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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: January 2010

Introduction

Summary

The purpose and scope of this book

This book aims at providing lists of all the known superiors of the religious houses that existed in England and Wales between 940 and 1216. The term religious house is understood as covering all establishments of monks, regular canons and nuns, whether of abbatial or lower rank and whether autonomous or dependent. Roughly speaking, therefore, it comprises all the houses existing between these dates that are listed in the relevant sections of Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales – all, that is, save those of whose heads we know nothing – but the military orders are not included, nor are hospitals. Similarly, the groups of nuns staffing hospitals or serving guests or pilgrims on the outskirts of an abbey are not included unless they ranked as a religious community possessed of an income and domestic autonomy.

Four classes of establishment are represented: the autonomous abbey; the autonomous priory; the dependent priory with regular life; and smaller houses, priories or cells, whose exact status it is often difficult to define. Our lists make no claim to classify or divide the last group, as Medieval Religious Houses attempts to do; our concern is solely with the heads of all houses (save hospitals and the like) who are called in the documents abbots and priors. The exact distinction, in terms of authority and prestige, between the classes of abbots and priors, and the raison d'être of the status of a given house, are by no means as easy to define as might be expected.