Inna of England carried this charter to Pope St. Gregory II at Rome, who confirmed this independence not only to be valid, but to be for all successors for perpetuity.
Within this charter King Inna recognized all past rights of Glastonbury from all his predecessors (see document 130 Saints before Augustine in Britain for many references to earlier decrees of Kings). King Inna again reiterated the many exemptions and rights of the Glastonbury Monks. In relation to the matter of Papal Apostolic Succession, it is relevant that they had re-ratified the independence of Glastonbury from all Bishops.
King Edgar in the 10th century also re-ratified the Independence of Glastonbury. One of rights being that all Abbots of Glastonbury are chosen out of their own body of Monks. Concerning the many privileges, rights and immunities extending to the Monks, he caused first to be confirmed in a synod of bishops and nobles assembled in London, and afterwards sent them to Rome, where they were also confirmed by a bull of Pope John the Thirteenth.
King Edgar, in the same year of his coronation elected St. Dunstan as Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Dunstan then with the King sought to implement Benedictine monasticism state-wide. Benedictine monks also had the practice of keeping wives (although separate during time of performing the Divine liturgy). During his reign he wrote one of the greatest Charters for Glastonbury Abbey’s rights equal to the King in Glastonbury, as well as several privileges abroad. (charter is quoted below) Edgar was laid to rest at Glastonbury Abbey.
In his charters he described Glastonbury as the first church in the kingdom built by the disciples of Christ. He not only confirmed all the privileges and donations of the predecessors, but he also decreed the many grants to extend to their predecessors for all perpetuity.
Several of his predecessors grants to the Abbey included, King Edward, Alfred, Kentwyn, Ina, Cuthred and even Avarigus who granted the original twelve hides to be tax free for ever.
He discharged them from several burdens, duties, contributions, and subjections; and gave them a right and power to receive fines, punish malefactors, and of enjoying their lands as free from all claims as he enjoyed his own, especially the town of Glastonbury itself. These privileges in the charter are thus called, Burghbrice, hundredsoena, Athas, Ordelas, Infangentheofas, Homsocna, Frithbrice, Foresealle, Toll and Teame.
In the charter of King Edgar the Abbey is said to be ‘the first church in the kingdom built by the disciples of Christ’ (Conybeare’s Roman Britain, p. 254). In 963 Edgar bestowed upon this Abbey the manour of Stoure, alias Stouerminster, and twenty hydes of land more in other places. Edgar granted several charters to this Abbey; some conveying to the Abbot and his Monks more lands, and some enlarging their privileges. That dated at London, in the year 971, adds to the privileges granted by his father King Edmund, Soram and Sacam, on Strond and on Streame, on Wode and on Feld; that is to say liberty to determine pleas and correct delinquents at the sea shore or on the river, in the wood, or in the field, above ground and under ground. Hundredsitrna, which was a privilege of sanctuary in the limits of the hundred; Galle Word, as which signifies the appropriating their own use any hidden treasure found within their territories; Forestall, that is to say, intercepting provisions coming to their market; and Bufan, Corderran, Bencoderan, Flemeneferde, Hamsoena, Grith Brice, and Fridishire, are other terms of franchises for the Monks indefinitely. These rights included the sole priviledge as a monk who met with any malefactor going to the gallows, in any part of the kingdom, could take him out of the executinoer’s hands, and give him his pardon. Moreover, King Edgar by this charter, exempts this Monastery, and the parishes of Street, Mireling, Budicle, Shapewick, Sowy, and the several chapels within the said parishes, to wit, those of Beckery, called Little Ireland, Godeney, Mortinesey, Ferramere, Padonberge, and Adredery, from the ordinary jurisdiction of the bishop, except some things, with a salvo to the Church of Rome, and that of Canterbury.
Hugh Paulinus de Cressy mentions another charter of King Edgar’s to the Abbey of Glastonbury, wherein, amongst other things, he granted that:
|“the Monks should always be electors of their own Abbot who was to be chosen out of their own body. Insoasmuch that, if the youngest and lowest of all their congregations were capable, they should not have recourse for an Abbot abroad; nor then, ” also, should any be imposed on them without their suffrages ; only he reserved to himself the power of conferring the crosier or pastoral staff on the person elected. Again, that all controversies, as well in secular as ecclesiastical affairs, should be determined in the Abbot’s court. Likewise, that the Bishop of Wells (the ordinary of Somersetshire) should exercise no jurisdiction over them to call their priests to his synods, to suspend any of them from the divine office, &c. These charters of privileges, with many other secular immunities, he caused first to be confirmed in a synod of bishops and nobles assembled in London, and afterwards sent them to Rome, where they were also confirmed by a bull of Pope John the Thirteenth.”|
One, if not both, these charters. King Edgar carried himself to Glastonbury; and that it might be perpetually valid, he, at the delivery of it, laid his scepter upon the altar of our Blessed Lady, together with the charter; which scepter was curiously made of ivory. After which he made the said scepter to be cut into two pieces, least some succeeding Abbots should sell it, or give it away, one half whereof he left with the Abbot, and kept the other half himself. This he did in the time of Aelfhard, or as Mr. Willis writes him, Aelfstanus, abbat, and in the fifteenth year of his reign, which was in the year of Christ 974.
Abbot Henry of Blois (1098/9 8 August 1171) [son of William the Conquerors daughter] procured from the successive kings and popes whom he had outlived, confirmations of all the possessions and privileges of Glastonbury ; these confirmations were made by the Popes Innocent II., Alexander III., and by the three kings, Henry I., Stephen, and Henry II.
In the charter granted by Henry II (1185) for rebuilding Glastonbury, he styled it:
|“the mother and burying-place of the saints, founded by the very disciples of our Lord.”|
In Germany King Richard I was taken hostage by Duke Leopold of Austria and wasnt released until he agreed to annex the Abbotship of Glastonbury to his cousin, Savaricus who was ArchDeacon of Northhampton. He made him Bishop of Bath and Wells and ultimately exerted a fraudulent authority over Glastonbury.
In Speeds Chronology of England Henry IIs charter was again confirmed by King Edward III in his charter for Glastonbury Abbey.
His father, Edward II, is recorded to have done the same on November 12, 1313 in Westminster. Text in Calendar of Charter Rolls of Edward I and II reads, Inspexiumus and confirmation of a charter of Henry II, dated at Westminster, in favour of the Abbot and convent of Glastonbury (Original manuscript: Monasticon, Vol. I, p. 62.)
Excerpt with English footnote:
De Cranemere. Ibid. pag. 597.
Henricus, rex Angliae, Arnulfo camerario, et omnibus baronibus de Sumerseta, Salutem. Sciatis, me concessisse Herliwino, abbati de Glastingeberia, terram de Cranemere, liberam et quietam tenere et defendere contra me, pro tribus hidis terrae, sicut pater meus concessit Hardingo de Wiltona. Teste Ur de Abbetot et Rogero capellano apud Westmonasterium.
Charta Regis Henrici II. Super restaratione ecclesiae Glastenburiensis, totius Angliae et orbis christiani antiquissimae, cum in minibus ejusdem regist existens in cineres fuisset redacta. Wilkins. Concilia. vol. 1. P. 489.
Henricus Dei gratia rex Angliae, dux Normaniae, Aquitaniae, et comes Andegaviae, archiepiscopis, episcopis,
Quantum ad Septem ecclesias. There had been a controversy of above four hundred and fifty years standing, between the monks of Glastonbury and the bishops of the diocese, about the jurisdiction over those parishes, which afterwards made up the archdeaconry of Glastonbury, and are to this day called the jurisdiction of Glastonbury.
The seven parishes named in king Ina’s charter of exemption, anno 725, are Sow, Brent Merling, Schapewick, Street, Budcaleth, and Pilton; the charter of king Edgar, anno 971, mentions but five of these parishes, and leaves out Brent and Pilton. Henry the Second’s charter, 1185, printed in the History of Glastonbury, p. 129, mentions seven churches, as in king Ina’s charter, and the same, except Brent, which is omitted, and instead of that Dicheseat is inserted.
But in truth, the seven churches claimed by the archdeacon of Wells on one side, and the abbat and monks on the other, were those mentioned in the charter of king Henry, and the other three, of Pilton, Pennard, and Ditchet returned to the archdeacon of Wells, and the archdeaconry of Glastonbury was continued within the seven parishes mentioned in this charter. Notwithstanding this, both Pilton and Ditchet are mentioned in the prohibition sent to the bishop, 1319, as belonging to the jurisdiction of the abbat and convent, when it is most evident, by the registers, that Pilton was then a peculiar jurisdiction, belonging to the precentor of Wells, as it is now; and Ditchet was then in the jurisdiction of the bishop and archdeacon of Wells, as it is still. –Archer.
In the year 944, King Edmund wrote a charter for Glastonbury and their Abbot St. Dunstan, not only confirming all the privileges and donations formerly granted to their predecessors, by his ancestors, King Edward, Alfred, Kentwyn, Ina, Cuthred, and others, but discharged them from several burdens, duties, contributions, and subjections ; and gave them a right and power to receive fines, punish malefactors, and of enjoying their lands as free from all claims as he enjoyed his own, especially the town of Glastonbury itself. These privileges in the charter are thus called, Burghbrice, hundredsoena, Athas, Ordelas, Infangentheofas, Homsocna, Frithbrice, Foresealle, Toll and Teame.
King Egelred, or (as others write him) Ethelred, King Edgar’s second son, bestowed upon Sigegar, then Abbot, six hydes of land at Anstancliff, one hyde at Sitebeorge, a mannoui at Pucklechurch containing thirty hydes of land, and a house he bought for forty marks of gold in Wilton.
King Edmund the Second, sirnamed Ironside, son to King Egelred, having been mortally wounded by the treacherous Duke Edrick, A. D. 1016, bequeathed seventeen hydes of land to this Abbey, and his body to be buried there.
Culdean Missions Abroad
A quote from the book, “Letters on the constrained celibacy of the clergy of the Church of Rome, addressed to an Irish Divine of that church by his friend, a layman of the church of England”:
|“Baleus and Bruschius spoke of the marriages of Monks and nuns as not uncommon in that country (Germany) before the tenth century.”|
The historian Bruschius authored “The First Century of the German Monasteries”.
Columbanus with his twelve strongly established these monasteries, as well as monasteries throughout Europe.
Here is a quote from a chapter named “the Spread of the Culdean Church” from “History of the Scottish Nation or The History of the Celtic Church”:
|“…likewise the whole of the country now called Franconia, and Alamannia, and Bavaria, converted and ecclesiastically governed by Culdeans, and Culdeans alone. And if we are to speak of the influences of the British Church, as some express themselves, it must at least be confessed that these influences might be compared to the overflow of ( Page 159 ) a river, which covers the whole land. All the distinctive peculiarities of the Culdean Church—its married priests, its sending out of its missionaries by twelve, its practice of constructing its settlements in separate houses, its subjection of chorepiscopi (or bishops of monasteries) to the rule of the abbots—all this we find in Bavaria and Alamannia in 730-739, just as it was in Scotland in 565.
It is all one and the same church-fellowship, that of the Viri-Dei, or in Irish, the Keile De. In the whole south and west, and in a great part of the north of Germany, before ‘the apostle of Germany was heard of, we find in existence a flourishing, well-organised, Rome-free church, whose sole supreme authority was the Holy Scriptures, and whose preaching was the word of the free redeeming grace of God in Christ Jesus.”
The Hereditary Leaders
The following excerpt is from the pages 176 to 180, from the book, “Celtic Church in Britain” by Hardinge. (Bibliography included.)
THE HEREDITARY LEADERS
The founder or holy man to whom the original grant of land had been made was called the patron saint of the monastery or Christian community. The importance of his position can hardly be exaggerated. A gloss of the law tract Succession thus eulogized this person and office. He is one(24) who is the noblest; who is the highest; who is the wealthiest; the shrewdest; the wisest; who is popular as to compurgation; who is most powerful to sue; the most firm to sue for profits and losses. And: every body defends its members, if a goodly body, well-deeded, well-moralled, affluent, capable. The body of each is his tribe. There is no body without a head.
That this description applies with equal force to the leader of “the tribe of the church” is corroborated by the Cain Aigillne.(25)
The leader of the Christian settlement originally possessed the land, buildings, and the right of succession, which depended upon him and the tribe to which he belonged. Not only in Ireland but also in Wales abbatal tenancy was hereditary.(26) This tribal and hereditary occupancy was not solely of Celtic origin among Celtic Christians, it also had its authorization in the Liber ex Lege Moisi. Priests were chosen only from the tribe of Levi, and especially from the family of Aaron, and succeeded their fathers to holy office, and also to the possession of the sacred cities with their suburbs. This certainly looks like the authority for the Celtic Christians to continue the hereditary succession of druid and Brehon in their own Christian communities. But while hereditary laws applied, this did not preclude the aspiring Brehon’s fitting himself for his task through study. The Christianized laws provided for almost every eventuality to ensure that a suitable successor be selected for the leadership of each community.
The simplest application of this regulation of hereditary succession was to a suitable son of the original founder-abbot, as is evidenced by this couplet from the law tracts:
The successor should be
The son of the abbot in the pleasant church
A fact established by sense.(27)
This successor was called a “coarb”. Later hagiographers went to great lengths to establish him as the “heir” of the founders.
This enabled all the wealth and prestige of the monastery to remain in the property of the heir. After the Viking period he was called the “erenach” or airchinnech. Giraldus Cambrensis noted that “the sons, after the deaths of their fathers, succeeded to the ecclesiastical benefice, not by election, but by hereditary right”.(28)
Should the abbot have no son, or be a “virgin abbot”, a suitable person was to be chosen from “the tribe of the patron saint who shall succeed to the church as long as there shall be a person fit to be an abbot of the said tribe of the patron saint; even though there should be but a psalm-singer of them, it is he that will obtain the abbacy”.(29) Coemgen “ordained that the erenagh in his church should be habitually of the children and posterity of Dimma”.(30) But should neither the son of the abbot nor a suitable person from the tribe of the saint be forthcoming, the law provided for a third source:
Whenever there is not one of that tribe fit to be an abbot, it [the abbacy] is to be given to the tribe to whom the land belongs, until a person fit to be an abbot of the tribe of the patron saint, shall be qualified; and when he is, it [the abbacy] is to be given to him, if he be better than the
abbot of the tribe to whom the land belongs, and who has taken it. If he [the former] is not better, it is only in
his turn he shall succeed.(31)
It occasionally happened that junior members of “the tribe of the church” obtained grants of land on their own behalf in the neighbourhood, and set up subsidiary communities of Christian believers. These were regarded as extensions of the original church or monastery. On some occasions a foster-son of the Church settled with a few companions at a little distance, or perhaps even across the sea. All these ancillary houses were regarded as being legally bound to the original settlement of the patron saint and were under the jurisdiction of his “heirs”. The law provided that:
If a person fit to be an abbot has not come of the tribe of
the patron saint, or of the tribe to whom the land belongs, the abbacy is to be given to one of the fine-manach class until a person fit to be an abbot, of the tribe of the patron saint, or of the tribe to whom the land belongs, should be qualified; and when there is such a person, the abbacy is to be given to him in case he is better.(32)
The term fine-manach grade described an inferior member of the “tribe of the church” who was a tenant on the ecclesiastical lands; or it might also indicate members of the Church who had established places for themselves, or it might even include the “people who give the church valuable goods”.(33) The law took care of all eventualities thus:
If a person fit to be an abbot has not come of the tribe of
the patron saint, or of the tribe of the grantor of the
land, or of the manach class, the “anoint” church shall
receive it, in the fourth place; a dalta church shall
receive it in the fifth place; a compairche church shall
obtain it in the sixth place; a neighbouring till church
shall obtain it in the seventh place.(34)
The “anoint” church was the one in which the patron saint had been educated, or in which he had been buried. The dalta church was one established by a foster-son or pupil in the monastic settlement. A compairche church was one under the jurisdiction of the patron saint, but situated at some distance.
A neighbouring church was one which, though not under the authority of the patron saint, was simply located at a not too great distance from it.
Should all these sources prove unavailing, the monks were to select a suitable person from among the “pilgrims”(35) who had sought sanctuary or hospitality among them, or even a responsible layman might temporarily rule until he found some one more suitable.(36) This practice gave rise to many anomalies through the centuries. The coarbs were not always bishops nor even priests.
In Kildare they were always females. There is also a record of a female coarb of St Patrick at Armagh. The one who inherited the rights of the patron saint was a chieftain of considerable power in the ecclesiastical community. The Annals contain a nearly complete list of the abbots or coarbs, but do not indicate successive bishops, who were more often than not in subjection to the coarb-abbot, and who did not succeed one another. The names in the Annals of the successors of Patrick are often called abbots, while some are called bishops as well as abbots, and others are styled simply bishops, and still others merely coarbs of St Patrick. Nothing in this last title shows whether he was a bishop or not. It is therefore well nigh impossible to trace episcopal succession in Armagh. The coarbs of Patrick might be bishop, priest, layman, or even a woman.(37) In the eleventh century this anomalous situation still existed in Ireland. Bernard wrote that:
There had been introduced by the diabolical ambition of certain people of rank a scandalous usage whereby the Holy See [Armagh] came to be obtained by heritary succession. For they would allow no person to be promoted to the bishoprick except such as were of their own tribe and family. Nor was it for any short period that this succession had continued, nearly fifteen generations having been already exhausted in this course of iniquity.(38)
Before the time of Celsus eight of these coarbs had been married men. After Malachy had been elected to office by the Roman party, he strove to bring Armagh and its succession into
line with canonical practice.
MEN, WOMEN, FAMILIES
The composition of the early Celtic monastic household may be discovered from the sources. The Catalogue of the Saints of Ireland recorded that the original Christians, who were drawn to the faith by Patrick and his successors, were “all bishops, … founders of churches … They rejected not the services and society of women, because, founded on the rock Christ, they feared not the blast of temptation. This order of saints continued for four reigns,(39) that is, to 5. T. Olden long ago strove to establish that this introduction of women into monastic
households was as consorts or spiritual wives.(40) It would seem less far-fetched to suggest that at the initial stage celibacy was not enforced. Communities of men and women living together as families were more likely in vogue. S. H. Sayce pointed this out when he wrote: “As in Egypt so in the Celtic Church the monasterium or collegium was an assemblage of huts in which the monks, both cleric and lay, lived with their wives and families.”(41)
In the Irish laws provisions covering the various members of the monastic family are found. They recognized “virgin” and married clerics of all grades, even lay recluses:
There is a virgin bishop … the virgin priest … a bishop
of one wife(42) … a virgin clerical student … a clerical
student of one wife(43) … a lay recluse … of virginity …
lay recluses who are without virginity, if they be beloved
of God, and their works great, if their miracles are as
numerous, or if they are more numerous, in the same way that Peter and Paul were to John, and in the same way Anthony and Martin were.(44)
So there were evidently in Irish ecclesiastical
Organizations “virgin bishops”, “virgin priests”, “virgin abbots”, and “virgin clerical students”, besides “virgin lay recluses”. There were also apparently married bishops, priests, abbots, clerical students, and lay recluses. A comparison of the status enjoyed by the “virgin” and married persons shows that virginity was held to be superior. But being the “husband of one wife” did not debar a man from any clerical office, not even that of recluse. In fact the law goes out of its way to protect from censure or contempt “lay recluses who are without virginity if they be beloved of God”. And so the writers of the “Lives” noted that the steward of Cadoc had a daughter,(45) while Cadoc himself had a “son-in-law”,(46) and his father a “monastery”.(47) The laws deplored “the son of a religious without an hour for his order”.(48)
- ALI IV, 375.
- ALI II, 279-381.
- Life of Samson, xvi.
- ALI IV, 383.
- Giraldus Cambrensis, Gemma Ecclesiastica, Disert. II, 22; cf. H.C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy I, 347, 360-4.
- ALI III, 73.
- LSBL, 11. 815-18.
- ALI III, 73-9.
- ALI III, 73.
- ALI II, 345.
- ALI III, 75.
- AFM, 437, 441.
- TLP I, 69.
- For a discussion of this topic see W.H. Todd, St Patrick, 171-2, and W. Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities, 136.
- Life of Malachy, 45.
- Skene, Scotland II, 12, 13.
- T. Olden, â€œOn the sonsortia of the first order of Irish saintsâ€, PRIA, 3rd Series, II, no. 3 (1894), 415-20.
- A.H. Sayce, â€œThe Indebtedness of Celtic Christianity to Egyptâ€, Scottish Ecclesiological Society Transactions III (1912), 257; cf. H.C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy I, 96; II, 316.
- ALI IV, 363-5.
- ALI IV, 369.
- ALI IV, 367.
- LCBS, 343.
- LCBS, 348.
- LCBS, 356.
- ALI III, 63.
Relevant abbreviations: ALI (Ancient Laws of Ireland, ed. Hancock), LSBL (Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore, see WS), AFM (Annals of the Four Masters, ed. Oâ€™Donovan), TLP (The Tripartite life of Patrick, ed. WS), WS (Whiteley Stokes), LCBS (Lives of the Cambro British Saints, Rees).