Thursday, April 8, 2021

Something More About Hailes Abbey

Bloody good times.

We’ve mentioned Hailes Abbey, in Gloucestershire, here before, as it (and that blood) were referenced in the conclusion of Bellairs’s The Dark Secret of Weatherend (1984). What wasn't discussed were its misbehaving monks - as described by the English Heritage site. In short, abbeys were often visited by other abbots, there to grade and comment on how the monks lived their lives.  These abbots documented the good and the bad taking place and such documentation about Hailes survives:
The visiting abbot often highlighted minor lapses in religious observance. The Hailes monks were admonished for not kneeling deeply enough in front of the high altar, for failure to celebrate a daily Mass in honour of the Virgin Mary, to whom the abbey was dedicated, and for the quality of their chant during the eight services that punctuated the monastic day – hurrying or slurring words, for instance, was criticised. On one occasion, the visiting abbot complained that a hymn needed to be sung at a higher pitch to ensure that it was a song of praise rather than a miserable dirge.

Concern for the sexual morality of the community was a recurring theme in the visitations. Although the visiting abbots recorded no proven sexual misdemeanours, they highlighted circumstances which could lead to allegations of such behaviour. Women, for instance, were lodging within the precinct of the monastery and monks were expressly forbidden to wander off and visit local taverns.

Visiting abbots also criticised aspects of the administration of the abbey by the abbot and other senior monks. The faults found included the accumulation of debts, the shabby clothing of the monks, the quality of care provided for sick monks in the infirmary, failure to provide charity to the poor, the disrepair of the monastery’s buildings and permitting weeds and thistles to grow in the cloister.

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