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Austin Canons

from the 1911 Encyclopedia Article on the Abbey

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The buildings of the Austin canons or Black canons (so called from the colour of their habit) present few distinctive peculiarities. This order had its first seat in England at Colchester, where a house for Austin canons was founded about A.D. 1105, and it very soon spread widely. As an order of regular clergy, holding a middle position between monks and secular canons, almost resembling a community of parish priests living under rule, they adopted naves of great length to accommodate large congregations. The choir is usually long, and is sometimes, as at Llanthony and Christ Church (Twynham), shut off from the aisles, or, as at Bolton, Kirkham, &c., is destitute of aisles altogether. The nave in the northern houses, not unfrequently, had only a north aisle, as at Bolton, Brinkburn and Lanercost. The arrangement of the monastic buildings followed the ordinary type. The prior's lodge was almost invariably attached to the S.W. angle of the nave.

Bristol Cathedral.

The annexed plan of the Abbey of St Augustine's at Bristol, now the cathedral church of that city, shows the arrangement of the buildings, which departs very little from the ordinary Benedictine type. The Austin canons' house at Thornton, in Lincolnshire, is remarkable for the size and magnificence of its gate-house, the upper floors of which formed the guest-house of the establishment, and for possessing an octagonal chapter-house of Decorated date.

Premonstratensians.

The Premonstratensian regular canons, or White canons, had as many as 35 houses in England, of which the most perfect remaining are those of Easby, Yorkshire, and Bayham, Kent. The head house of the order in England was Welbeck. This order was a reformed branch of the Austin canons, founded, A.D. 1119, by Norbert (born at Xanten, on the Lower Rhine, c. 1080) at Premontre, a secluded marshy valley in the forest of Coucy in the diocese of Laon. The order spread widely. Even in the founder's lifetime it possessed houses in Syria and Palestine. It long maintained its rigid austerity, till in the course of years wealth impaired its discipline, and its members sank into indolence and luxury. The Premonstratensians were brought to England shortly after A.D. 1140, and were first settled at Newhouse, in Lincolnshire, near the Humber. The ground-plan of Easby Abbey, owing to its situation on the edge of the steeply sloping banks of a river, is singularly irregular. The cloister is duly placed on the south side of the church, and the chief buildings occupy their usual positions round it. But the cloister garth, as at Chichester, is not rectangular, and all the surrounding buildings are thus made to sprawl in a very awkward fashion. The church follows the plan adopted by the Austin canons in their northern abbeys, and has only one aisle to the nave--that to the north; while the choir is long, narrow and aisleless. Each transept has an aisle to the east, forming three chapels.

The church at Bayham was destitute of aisles either to nave or choir. The latter terminated in a three-sided apse. This church is remarkable for its exceeding narrowness in proportion to its length. Extending in longitudinal dimensions 257 ft., it is not more than 25 ft. broad. Stern Premonstratensian canons wanted no congregations, and cared for no possessions; therefore they built their church like a long room.

Next: Carthusians

This document is part of an article on the Abbey from the 1911 edition of an encyclopedia which is out of copyright here in the U.S. The article is in the public domain, and you may copy, download, print and distribute this work as you see fit.

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