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Monastic Colleges

Monastic Colleges

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Monastic colleges were found at Oxford University in Medieval England. The days when monasteries in general provided the best place for learning and scholarship ended with the growth of Oxford University. Monastic colleges replaced Benedictine monasteries, in particular, as places of learning. As houses of learning, even those in charge of these monasteries believed that they had gone stale.

In 1277, a chapter-general of the Benedictines in the Province of Canterbury at Reading imposed a tax of 2d in every mark (about 13s 4d) upon all the revenues of Benedictine monasteries in the Southern Province. The sole purpose of this tax was to finance a college at Oxford so that monks could study Theology there. Gloucester College was opened specifically as a college for monks who lived in the Southern Province. In 1291, moves were made to make Gloucester College the sole college for the whole of the Province of Canterbury. In 1336, monks from the Province of York were also allowed to enter the college.

The move by monks to Gloucester College, Oxford, inspired others to establish colleges there purely for the use of monks whom were neither in the Province of York or Canterbury. In 1289, a new college was started by Richard of Hoton, prior of the monastery in Durham. His work was continued by Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, and the college was finally completed in 1381.

A college for Cistercian monks was founded by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall. Though this was primarily for Cistercian monks from Rewley, it was used by monks from other monastic houses. The creation of this college is mentioned in 'Fortunato de S.bonventura, Historia real abbadia Alcobaça' in the year 1280. Written in Latin, the document states:

“The request of the noble gentleman, the Earl of Cornwall, who asks to build a monastic college of our Order at his own expense in Oxford in England, and it is approved and confirmed that the execution of the matter is entrusted to the Abbot of Thame with the full authority of the Order.”