Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/29

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xxiii
Monastic England

the labour may almost be excused if it does not recognise the hand that dug the soil and planted the tree.[1]

The benefits conferred by the monastic order were great. Those who experienced them had no doubt on that score, and were not behindhand in full and ample expression of their gratitude. And though the religious bodies were not as rich as they were represented to be, their wealth was undoubtedly immense. Various orders shared it, but the Benedictines, including in their ranks, besides the Black monks, the Cistercian, the Cluniac, the Grandmontain and others, had incomparably the greater part. Independently of their wealth, what gave the Benedictines further dignity was the possession of eight or nine cathedrals, including those of the specially dignified sees of Winchester, Durham and Canterbury. This placed the election of the bishops of these dioceses in the hands of the convent. At Canterbury, in particular, the jurisdiction of the great metropolitical church fell, during a vacancy, into the hands of the prior and convent. In their name ran all licenses for the consecration of bishops; they held all the archiepiscopal powers of visitation; they could nominate the consecrating prelate and the prelate to preside at Convocation. It may be readily understood that these powers were not always viewed with favour by the college of bishops; but after the thirteenth century, with a prudent use of acknowledged rights on the one side and benevolence on the other, they managed to avoid disagreement. Although holding the cathedral churches, the monks did not interfere with diocesan administration. The bishop's officials were commonly chosen from the secular clergy, even when he himself happened to be a monk. It is almost a commonplace, however, to dwell on the rivalry between the clergy and the monasteries as if it

  1. See Cardinal Newman, Historical Sketches, ed. 1873, iii. p. 365, et seq.; J. S. Brewer, Giraldus Camb., iv., Pref. xv-xvii xxx.-xxxvi., and J. M. Kemble, Codex, i., Pref. v.-vii.