The Abbey that was … And is again

Posted: May 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

imageFor the last week of my sabbatical pilgrimage I have travelled to Launde Abbey in the English Midlands. This is the site of the original Augustinian monastery planted in the 1100s. For over 400 years they served as a community of prayer and work. But no amount of piety or good works can shield anyone from the rampaging boar of power. In the 1500s King Henry VIII – already at loggerheads with the Holy See over his latest marriage – got himself declared Head of the Church. Shortly after that he began to eye the prosperous monasteries scattered through the land. Using the justification that he had to erradicate that Catholic plague from the land, he swiftly acted to dissolve them. This was violent with force. And most importantly he captured the riches and wealth they held in order to fund his various coffer-draining wars. Consider: that was over 900 monastic houses and around 12,000 monks, friars and nuns.

Included in the list was Launde Abbey, another fatality of the dissolutions. The property was seized and then given to noblemen to live in. Thomas Cromwell – a primary architect of the dissolutions – had his eye on Launde but he never made it; the Tower of London was in his destiny and he received a very close haircut on account of charges of treason, which of course could be anything that happened to irritate the King.

The monastery was deconstructed, though – except for some of the chapel that still stands today. They converted it into a fine manor house and with renovations over the centuries it remains pretty much as it was reconstructed in the 16th-18th centuries.

Irony: In the 20th century a wealthy Squire bought it all back and, since his wife didn’t really want to live there, he donated it to the Diocese of Leicester. They in turn reconsecrated it and turned it into the retreat center of the Diocese. What goes around comes around.

Second Irony: I worshipped tonight in the chapel that is the only remnant of the original monastery church. And we used the liturgy straight out of the prayer book, the successor to Cramner’s Book of Common Prayer – authorized by none other than those who acted to destroy the monastery in the first place. Oh well. But it was a beautiful evening prayer.

Though I attend chapel several times a day and take my meals at the manor house, I am staying at the Hermitage on the property, a short walk from the mother house. Tradition has it that two students – one from Oxford and one from Cambridge – were preparing for the priesthood and staying there. So the name – Cambridge and Oxford House.

It’s not Merton’s Hermitage at Gethsemane in Kentucky, but hey, close enough.


  1. Gloria Beranek says:

    Am loving hearing about your walk through history and culture. Keep it coming!

  2. Jane McGuire says:


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