Essays in Medieval History Presented to Thomas Frederick Tout

Essays in Medieval History Presented to Thomas Frederick Tout

Essays in Medieval History Presented to Thomas Frederick Tout

Essays in Medieval History Presented to Thomas Frederick Tout

Excerpt

The question whether S. Augustine founded at Christchurch, Canterbury, a monastery of Benedictine monks or a normal episcopal familia has for long remained uncertain. The facts that Augustine and his Italian companions were monks, that Christchurch after the Norman Conquest was a Benedictine house, that many archbishops of Canterbury subsequent to Augustine were monks, that many early Christchurch documents long regarded as genuine spoke of the familia at Christchurch as monks, all suggested that Christchurch had been in origin a Benedictine house. Certain indications in the records that the familia there did not at all periods live as Benedictine monks were thought evidence only of laxity and indiscipline. Modern scholars, especially since the work of Dr. Armitage Robinson on the early familia at Worcester, have suspected that the early familia at Christchurch might prove as "secular" as that at Worcester; but the origin of the sees was different, the interval between the foundation of the see and the first authentic charter longer in the case of Christchurch than of Worcester, and other circumstances rendered it difficult to argue from one case to the other. The first indisputable grant to Christchurch is that of the Mercian Offa in 774; the first to which the signatures appended probably include the more important part of the familia, that of Archbishop Wulfred in 813. It is therefore impossible to prove the nature of the familia between 597 and 813 from the signatures to charters, as Dr. Armitage Robinson did in the case of Worcester, from the charter of Headda in 798 onwards. Nevertheless, an attempt will here be made to show that the familia founded at Christchurch was secular, by considering the authentic English evidence in the light of contemporary custom, and particularly of the disciplinary canons of contemporary continental councils. Mention of the spurious documents and charters will be omitted for the sake of clearness, though the motive for their composition is often interesting.

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