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Canons and Canonesses Regular

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According to St. Thomas Aquinas, a canon regular is essentially a religious cleric, or, as the same doctor aptly expresses it: "The Order of Canons Regular is necessarily constituted by religious clerics, because they are essentially destined to those works which relate to the Divine mysteries, whereas it is not so with the monastic Orders." (II-II:189:8 ad 2um, and II-II:184:8). We have then here what constitutes a canon regular and what distinguishes him from a monk. The clerical state is essential to the Order of Canons Regular, whereas it is only accidental to the Monastic Order. Hence Erasmus, himself a canon regular, declared that the canons regular are a quid medium between the monks and the secular clergy. And for the same reason Nigellus Vireker, a Benedictine monk of Canterbury in the twelfth century, contrasts the life of canons regular, as he know them, with that of his own brethren and the Cistercians, pointing out the advantages of the former. The canons, he tells us, were spared the long choral duties, the sharp reproofs, the stern discipline of the Black Monks, and were not bound to the Spartan simplicity of vesture and diet of the field-working Cisterians ("Speculum Stultorum", Rolls Series : "The Anglo-Latin Satirical poets of the Twelfth Century"). The "Llanthony Chronicler" relates how the first founders of his famous abbey, having consulted among themselves, decided to become canons regular, first, because on account of the charity they were well liked by all, and then because they were satisfied with a modest manner of living, their habit, though clean, being decent, neither too coarse, nor too rich. In this moderation of life we may say that canons regular follow the example of their lawgiver, St. Augustine, of whom St. Possidius, his biographer, relates that his habit, his furniture, his clothes were always decent, neither too showy nor too humble and shabby.

The spirit of the canonical order is thus quaintly but clearly explained in the "Observances in Use at the Augustinian Priory at Barnwell, Cambridge," lately edited with a translation by F.W. Clarke:

The road along which Canons Regular walk in order to reach the heavenly Jerusalem is the rule of Blessed Augustine. Furthur lest Canons Regular should wander away from the rule, there are given to them, in addition, observances in accordance with it handed down from remote ages and approved amongholy fathers in all quarters of the world. This rule is simple and easy, so that unlearned men and children can walk in it without stumbling. On the other hand it is deep and lofty, so that the wise and strong can find in it matter for abundant and perfectcontemplation. An elephant can swim in it and a lamb can walk in it safely. As a lofty tower surrounded on all sides by walls makes the soldiers who garrison it safe, fearless, and impregnable, so the rule of Blessed Augustine, fortified on all sides by observances in accordance with it, makes its soldiers, that is, Canon Regular, undismayed at the attacks, safe and invincible.

To explain further the nature and distinctive spirit of the canonical order, we may say, with St. Augustine, that a canon regular professes two things, "sanctitatem et clericatum" . He lives in community, he leads the life of a religious, he sings the praises of God by the daily recitation of the Divine Office in choir; but at the same time, at the bidding of his superiors, he is prepared to follow the example of the Apostles by preaching, teaching, and the administration of the sacraments, or by giving hospitality to pilgrims and travellers, and tending the sick. And so we find that Pope Paschal II, in his Bull addressed in 1118 to the prior and community at Colchester, tells them that their order has always been devoted to preaching, hearing confessions, and baptizing, and ready to accept the care of such parishes and public chapels as might be entrusted to their charge. This has been pointed out by other popes, as also by St. Ives of Chartres, and by Cancellieri, who, quoting the authority of an ancient writer to the effect that the clerics living in common in the Lateran Basilica observed the regulations introduced there by Pope Gelasius , says that "their work was the administration of the sacraments and the offering of prayer." It is the same now. From one monastery alone, that of St. Florian, in Austria, some forty parishes are served, and those same canons who gave hospitality on the Great St. Bernard serve a number of parishes in the Canton Valais. The public prayer, or liturgical office, is celebrated with all the splendour befitting God's honour and His house. But the canons regular do not confine themselves exclusively to canonical functions. Nothing, unless incompatible with the duty of clerics is rejected. To this day, as already mentioned, they give hospitality to pilgrims and travelers on the Great St. Bernard and on the Simplon, and in former times the hospitals of St. Bartholomew's Smithfield, in London, of S. Spirito, in Rome, of Lochleven, Monymusk, and St. Andrew's, in Scotland, and others like them, were all served by canons regular. In fact, many congregations of canons made it their chief end to work among the poor, the lepers, the insane, and the infirm. The clerics established by St. Patrick in Ireland had a Guest House for pilgrims and the sick whom they tended by day and by night. And the rule given by Chrodegang to this canons enjoined that a hospital should be near their house that they might tend the sick. The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) also ordains the erection of a hospital for pilgrims over which a canon regular is to preside.

The essential and characteristic habit of canons regular is the rochet. With regtard to the other parts, their dress, as a general rule, is that of other clergy, although some have added a scapular. By most the rochet is worn as part of their daily dress, though sometimes reduced to a small linen band hanging from the shoulders in front and behind. it is now so worn in Austria, on the Great St. Bernard, and at Aosta. As to the colour of the dress there is no fixed rule, the custom and traditions of the various Congregations may be observed. The general colour seems to have been white as now worn by the Lateran Congregation. A question having been raised as to the proper habit of a canon regular, when named bishop, it was settled by a Brief of Leo X. A long dissertation on the dress of the canons regular was presented to the pope by jurisconsult, Zaccaria Ferreri, who maintained that, with the exception of the rochet, the canons regular, like the secular clergy , had no fixed dress. It may be interesting to note that, in this dissertation on the authority of the "Most Reverend Lord Cardinal of England, and many other Prelates, and the English Ambassador", the author says, "in England the Canons Regular wore violet like the other clergy." In the Constitutions given by Cardinal Wolsey to canons regular mention is also made of this variety of habit.


Having thus explained what a canon regular is, and what the spirit and work of the canonical order are, it will be easier now to answer such questions as these:

  • Who was the founder of the canons regular?
  • Whence do they drive their origin?
  • When and where were they first known?
Various and contradictory opinions have been expressed to answer these and similar questions. There have been some writers who, like the famous Cistercian abbot, Joachim, Coriolanus, Marquez, and others held that the canonical order began about 1100. According to others the order dates from the time of Charlemagne, who expressed the wish that all the clergy should be either monks or canons living in common, as prescribed by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 789, and Mainz, in 813. The great Bishop of Hippo is also regarded by some as the founder of the canonical institute. All these opinions are set aside by many other writers, and especially by the historians of the order, who almost unanimously trace back the origin of the canons regular much farther in antiquity. Their institute, they maintain, was founded by Christ Himself, and dates from the time of the Apostles. These writers and historians begin by saying that, although it be true that there was a great revival, or general reformation and spreading of the order in the twelfth century, in France and elsewhere through the zeal of Ives, Bishop of Chartres, in Italy through the newlyfounded congregation of Blessed Peter de Honestis, and elsewhere through the congregation of Sts. Rufus, yet this does not imply that the order took its origin at that epoch, but rather -- since it needed reforming -- that it had already existed for some time. History, in fact, tells us that about the eleventh century the regular or canonical life hitherto observed alsmost everywhere by the clergy was given up in many churches, and thus a distinctiion was made between the clerics who lived in separate houses and those who still preserved the old discipline, living under rule and having all things in common. The former were called canonici saeculares , the latter canonici regulares , by which name they have been known ever since. It is also true that in the year 763 Chrodegang, Bishop of metz, assembled the clergy of his cathedral around him, led with them a community life, and gave them a rule taken from the statutes of ancient orders and canons, a discipline also recommended shortly after by the Councils of Aix-la-Chapelle and Mainz ; but in doing this he was only following the example of St. Augustine, who had introduced among his own clergy the manner of life which he had seen practiced at Milan. And that is why the member so the canonical order regard St. Augustine not as their founder, but only as their reformer, or lawgiver; because to the clergy who lived with him he had given certain special regulatiions, which were in course of time adopted by almost all the canons regular, who were on that account called "Canons Regular of St. Augustine."

Those who believe in the Apostolic origin of the canonical institute, support their contention by the authority of popes, theologians, and church historians. There is abundant evidence, they say that Christ Himslef instituted a perfect religious state, and that it was embraced by the Apostles and many of their disciples from the very beginning of the Church. It is also certain that from the time of the Apostles there have always been in the Church clerics who, following the example of the primitive Christians, living "secundum regulam sub sanctis Apostolis constitutam" (according to the Apostolic Rule), had all things in common. Eusebius, the historian, relates that St. Mark , the disciple of St. Peter, established this discipline at Alexandria, as did St. Crescentius in Gaul, St. Saturninus in Spain, and St. Maternus in Germany. We know that St. Eusebius introduced it at Vercelli in Italy, and St. Amborse at Milan. Pope Urban I (A.D. 227), Paschal II (1099), Benedict XII (1334), Eugenius IV (1431), Sixtus V, and Pius V in their various Letters and bulls, are quoted by the historians of the order, to prove distinctly that St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, only restored, or caused to reflourish, the order of canons regular, which was first instituted by the Apostles. St. Antoninus, Vincent of Beauvais, Sigebert, Peter of Cluny, Fagnani, and many others tell us that the canonical order traces back its origin to the earliest ages of the Church. It will suffice to give here the authority of Francisco Suárez, who sums up the case very clearly. After having stated that the Apostles taught by Christ Himslef formed the first order of clerics, and that the order did not perish with the Apostles, but was preserved by continuous succession in their disciples, as proved by letters of Pope St. Clement and urban I (though these letters are Pseudo-Isidorian in character ), the writer continues:

We read in the Life of St. Augustine that when he was made priest, he instituted a monastery within the church and began to live with the servants of God according to the manner and rules constituted by the holy Apostles. Many therefore suppose that the Order of Regular Clerics, or Canons Regular, was not instituted by St. Augustine, but was either reformed by him or introduced by him into Africa and furnished witha special rule. Pius IV maintains that the Order of Regular Clerics was instituted by the Apostles, and this Benedict XII confirms in his preface to the Constitutions of the Canons Regular. There is no question as regards the continuance of this state from the time of St. Augustine to this time, although with great variety as far as various institutes are concerned.

To this we may add that when a controversy arose between the Benedictine monks and the canons regular with regard to precedence, the question was settled by Pius V in favour of the canons, on account of their Apostolic origin. We may then conclude with the words of Cardinal Pie, who, addressing the canons regular of the Lateran Congregation, whom he had established at Beauchene in his diocese, says:

These that are clothed in white robes, who are they, and whence come they come, I will tell you. heir origin is nothing else but the society and the common life of Jesus and His Apostles, the original model of community life between the bishop and his clergy. On that account they chiefly come from Hippo and from the home of Augustine, who has given them a Rule, which they still glory to observe.

The name Austin (or Augustinian ) Canons is commonly used instead of Canons Regular , and there are some who think that Austin Canons are so styled because they were instituted by St. Augustine. This is a wrong notion. St. Augustine did not found the order of canons regular, not even those who are called Austin Canons. There were canons regular before St. Augustine. The various authoritites quoted in this article prove it. All St. Austin did was to induce his clergy to live secundum regulam sub sanctis Apostolis constitutam , which he had seen practised at Milan, adding to the Apostolic Rule hitherto observed by clerics living in common, some regulations, afterwards called the "Rule of St. Augustine." Or, in the words of Pope Paschal II in a Bull quoted by Pennott, "Vitæ regularis propositum in primitiva ecclesia cognoscitur ab Apostolis institutum quam B. Augustinus tam gratanter amplexus est ut eam regulis informaret" (A regular mode of life is recognized in the Early Church as instituted by the Apostles, and adopted earnestly by Blessed Augustine, who provided it with new regulations) -- Hist. Tripart. , Lib. II, c. iv, 4. These regulations which St. Austin had given to the clerics who lived with him soon spread and were adopted by other religious communities of canons regular in Italy, in France, and elsewhere. When, in and after the eleventh century, the various congregations of canons regular were formed, and adopted the Rule of St. Augustine , they were usually called Canonici Regulares Ordinis S. Augustini Congregationis , and in England Austin Canons, or Black Canons. but there have always been canons regular who never adopted the Rule of St. Augustine. Giraldus Cambrenisis mentions some in his day in England. In a word, canons regular may be considered as the genus, and austin Canons as the species ; or we may say that all Austin Canons are canons regular, but not all canons regular are Austin canons.

If further proofs of the Apostolic origin of the canonical order are desired, many may be found in the work of Abbot Ceasare Benvenuti (see bibilograhpy at end of this article), who century by century, from councils, Fathers, and other ecclesiastical sources, proves that from the first to the twelfth century there had always been clerics living in common according to the example of the Apostles. It will be enough to citehere the authority of Döllinger who, after saying that from the time of the Apostles there have been in the Church, virgins, laymen, and ecclesiastics named ascetics, continues:

At Vercelli the holy Bp. Eusebius intorduced the severe discipline of the Oriental monks among his clergy both by word and example. Before the gat of Milan was a cloister for monks under the protection of St. Ambrose. . .St. Augustine, when a priest, founded a cloister at Hippo, in which with other clerics he lived in humility and community of goods. When Bishop his episcopal residence was converted into a cloister for ecclesiastics. ( Eccl. History , tr. by the Rev. E. Cox, II, 270).

To this again may be added, among many others, the words of Benedict XII, Eugenius IV, Pius IV, and Pius V, in their bulls, all asserting almost in as many words, what has been here said. The following words, taken from the Martyrologium for canons regular and approved by the Congregation of Sacred Rites, will suffice for the purpose:

Ordo Canonicorum Regularium, qui in primaevis Ecclesiae saeculis Clerici nominabantur utque ait S. Pius V. in Bull â ( Cum ex ordinum 14 Kal. Jan., 1570): 'ab Apostolis originem traxerunt, quique ab Augustiono eorum Reformatore iterum per reformationis viam mundo geniti fuere', per universum orbem diffusus innumerabilium SS. agmine fulget.

(The order of canons regular, who in the early ages of the Church were called clerics, and who, as St. Pius V says in the Bull Cum ex ordinum , 1570, derived their origin from the Apostles, and who later were born anew to the world through a process of reformation, by their reformer, Augustine, being spread throughout the universe, are renowned for an army of innumerable saints ).


This rule, which, in the words of Giraldus Cambrensis, happily joins the canonical and clerical life together, was soon adopted by many prelates, not only in Africa, but elsewhere also. After the death of the holy Doctor, it was carried into Italy and France by his disciples. One of them, Pope Gelasius, about the year 492, re-established the regular life in the Lateran Basilica. From St. John Lateran (the Mother and Mistress of all Churches) the reform spread till at length the Rule was universally adopted by almost all the canons regular. It was in the same Lateran Basilica, tradition tells us, that St. Patrick, the future Apostle of Ireland, professed the canonical institute which he afterwards intorduced with the Christian Faith, into his own country. At the voice of the great apostle the Irish nation not only embraced Christianity, but many also, following his example, embraced the canonical life. On the authority of Sir James Ware, Canon Burke (Life and Labours of St. Augustine) asserts that "all the monasteries founded in Ireland by St. Patrick, were for canons regular." This opinion is also maintained by Allemande, who affirms (Hist. monastique de l'Irlande) that "the Regular Canons of St. Augustine were so early or considerable in Ireland before the general suppression of monasteries, that the number of houses they are said to have had seems incredible. They alone possessed, or had been master of, as many houses as all the other orders together, and almost all the chapters of the cathedral and collegiate churches in Ireland consisted of canons regular." To these authorities we might add that of the Rev. R. Butler, who, in his notes to the "Registrum Omnium Sanctorum", expressly affirms that the "old foundations in Ireland were exclusively for Canons." We might also quote the words of Bishop Thomas de Burgo, who, in his "Hibernia Dominicana", does not hesitate to say that St. Patrick was a canon regular, and that, having preached the Christian Faith in Ireland, he established there many monasteries of the canonical institute. After this no one will think that the same writer exaggerates when he appends to his work a catalogue of 231 monasteries which at some time or other belonged to canons and canonenesses regular. The Irish clerics became the most learned scholars in Europe, Ireland's seats of learning, monasteries, nunneries, and charitable institutions were usnsurpassed either in number or excellence by those of any nation in the world. The Abbot or Priors of Christ Church and All Hallows in Dublin, of Connell, Kells, Athessel, Killagh, Newton, and Raphoe had seats in Parliament.

There seems very little doubt that the canonical institute was introduced into Scotland by St. Columba. This saint, called "monasteriorum pater et fundator," in reference to the numerous churches and monasteries built either by him or by his disciples in Ireland and Scotland, was formed to the religious life in the monastery of St. Finnian. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, anno 565, relates that Columba, Masspreost (Mass-Priest), "came to the Picts to convert them to Christ", or, as another manuscript says: "This year, 565, Columba the Messa-preost, came from the parts of the Scots ( Ireland ) to the Britons to teach the Picts, and built a monastery in the island of Hy." To what order this monastery, founded by Columba, belonged, we may judge from other monasteries built by the saint in Ireland and Scotland. As we have already stated, St. Columba was the disciple of St. Finnian, who was a follower of St. Patrick ; both then had learned and embraced the regular life which the great Apostle had established in Ireland. Moreover, such writers as Ware, de Burgo, Archdall, Cardinal Moran, Bower, expressly tell us that Columba built monasteries for canons regular in Ireland and Scotland. So, for instance, Ware, in his "Antiquitates Hiberniae", writing of Derry, says: "St. Columba built (this monastery ) for Canons Regular in the year 545." This monastery was a filiation of the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul at Armagh -- which, according to the same writer, had been founded by "St. Patrick for Canons Regular." Again, tradition places the first landing of the saint on leaving Ireland at Oronsay, and Fordun (Bower) notices the island as "Hornsey, ubi est monasterium nigrorum Canonicorum, quod fundavit S. Columba" (where is the monastery of Black Canons which St. Columba founded). Speaking of the very monastery built by the saint at Hy, another historian, Gervase of Canterbury, in his "Mappa Mundi", informs us that the monastery belonged to the Black Canons.

It may be here the place to mention the opinion of some writers who think that the monasteries established by St. Columba in Scotland were for Culdees. It will be remembered that numerous opinions have been expressed concerning the origin and the institute of the Culdees, some calling them monks, some secular canons and hospitallers, and others going so far as to say that they were Independents, or Dissenters, nay even the forefathers of the modern Freemasons. The present writer, on the other hand, is of opinion that the Culdees originally, and some even to the very end, were nothing else but clerics living in common just as those St. Patrick had established in Ireland and St. Columba had introduced into Scotland.

At the time of the Reformation there were in Scotland at least thirty-four houses of canons regular and one of canonesses. These included six Premonstratensian houses, one Gilbertine, and one of the Order of St. Anthony . The others seem to have been chiefly of the Aroasian Congregation, first introduced into Scotland from Nostall Priory, in England. The chief houses were:

  • St. Andrews , the Metropolitan of Scotland, founded by Angus, King of the Picts. The church was at first served by Culdees, but in 1144 Bishop Robert, who had been a canon regular at Scone, established here members of his own community. The prior was mitred and could pontificate. In Parliament he had precedence of all abbots and priors.
  • Scone , founded by King Alexander I. Here the Scottish kings were crowned. The stone on which the coronation took place was said to be that on which Jacob rested his head; it is now at Westminster, having been removed by Edward I. Tradition syas that the Culdees were at Scone before Alexander brought canons regular from Nostall Priory in 1115.
  • Holy Rood , of which King David was the founder, in 1128, for canons regular, in the "vail that lyis to the Eist frae the Castell, quhare now lyis the Cannongait, and which at that time was part of ane gret forest full of hartis, hyndis, toddis and sicklike manner of beistis," as Bellenden, the translator of Bower, expresses it. This famous abbey was burnt down, at the instigation of John Knox, in 1544, but some efforts were made to restore Divine service in the chapel as late as 1688, for in that year Father G. Hay, a Scotch canon regular, of the French congregation, performed there a funeral as he says, "in his habit with surplice and aulmess after the rites of Rome." Next the abbey was the Royal Palace, and we are told that the Scottish kings often went Unto the saintly convent, with good monks to dine And quaff to organ music the pleasant cloister wine.
Many of the houses founded by St. Columba remained in possession of the canons till the time of the Reformation. Oronsay and Crusay were of the number.

Much valuable information concerning many of the canonical houses may be found in Fordun's Scoti-Chronicon, written before 1384 (ed. Skene, Edinburgh, 1871-72). As Walter Bower, its continuator and annotator, was a canon regular, and abbot of Inchcolm, he no doubt derived all his materials at firs hand from the archives of the order, and thus many important particulars are related by him concerning the foundations of the houses, their inmates, and particular events.

There are not wanting writers who, on the authority of Jocelin, William of Malmsbury, "Gesta Pontificum", and others, are of opinion that the canonical order was established in Britain by St. Patrick, on his return from Rome to Ireland. Be this as it may, the Saxon conquerors of the country extirpated not only the religious establishments, but almost the very Faith of Christ from the land. The faithful either were obliged to dwell in the fastnesses of Wales or were made slaves. It was in these circumstances that Pope Gregory the Great sent to England St. Augustine with forty clerics, who according to the Bull of Pope Eugenius IV (quoted by Lingard in his Anglo-Saxon Church, I, iv), by which, in 1446, he restored the Lateran Basilica to the canons regular, formed a Canonical Institute. Speaking of the ordr founded by the Apostle and reformed by the holy Bishop of Hippo, the pope says: " Blessed Gregory commanded St. Augustine, the Bishop of England, to establish it as a new plantation among the nation entrusted to his care and spread it to the utmost distant parts of the West." And William of Coventry, in his Chronicle, A.D. 620, tells us that "Paulinus with twelve clerics was sent by the Pope to help Augustine." In the North also the disciples of St. Columba were preaching the Gospel and establishing the canonical order among the nation they were converting to Christ. The Roman and British clergy amalgamated, and were learn from English historians that most if not all the cathedral and large churches were served by regular clerics or canons regular till the tenth century, when they were replaced by Benedictine monks by royal authority, and sometimes by means even less lawful. Dr. Lingard clearly states that:

in many of these religious establishments the inmates had been Canons Regular from the beginning. In many they had originally been monks and had converted themselves into Canon, but all considered themselves bound by their rule to reside within the precincts of their monasteries, to meet daily in the church for the performance of divine service, to take their meals in the same hall, and to sleep in the same dormitory.

In fact, this same historian is of opinion that St. Augustine and his companions were clerics living in common. Writing of the clergy in Anglo-Saxon times, Dr. Lingard says:

The chief resource of the Bishop lay in the Cathedral monastery, where the clergy were carefully instructed in their duties and trained in the exercise of their holy profession. They were distinguished by the name of Canons because the rule which they observed had been founded in accordance with the canons enacted in different councils.

And he adds this explanatory note from the Excerptiones of Egbert:

Canonen dicimus regulas quas sancti Patres constiturerunt in quibus scriptum est quomodo canonici, id est clerici regulares, vivere debeant.

(By the term canons we designate those rules which the holy Fathers have laid down, in which it has been written how canons ( canonici ), i.e. regular clerics, ought to live). We have also the fact that in the twelfth century many churches served by secular canons, like Plympton, Twynham, Taunton, Dunnow, Gisburn, were given to canons regular, who, it would seem, were the original owners. This view is confirmed by the authorities of various historians. In his History of the Archbishops (ed. Stubbs, Rolls Series, London, 1876), Diceto tells us that at Dunstan's suggestion King Edgar drove the clerics out of most of the churches of England and placed monks in their stead. In Liber de Hyda we find that canons had been introduced at Winchester by King Ethelred, and that Bishop Grimbald, a zealous reformer of the clergy, had established a community of clerics whose duty it was to perform the Divine Office. Speaking of Ælfric, a monk who had been elected Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A.D. 995, remarks that when he came to hic cathedral he was received by a community of clerics, when he would have preferred monks.

It would seem, then, that writers like Tanner, the modern editors of Dugdale's Monasticon , and others, who think that the canons regular were introduced into England after the year 1100, or after the coming of William the Conqueror , may have been misled by the fact that it was only after the eleventh century that the canons regular were so styled generally; nevertheless these are the same ecclesiastics, until then commonly called religious or regular clerics. It is also true that, as elsewhere so in England, in the twelfth century there was a great revival in the canonical order on account of various congregations newly found in France, Italy, and the Low countries, and it was some of these new canons that came with the Conqueror; but this does not prove that the canonical life was unknown before. In England alone, from the Conquest to the death of Henry II, no fewer than fifty-four houses were founded where the canons regular were established. Colchester in 1096 was the first, followed ten years later by Holy Trinity in London. In 1100 Ralph Mortimer, by consent of Gerard, Bishop of Hereford, founded a canonical house at Wigmore, and in 1110 another house for Austin Canons was built at Haghmond. At Taunton a colony of secular priests became a monastery of canons regular. Secular canons were also replaced by canons regular at Twynham, Plympton, Waltham, and other places. In the period mentioned there were, among others, the foundations of the Austin houses at Dunmow, Thremhall, Southhampton, Gisburn, newnham in Bedfordshire, Norton in Cheshire, Stone in Staffordshire, Anglesey and Barnwell in Cambridgeshire, Berden in Essex. This was, no doubt, a period of great prosperity for the canonical order in England. But soon evil days came. There was first the Black Plague, and like every other ecclesiastical institution, the canons regular were fairly decimated, and we may say that they never quite recovered. To remedy the evil Cardinal Wolsey thought it expedient to introduce a general reform of the whole canonical order in England. In the capacity of papal delegate, on 19 March, 1519, he issued the Statuta , which were to be observed by all the Austin Canons. These ordinance, as Abbot Gasquet observes, are valuable evidence as to the state of the great Augustinian Order at that time in England. The statutes provide for the union of all the Austin Canons; for the assembly of a general chapter every three years; for various matters concerning obedience, poverty, and the general discipline of the cloister. Special regulations are given for the daily recitation of the Divine Office and singing of Masses. Directions are laid down for the reception and profession of novices, for uniformity in the religious habit, and sending young students to Oxford University. But troubled days soon came over the land, and these statutes, good though they were, could not keep off the evil times. The canonical houses were suppressed, and the religious dispersed, persecuted, little by little disappeared from the land altogether. Yet, in spite of the previous disasters, by Abbot Gasquet's computation ninety-one houses belonging to the canons regular wee suppressed or surrendered at the time of the Reformation between 1538 and 1540, with one thousand and eighty-three inmates -- namely, Austin Canons, fifty-nine houses and seven hundred and seventy-three canons; Premonstratensians, nineteen houses and one hundred and fifty-one religious. This number of houses and religious does not include the lesser monasteries with an aggregate of one house and five hundred monks and canon, nor the nuns of the various orders estimated at one thousand five hundred and sixty.

The best known canonical houses were: Walsingham, Waltham, St. Mary's Overy, Bolton, St. Bartholomew's Smithfield, Nostall, Bridlington, Bristol, Carlisle, Newbury, Hexham, Lanercost, Bodmin, Colchester, Dunstable, Merton, Kertmele, Llanthony, Plympton, St. Frideswide's at Oxford, Osney.

At Walshingham there was a famous shrine of Our Lady, a model of the Holy House of Nazareth, founded two hundred years before the miraculous removal to Loretto. Erasmus, writing in the sixteenth century, gives a vivid description of the shrine and the canons, its custodians. At Bourne Abbey lived from 1300 to 1340 Robert de Brunne, a canon regular, who had been styled the "Father of the English language." In his monastic seculsion he welded together the diverse dialects, which then divided shire from shire, into the grammaatical structure which the language has since retained. Bridlington Priory, where William de Newbridge and several other historians lived, was also sanctified by the life, virtues, and miracles of its holy prior, John de Tweng, the last English saint to be canonized prior to the Reformation. He died in 1379. In 1386 a mandate was issued to collect evidence with a view to canonization. the body was translated in 1405 de mandato Domini papae , and Boniface IX by a Bull, the original of which was found in the Vatican Archives by J.A. Twemlow a few years ago, formally canonized him. The holy prior was a very popular saint in the North of England. A rich shrine had been built over his tomb, from which the people begged Henry VIII to withold his hand; but all in vain. Lest the people should be reduced in the offering of their money, the shrine was pulled down and destroyed. Sempringham saw the beginning by St. Gilbert, and the wonderful growth of the only pre-Reformation institute of distinctly English origin. Here, too, Peter de Langtoft, the historian, lived and wrote his well-known works. Within the walls of Merton Abbey Thomas of Canterbury, when a youth, received his eduacation and made his profession as a canon regular before he was consecrated archbishop. Chic Priory, whence came William de Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, was renowned for the learning of its religious clerics : "clerical litteraturâ insignes." Thurgarton was the home of that spiritual writer, Walter Hilton, who, about the year 1400, wrote the Scala perfectionis , usually attributed to some Carthusian monk. St. Frideswide's , founded for canons regular at Castle Tower by Robert d'Oiley, and translated to Osney in 1149, became, as Cardinal Newman tells us, "a nursery for secular students, subject to the Chancellor's jurisdiction." At Lilleshall Priory lived John Myrk, the author of Instructions for Parish Priests , a work written in irregular couplets, doubtless that they might be easily committed to memory. It has been edited by the Early English Text Society. The following verses, where Myrk gives excellent and explicit directions for behaviour in church, are a fair sample of the author's style:

That when they do to Church fare,
Then bid them leave their many words,
Their idle speech and nice border {jests}
And put away all vanity
And say their Pater Noster and their Ave .
None in the church stand shall,
Nor lean to pillar not to wall,
But fair on knees they shall them set,
Kneeling down upon the flat,
And pray God with heart meek
To give them grace and mercey eke.
Suffer them to make no bere {noise}
But aye to be in their prayer.

Some twenty-five years ago the canons regular of the Lateran Congregation returned to this Cornish town where before the Reformation their brethren the Austin Canons had a beautiful priory in honour of St. Mary and St. Petrock. The new prior is now the residence of the provincial, or visitor, the novitiate-house for England, and the center from which several Missions -- as Truro, St. Ives, and Newquay -- are served by canons regular.

Although when the storm of persecution came and the religious houses were either seized or surrendered the canons regular were not as faithful to the Church and their profession as might have been desired, yet there were not wanting many who preferred to lay down their lives rather than betray their Faith or give up God's property. Of this number were W. Wold, Prior of Bridlington, the Sub-Prior of Walsingham, with sixteen canons, and Ven. Laurence Vaux. The canonical order is now represented in England by Premonstratensians at Crowley, Manchester, Spalding, and Storrington. The Canons Regular of the Lateran Congregation are at Bodmin, Truro, St. Ives, and Newquay, in Cornwall; at Spettisbury and Swanage, in dorsetshire; at Stroud Green and Eltahm, in London. Besides the occupations of the regular life at home and the public recitation of the Divine Office in choir, they are chiefly employed in serving missions, preaching retreats, supplying for priests who ask their service, and hearing confessions, either as ordinary or extraordinary confessors to convents or other religious communities.

The canonical order must have been introduced into the New World soon after the discovery of that country by Columbus. In fact, tradition tells us that some canons regular from Spain were his companions in one or other of his voyages. Certain it is that at the general chapter

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