An indulgence in the Catholic Church can be granted to practising Catholics and remits full (plenary) or partial (part) of the temporal
punishment that remains on the soul after the guilt has been forgiven. When an indulgence is granted to the souls in Purgatory this takes the form of a request made by the Church to God to "apply the merits of Christ, Mary and the saints to the souls of the dead or to a particular soul" (Catholic Dictionary). Indulgences were frequently granted in the middle Ages e.g. for making pilgrimages to the shrines of saints or the Virgin Mary (All Cistercian Churches are dedicated to Mary). 14th century pilgrims visited Furness Abbey Church to see a statue of Mary. This was later moved to the Chapel at the Gates where the base for the statue can still be seen.
"In 1344 Bishop of Lincoln granted the abbey an indulgence to all who devoutly visit the chapel of St. Mary outside the inner gate and hear the monks preach there". (Furness Coucher, 1412).
He was the monk who looked after the sick and aged in the infirmary. This abbey official was instructed to always have ginger, cinnamon and peony in his cupboard.
The monks' hospital. It was a miniature monastery with its own living quarters, chapel and kitchen. Meat was permitted. A fire was also provided for the sick and aged and for those who had been bled. This was the first hospital and the first hospice in Furness. The remains of the infirmary are a short distance from Furness General Hospital. The original monks' path leads from the ruins and passes through the grounds of the hospital. The hospice in Ulverston is called St. Mary's hospice just as the abbey was the abbey of St. Mary.
Celtic literature was very familiar to the monks of Furness in the early days, and the monastic library contained a register and chronicles of Ulster. Jocelyn was the only scribe with any literary talent. He wrote biographies of St. Patrick and St. Kentigern (Mungo), under the direction of the Bishop of Glasgow and the Archbishop of Armagh. This monk also wrote the life of St. Waltheof, Abbot of Melrose, in which he revealed his knowledge of northern monastic history. Jocelyn adopted William of Malmesbury's style of writing.
In 1412 the abbey's scribe, was instructed by Abbot William Dalton to begin the compilation of the Furness Coucher. He wrote on vellum with a silver pen, using black and coloured ink and gold leaf for the magnificent illuminated letters and beautiful heraldic devices. He included his own portrait as part of an illuminated letter in volume1 showing himself in the act of writing and saying a prayer. “Stella parens Solis John Stell rege munere Prolis” (O Star, Mother of the Sun, direct the favour of your Son to John Stell) this contains puns on his name, Stell and Stella i.e. the Virgin Mary, and on “Sun” and “Son of God”
King Henry Vlll (1491-1547, and King of England from 1509 until his death).
In 1521 Henry wrote with Thomas More's help, his book "Assertio Septem Sacramentorum", attacking the teachings of Martin Luther for which he was granted by the pope, the title "Fidei Defensor", (Defender of the Faith), a title still held by the queen and carried on coins (F D). Martin Luther however was to become the greatest leader of the Protestant Reformation from 1517 until his death in 1546. A new form of Christianity was established whose teachings rejected many traditional practices of Roman Catholic Christianity which had been practised by monks and the ordinary people for centuries - the faith of their fathers. The reformers’ revolutionary doctrines spread to England and the monarch's matrimonial problems very soon triggered the English Reformation. Henry broke all ties with Rome when the pope refused to allow him to divorce his wife Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn.
Henry declared himself Head of the Church in England and persuaded Parliament to pass various acts that completely changed the way the English Church was governed. He "nationalised" the English Church so that he was the chief spiritual and temporal leader, thus making all ecclesiastics in the country subject to him. He cut the communication between the English Church Courts and Rome by the Act in Restraint of Appeals ("Reformation and Resurgence by G.W.O. Woodward"). Although Henry still practised the old form of Catholicism, albeit without the pope, he still attacked the monastic system the guardian of the old religion. Arguably the archetypal opportunist of this country's history he was quick to turn the "reforming" situation to his own advantage by devising a method to replenish the royal treasury by seizing the immense wealth of the monasteries.
With this in mind he appointed his Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell to organise the destruction of the monasteries. In 1536 a royal act suppressed all religious houses with less than 12 members or less than £200 income. In justification the Act claimed that "Manifest sin, vicious, carnal and abominable living is daily used and committed among the little and small abbeys" (Preamble, Act for the Suppression of the lesser monasteries).
"Between 1536 and 1553 there was destruction in England of beautiful, sacred and irreplaceable things probably not witnessed before or since.” ("Reformation and the English People" by J.J.Scarrisbrick.)
By putting and end to monasticism, did Henry Vlll delay the country's Industrial Revolution by 150 years? Recent findings by archaeologist, Dr. Gerry McDonnell at Laskill, a Rievaulx grange of Rievaulx Abbey, north Yorkshire, have revealed a large blast iron furnace which "through the pioneering industrial skills and business acumen of the monks of Rievaulx Abbey led to Britain's first mass produced iron bars through a smelting process which, delayed by the dissolution of the monasteries, eventually formed the basis of Britain's 19th century industrial pre-eminence". (Guardian newspaper, August 14th '98).
King John (1167-1215)
Son of Henry 11, brother of Richard l, he was 32 when he became king and 48 when he died. Nine days after the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede (1215), King John commanded the Abbot of Furness to return as speedily as possible, with two monks and other trustworthy people, all the plate and jewels which had been deposited in the Abbey of Furness.
King Richard l (Coeur de Lion 1157-1198). He became King of England when he was 32 years old and was killed at Chalus when he was 41 years old. "A handsome figure, an accomplished poet, a gifted soldier, an absentee ruler, a greedy, extravagant and cruel man" (thumbnail sketch from "Now I remember" by Ronald Hamilton).
Hero of the Scottish War of Independence. Crowned king at Scone 1306. Defeated the English at Bannockburn (1314). Led the Great Raid of 1322.
Born circa 1097. Nephew of Henry 1 and grandson of William the Conqueror was the son of William's daughter Adela who married Stephen of Blois. When he founded Furness Abbey he was the Earl of Boulogne and Mortain. In 1124 he granted the vill of Tulketh (a part of modern Preston,) in Amounderness, to the Order of Savigny and persuaded Abbot Geoffrey of L'Abbaye de Savigny to give him a colony of monks to found the first Savigniac monastery in this country. In that same year 12 French monks travelled with their leader, Ewan D'Avranches to Tulketh, where, according to Father West, writing in 1774, "They contented themselves with making use of buildings as were erected before coming hither". A few years later Stephen gave another grant of land to the French monks. This land included the forest of Furness and Walney. Note: "It is lawful for any abbot on account of inconvenience that cannot be borne to remove his abbey to a more suitable site with the advice and consent of his father abbot" And, “it was traditional for 12 monks with a 13th as abbot to found a new monastery. The place to which they are sent should be provided with dwelling rooms, books and other necessaries". (Cistercian Statutes).
King William (The Conqueror) (1027-1087)
He was 39 when he became King of England in 1066. He married Matilda daughter of Baldwin of Flanders. He had four sons: Robert, Duke of Normandy, Richard, (killed hunting), William II (Rufus), who was shot dead by an arrow in the New Forest and Henry I. And, five or six daughters, one of whom was Adela who married Stephen, Count of Blois. William and his Normans defeated the forces of King Harold of England at Pevensey, Hastings October 14th 1066.
Quire and lay brothers shared the main kitchen; its position was crucial in the layout of the abbey. The Cistercians built the monks’ frater at right angles to the cloister to create space for a large central kitchen. Cauldrons for cooking pulses, vegetables and for washing and heating water were necessary requirements as were large sinks for washing vegetables and kitchen utensils. Protective clothing such as gloves and sleeves to slip over habits would have been worn. There was also an octagonal kitchen in the infirmary group of buildings.
This was planned in rows of narrow beds; basic pot and flowering herbs were grown in monastery gardens, plus the following vegetables: onions, leeks and garlic, several varieties of beans and peas, beet and parsnip as well as those herbs that aid digestion - savory, fennel, parsley and mint. According to Cistercian Statutes, pepper, cumin and hot spices of this kind were not used, only common herbs such as can be grown in this country.
The kitchen supervisor was responsible for the cook's work and choice of meals. There were two assistants appointed for a weekly term to help the Kitchener. One of their duties was to keep a cauldron of water boiling for the Saturday evening washing of the monks’ feet. His staff included paid servants. He worked very closely with the Cellarer.