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Birkenhead; its prosperity, at any rate, was bound up with the fortunes of the ferry which the monks established across the Mersey. Leaving to abler hands the task of telling of the slow growth of Liverpool's greatness, I will pass on to my more immediate subject — the religious houses of the county.
A beginning was made at Penwortham in 1087; Lancaster followed (1094), and Furness (1127); the cell of Kershall, near Manchester (1184), comes next; and then the houses of Canons Regular at Cartmel (1188) and Conishead (ante 1189). In 1190 the Premonstratensian Abbey of Cockersand was established, and the Priory of Hornby, of the same order, probably about the same time. Burscough, a priory of the Black Canons (ante 1199), was the last house of that order founded in the county; the later monasteries were those of the Durham monks at Lytham (1199), of the preaching friars at Lancaster (1250), the minorites at Preston (circa 1250), and the Austin friars at Warrington. The Abbey of Whalley was transplanted from Cheshire in 1296; and Upholland Priory, 1319, was the latest prereformation foundation of the Black Monks, or Benedictines, in the whole country. A single nunnery, that of Blackburn, of the Benedictine order, is mentioned by some writers, but its history is so obscure that we may pass it by with this bare allusion to its existence.
Abbey, Priory, Cell; Monk, Canon, Friar ; Benedictine, Cistercian, Augustinian, Premonstratensian, Dominican, Franciscan—what ideas do such words convey to the majority of readers ? Truly, to judge from the very promiscuous use which even standard writers make of them, we have need of greater lucidity in these matters than commonly prevails. Nor should such knowledge be difficult to acquire. An age which prides itself on the scientific nomen
clature which obtains in chemistry, botany, or entomology, should be ashamed of the ignorance and inexactness prevalent in a department of learning at least as well worth study as those just named. At best such information as passes current on the matters now under consideration does not touch more than the outside of things; many a writer, learned in the cut and colour of the religious dress of our forefathers, would be puzzled to explain the radical difference between, say, a monk and a friar; between a Canon Regular and a Carmelite. But differences there were, and were intended to be; and those differences were in the middle ages well understood. The men who founded our ancient religious houses, and the men who elected to live therein, both knew what they were doing; kings or nobles did not act at haphazard when planting a colony of black canons or white, black monks or white, on their estates; and it must be presumed that when a man knocked at the gate of a Benedictine rather than of a Premonstratensian brotherhood, he did so because the one life seemed better suited to him than the other. To draw out some few of the differences, radical and ethical, between the religious institutes represented in old Lancashire, is the purpose of this paper. My remarks group themselves naturally round the monasteries of the county in their chronological order: first, the houses of monks—Benedictine, Cluniac, Cistercian; next, those of canons—Austin and Norbertine; and, finally, the convents of friars above enumerated. With the late-founded house of black monks at Upholland I shall finish what I have to say on the leading varieties of the mediaeval religious ideals represented in the county. My purpose is to say something of the "inwardness" of this or that monastic movement which has left its traces amongst us; referring those who wish for a mere enumeration of prelates and possessions, of charters granted and churches impropriated, to the bulky volumes of the Monasticon. To begin with our oldest monastery, the Priory of St. Mary, at Penwortham, on the south bank of the Ribble, over against Preston, the earliest Benedictine house erected in the county :—
I.—Penwortham; St. Mary's Priory.
(Monasticon, iii, 417.) Though founded only in 1087, by Warine Bussel and Albert his brother, with the approval of Pope Alexander III, Penwortham Priory lived with an older life than its own, for it was peopled by monks from Evesham, and continued throughout the four hundred and fifty years of its existence to be a dependency, or cell, of that great abbey, itself four centuries old when it sent forth its sons to the distant home prepared for them in Lancashire.
And here we are brought face to face with a question which constantly confronts us in the monastic annals. How is it, that even among monks of the same rule such diversity prevailed; that some houses were independent, others dependent on greater abbeys; that some were exempt, others not exempt from episcopal supervision; that some were styled abbeys, others priories? I hope to give an answer to most of these questions as we proceed. Penwortham, then, was a Priory, and a dependant priory, of the order of black monks, as they were generally termed then, or Benedictines, as we now say, and was a cell or dependency of Evesham abbey. The rule of St. Benedict had become by this time—I am speaking of the 11th century—the recognised 'rule of monks' throughout the western church. Imperceptibly and slowly, but surely, it had come to prevail over all others; earlier and alien foundations accepting it, more recent ones knowing no other. No date can be fixed for this significant fact; no ecclesiastical enactment furthered its supremacy; its victorious progress can only be ascribed to the innate wisdom, discretion, moderation, and sound principles of spiritual life and government embodied in its pages. Monks, and therefore "rules" of some sort there had been almost from the beginning of the church, and certainly for two centuries before St. Benedict had been laid to rest on the heights of Monte Cassino; but before the days of the great legislator the ever varying discipline, and, above all, the lack of any strict bond between the monk and his monastery, had given rise to many irregularities. But with the advent of St. Benedict's rule, all that was changed. The duties of monks were clearly laid down, the order of divine service minutely prescribed, labour of every kind—manual and intelleclectual—enjoined on all, provision made for varying circumstances of place and climate in the details of food and clothing; and a large-mindedness and liberty of spirit inspired into the whole conception of the religious life, which has caused the rule of St. Benedict to be as fertile of great results in the nineteenth as in the earlier centuries of its propagation. But that was not all. Large communities were to be found before the days of St. Benedict; saints had founded them, and had legislated for them, but the work had not been lasting. In them, as in St. Benedict's monasteries, obedience under vow, renunciation of personal and private property, and the obligation of celibacy, had been recognised and honoured; but still there was something wanting to give permanence to the monastic institute. This was what St. Benedict provided when he introduced his great reform, by requiring of all who joined him a vow of perseverance, of “ stability," 2 which bound the monk to his community and the community to the monk till the bond was broken by death. Thus, then, by a change, apparently so slight, so unimportant, was the monastic life put on a new and different footing; thus was a principle introduced into the religious world which was recognised till the founding of the friars in the 13th century. Stability—the life-long connection with the home of his religious profession-was the first principle not alone of all who professed the rule of St. Benedict, but of the various orders or congregations of regular canons which sprang up between the palmy days of monasticism and the era of the friars.3
The Rule of St. Benedict, widespread though it became, seems never to have contemplated any thing in the nature of a congregation or “order," as the word is now used; it was written for monasteries separate and independent one of another. In the saint's mind apparently each monastery was to be a little kingdom, complete within itself; in government monarchical, being ruled by an abbot whose office was life-long, but whose authority was tempered by such safeguards as the counsel of the brethren (of all in important matters, of the seniors in lesser) should devise. Each several community thus constituted had no necessary connexion with others, even of the same institute; no relations (except in extreme cases specified in the rule) save those of
2. “Votum stabilitatis religiosa benedictinæ est solennis promissio, libere " Deo facta perseverandi in observantia regulari in loco professionis secundum “Regulam S. Benedicti.” Cf. Compendium Ascescos Benedictinæ, ii, p. 86, § 122. Posonii, 1852.
3 One of the most curious of forgotten books treating of this subject is entitled : Epistolæ apologeticæ pro ordine S. Benedicti. Defenduntur hic etiam obiter inclytus status Petrinus; ordo Can. Reg. S. Aug., Cisterciensis, Præmonstratensis reliquique stabilitatem profitentes. R. D. P. Bernardi Pezii; edidit R. D P. Mellitus Oratius ejusdem ordinis theologus. Campoduni,