Christ's Poor Men: The Carthusians in England
Founded in 1088 by St Bruno at the Grande Chartreuse in France, the Carthusians came to Britain almost a hundred years later. Only nine permanent monasteries were established before the Reformation, and six of these were founded after the Black Death nearly 200 years later.
Yet their influence far exceeded their numbers. They were exceptionally well regarded in the later Middle Ages, providing a late flowering of British monasticism when other religious orders were in decline. Supported by the highest levels of society, the Carthusians are remarkably well documented, and we can see how their life was sustained by agricultural estates, bequests from the local laity, and the income from burials and masses. It was they who particularly stood up to Henry VIII, and three of their nine priors were butchered for their beliefs.
The evidence of archaeology is also significant. Of the total of nine English charterhouses five have substantial remains (Mount Grace being the best preserved and most accessible) and a further two have excellent earthworks. Together these sites provide considerable information about how the Carthusians lived, prayed, and died, and how their life differed from that of other orders of monks and nuns.
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