James Hogg, Everyday Life in a Contemplative Order in the Fifteenth Century, Analecta Cartusiana, vol. 116/4 (1988), s. 95-103
Though a fair amount of source material is extant , which illuminates the daily life of the English Benedictines and Cistercians , inevitably more limited documentation has survived for the strictly contemplative Orders, the Brigittines and the Carthusians, for the Brigittines only made one foundation in medieval England, Syon Abbey , and the number of Charterhouses was merely nine at the time of the suppression of the monasteries under King Henry VIII .
In recent years a good deal of research has been undertaken on the English Brigittines, mainly clue to the zeal and perseverance of F. R. Johnston and Roger Ellis. This activity, which has enjoyed the blessing of the present-day community at Syon Abbey in Devonshire, will reach its zenith with the publication of Eilis’s Early English Text Society edition of the Middle English version of St Bridget’s Revelations; but of greater relevance for our topic is his profound study of the Rule and its various additions with the commentaries on it, Viderunt Eam File Syon: The Spirituality of the English House of a Medieval Contemplative Order from its Beginnings to the Present Day , which in passing, admirably com-mented on the three volumes of texts which I had issued in the Salzburger Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik under the general title: The Rewyll of Seynt Sauioure and other Middle English Brigittine Legislative Texts .
For the medieval English Charterhouses supplementary source material has also been printed in the last few years, which, whilst perhaps not radically altering the treatment offered by David Knowles , Lawrence Hendriks , E. Margaret Thompson , David and Gervase Mathew and other more hagiographical writers, nevertheless offers interesting supporting evidence .
Most significant in this sense are the proceedings of the Carthusian General Chapter, which Professor Michael Sargent and I have been printing, assiduously since 1982 . The second volume of the series contains material dealing specifically with the English province, drawn from the Bodleian Library MS. Rawlinson D. 318, - material which caused Richard B. Marks to comment in a recent review in Speculum : “... the British chartae reflect liturgical practices quite different from those from continental Europe”.. The reviewer surely overstates the case, but I had already underlined the existence of liturgical material specifically compiled for the English Charterhouses in 1977 and 1978 . The original Chartae of the General Chapter – or immediate copies of them – have now been published for most of the fifteenth century, and more will follow over the next few years. These documents allow a substantial insight into the state of the observance in the Provincia Angliae, recording the movements of monks from one house to another and registering the reprimands issued to the negligent. Carthusian observance was secured by regular visitation - at least once every two years, sometimes even by continental visitors, - who also reported their findings to the central authorities at the Grande Chartreuse, who were thus able to regulate events in the distant provinces, even if the English priors were excused attendance at the General Chapter on account of the distance, except in leap years .
As E. Margaret Thompson printed some extracts from the Bodleian MS. Rawlinson D. 318 and from the London Lambeth Palace Library MS. 413 in her chapters “Some Capitular Acts after the Schism”, “Side-Lights on English Carthusian Life and Discipline” and “Some Capitular Injunctions to English Charterhouses” , the present paper will concentrate on the material unknown to Margaret Thompson; but it should be stressed that in the Rawlinson MS. the text of numerous questions concerning the liturgical books and specific readings is reproduced along with the replies from the Grande Chartreuse or the General Chapter. It seems certain that the English houses must in part have been employing liturgical books of non-Carthusian origin, probably due to the sudden expansion of the Order in England in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The isolation of the English houses during the Great Schism may also have played a role. Furthermore, copies of documents arc given for an acrimonious dispute at the London Charterhouse at the end of the fifteenth century concerning the application of mass stipends to the benefit of individual monks, - a deplorable state of affairs which renders the heroism of the London community barely thirty years later all the more surprising . Even John Houghton, the prior destined to martyrdom, was not, however, always satisfied with his community. Not only were there misfits at the London Charterhouse, like Andrew Borde – others even reputedly longed for the flesh-pots of Egypt! – but in the prior’s view the monks sometimes chanted the night office too rapidly, so that, according to the contemporary testimony of Dom Maurice Chauncy, Houghton even left the church in indignation during an acceleration; but when we learn that the community rose in the winter around 10 in the evening and only returned to their beds at 3.00 a.m. or even 3.30 the modern reader might suspect that the superior was over exigent, if not masochistically inclined !
In the following documentation, the Charterhouse of the Vale of Virtues at Perth in Scotland, authorised on 19th August 1426 and incorporated by the Carthusian General Chapter in 1430, will be excluded, as, for political reasons, it was seldom affiliated to the English province, but initially formed part of that of Further Picardy and later of Geneva or the Grande Chartreuse. Perhaps due to its very remoteness, it was the subject of repeated attention on the part of the central authorities of the Order, who intervened frequently to regulate the financial obligations of the house . The standard of the observance over the decades does not seem to have been uniformly high .
In 1412 the prior of the London Charterhouse, who had requested permission to celebrate a Feast of Our Lady every week, was instructed to conform to the uses of the Order, though a Feast of the Trinity was conceded annually .. Furthermore, the whole province was urged to uniformity after the chaos of the years of the Great Schism . In 1413 the prior of Witham petitioned for a special office of the Blessed Virgin, and was referred to the negative reply to the London Charterhouse of the previous year , whilst the London community was again reminded to produce the inventory of their possessions .
In 1414 there were no/entries for the English province and in 1416 the General Chapter remarked drily: De domibus prouinciae Angliae quia nihil miserunt ad Capitulum, non potuit Capitulum ordinare conuenienter . In 1417 the Carthusian central authorities stipulated, however, that only in leap years was one of the Visitors expected at the Grande Chartreuse in person – and that only if; convenient ! Otherwise the business of the province was to be expedited via the Charterhouses of Further Picardy.
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