17th September 1147. Monastic Conflict.

The popular notion of the medieval monasteries as purely quiet places of contemplation is wide of the mark, for they were businesses with all the attributes of modern practice, including fierce competition between different Orders, and even take-over bids.

Today in 1147 after a meeting of  the General Chapter of the Order of  Savigny, it was decided to merge with the Cistercians, after experiencing problems of administration.

It appears that Abbot Serio, the 3rd successor to the founder, had problems in maintaining  jurisdiction over the English monasteries, who had an urge for independence.

However there were objections by some monasteries ,and it was left to Pope Eugene III to adjudicate and in 1148 each affiliated House was surveyed. The result was all were brought within the conformity, strictures and administration of the Cistercian Order, which now made inroads into large areas of the country.

The Savignac Order had become popular in England and Wales in the 1130s, so by the time of the merger there were fourteen monasteries, with all but four founded directly from Savigny in France.

Byland Abbey

Majestic ruins of Byland Abbey.

Their first monastery was at Tulketh, Lancashire in 1124, under the patronage of King David of Scotland, before moving to Furness, Cumbria, three years later.(1)

The Savignac House at Rushden Abbey on the Isle of Man was founded under the ‘King of the Isles’, King Olaf I in 1134 who granted  land to the Savignacs, from Furness on the mainland (2)

In 1136 King Stephen founded Buckland, Devon, as a Savignac Order, which had begun as a Benedictine Monastery. A few years later his queen, Matilda founded Coggeshall in Essex.

Monks initially sent from Furness to Calder, Cumbria, eventually became established at Byland, near Coxwold, North Yorkshire. But only after many moves and disputes with four other monasteries, over land and water supplies; matters were not to be settled until 1177.(3)

The problem was resolved by the Archbishop moving them to Stocking and then to Byland in 1177 in the water meadows near the River Rye and the village of Helmsley under the Hambleton Hills.

The early buildings would have been small and constructed of timber, not like the great ruins we see today, so movement wouldn’t have been a great task.

One of the problems between Byland and other Houses was the matter of bells, forerunners of clocks, after a dispute over different timetables.

It appears that the Cistercian, Rievaulx monks were confused by the Byland bells only a mile away, important when their lives were dictated by time for their services.

As early as the early 11thc monasteries had weight-driven clocks which struck bells for the daily services. The Rule of Citeaux of the 1120s had a Sacristan whose duty was to attend to the clock to waken monks for Matins.


Furness Abbey gateway.

Furness Abbey gateway.

(1)  Founded in 1127 by Stephen Count of Bologne and Mortain and Lord of Lancaster.

(2) Olaf was King of the Hebrides, Isle of Man and other western islands.

The Chronicles of Mann were written at Rushden.

(3) 31st October 1177.


Ref: en.wikipedia/savignac_order.

Ref: paradoxplace.com/byland.

Ref: From Conquest to Magna carta, Christopher Daniell 2013/googlebooksresult.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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