high table, and was served on silver plate, and sumptuously entertained noblemen, ambassadors and strangers of quality. When abbots dined in their own private hall, the rule of St Benedict charged them to invite their monks to their table, provided there was room, on which occasions the guests were to abstain from quarrels, slanderous talk and idle gossiping.
The ordinary attire of the abbot was according to rule to be the same as that of the monks. But by the 10th century the rule was commonly set aside, and we find frequent complaints of abbots dressing in silk, and adopting sumptuous attire. They sometimes even laid aside the monastic habit altogether, and assumed a secular dress. This was a necessary consequence of their following the chase, which was quite usual, and indeed at that time only natural. With the increase of wealth and power, abbots had lost much of their special religious character, and become great lords, chiefly distinguished from lay lords by celibacy. Thus we hear of abbots going out to sport, with their men carrying bows and arrows; keeping horses, dogs and huntsmen; and special mention is made of an abbot of Leicester, c. 1360, who was the most skilled of all the nobility in hare hunting. In magnificence of equipage and retinue the abbots vied with the first nobles of the realm. They rode on mules with gilded bridles, rich saddles and housings, carrying hawks on their wrist, followed by an immense train of attendants. The bells of the churches were rung as they passed. They associated on equal terms with laymen of the highest distinction, and shared all their pleasures and pursuits. This rank and power was, however, often used most beneficially. For instance, we read of Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury, judicially murdered by Henry VIII., that his house was a kind of well-ordered court, where as many as 300 sons of noblemen and gentlemen, who had been sent to him for virtuous education, had been brought up, besides others of a meaner rank, whom he fitted for the universities. His table, attendance and officers were an honour to the nation. He would entertain as many as 500 persons of rank at one time, besides relieving the poor of the vicinity twice a week. He had his country houses and fisheries, and when he travelled to attend parliament his retinue amounted to upwards of 100 persons. The abbots of Cluny and Vendôme were, by virtue of their office, cardinals of the Roman church.
In process of time the title abbot was improperly transferred to clerics who had no connexion with the monastic system, as to the principal of a body of parochial, clergy; and under the Carolingian to the chief chaplain of the king, Abbas Curiae, or military chaplain of the emperor, Abbas Castrensis., It even came to be adopted by purely secular officials. Thus the chief magistrate of the republic at Genoa was called Abbas Populi. Du Cange, in his glossary, also gives us Abbas Campanilis, Clocherii, Palatii, Scholaris, &c.
Lay abbots (M. Lat. defensorcs, abbacomites, abbates laici, abbates milites, abbates saeculares or irreligiosi, abbatiarii, or sometimes simply abbates) were the outcome of the growth of the feudal system from the 8th century onwards. The practice of commendation, by which—to meet a contemporary emergency—the revenues of the community were handed over to a lay lord, in return for his protection, early suggested to the emperors and kings the expedient of rewarding their warriors with rich abbeys held in commendam. During the Carolingian epoch the custom grew up of granting these as regular heritable fiefs or benefices, and by the 10th century, before the great Cluniac reform, the system was hrmly established. Even the abbey of St Denis was held in commendam by Hugh Capet. The example of the kings was followed by the feudal nobles, sometimes by making a temporary concession permanent, sometimes without any form of commendation whatever. In England the abuse was rife in the 8th century, as may be gathered from the acts of the council of Cloveshoe. These lay abbacies were not merely a question of overlordship, but implied the concentration in lay hands of all the rights, immunities and jurisdiction of the foundations, i.e. the more or less complete secularization of spiritual institutions. The lay abbot took his recognized rank in the feudal hierarchy, and was free to dispose of his fief as in the case of any other. The enfeofiment of abbeys diHered in form and degree. Sometimes the monks were directly subject to the lay abbot; sometimes he appointed a substitute to perform the spiritual functions, known usually as dean (decanus), but also as abbot (abbas legitimus, monasticus, regularis). When the great reform of the 11th century had put an end to the direct jurisdiction of the lay abbots, the honorary title of abbot continued to be held by certain of the great feudal families, as late as the 13th century and later, the actual head of the community retaining that of dean. The connexion of the lesser lay abbots with the abbeys, especially in the south of France, lasted longer; and certain feudal families retained the title of abbés chevaliers (abbates milites) for centuries, together with certain rights over the abbey lands or revenues. The abuse was not confined to the West. John, patriarch of Antioch, at the beginning of the 12th century, informs us that in his time most monasteries had been handed over to laymen, beneficiarii, for life, or for part of their lives, by the emperors.
In conventual cathedrals, where the bishop occupied the place of the abbot, the functions usually devolving on the superior of the monastery were performed by a prior.
The title abbé (Ital. abbate), as commonly used in the Catholic church on the European continent, is the equivalent of the English “Father,” being loosely applied to all who have received the tonsure. This use of the title is said to have originated in the right conceded to the king of France, by the concordat between Pope Leo X. and Francis I. (1516), to appoint abbés commendataires to most of the abbeys in France. The expectation of obtaining these sinecures drew young men towards the church in considerable numbers, and the class of abbés so formed—abbés de cour they were sometimes called, and sometimes (ironically) abbés de Sainte espérance, abbés of St Hope—came to hold a recognized position. The connexion many of them had with the church was of the slenderest kind, consisting mainly in adopting the name of abbé, after a remarkably moderate course of theological study, practising celibacy and wearing a distinctive dress—a short dark-violet coat with narrow collar. Being men of presumed learning and undoubted leisure, many of the class found admission to the houses of the French nobility as tutors or advisers. Nearly every great. family had its abbé. The class did not survive the Revolution; but the courtesy title of abbé, having long lost all connexion in people’s minds with any special ecclesiastical function, remained as` a convenient general term applicable to any clergyman.
In the German Evangelical church the title of abbot (Abt) is sometimes bestowed, like abbé, as an honorary distinction, and sometimes survives to designate the heads of monasteries converted at the Reformation into collegiate foundations. Of these the most noteworthy is the abbey of Lokkurn in Hanover, founded as a Cistercian house in 1163 by Count Wilbrand of Hallermund, and reformed in 1593. The abbot of Lokkum, who still carries a pastoral staff, takes precedence of all the clergy of Hanover, and is ex officio a member of the consistory of the kingdom. The governing body of the abbey consists of abbot, prior and the “convent” of canons (Stiftsherren).
ABBOTSFORD, formerly the residence of Sir Walter Scott, situated on the S. bank of the Tweed, about 3 m. W. of Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland, and nearly 1 m. from Abbots ford Ferry station on the North British railway, connecting Selkirk and Galashiels. The nucleus of the estate was a small farm of 100 acres, called Cartleyhole, nicknamed Clarty (i.e. muddy) Hole, and bought by Scott on the lapse of his lease (1811) of the neighbouring house of Ashestiel. It was added to from time to time, the last and principal acquisition being that of Toftfield
- Walworth, the fourth abbot of St Alban’s, c. 930, is charged by Matthew Paris with adopting the attire of a sportsman.