The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England

By McHardy, A. K. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England


McHardy, A. K., The Catholic Historical Review


The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England. By Joseph A. Gribbin. [Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, Volume XVI.] (Rochester, New York: The Boydell Press. 2001. Pp. xx, 283. $75.00.)

Between 1458 and 1503 the Premonstratensian Order in England was subject to a remarkable regime of discipline and control: there were general or provincial chapters in fifteen years, and visitations in sixteen. In occasional years only one house was visited, but much more frequent were those years in which visitations were numerous. Thus in 1475 twenty-four houses were visited, in 1478 thirty-six, in 1491 twenty-nine, in 1482 and again in 1494 twenty-eight, and in 1500 twenty-seven. One man was responsible for this unremitting activity: Richard Redman, appointed commissary-general for life by the abbot of Premontre in 1459- Redman's career was remarkable. A member of a notable Westmorland dynasty, Richard Redman probably belonged to the Yorkshire branch of the family, and his decision to join the Premonstratensian Order was an unusual decision for a man of his rank and wide-ranging talents. Also unusual were both his promotion to the episcopate and the absence of a university education, which was the norm for bishops of his time. In 1458 he became abbot of Shap, a monastery high in the northern Penine hills, in 1471 bishop of St. Asaph in Wales, and finally in 1501 he was promoted to the small but proportionately rich see of Ely, near Cambridge. Aristocratic support perhaps accounts for his early elevation within his Order, but Redman was to prove a useful servant of both Yorkist and Tudor kings, as well as a tireless enforcer of monastic standards.

Redman was the hero of the doctoral thesis on which this book is based, and he is a commanding figure in this version. Pioneering work on the Order was done by H. M. Colvin, whose The White Canons in England was published in 1951. Dr. Gribbin does not attempt to re-write the complete history of the Order-though his introductory chapter surveying the story until the later fifteenth century is a notably successful summary-but he both utilizes work published in the last fifty years, and subjects the evidence of Redman's visitation activity to detailed examination. The material for this activity is based upon four manuscripts, two in the British Library, one in the Bodleian (Oxford), and one at Belvoir Castle, seat of the duke of Rutland. …

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