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Anthony Deane On Benefits Of Pre-Reformation Monastries

 

Anthony Deane, The Reformation

(London; James Nisbet & Co., 1907)

 

‘The influence of [monasteries], scattered up and down the country, affected the whole social, as well as the spiritual, welfare of the nation. Through a considerable period, learning and art of every kind would have been almost extinct, had it not been for the work of the monks. . . . Moreover, one of the larger religious houses would become a centre of activity for all the neighbourhood. Attached to it were a large number of lay workers, and everything required both for them and for the monks themselves would be made within the monastic precincts. This included clothing, tools of every kind, agricultural implements, and domestic furniture. Whether a new aisle was to be added to the church or a new pair of sandals provided for one of the inmates, everything – the plan, the materials, the labour, and the execution of the work – could be obtained without going outside the monastery’s borders. Not the least important of such pursuits was that of agriculture. People who visit to-day the ruins of some abbey are wont to remark that its builders chose a very fertile and picturesque neighbourhood in which to place it. But, more often than not, its original surroundings were barren and desolate. The monks themselves brought about the change; they drained the swamp, they irrigated the dry land, they planted trees and hedges, they transformed and improved out of knowledge the whole of the surrounding country, and the results of their labour remain today.’

 

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