Introduction of Celibacy

Book 2, Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair from 955 AD to 975 – Origin of Monasteries in England

From the introduction of Christianity among the Saxons, there had been monasteries in England, and these establishments had extremely multiplied, by the donations of the princes and nobles, whose superstition, derived from their ignorance and precarious life, and increased by remorse for the crimes into which they were so frequently betrayed, knew no other expedient for appeasing the Deity than a profuse liberality towards ecclesiastics. But the monks had hitherto been a species of secular priests, who lived after the manner of the present canons or prebendaries, and were both intermingled in some degree with the world, and endeavoured to render themselves useful to it. They were employed in the education of youth they had the disposal of their own time and industry, they were not subjected to the rigid rules of an order, they had made no vows of an implicit obedience to their superiors and they still retained the choice without quitting the convent, either of a married or a single life.

But a mistaken piety had produced in Italy a new species of monks called Benedictines, who, carrying farther the plausible principles of mortification, secluded themselves entirely from the world, renounced all claim to liberty, and made a merit of the most inviolable chastity. These practices and principles which superstition at first engendered were greedily embraced and promoted by the policy of the court of Rome. The Roman pontiff, who was making every day great advances towards an absolute sovereignty over the ecclesiastics, perceived that the celibacy of the clergy alone could break off entirely their connexion with the civil power, and depriving them of every other object of ambition, engage them to promote, with unceasing industry, the grandeur of their own order.

Chapter 8, Edwy the Fair


Origin of Anglo Saxon Surnames

Conflicting Testimony Concerning Edwy

Incident on His Coronation Day

Treatment of Elgiva

Edgar the Pacific

Chapter 8, Origin of Monasteries in England

Introduction of Celibacy

Their Rules and Practice

The Benedictines

Chapter 8, Dunstan

Sketch of Dunstan

His Alleged Visions and Miracles

Becomes Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop

Chapter 8, Archbishop Dunstan and the Clergy

His Character and Policy

Aided by Bishops Oswald and Ethelwald

The Secular Clergy Supplanted by the Monks

King Edgar’s Private Life

The Worth of the Eulogies Pronounced on Him by the Monks

The Canons of Edgar

His Position Among the Anglo-Saxon Kings

Policy Towards the Danes of Northumbria


Categories: Book 2

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